Are Professional Women in Their Mid-30s Too Independent To Settle Down?


Last blog post posed two questions. One had to do with how people discriminate based on age, and, by the time they get serious about dating in their early 40’s, often find that their options have become severely limited.

(This was the main reason for Lori Gottlieb’s famous controversial “settling” article — soon to be a book in February, 2010.)

The other question had to do with what independent, professional women in their mid-30’s REALLY want. To recap, let’s go back to our original poster, Adam.

I am a 42 year old single male who recently left a 5 year relationship for various reasons, but mainly because I wanted kids and she did not. I thought that since I was an attractive, fit, well-educated, financially and emotionally secure guy that I would have no problem finding a woman in her mid 30s to settle down with and start a family. I have tried a combination of online dating, speed dating, professional singles events, volunteering, happy hours etc. and have had very few dates over the past year. I thought that online dating would be great since you are essentially pre-screening people for dates. I have found that I get no responses from any women online and the only women who respond to my ad are usually much older and don’t meet any of my criteria outlined in my profile.

I am told that women want to settle down and have kids, etc., but their actions seem to be to the contrary. At singles events, women come in groups and are reluctant to talk to men. In online situations, women say they want desperately to meet a nice guy like me, but never answer my response to their profile. I am trying to remain positive, but two things are really bothering me. One, that younger women are no longer interested in dating men who are even just slightly (3-5 years) older than them and sometimes want to date men 5-10 years younger then them. Two, women seem to be content in the fact that they are independent and self-sufficient and have a career, family and friends that fulfills them and don’t seem to be interested in truly finding a relationship. I find the latter hard to believe, but find this mantra in every profile of every professional woman online.

There’s a cuter 35-year-old guy, and a funnier 38-year-old guy, and a richer 40-year-old-guy who are getting your women.

Any advice on how to navigate these new paradigms in the dating world?

Now, I must point out something that is uncomfortable, Adam, which is that you may be entirely overrating yourself. If this is the case (because we all like to think we’re attractive, smart, and secure), that might explain why you’re not getting results. It’s not that you’re not a good guy — but if you’re 5’7” or your profile is kind of bland, then guess what? There’s a cuter 35-year-old guy, and a funnier 38-year-old guy, and a richer 40-year-old-guy who are getting your women. In other words, in order for your perfect woman to fall for you, she has to “compromise” on age, since you’re not her ideal. The same way that you might have to compromise by writing to women 37-41. As always, you’re as valuable as your options and if all the people you desire aren’t responding, you either have to rebrand yourself or rethink your strategy. Blaming women for being unfair to you isn’t going to get you very far.

That said, you have touched on something important, and that is your perception — real or otherwise — that women are content being alone, with their fulfilling careers, friends and families, and are not all that interested in finding a relationship. Moreover, you intimate that this comes across in both their profiles and in their actions.

There’s been a lot of talk about this phenomenon here on my blog. And at risk of inciting the same women over the same issue for the umpteenth time, I’m just going to ask my women readers to put yourselves in Adam’s shoes.

Believe me, I know what it’s like for women — putting up with the players, losers, liars, weaklings, flakes, pervs and commitmentphobes that make up a good portion of the male population. I hear it every single day from my clients. That’s your reality.

But, for one second, I’d like you to consider Adam’s reality.

Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he’s a solid, decent-looking, successful 42-year-old who has lots to offer. Let’s accept that he’s experiencing women who are busy, aloof, and uninterested in making an effort and commitment.

Is Adam wrong? Probably not. No more than you’re wrong that dating disinterested men can be a drag, as well. In fact, I think it’s highly probable that, yes, there is a certain group of women who are truly conflicted about what they want.

If your best friend met her husband in line at the grocery store, shouldn’t you get to meet yours in the same way?

In theory, they want to find love and have a family, but in practice, you’d never know it. They prioritize work over love, friends over love, travel over love, freedom over love, downtime over love — and still complain that they can’t find someone to love.

When it gets right down to it, the process of finding love — with all of its ups and downs, its failures and frustrations — is just too much to bear. Why put energy into something when it’s much easier to just wait for it? Shouldn’t love happen when you least expect it? Doesn’t it happen when you’re just happy living your own life — working out, going to yoga class, taking salsa lessons, working 50 hours a week? If your best friend met her husband in line at the grocery store, shouldn’t you get to meet yours in the same way?

