How Do I Answer “Why Haven’t You Ever Been Married?”

How Do I Answer - Why Haven’t You Ever Been Married

Evan, I have bought all of your audiobooks. I listen to them over and over again. They have been a huge help. But one question I need your help with is, what do I say to men when they ask me why I haven’t been married. I’m 40 years old and I have never been married. I’ve never been engaged. I’ve never been proposed to. And I haven’t dated many men long term. I have moved around to a few states over the last 12 years for my career. Why isn’t “I’ve been focused on my career” seem like a great answer? And let me tell you; every single guy I meet or go on a date with asked me on the first date, why I’m not married. It is not a compliment – it feels like they are trying to figure out if I am fucked up. I need your help Evan. This question is making me freeze on all my dates. 

Thank you,

Susan

Hard to believe I haven’t answered this one in nine years of blogging. I’m almost positive I have a video about it in Love U, but that’s not going to help you much right now.

So brace yourself: I’m pretty sure you don’t know where this one is headed…

First off, let me disabuse you of one crucial notion: that these men are insulting you.

They are not. They are as shocked as you are that a great catch like you can, miracle of miracles, still be single at age 40. They see exactly what you see, but less. Smart, strong, successful woman. Attractive. Good energy. Vibrant personality. Lots of love to give. How did she possibly slip through and find her way to me?

At least that’s the way I felt when I was 35 and single. And the way I feel when I routinely meet and coach 40-year-old single women to this very day. So please stop with the “he’s insulting me,” routine. He’s not. He’s astounded at his good fortune and rightfully wants to know if it’s too good to be true.

They are as shocked as you are that a great catch like you can, miracle of miracles, still be single at age 40.

Next, the tough love: the issue isn’t with these men and this very predictable question (which has previously been asked by your mother, your boss, and your best girlfriends).

The issue is with you, Susan.

The issue is that you’re stumped by the question.

The issue is that you’re embarrassed by the answer.

The issue is that asking you – even in a light way – why such a great catch like you is still single at 40 is tantamount to asking you to face all your flaws and questionable choices.

That’s why you’re freezing. You’re being asked a serious, unresolved existential question that you’re supposed to answer in an easy, breezy fashion to a stranger.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Instead of freezing up or getting angry, try making peace with your past. Once you’ve done so – instead of beating yourself up for being in this position – you can answer authentically, with a smile:

“That’s a great question. For years, I think I put my career first. It was exciting and I was successful at it – more successful than I was at dating. Because of that, I put even more energy into it, and ended up moving to a few different states throughout my thirties. Hard to have a successful relationship if you’re always moving. Finally, I realized that although I’ve seen the world and achieved what I wanted careerwise, I’m really looking forward to planting roots and creating an epic relationship. That’s how I ended up here tonight. And you?”

He’s not trying to figure out if you’ve fucked up in the past; we all have. He only wants to know that you’re confident and ready for a future.

It’s authentic. It’s powerful. It’s vulnerable. And, best of all, it’s TRUE.

Long story short: if a guy asks why a great catch like you is still single, tell him the real reason, candidly and unapologetically.

He’s not trying to figure out if you’ve fucked up in the past; we all have. He only wants to know that you’re confident and ready for a future.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Christine

    I really like your response to this, Evan.  I like that you didn’t recommend giving some quip, but an authentic answer.

    I don’t think this question is always necessarily an insult.  Before getting into a relationship, I got asked this question a lot.  My own guy, in fact, asked me this on one of our early dates.  I’m glad I didn’t go on the defensive when he did.  As he went on, I realized he wasn’t wondering what was wrong with me–he was actually wondering what was wrong with the other men I dated, that one of them didn’t recognize a great catch like me and settle down with me before.

    I didn’t pull any punches but just honestly told him that I’d made poor dating decisions before.  I told him that some of the men I’d dated were great people in general–but not compatible with me in particular, for various reasons.  However, I also told him that I learned a lot of valuable lessons from those experiences, and couldn’t wait to use that to build a more long lasting relationship.

    Then, as we got to know each other better, we started exchanging more details about exactly what went wrong with our prior dating experiences.  Not so much to stay stuck in the past, but to learn from our mistakes, and avoid repeating them in our own relationship.

    This question isn’t always a bad thing.  It helped open up a good and honest dialogue with my guy about our hopes for our relationship.  I say, give a straight answer–then, end on a positive note by saying how your experiences will help make you a great partner.

     

     

     

    1. 1.1
      Helene

      What’s wrong with simply “I haven’t met the right person yet?”!! Ultimately, that’s the bottom line for everyone who’s not married….and difficult to argue with.

      1. 1.1.1
        Jo

        I think it’s important to be more specific. That is such a canned response. Be authentic, it shows sincerity and you’re not blowing off his question.

