Single For Years? It’s Not Necessarily You…

Two weeks ago in the New York Times, Sara Eckel described how difficult it was to explain to her dates that she hadn’t had a serious boyfriend in eight years. EIGHT YEARS.

One of her dates actually asked her: “What’s wrong with you?”

“I don’t know,” she answered.

Eckel worked hard to fill her life with activities to avoid the pain of being single. She writes “I went on Internet dates, speed dates and blind dates. I had great hair and a confident smile. But I was still alone. And in the dark of Saturday night, I still asked myself, ‘What’s wrong with me?'”

After dating her future husband for a month, she revealed her eight-year relationship drought. “Lucky for me,” he said, “all those other guys were idiots.”

To him, she was not a problem to solve, or a puzzle that needed working out. She was the girl he was in love with.

This article has been a very popular one – one of the most emailed New York Times pieces this week – because it pretty much says that you will fall in love and that nothing has to change. Who wouldn’t like that message?

And while I’m pretty sure I’m not “The Man” she refers to in the article, the tips she mentions to finding love aren’t necessarily bad ones. Furthermore, there is no love without opportunity, and though the author seems to think that it just happened when she met the right guy, it REALLY happened because she went through that process of learning and dating and soul searching. Ms. Eckel didn’t just sit on her ass, complain that men suck, and give up on dating. Even if she didn’t have to fundamentally change who she was, she had to have enough experience to appreciate the good man who finally appreciated her and wanted to lock her in – instead of bailing on him because he was “too nice” or “safe” or “boring”. This, by the way, is essentially half of my message – appreciate the man who appreciates you (the other half being “be the best partner you can be”).

So, do you feel like Sara Eckel? Do you think that it’s silly to try to do something different to achieve a different result? Do you think that the best way to fall in love is just be yourself and hope?

I don’t believe this at all – Ms. Eckel did indeed get lucky – but I can acknowledge why women have been passing this article around like a joint. The best kind of change is the one that you never have to make.

Read the piece here and share your feelings in the comments below.


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  1. 31

    I’ve been single for 7 years after breaking my neck and getting divorced because of it.  Let’s be honest.  Not everyone finds the “love of their life.”  Not everyone gets to live “happily ever after.”  We all yearn for our version of this in our hearts, but it’s just not realistic to believe that it’s going to happen for everyone.  I remember as a kid looking around the neighborhood, and there were only a few old timers who were still married and happy.  Everyone else had been touched by the cruel hand of fate.  So you have to be okay with yourself and be okay with never finding love.  It doesn’t happen for everyone, and being single doesn’t always mean that you have issues.  Sometimes you just didn’t meet someone who wanted to be your partner and return your love.  And that’s not your fault.

    1. 31.1

      “and being single doesn’t always mean that you have issues.”

      Then the wider culture to stop behaving as though it does. Especially since one gender — and it’s not women, since EMK and experts like him have thriving coaching practices and those are their clients — is not working on *their* issues.

      That sentiment is much more frequently flung at single women, with that same culture looking the other way past single men who need to work on *their* issues … even while women are making the effort.

      Until that disparity is called out and actively addressed, the culture needs to stop blaming women for choosing to be single, or not being able to find a partner, when the alternative is being treated badly by men who refuse to deal with their “stuff”, and who are actively supported by the culture in that refusal.

  2. 32
    can't force yourself to feel that way

    “appreciate the man who appreciates you”? are you kidding me? i tried liking people who liked me just because they liked me. i found myself attracted to guys who weren’t into me so i tried making myself like the ones who did. but it doesn’t work. i lose interest quickly because i am not being honest with myself. no, i do not like that guy, so my interest fades fast. yes, it was a waste of time. no i cannot make myself feel the way i do not feel. 

  3. 33

    @Nathan # 26

    CK said:
    “I have a fair amount of guy friends, and none of them do ‘soul searching, etc etc’ to prepare themselves for their future mates. If women are the only ones searching their souls, then where does that leave us at times? Isn’t that a bit lopsided?”