Yeah, that would be nice, wouldn’t it?

I just got off the phone with a new client. She’s 38. She has a great career, she owns her own home, she has a personal trainer at the gym, maintains good friends and family. She’s very dateable and very likeable. As far as I know, my new client is FLAWLESS.

If you’re a woman who is reading this and is getting a bit angry, I will repeat myself: you may be FLAWLESS.

However, if you want to fall in love, get married and have kids, but have done everything in your power to avoid searching for a man, then guess what? You’re gonna stay single.

My new client joined Great Expectations…and didn’t go on the dates they offered. She’s a member of eHarmony…and never logs in to sort through the 300 men they’ve sent her.   So if a man like Adam has been paired with her in either of these places, is he to believe that he’s a bad guy? Or is it just that my new client has been ambivalent about putting herself through the topsy-turvy, insecure dating process?

All I’m telling you is that every time I hear some woman tell me “there are no good guys out there,” I am reminded that there are millions of men like Adam.

This isn’t a judgment. It’s an observation. If every waking hour of your life is filled with work, friends, travel and hobbies, when exactly do you expect to fit in a husband? Fact is: it’s nearly impossible to fall in love if you never meet single men, nearly impossible to fall in love if you don’t go on first dates, nearly impossible to fall in love if you don’t make an effort to be available for a relationship. You can have a great, fulfilling life, but you will not find a partner unless you get really, really, really, lucky.

To recap: there’s nothing wrong with you. There’s nothing wrong with being single. There’s nothing wrong with being alone. There’s nothing wrong with leading a rich, fulfilling solo life. There’s nothing wrong with staying in on Friday nights. And, no one is telling you to be desperate, to settle, to give up your dreams, or any such hooey. So please, don’t even go there.

All I’m telling you is that every time I hear some woman tell me “there are no good guys out there,” I am reminded that there are millions of men like Adam.

But if you don’t take the time to let him in — because it’s simply easier to NOT let him in — both you (and Adam) are going to have a hard time finding each other.

Join our conversation (80 Comments).
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  1. 1

    I think looking for a partner is like anything else. People complain more than they do. Myself included.

    Finding a partner is a major part of someone’s life and happiness, yet I would bet if most people kept a log they could not say that they consistently spent at least 5 hours week on this task.

  2. 2
    Warm Heart

    The only time options become severely limited is when we make them so. Finding someone is truly dependent on being ready, making time and becoming available to explore some new territory. Evan has shed some amazing light on men and women. So has Alison Armstrong. I found the advice worked when I was truly ready…and for me it was later than earlier. Although older, it didn’t lessen my chances. Actually I think it enhanced it.

  3. 3

    This is a good point. People tend to say that “he will show up when you’re trying less’. Not really, nothing is going to happen all by itself if you don’t do anything. It is easy when you’re in your early 20s, when you’re in uni or more active socialising or have less expectations. But later on that changes and you have to put yourself in a position to meet more guys. The best guys will most likely be taken, but there are still good, single guys out there. The problem is we’re all too picky.. Hey, if I want a good looking guy, I won’t expect him to make a lot of money.. but a lot of women expect that. That’s a lot to ask.
    But the issue of singlehood.. yea, women can support themselves, have an active social life.. but there is also one more issue, – guys who are high maintanence. Relationships are not always a picnic.. they require effort sometimes. Boyfriends are great and exhilerating, but they also demand much – they demand that you always look good, that you cook for them, support them emotionally. Which is fine as long as you get back what you need.. But if you end up supporting the household (even by 50%), and then you get all the other duties on top of it.. plus the child. Well, I guess marriage can become a real tough chore. All the time and money I spend looking good (waxing, clothes, etc), all the time I spend preparing myself for his visit, meals, etc.. what does the guy bring in return? Of course, it depends on the individual.. what I’m saying is that the double burden is often too hard.. being single is sometimes easier. Often times there is simply not enough physical strength to maintain it all. Then again, it doesn’t have to be like that.. many guys are supportive, cook and clean themselves. It’s just a matter of finding one. LOL

    1. 3.1

      “The best guys will most likely be taken, but there are still good, single guys out there. The problem is we’re all too picky.”

      Men can be picky too on certain things. But what you said there struck a chord. I do think most women look around, and think, “all the best guys have been taken.” OK, well if that is true, couldn’t we guys also say the same thing? Let’s be honest, sometimes great guys pair up with not so great women, and sometimes not so great men pair up with great women. A divorce may happen and now you have two people back on the market, one of which may be a great person.