  2. 2
    Morgana Rae

    I always told the truth: when I marry, it’s for life, forsaking all others. Not something to rush into. It’s worth waiting for the right person. And I’m glad I waited for the right person.

    1. 2.1
      Rich

      Up to a few days ago,  a long time schoolmate from high school asked me for the umpteenth time if I am married yet.  He is married and confessed to me a few years ago that he liked me in high school but was too shy to say anything.  He migrated right out of high school.  We keep in touch now and then.  He continuously says how a beautiful girl like me is not married.  He also said via what’s app that he doesn’t understand what I am waiting for.  This time I didn’t answer him.  I am not upset with the question but sometimes don’t know what to answer.  As a reader said above. An authentic answer for me would be that I just have not met the right person yet. Plain and simple. While I have to search for men and put myself out there,  I can’t act desperate.

  3. 3
    GoWiththeFlow

    Susan,

    If you can be honest about you past and accepting of the many reasons you are single at 40, it’s then much easier to be open and honest about it not just with a date, but with your relatives and friends as well.  And there can be many reasons why you are single.

    For me, some reasons were “systemic.”   Like when I was in medical school and residency and had a very limited social life due to time and energy constraints as well as having a very imited pool of single men available to me (this was before the internet and OLD).  Some reasons are personal.  For instance, I invested a lot of time in trying to make relationships work when I should have bailed earlier.

    Since I am meeting men in my age range, they too have a story as to why they are where they are at this stage in their life as well.  So they are more likely to understand and empathize with your situation than say your cousin who is still happily married to her high school sweetheart.

    1. 3.1
      Stacy2

      it’s then much easier to be open and honest about it not just with a date

      That just seems like an unnecessary conversation on the first/second or even third date. Why would you WANT to be so “honest and open” with the person you’re seeing for the first/second time? My full life story and my deep issues are not their business at this point. This information should be given out on gradually and on the need to know basis. Why would you share your inner feelings, thoughts, insecurities etc. with a virtual stranger? Why be vulnerable like this.

      1. 3.1.1
        GoWiththeFlow

        Stacy2,

        Why would I be honest and open with a person I’m seeing for a first or second time?  Because good relationships, whether friendship or romantic are built on honesty and trust.

        I also don’t consider the question “Why haven’t you ever been married?” to be threatening.  In fact, it’s kind of par for the course once you’re past a certain age.  And seriously, I’m not sharing my “inner feelings, thoughts, and insecurities etc. with a virtual stranger.”  I’m sharing basic information about myself.  Saying that I didn’t have the opportunity, time, or energy to date during most of med school and residency, or that I’ve had long term relationships that ended before marriage because we were incompatible in important areas, is hardly oversharing.

        “Why be vulnerable like this?”

        I don’t view it as being vulnerable.  Even if I did, I know that I can never have a truly intimate relationship with someone if I can’t be vulnerable with them.

      2. 3.1.2
        Rich

        Stacy2, you have a point.

  4. 4
    Amy Klein

    ugh I used to hate this question because either people don’t  know the answer or it was too personal.

    I used to just say, I’m a late bloomer.

  5. 5
    ScottH

    Sara Eckel wrote a column about this question.  I can’t find it and I don’t remember her answer but after her husband-to-be asked this question and she gave her answer, he said that all the previous guys were idiots.

    Now the question I dread is why did my marriage and subsequent relationships fail.  It seems that there’s no good answer since the truth isn’t pretty and I don’t like to give meaningless answers.  They were all crazy or commitment phobes, except for the last one who was really nice but wanted to move on because the chemistry wasn’t high enough.  Yeah, I know, if so many were crazy or CP’s, what does that say about me?  That’s why I hate that question but usually it takes a few months for the craziness to appear.

    Actually, it looks like the last one wants to get back together.  I think she learned about chemistry since we’ve been apart.

    1. 5.1
      KK

      Hi ScottH,

      The “they were all crazy” answer seems to be a common one among SOME men but I have to admit when I hear this, it’s always a big, yellow flag for me.

      1. 5.1.1
        ScottH

        I know…  one woman asked me that question and after I said that the last one was normal, she breathed a sigh of relief.  It was funny.

        However, at my ripe old age, there are a LOT of bumped and dented people of both genders.

      2. 5.1.2
        Elemental

        Uh, big red flag. I’ve heard this a couple of times and figure I’m the next “crazy one” no matter what I do!

        1. ScottH

          A lot of people do a lot of figuring and all they end up doing is figuring themselves out of  a lot of things.  Don’t believe everything you think.  Good luck to you!

      3. 5.1.3
        Adrian

        Hi KK,

        I remember in a previous post you considered a man that you were going to potentially date as having red flags if he was a certain age and never married.

        After reading Evan’s take on it would you still be cautious of such a guy or would you date him from the perspective of having a clean slate?

        1. KK

          Hi Adrian,

          Yes, I remember and I got roasted. LOL.