    Nathan said:
    “The guys reading this need to understand that the question CK poses is important – don’t blow it off as a complaint. If we want women with their baggage dealt with, we have to deal with our own. End of story.”

    No nathan, that’s exactly what CK’s statement is – a complaint, on a blog *for women*.

    And you jumping on the bandwagon to lambast “the guys reading this” is misguided at best, and downright insulting at worst. Most of the men on this blog are of the soul-searching type who spend no small amount of time and energy contributing good information and insights (yes, occasionally we have a tool).

    I’m empathetic to CK’s plight, but it’s naive to expect men as a group to start more soul-searching. That’s not how most men are. They tend to keep their own council, and also tend to trust their own feelings without second-guessing them, or where they come from. Guys generally don’t feel the need to examine their existence in great detail (yes, some of us do more than others, but we’re in the minority). Heck, even as introspective as I am, I got nothing on the *average* woman (just look at how many women comment here vs men).

    Please don’t insult those of us who are doing our best to contribute positively to this conversation.

    1. 33.1

      ” They tend to keep their own council, and also tend to trust their own feelings without second-guessing them, or where they come from. ”

      And that’s your mistake.

      Because maybe – just maybe – you don’t know everything.

      JoeK, did you know that the corpus callosum, the part of the brain that controls communication between the left and right hemispheres, is actually 20% larger and more active in women than in men?

      How that plays out in real life, if you haven’t already deduced it, is that you may be doing destructive things you don’t even know you’re doing, because the structure of your own brain doesn’t support self-awareness.

      In which case any “rational and logical” man with the slightest jot of common sense might want to get, at the very least, a second opinion.

      You didn’t stop developing at two, or five, or ten, or fifteen years old because “That’s just how I do things”, did you?

      Okay, then.

      (And if you *did* do that — well, at that point all we can do is leave you to it, I guess …)

    2. 33.2

      “They tend to keep their own council”

      P.S. The usage you’re actually looking for here is “counsel”. “Keep their own council” is a colloquial misuse. Frequent, but still incorrect.

  4. 34

    its a joke- you can be amazing great beautiful nice kind and still single- men these days are narcissistic crazy warped, sick in the heads…its NOT the women who are good decent looking for love– its the crazy people out there. me and another female in our 30’s both were talking about how we’re single, in our 30’s, cant meet anyone. both great women and I know many more. me..i used to model, very beautiful kind- men just shut me down right away, I get abused mistreated not much else. if you’re single It means you are a DECENT person with love kindness and the narcissistic psychos of today see you as a target not much else…

    1. 34.1

      For support get on the psychopathfree forum now. A revelation! An education! Coming to an internet dating site near you x

  5. 35

    Evan’s a big supporter of internet dating. Basically I cannot stand the negative reinforcement and emotional roller coaster of internet dating. Plus ID is a smorgasbord for psychopaths, catfishers, skanks, married guys who want a legover and guys obsessed with dating women younger than themselves. Many people cannot stand this. This is before I even touch on the issues of the tricks these companies pull to get you to sign up and part with your money….. False profiles and fake emails. – for example. Evan got through because its a reasonable assumption he had a skin like a rhino..hell anyone would need that! Lets hope he stays partnered because a) there us nothing you have you cant lose (speaking as a widow) and b) it would be a bit embarrassing for a relationship coach to get dumped (it has happened! :))
    Back to the grind: Internet dating is indirectly promoted (by the companies that run them) as a quick fix. Finding the right person is in fact very difficult. Many people just settle for second best or worse because indeed it is difficult. And dont let anyone fool you. If its so easy why then are the divorce and split up rates so high? Its like getting rich – if everone can do it how come there is so much poverty!

    I loved Sara Eckel – a breath of fresh air “i just happened to meet someone” (dontchajustluvit!), she is effectively saying – you do not need fixing. There is nothing wrong with you. Good for you Sarah. That remark subverts the whole gamut of products and services peddled by the dating industry. Yippee!