      Also, maybe we just think the best are taken, or assume that if somebody is a great catch, they wouldn’t be single. So we judge harshly, already expecting them to have flaws…serious flaws.

      And then, maybe we are just too picky. If you’ve never been married and you are now in your late 30s…guess what…you are too picky. I don’t hold any hope that anyone who is, will recognize that fact, or admit that fact, but the reality is, you are too picky if you can’t find somebody worth giving yourself to.

      Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. I like how you recognize that. You have to figure out what things you would like in a mate, and then figure out which of those really are deal beakers, and at the same time, think about whether you are being ridiculous with some of those things you want. You would be amazed how many people have “deal breakers” that are straight ridiculous. I go back to that Dr. Phil show because it was a rare glimpse into this. He had a show dedicated to just this very thing. A good example was the woman who had wearing sandals as a deal breaker. She would not date a guy who wore sandals. Does that even sound sane? For many, sandals are a great way to feel comfortable in warmer weather when the occasion does not call for something formal. I can only wonder how many women out there have little things like that, that are deal breakers.

  4. 4
    Karl R

    Evan asked:
    “If your best friend met her husband in line at the grocery store, shouldn’t you get to meet yours in the same way?”

    If they met in the grocery store, I’m willing to bet the husband was putting in some effort. He made eye contact with her, engaged her in conversation, asked for her phone number…. Otherwise, they would have returned from the grocery store with groceries.

    Some people can find a job by waiting for headhunters to call them. Most people have to put in a bit more effort. And even the people who can wait for headhunters may find it in their interest to put in some effort of their own.

  5. 5

    I dunno, I have a lot of problems with this “you are only as valuable as your options” philosophy. Sounds like if you are short, fat, or ugly or whatnot, you should just go shoot yourself to avoid the misery. What about one’s intrinsic value as a human being? I personally might not want to “get it on” with such people (although I am sure there are people who do), but they still may have a lot to offer to society at large.
    Are you referring to asking for things in a mate that one can’t offer themselves? That, of course, I would agree with.
    However, I think it’s very unhealthy to conclude that if you aren’t classically beautiful or something, it affects your value. That would mean feeling second-rate in every area of life.

  6. 6

    For those men that like to go to bars, more women go to bars/night clubs on New Year’s Eve, than any other night, through out the year.

  7. 7

    Women in their mid 30’s have lost their hormones, they no longer need a man in their life.

    1. 7.1
      soldier of one

      That is no not true. I am 34 years old and looking for a man. I still have my hormones lol. I am not going to just settle for someone because I want to be married. I am searching for someone who is stable, responsible, mature, has a career and doesn’t live in his parent’s basement. I don’t drink or do drugs,but I hit the gym 6 days a week.  

      1. 7.1.1
        soldier of one

        *That is so not true. Stupid google talk. LOL

  8. 8

    You’ve gotta look at finding love the same way you do a hobby. Otherwise it gets pushed to the back burner. You gotta put in the time. Thinking “It’s going to happen when it’s meant to happen” and “When I find my soul mate, it won’t matter that I’m (insert really irritating quirk, bad grooming habit, etc). He/She will like me just the way I am.”
    Let me tell you, it’s bull. Spend the same time looking for someone else and working on your dateability. Expecting someone to come along just because you aren’t expecting it or trying for it is like expecting to win the lottery without buying a ticket. It may be cliched, but it’s true. Worked for me, anyway.
    And you know what? He WAS under my nose the right time. But if I hadn’t put in the time building my confidence, working on how I dressed and starting to use makeup, and getting in the habit of not being too available/clingy/clucky, I’d have fumbled it for sure.

  9. 9

    [email protected]: Dried up. Bitter and so on. Good thing they have careers cause no guy is gonna take care of that!!! But seriously I am not interestedin a womans career. IF she likes it thats fine, but I never heard a guy talk about how great his GFs career is. He talks about how hot she is or how nice ro sweet (meaning that she is easygoing and gives him what he wants or needs). Doesnt dump crazy emotions on him all the time. the choice is between hot or nice sometimes, but not between big career and little career.