          Anyway, to answer your question, if I said red flag, I should’ve said yellow; meaning that I would proceed with great caution. I like Evan’s take and I agree with it but I’ve also known and known of people who it’s easy to see why they’ve never been married and probably won’t be any time in the near future. Some people have a serious lack of self awareness and that doesn’t make them bad people but it does make them bad marriage partners, IMHO.

    2. 5.2
      ScottH

      From Sara’s story:

      “But still I didn’t answer. I didn’t want him to know the truth: that I was 39 and hadn’t had a serious boyfriend in eight years. I had seen men balk at this information before — even when the numbers were lower. They would look at me in a cool and curious way, as if I were a restaurant with too few customers, a house that had been listed for too long. One man actually said it: “What’s wrong with you?””

      “Did we find love because we grew up, got real and worked through our issues? No. We just found the right guys. We found men who love us even though we’re still cranky and neurotic, haven’t got our careers together, and sometimes talk too loudly, drink too much and swear at the television news. We have gray hairs and unfashionable clothes and bad attitudes. They love us, anyway.

      What’s wrong with me? Plenty. But that was never the point.”

    3. 5.3
      SparklingEmerald

      I pretty much have a “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” policy about past relationships.  When I became single again after a 20 + year marriage, I figured in your late 50’s there just isn’t a good relationship status, and no “good ” explanation.

       

      Never married  = Commitment Phobe

      Divorced – You were the one who left –  Can’t KEEP a comittment

      Divorced – You were the one who was dumped – Must be hard to get along with

      Divorced – You cheated – You cheating bitch/dick

      Divorced – You were cheated on – You must not have been meeting your spouses sexual and/or emotional needs.

      Widowed – Who wants to compete with a ghost ?

       

      So I didn’t interrogate anyone I dated about why they never married, why they divorced.  If asked about my long term marriage not working out, I just shrugged and said “We grew apart” and changed the subject.

      However, the “don’t tell” isn’t entirely true, 20 + years of marriage is a big chunk of my life, and my fiance has an ex-wife, and a long time live in girlfriend in his relationship history as well, and of course, stories of our past, good and bad, come up ORGANICALLY.  But I don’t dig into his past a whole bunch and I don’t give detailed accounts of my relationship history. And there isn’t anything HUGELY red flaggish about his relationship history that has been revealed organically.

       

      I did have one person I dated for about 6 weeks, who volunteered a very colorful story about his second ex wife (whom he married MORE than once) who seemed like “crazy drama queen”.  He then asked for “my story” and I gave him the old shrug and “we grew apart line”.  Despite his voluntary disclosure of his “colorful” ex-ex-ex wife,  I figured he was FINALLY through with her and ready to move on.  Shortly after we agreed to become exclusive, he dumped me abruptly, for very silly reasons  (one being that he didn’t like my ‘decor’ )  I was very puzzled and confused, as we had substantial plans for the following week end, he had just started introducing me as his girlfriend. I  just figured he got what he wanted from me sexually, and was now just making lame excuses to dump me.  I later found out through facebook, that he got back together with his ex-ex-ex wife.  I got a notice that this woman was someone I might know.  I didn’t recognize her face, but she had the same first name as his ex-ex-ex wife.  When I checked out her profile, I then learned that they were back together.  I was relieved to find out that my decor isn’t inherently “man-repelling”, but I did feel silly that I didn’t take his voluntarily disclosed relationship history with a “crazy ex” as a big waving red flag.

      This works very well for us.

       

       

  6. 6
    Tom10

    Interesting topic and something I’ve thought a bit about before as it’s something I’m sure I’ll have to start answering myself in a few years.
     
    Indeed even now in my early 30s I’m often asked; “so, on paper you’re a great catch, but you’re still single, so where’s the catch?” So far I’ve been able to get away with mumbling something like; “well, I just haven’t found someone I click with yet”. That leaves just enough doubt that the person I’m talking to might think that for some reason they’re the one who’s suddenly gonna click, and they usually don’t pry too much further.
     
    Then other times I get the “so what’s the longest relationship you’ve ever been in” question; aargh I really dislike that one. “Oh em, a few years, off and on”. Normally in these sticky situations I try and turn it back on them and start going through their history; “so tell me about your most serious boyfriend, what happened to him?”. Then suddenly she’ll have had enough awkward probing for one day.
     
    So, “How Do I Answer “Why Haven’t You Ever Been Married?”
     
    Evan’s answer:
     
    “Long story short: if a guy asks why a great catch like you is still single, tell him the real reason, candidly and unapologetically.”
     
    But what if the real reason one hasn’t ever been married is due to;
     
    – being a sl*t or a cad
    – having a drugs/gambling/sex/alcohol/________fill in the blank addiction
    – being a commitment-phobe
    – not actually ever having wanted the responsibility of marriage
    – issues with criminality
    – being a workaholic
    – being a bum/no career/no house/no prospects etc.
    – being a chronic cheater
    – being a toxic maximiser
    – having serious psychiatric/psychological issues
    – never having being able to develop the skills or understanding of how dating and relationships work
    – all of the above (gosh, it would take a special person to have all of the above!).
     