    Anyway I digress.

    @j avove says Dating sucks no matter what age you are, especially if you’re not the hottest woman on the scene’
    What is this obsession I hear about ‘being hot’! No true relationship is based on being ‘hot’ surely? If its about being ‘hot’ then once a dick focused guy has done the biz the girl gets dumped. Hot tends to cool. We are NOT just about how we look!
    I will add Kathryn Hepburn said ‘plain women know men more than good looking ones’. This is because men discount themselves with good looking women. (And the reverse is true).

    ?hot? The criteria for choosing a partner has to extend betond ability to have big t*ts and get your knickers off quickly and boost the ego if the male they are with. Very complimentary.. Does not warmth, sense of humour, being caring, competent, sound finances, intelligence and useful stand for anything!

    I love this from @m
    “It continues to amaze me that relationships have two people in them, but it is only one of those people — the woman — who is expected to do *all* the communication work, offer *all* the effort, sustain *all* the patience, do *all* the emotional labor. That is expected in no other relationship in the world containing two people. How do ostensibly rational and logical people expect that to continue to work?’
    Here here darlin’ . Women are not doormats.they do way far too much for men as it stands (thats coming from where I am Ill admit – there are women who are a waste of space)
    Freeze the guys out. They will come running!

    Finally Two interesting questions – what is ‘dating’ and what does it involve? Forgetting internet interactions – is dating something where a man is supposed to ask a woman out e,g. For a drink or meal to get to know each other? If it is How many out there ever experience this? If you do – how do you go about getting to this stage.? Now I may hear a chorus of laughs ir guffaws here – but its a deadly serious question. One that is NEVER dealt with by ‘relationship coaches’ Many people I suspect blow on about their ‘dating’. BUT are they actuallygoing out with anyone? Or are they just boasting to make people believe that they are in demand. Getting a date us always taken as read however many many people could do with help here and NO I am not talking about the deadly internet….

    1. 35.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Here ya go, Sheila:

      These are women who dated online, went on dates for dinner and drinks, and fell in love.

      So much for your claim that “relationship coaches” never deal with these issues. I’ve been doing it since 2003 for women who are open to learning instead of complaining.

      1. 35.1.1

        Hiya Evan – think youve misunderstood – perhaps I did not express myself well. I meant dating outside using the internet.
        Internet dating is very difficult (I think you tried for a long time). I dont disagree. I am not ‘complaining’ just trying to get a few points over. Just dont be so defensive. Your blog is terrific. There there…
        You make many brilliant points but it is inevitable that some folk will disagree. I understand you have to defend your position.
        There is indeed a lot to critique in the dating industry. There is a lot to debate about relationships. All views are up for grabs.
        Internet dating companies make a stonking load of money out of vulnerable people.
        Thanks for your response.

        1. Evan Marc Katz

          Sheila, there’s nothing to respond to.

          You asked if dating involves asking people out on dates and going to dinner. Yes.
          You asked if anybody does this or is everyone just boasting? Yes, people date.
          You said the divorce rate is high. Actually, it’s been falling for thirty years.
          You intimated that women bear all the weight of a relationship. Not true. You can’t change him, but if you don’t like his behavior, leave.
          You said to “freeze guys out”. Bad idea. Good men like warm, open, trusting women.
          You said dating sites use “tricks” to get you to sign up. They’re running a business, but they can’t force you to give your email and credit card against your will. People sign up because they’re single, lonely, and know they can meet a lot more people online than off.

          Seems to me like you think the worst of everything even if the facts don’t square with your feelings. My job is to offer the facts.

  6. 36

    You misread a statement that was poorly expressed Evan. I was talking about dating where the internet is not involved.
    I am not complaining – merely expressing opinions. I accept this is a blog not a forum#

  7. 37

    You certainly seem dedicated to your work – Im impressed._ and Im not being facetious.

    I wont argue with you – stuff like this is always better discussed face to face and putting views forward in this sort of way is very difficult.
    good luck and best wishes

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