  10. 10

    Have to agree with where EMK is going on several points. Firstly, Adam probably has a branding or image problem with his online profile. If he’s targeting mid-30’s women, then he needs to put forth the image that he would match up well with those women. He should review his pictures and profile and see if there’s a conflict there. Does he *look* forty in his pictures or does he look like a fun and interesting 35-year-old?
    Also, everyone is busy, you can always find the time to squeeze in some dates and wade through emails. The question is motivation and resiliency. Most people I know discontinue “searching” for a mate because they are frustrated with poor results and don’t know what to do next…I’ve been a victim of this ambivalence. You just gotta keep plugging away. It’s a numbers game and eventually you’ll hit yours.

  11. 11

    I’m curious as to why a woman who would join, but not participate in, dating venues like Great Expectations, and EHarmony would hire a dating coach. ??

  12. 12

    I’ll chime in as a 30-something “together” professional woman.

    Someone who has a full life of work, hobbies, friends, travel, etc. is almost certainly doing lots of things to MEET new people. Now I know my particular hobbies and interests skew in favor of the demographics, but when I was single, I met men at the gym, on airplanes, at sporting events, at the library, and, yes, even at the grocery store (though my quest for the eternally efficient time to shop & quickest “drive-by” possible cut down on those meeting chances – hehe), to name only a few places. All I had to do was be willing to smile at someone and either start a conversation or respond to an opening with more than one syllable.

    It was *easy* to meet people in person, and no, I wasn’t particularly trying. Ok, sometimes it did mean not putting in the earbuds and a hoodie over my head & slinking against the window on the airplane before I even SAW who my seatmate was. But, yes, meeting men = easy, even though I am, by all accounts, an introverted person. I’m sure that some of them were quality, dateable men, while some were not. If there are professional 30-something women who are not able to meet men in general, then I think it’s because they are actively shutting out the world.

    That said, the *hard* part was deciding that some new person was actually worth getting to know. My free time was limited, and as an introvert already stretched to the limit with an active life, going *out* with someone new would have been a major expenditure of both energy and time. Many “together” professional women are tired of being “together” ALL THE TIME, and just want to come home from work, put on their pajamas, eat breakfast for dinner, and watch whatever crap they like on tv while sorting through some work email backlog (for me, that means tuning in to a hockey or baseball game, for someone else, I dunno, American Idol or whatever).

    I met my SO online, and I think that’s because: (1) we were able to meet in a non-dating online forum for a common interest rather than a generic “match” type site; and (2) we were able to start to get to know each other before I had to make a real investment in time and energy. By the time I had to worry about getting dressed to go out, rather than online chatting, email or talking on the phone, I already had far more evidence that here was a guy worth spending the time and energy on moreso than a random guy I could meet on a plane, at the gym, or in the supermarket.

    This leads me to the other factor that I think many 30-something professional women would admit if they are genuinely honest: we don’t like failing. We want to succeed at what we do. Career-wise, we know what it means. Being a good friend? Check. Being a loving aunt to nieces & nephews? Check. Excelling at a hobby or two? No problem.

    When it comes to love and relationships, it becomes much more challenging if your attitude is that every bad date is a “failure” rather than a night to write off. But even the “damn, I just wasted a few hours” sense can be strong. I don’t like wasting time, and I am sure that one of my reasons that I was happier meeting my SO the way I did is that I didn’t feel like I had to devote “fruitless time and energy” to the search. I don’t know how many quality men I passed up along the way. I just know that I found a great one that allowed me to do a lot of the legwork while wearing pajamas.

    I’m not sure how knowing this can help someone like Adam, but I’m sharing in case it can.

  13. 13

    I’ve said it before in other threads,but unless we actually see what these people(in every thread ie: Adam,Evan’s clients he talks about etc…)look like,ages,other stats etc… and/or read their profiles we basically are talking abstracts and have no real frame of reference.

    Evan’s client paid to join Great Expectations AND EHarmony but doesn’t follow thru and meet the men they set her up with?? Well then how intelligent can she be? She’s intelligent enough to seek out this blog (I assume all Evan’s clients read this blog with us?)and pay for Evan’s advice but will she actually take it and do the work?? We’ll see I guess…It takes EFFORT to achieve any kind of success out here.