    Now, while one can’t argue against telling the truth, it’s hard to imagine how anyone will ever get a second date if they admit to any of the above on a first date. Therefore, some diplomacy is called for: how to tell the truth but not shoot yourself in the foot whilst doing so?
     
    That’s why the “I’ve been focused on my career” is such an easy get-out answer!
     
    So where’s the middle ground?
     
    I guess it’s somewhere between “focusing on my career” and “dealing with my sh*t”, told in such a way as to appear self-aware enough to acknowledge one’s short-comings, indicating that those issues have been dealt with, yet still leave enough room that you don’t come across as so damaged that it rules out the possibility of being considered as a serious prospect for the person you’re on the date with.
     
    No mean feat indeed!

  7. 7
    Red

    I’ll echo that a man telling me all of his exes were “crazy” raises at least a pink flag. I have found men who have that opinion of their exes are typically either selecting women based on attraction over compability (so they’re a poor values match to start), have a pattern of conflict in other areas of their life, or they are blamers, unable to accept their role in the demise of a relationship.

    1. 7.1
      ScottH

      The  “we just grew apart” answer is a big red flag for me.  It’s either evasive or indicates someone who can’t deal with the difficulties that will arise in every marriage.

      Yes, some people (men and women) are simply crazy.  3% of women have borderline personality disorder.  That’s 1 in 33 women.  Roughly the same number of men are narcissists.  Consider that there are other mental health issues and the chances of pairing up with someone who has something is really high. Then you divorce in mid-life and find out that people suffering the emotional consequences is a silent epidemic.  My ex was a borderline and was not only abusive to me but also to our kids.  That is why I stayed so long, to protect them.  When they got older and bigger, then I divorced, only to find out the hard way what commitment phobes are, twice ,and that is some crazy sh!t too.   So yes, there are crazies out there.  Do you not remember Evan talking about the crazy sh!t he encountered in dating days?

      I will admit that the “she’s crazy” answer is short and flippant but the long answer isn’t very appealing either.  Who wants to sound like an amateur shrink?  Go ahead and run from someone who claims that their exes were crazy but I’d rather hang with one of those people than someone who evades the uncomfortable truth and tells me that they “just grew apart.”  Evasion isn’t a very good foundation for an intimate relationship and is a giant red flag for me.  There is no good answer to that question that everyone dating in mid-life gets asked.

      1. 7.1.1
        SparklingEmerald

        I understand your point Scott completely, that is why I said there really is no GOOD answer to questions about why you are either still single or why are divorced.

        That is pretty much why I don’t pry into a person’s relationship history, in the early getting to know you phase, and why I didn’t share my divorce drama getting to know someone.

        I did have one man get very persistent in his interogation on a second date.  I gently told him that my marriage was my PAST and that I was now trying to focus on the present and future.  He would put his questions aside, for a moment, then come right back to the subject.

        There really is not point trying to play amateur shrink on dates.  And many people tend to side with their gender.  Not much fun going on a date with someone who is going to act as defense attorney for your ex.

         

      2. 7.1.2
        Nissa

        On the other hand, who wants to date someone who tells you the gritty details of their last breakup on the first or second date? I have said ‘we grew apart’ on first dates with every intention of providing more information if there was enough interest on both sides to warrant a third date.

        I also think that it takes distance from the breakup to figure out what happened. For the first two years after I got divorced, when people asked why, I’d say “I’d tell you if I could figure it out”. Because it didn’t make sense to me personally that someone I loved so greatly and tried to hard to please could have just stopped talking to me, and the best reason I could wrest from my ex was, “I told you I wanted you to be different”. I don’t think anyone who had not met my ex would have believed that someone would say that, but everyone who had met him just said, “Yeah, he was a jerk”. However, saying that to someone new may still paint you as a blaming, critical ex wife. Once someone knows you better, they can accept that same information with the grain of salt which makes it palatable.

        1. Emily, the original

          Nissa,

          On the other hand, who wants to date someone who tells you the gritty details of their last breakup on the first or second date? I have said ‘we grew apart’ on first dates with every intention of providing more information if there was enough interest on both sides to warrant a third date.

          I’m with you on this one. Why you have never married or why you are divorced are not first or second date questions/topics of conversation. Anyone who asks is pushy and invasive. That’s something you would reveal once you got to know someone.

           

      3. 7.1.3
        Adrian

        Hi ScottH,

        I always just took “we grew apart” for code that the person was dumped and they were embarrassed by it.

        My point is, I think it is all about perspective. This is why I can see saying all my ex’s were crazy or the people who say, NO DRAMA! as a red flag.

  8. 8
    Adrian

    So what is everyone’s opinion on personal privacy and it’s correlation to trust, and mutual desire for bonding in a relationship?

    What if your new partner just tells you that they don’t want to talk about it! Is that an acceptable answer? I am assuming with this question that you are happy and this person’s character is great.

    Will their refusal cause you to now start suspecting a good partner whom you did not previously suspect?

    Where do you draw the line between giving a person their privacy even in a close relationship and recognizing their is a red flag in as much as, at the very least your partner does not trust you enough to tell you?

    Would you give them a time limit? Like it’s been almost 2 years and he/she still hasn’t told you why they___.

    …   …   …

    This example of what I am talking about is from an old post and I am paraphrasing, so the arguments may not be 100% accurate, since I am going off of my memory.

     

    Evan did a post on when or if you should reveal your sexual past.

    The argument on one side of the issue was that you do not owe anyone an answer to justify how many people you have slept with and what types of sexual acts you engaged in. It is personal; just because you are in a relationship does not mean that you give up all your individual privacy.

    The argument on the other side was that by not revealing your sexual past, you could be possibly exposing a new partner to a STD or at the very least a pattern of risky sexual behavior.

    This is just one of countless arguments on this site that seem to blur the lines between personal rights to privacy and not showing a willingness to trust.

    For examples the post on keeping old pictures of exes, should you tell your current partner that you still have them, do they have the right to demand you get rid of them. Is keeping those photos allowed privacy within a relationship or is it showing a lack of trust and desire toward your current partner?

    Should we always give every new partner the benefit of the doubt and judge them using a clean slate or should it be mandatory that they reveal parts of their past to us for our own safety as a predictor of how they act in a relationship with us?

    …   …   …

    By the way Evan, this is a great follow up to the podcast about judging a book by it’s cover.

    1. 8.1
      GoWiththeFlow

      Adrian,

      Whether it’s your relationship history, sexual history, or your crazy relatives, if you truly have a good rapport with someone you tell your stories to each other over time.  Sometimes it’s because you’re sharing a lesson you learned through either a good or bad experience.  Sometimes you are sharing a something humorous.  Other times your partner asks you a question and you feel safe enough with them to answer because you trust them not to judge you.

      1. 8.1.1
        Adrian

        Hi GoWithTheFlow,

        So if a guy was making you feel “overall” happy and you felt loved in a relationship, yet they refused to talk about their dating past (though you both got recently tested so you knew he was safe), even after 2 years of dating, how would you respond or feel?

        Not a subject he was intentionally be evasive about, he just did not like discussing it with Anyone?

        What if that same issue he did not want to talk to YOU about, you over heard him talking about with his friend?

         

        1. GoWiththeFlow

          Adrian,

          If you are in a loving, safe relationship it would be unusual if someone wasn’t a little forthcoming about their past, especially a marriage or multi-year relationship.  Sometimes you may learn the basic outline of someone’s situation.  “She had an affair with her co-worker and I only found out when she accidentally got pregnant and I had previously had a vasectomy.”  But they may not go into the nitty-gritty, and that’s okay.  Do I need my partner to talk in detail about the pain and humiliation that I know they felt over that in the interests of full disclosure?  Talking things out doesn’t always make someone feel better about a situation or unburden their soul.  It can make them feel worse.

          I’m not 100% positive, but I think it was the late great Dr. Joyce Brothers who said the incessant pressure to reveal everything to a spouse, i.e. letting it all hang out, could cause more problems that a partner keeping some things to themselves.  My grandmother use to say that a person should have “corners in their mind” that were just for themselves.  I know she often voted for different political candidates than my grandfather did, but didn’t  share that info with him because what good would it have done if it would have caused an argument?  At the same time, she completely shared with her daughter (who saw the world like my grandma did) who se was going to vote for and why.

    2. 8.2
      Emily, the original

      Adrian,

      The argument on one side of the issue was that you do not owe anyone an answer to justify how many people you have slept with and what types of sexual acts you engaged in. It is personal.

      Keep in mind: There are things you could hear that you can’t UNhear. Maybe your ex was into swinging or threesomes or had same-sex partners. Would those things be deal breakers once you learned them?

      1. 8.2.1
        Adrian

        Hi Emily,

        I have a theory, remember Evan’s post about you can’t do the wrong thing with the right… “person.”

        If it was a partner that a person felt strong attraction for who wasn’t their boyfriend or girlfriend yet, think their answer to any question would be tolerated.

        BUT

        If that same person was strongly in love with this person, then the “why haven’t you been married” answer would not bother them, but the thought of them having any kind of sex with someone else in any manner would.

        However, I still think the way people react to these matters differ depending on if they are already in a relationship with the person and if it is just someone they “strongly” want to date.

        What is your take on this?