  14. 14

    Hi guys- I’m Evan’s new client he talked about in the article.
    In response to Selena #11 – GREAT question 🙂 What is the best about working with Evan is the accountability. I suppose I could have tried to recruit a girlfriend to help – but somehow laying out the money, and setting an appointment on the calendar really makes it more “real” – just like my personal trainer at the gym. And sure, it’s not exactly “dating” coaching (yet), but hopefully it will be soon, as I’m finally actually USING an online dating site. It’s also encouraging me to be a bit more proactive about other activities “in real life” as well.
    And Offwinger #12 – wow, you really nailed it on the head! You’re right that it’s really easy to meet people “in the real world” – but it’s just as easy to shut people out as well – and if I look at myself carefully, I tend toward that (a bit of an introvert myself)
    (Oh, and one correction to Evan’s post: I joined Great Expectations, and DID go on a couple of dates *they* set me up with (one guy told me about his stomach parasite on the 2nd date!) – but then it was like other dating services – *I* didn’t do any further legwork to look for other matches…)
    And JB #13: yes, indeed – we will see if I actually follow through!! so far so good – it’s been a slow start, but I have to reiterate – knowing I’m going to talk to Evan again next week – and he’s going to be able to SEE what I’ve done (or not done) is very helpful motivation to get un-stuck and get myself out there. Effort is being made. Really. I swear. For real this time 🙂

  15. 15

    To make a rationalization to herself? She can feel like she is doing something by signing up.

  16. 16

    So I’ve been lurking on this site for a while, but decided to post today for several reasons. One is that I wanted to see if Adam had thought about dating a woman his own age. I know if he wants a bio kid that poses challenges, but just a thought. I say that because I’m a 42-year-old never married woman who would like kids (but I’m open to adoption if I can’t have them).

    I’m also writing to say thanks to Evan for this blog and all the thoughtful information he puts out there. I used a few of his tips and found them very helpful.
    Finally, I want to share my positive story with online dating. I dated someone for a year I met online. I thought we were going to get married, but it didn’t work out that way. We broke up in March. I fit the profile of a lot of Evan’s clients: professional urban-dweller, fit, lots of hobbies, attractive (subjective, I know), great friends, etc. So, I took a few months off to recuperate, and then I started dating again in July. I just counted up my dates (I write in my spare time and kept some notes) and I went on 49 dates with 24 people in 5.5 months. I dated older, younger, all different races (including short Asian guys;-), divorced with kids, divorced with no kids, never married, tall, short. I was very open. And generally I met a lot of really good guys (and yeah, I went on some really boring dates, but I survived). But not “the” guy. One came close, but he didn’t want to get married again and was very clear about that when it came time to broach the subject. So I let him go. Generally I waited for guys to email me, but wanted to mix it up a bit. So I emailed a few guys, using Evan’s tips for a short intro email that is funny and addresses something unique in the person’s profile. I emailed 7 guys, I think. Only 1 replied, several weeks later. We went out. And it was great. And we went out again, and again, and again. We’re exclusive now. And we want the same things. He’s 42, never married and wants kids. I’m sure he’d prefer a younger woman, but we are a very good match. We’ll see what happens. But I just wanted to say if you have the stamina (and I know it’s not easy!) to keep at it, you can have success. And I know I”m at the beginning stage with this guy, but I consider it a success regardless, because I met someone I really really like, respect, and am attracted to. You never know…

  17. 17

    AAAhhhh,,,,,,, Reluctantdater, sounds like a real sweetheart, be nice to her…..

  18. 18

    Good for you Reluctantdater!

    Your comments about accountability made me smile – sounds a bit like having a therapist who gives you “homework” on which you have to report the next week. Best of luck. 🙂

    Thanks for posting. It’s great to hear positive stories amongst all the dating sucks ones. 😉

  19. 19

    he will show up when you’re trying less”
    Trying to hard to get somebody to like you is a turn off that will drive people away, but confusing with not trying at all to be social gets you nothing.

  20. 20

    You got that right Hunter!! Reluctant dater is more than sweet, I have known her for years…she is multi faceted, intelligent, genuine,open minded, easy going, spontaneous, determined, motivated….I could go on and on. Soooo glad you’re getting out there “reluctant dater!” ; ) You deserve the best. I need to follow your footsteps as ahhh yes I can definitely relate!! Great points “Offwinger.” I am a busy 30’s single professional woman and eventhough I meet and talk to a ton of people on a daily basis I know I need to put myself out there and make more of an effort and show that I would actually like to meet someone one day. I need to make the time to just do it. Thanks for the motivation everyone! : )

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