        1. Emily, the original

          Adrian,

          I think most answers to “Why aren’t you married?” would be accepted if the two people involved were in love and together. Or even if they were at the start of a relationship and really liked each other. I would just be leery of anyone who said all their breakups were the other party’s fault. That would raise a red flag and indicate the person took no responsibility for his choices and had no self-awareness.

          HERE’S A QUESTION FOR YOU, MR. ADRIAN   🙂   Why do men (I can think of two examples right off the top of my head) ramble on about their past sexual experiences to their new partners (this information was not asked for)? Or inform them of other people who want them? Both behaviors, at least to me, are a BIG turn-off.

           

           

           

           

    3. 8.3
      KK

      Adrian,

      I think those answers are different or at least on a different timeline for each person / couple. Like most things, I think it’s about balance. Men (on average) are usually quieter about the past and tend to hold back. Women (on average) can sometimes give too much information too soon. I’m not one of those women, so please know I’m speaking in generalities.

      ScottH’s recent post is a perfect example. If he goes out with someone new and says most of his exes were crazy, including his ex- wife, MOST women are going to take issue with that. So, his good intention, which is not wanting to appear like an amateur shrink is actually working against him.

      On the other hand, if on his first date out with someone new, she asks him about his ex and he says something along the lines of, “I wanted my marriage to last forever but unfortunately it didn’t work out that way. I’m an open book with the people I’m closest to, otherwise I’m a pretty private person. I’d love to tell you everything as we get to know each other better and that’s what I’d rather focus on”. Then, in the coming weeks or months, as he feels comfortable, he can share about his ex being abusive and BPD, etc. Personally, I don’t think anyone would hold that against him.

      As for personal privacy, to me, the whole point of a LTR / marriage, is to SHARE your life with someone. If someone didn’t think it was any of my business to know anything about his past (after a reasonable amount of time), that wouldn’t work for me. I don’t need or want to know every detail of every sexual encounter, but I think knowing about significant events and relationships from the past is a perfectly reasonable expectation.

       

      1. 8.3.1
        Adrian

        Hi KK,

        If you broke up with the man because he would not share a any part of his dating past (you know that he is disease free), how would you feel or react if months later you discovered the private thing was the lost of his child years ago, or he was raped as a child, or something very personal like that?

        I guess I am just trying to understand if you are saying that it should be okay to punish a person for not wishing to tell you his dating past, “regardless” of how well he treats you?

        …   …   …

        As always KK, you know I enjoy talking to you (^_^),

        so I hope you do not take my comment as me being snarky. I know you did not mean to imply that you were punishing a guy for not wanting to share his past, and I know you have the right to dump anyone you wish to (your happiness matters too). I just could not think of a better word than punishment.

        1. KK

          Adrian,

          I don’t know. I’m sure I would feel bad for him. For me, one of the best things about a relationship is being able to share who you really are with someone special. It has to be a two way street… to know and to be known completely. To me, that’s true intimacy. I want to be able to trust someone completely and be trusted completely in return. If things don’t progress naturally in that area, I wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing ALL of who I am with him, so I just don’t see how it would work.

          As a side note, my ex withheld a lot of significant things from me for 15 years. None of those things would have been dealbreakers for me, but finding out so many years later that so much was hidden, it was hurtful and made me feel like I never really knew him. It was a false sense of intimacy all along. So, like you said, punishment isn’t the best word, but if anything the person withholding is the one punishing themselves. If someone isn’t ready to show their significant other, the person they plan on marrying who they really are, I don’t think they’re ready for marriage. Just MHO.

  9. 9
    SAL9000

    Well, “focusing on a career” is a bad answer because is it virtually impossible/never true. I wouldn’t recommend that. Late bloomer? Irrationally picky? Not interested in the necessary compromise? Poly/entitled? Afraid of the (forced) risks of a failed marriage? Major social/personal problems? Simply not interested?

     

     

  10. 10
    sophia

    Well, may I respectfully submit what I believe to be a rather clever answer to the ” why never married ” question? I asked once…and was told, ” Well, I really never wanted to get divorced, so I thought the most sure way to achieve that is not get married “.

    He did make me laugh and I gave him credit for being so efficient . ha ha.

  11. 11
    Elly Klein

    I have a partner now, but I used to say, ‘I just haven’t met the right person yet.’ It was 100% true. No matter who you are, it’s hard to find someone you want to spend the rest of your life with who also wants to spend the rest of their life with you.

  12. 12
    Henriette

    Don’t we ask this question of our dates not just to learn the answer but also to get a better sense of the person by how he/she answers?  For example, EMK’s example above is devoid of self-pity or finger-pointing, while demonstrating a willingness to answer a tough question and proof of some self-reflection: a pretty sexy combination, if you ask me.

  13. 13
    a78

    Great post- thank you!

  14. 14
    ScottH

    So if y’all don’t like the “she’s crazy” answer, how about saying that “she could benefit greatly by working one on one with Evan?”  Or, in a less extreme case, saying that “she could benefit by reading Evan’s blog.”

    1. 14.1
      Nissa

      A less hostile version is “she had some issues” and give a small example, such as “it turns out you can’t count on your spouse to come home at night” (yes, this would be mine, I can laugh about it now).  The example will keep you from looking like you have overanalyzed it or haven’t gotten over it.

    2. 14.2
      Nissa

      I tell you, I’ve been thinking about what my answer is now, years later. I can honestly say that “we were not a good match from the start, and that only became more true over time”. So that is what I say now. If they want more details, I explain that I initially accepted a lot of bad behaviors because I thought they were normal, only to discover that they were not. I also sometimes add that at the end, my relationship had the Gottman’s four relationship markers of doom, and that in spite of my considerable efforts, I could not overcome those.

      Does that sound like a reasonable, non crazy response? BTW, I breathe, I analyze, so not sounding like a shrink is probably not an option for me. lol.

      1. 14.2.1
        ScottH

        Hi Nissa

        “Does that sound like a reasonable, non crazy response? BTW, I breathe, I analyze, so not sounding like a shrink is probably not an option for me. lol.”

        I agree.  Advocating for yourself, which we all should do, means thinking for yourself which means being analytical.  I was just accused of being too analytical, like I shouldn’t be…       wtf?!?!?!

        1. Nissa

          Wtf indeed!

          If it helps, Evan and Alain De Botton have tons of ladies who clearly love the analyzing, so I don’t know what that’s about. On the other hand, my friend’s boyfriend treats her and her kids well, but hardly speaks. Turns out he talks to her though, so my fears of an Hispanic Archie Bunker were unfounded.

    3. 14.3
      craney808

      You’re not getting it. Your comments demonstrate a lack of self reflection and place all the blame on your exes. Why do you repeatedly gravitate towards “crazy” women? Your picker is broken and that is something you need to take responsibility for and work on if you truly want a “normal” well-adjusted partner.

  15. 15
    Stacy2

    Call me crazy, but if it makes the OP so uncomfortable why just not make something up? For example, a sob story like “i had a fiance we were very much in love but then he turned out to be bipolar and had a relapse and had to be committed. He never quite recovered and broke off the engagement… ” Or may be an imaginary fiance dies in a car accident or is lost at sea. It’s a story. People like stories. Since it’s tragic they will surely drop all questions about her past till the dawn of days as to not step on another landmine.

    1. 15.1
      KK

      Yes, because lying is a great way to start off a new relationship. Lol

      1. 15.1.1
        Stacy2

        Well, if at 40 she’s still single and never married, may be telling “the truth” is not the answer. As far as I am concerned, I do not owe a total stranger complete honesty about my life. In fact I prefer not to “let them in” too fast. Honestly, I even stopped telling people who hit on me what I really do. I give them a made up occupation in a field very far from my own. Why would I reveal to a stranger at a bar where I work and my position in an organization?

        And this isn’t a consequential lie to begin with. It’s deflecting invasive poking into your personal space with a fairytale story. To me a question like this sounds similar to “how many people you ever slept with” – irrelevant, rude, tell me how it is your business question.  It’s not like lying about your age, or work you do, etc.

  16. 16
    Stacy2

    Alternatively, obviously, the OP can turn the tables on these guys and say “Why am I not married? There’s no simple answer to that I guess. Why aren’t you? Wait, you are NOT married, right?” Turn it into a joke. For the love of god it is a bad idea to get entangled in such questions on the 1st date

  17. 17
    Brynn Bate

    This really helped me Evan! Susan did a great job expressing what happens inside a woman when asked that question! I def freeze at this question too, but going forward I will not need to freeze anymore❤️

     

    Thank you!

  18. 18
    Ilana Orea

    I think people underestimate how ridiculously hard finding someone to connect with, someone to date long term, someone to commit to, actually is. Not to negate from all the coaching, but there is an element of chance, luck and fate in all of this. We act like we can control all the factors because admitting that we are powerless in something that is as important as this is to us is terrifying. I never dated anyone until I was 28 and somehow, through the grace of God, finally met my husband. And we fell in love immediately, moved in together, I worked hard on the relationship and he didn’t so we split. Now I’m back dating, realizing that the odds are pretty staggering that I’ll meet another great love since it was next to impossible for me to meet him originally. Why? Who knows why? I’m great and so are millions of other people who are single. See I wish I could have been there on the date with Susan, to give her a hug, to let her know that life is weird and unfair and beautiful, amazing people don’t find love, and horrible, ugly people do find love and sometimes there aren’t a lot of good explanations, so we just go with the one that makes actual sense. “I don’t know, life is strange and unpredictable, so I just try to roll with whatever has come to me”

    1. 18.1
      Jennifer

      Thank you!  Life can certainly be unfair.  Being single at 40 does not make you deficient as an individual. There are so many things in life we can’t control and whether or not we find love is one of them.  I am still single at 38 and I always thought I would somehow bump into someone by now but that hasn’t happened.  I have been asked once in my life.  I know that the fact that I am pretty introverted hasn’t helped but I wouldn’t call it a character deficiency.

  19. 19
    Ilana

    Why don’t more people understand this Jennifer? Ah well, this is a philosophical discussion probably best not had on the internet. Sending you lots of love and light on your search for love!!!!!!

  20. 20
    BTU Queen

    Evan you made my year.  You gave me permission to feel and think that,  “Yes, I am single and I’m alright!  No more fear that a man will see my singlehood as a character flaw.  That’s just the way the cookie crumbled for me.  I worked all around the US and world then I raised my daughters.  I will practice my response to the question in case it comes up for discussion so I can say it with confidence.

  21. 21
    Karl R

    I was 39 the last time I was asked, “Why haven’t you ever been married?” I was asked on a first date. I gave an answer similar to the one Evan proposed (original post). I then turned it around as Tom10 suggested (#6), and asked the lady why her marriage hadn’t worked out.

    She seemed less interested in asking awkward questions after that.

    I generally preferred Sparkling Emerald’s (#5.3) “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” policy, but I had to be prepared when my dates decided to ask me.

     

    Helene asked: (#1.1)

    “What’s wrong with simply ‘I haven’t met the right person yet?’!!”

    If I haven’t found the right person in 19 years, then it suggests I’m far too picky … or the “right person” wanted nothing to do with me.

     

    Susan asked: (original letter)

    “Why isn’t ‘I’ve been focused on my career’ seem like a great answer?”

    If your career has kept you that busy, I’ll strongly suspect that you’re a workaholic with poor work-life balance. That answer works a lot better at 30 than 40. If you add in some details (like spending some years moving around), then it becomes a bit more neutral.

     

    Stacy2 asked: (#15)

    “Call me crazy, but if it makes the OP so uncomfortable why just not make something up?”

    Because that plan backfires when your boyfriend meets your family, and makes a passing reference to your committed/lost/deceased fiancé … and your family says, “What fiancé?”

     

    Stacy2 asked: (#15)

    “Why would I reveal to a stranger at a bar where I work and my position in an organization?”

    I’m dying laughing, imagining the following scene…

    Stacy2: “I need to go to work.”

    Boyfriend: “No problem. I can drop you off at the airport.”

    Stacy2: “Why would I be going to the airport?”

    Boyfriend: “Aren’t you an air-traffic controller?”

     

    You’re going to get tripped up by your own lies eventually.

     

    Tom10 asked: (#6)

    “Now, while one can’t argue against telling the truth, it’s hard to imagine how anyone will ever get a second date if they admit to any of the above on a first date.”

    In my answer, I admit to two of those.

    For most of my twenties, I wasn’t interested in getting married or having any kind of committed relationship. After that, I had some serious relationships, but they didn’t work out. Then my job track derailed for a little while, so it took two or three years for me to get that back on track. That’s when I got back into dating.

    If someone follows up and asks about the job, I picked up some valuable job skills during that time, and I ended up on a much better career path.

    All of that is truthful, but I leave other parts … the parts I’d really rather not discuss on a first date.

     

    Adrian asked: (#8)

    “What if your new partner just tells you that they don’t want to talk about it! Is that an acceptable answer? […] Will their refusal cause you to now start suspecting a good partner whom you did not previously suspect?”

    A lot of it depends on how they say it. If you respond like Stacy2 does (#3.1 and #15), you’ll come across as someone who is defensive, and having something to hide. Things like your job are generally considered safe topics, so if you treat it like a landmine, you’ll raise red flags.

    But if you calmly suggest that certain, more sensitive topics are not first date topics, but things you routinely discuss in due time, that comes across as just being a normal level of privacy.

    I had an ex-girlfriend who was extremely private about almost everything. That was one of the reasons behind my decision to end the relationship. My wife, on the other hand, doesn’t particularly discuss a couple topics, but she has been extremely forthcoming on a wide variety of other ones. Therefore, I respect her preference to not discuss those topics at great length.

     

    Emily asked: (#8.2.1.1)

    “Why do men […] ramble on about their past sexual experiences to their new partners (this information was not asked for)? Or inform them of other people who want them?”

    There are studies demonstrating that women prefer men who are “taken”. (click here for link) So this is an attempt to “prove” that other women approve of him  as a high-value male. (There are far better ways to do this, which are more subtle as well.)

  22. 22
    Joan Grussing

    Evan that may be true on dates, but in my professional life I’ve run into coworkers into asked me that right after learning I haven’t married. I think they want to embarrass me. I think saying “I don’t care to share” is appropriate. People say that to me when they think I’ve asked them things they don’t want to answer. I think they think it’s funny.

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