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).
Click Here To Leave Your Comment Below.


  1. 41

    Maybe it comes down to, as many people have written before, “approachability.”

    A woman or group of women with their arms crossed, bags in front of them, scowling fiercely or even disgustedly at the men in a singles event (I’ve seen this many times), will usually not be approached, at least by me.
    If I’m going to approach a woman, I want to see there’s at least some dim chance of success.

    I don’t mind being shot down, but even then I’d rather it came from a woman with a smile than one with a snarl.

  2. 42

    M @40
    I understand where you’re coming from. I can only speak for my friend’s situation and say I believe him… because he met me by approaching me at a singles’ event. Obviously it didn’t become more than just a friendship, but I believe he was the type that actually does approach women at such events. I have another female friend who’s still involved in the city’s singles scene, so to speak, who knows this guy and says he’s always very friendly and talkative. So I don’t think he was going to waste much time approaching the woman who made the “men are pigs” comment.
    That being said, in a general sense, what you’ve mentioned is quite maddening. Regarding that same party where I met the guy, I later in the week got a call from the organizer who said there was another guy who had noticed me and wanted me to have his number. The organizers asked him if he had spoken to me, and he said, “No.” Then they asked incredulously, “Well WHY NOT???”
    He had no answer. I said I think I remembered him as the guy who gave me a quick look as I went to the coat room to hang up my coat.
    For obvious reasons, I did NOT call this person, seeing that he never bothered to find me and speak to me at the actual event, yet took time to call the organizers and ask them to give me his number. Come on, how lame can you get!!!
    So I honestly don’t think the first guy I mentioned was in that crew of men that were never going to approach… but her loud statement stopped him from making that first move.

  3. 43

    SS, you have a point – I doubt that too many women would call a man who gave his number to the party organizer and asked that it be relayed to you.   It is hard for a lot of men to start conversations with attractive women whom they like, but men have to learn to do this to improve their odds of ending up with a woman they really want because some women will never approach a man.
    Some women just are not very friendly when they are approached, even at a singles event, and one or two bad experiences will cause a typical man to think twice about approaching women in the future.   Unfortunately, men need to get used to this and with a couple successes, probably will get used to the rejections.
    Some men will never be good at meeting women at singles-type events because they are too scared to approach anyone.   Many attractive women have their defenses up even at singles events and that may be too hard for a lot of men to overcome.   However, those same men might have more luck approaching women in other venues.

  4. 44

    Replying to Star- You seem pretty smart to me.   You make  many valid points; things I have noticed countless times with women in their 30’s and 40’s meeting them in person and online.   The thing is why don’t these women see what you have obviously figured out?   And what are single men in their 40’s to do to find women like you?   I am 43, but have been told countless times that I look like I’m 35.   And I am in better shape physcially than most women and men in their 30’s.   I take care of myself and I think that’s a big reason I look so much younger than my age.

  5. 45

         I know that I wear your “loser” label, but I am a “good man” and am
    headed for Thailand where I am going to ask someone to dance and she is going to say, “Yes!”, without all of these stupid   games.
         Will I think anything LESS if her for smiling at me, dancing with me or
    wanting to be close to me?   NO!   she will not feel that it is beneath her
    to treat me nicely.   It will be MY pleasure to please her in return, without
    worrying if I have broken any rules. Marriage?   Maybe not.
         But I would never be treated as well if I tried to   play the game that you
    have here. So call me your names, but   your game is the one that is lame.

  6. 46
    Jon Beverlin

    I like this post, enjoyed this one thanks for putting up. “No man is wise enough by himself.” by Titus Maccius Plautus.

  7. 47
    Gabe Asher

    @12   Good points. If you have been a physically attractive woman most of your life, you’ve become used to attention/approaches by men even when you put on your bitch face, and crossed your arms etc. No effort on your part. As you enter your 30’s and your looks wane, you can’t get results being passive anymore, although you’ve become used to guys tackling you everywhere. New game now.  You will have to show some interest, smile, flip the hair etc. Look, and feel approachable.
    Another thing many 30ish woman do is to identify with shows like Sex and the City, and Desperte Housewives. Written by women, for women. I watch DH. Does anyone really believe that those good looking 38 yo dudes are all hot for the likes of Marcia Cross, Eva, and Terri. Especially the pool dude Jesse Metcalf (possibly the hottest guy on the planet, and I’m a straight guy). And Restalyne girl, the blonde, her name escapes me. She can’t even talk she has so much filler packed in her mug! In the real world, those dudes are not chasing those women around.
    I’ve also noticed that many confident, career minded women end up with beta type males. I think alphas don’t want that kind of resistance. No ying/yang. The two confident, career types usually don’t last. All chiefs, no indians. Bad program.

  8. 48

    Let’s play a word game.   Three words:   America, women, feminism.   Do you get it?   Best bet here is foreign women who are looking for opportunities in the USA.   No Russians though, the russian women are sometimes tied to the government and were prostitutes in their home country.   Try looking for a family oriented latin woman.   They are hot, hard working, love family, love their husbands, and actually go to church.   Latin women also come from a world where men don’t wait on them hand and foot, they are actually expected to just be family women.   They are thankful for what they have due to religion and come from a little opportunity country so they appreciate a whole lot more.   “Diamonds?   What’s that?   Kids, I love them.”   Just because they are Church girls doesn’t mean they are not horny or can’t satisfy you as a man, trust me.   Boycott American women, import, until feminism is crushed.  

  9. 49

    I think women need to define the word “fun” to men because I think the the word ” fun” hearing it from women translates to men that all a lot of women want to do is “party”, and never take life seriously. It’s feels like I think to a lot of men with women these days that after college a lot of women still think life is still college as still go out and get rip roaring passing out drunk and never seriously getting into “life” after college as in seriously finding a guy, settle down, get married and start the family. Then on the other hand you have women that take life after college too seriously as in getting this super high job and then never ever making time to date, constantly making excuses why she hasn’t found a man yet, find a man, get married and start the family.

    I think the roles have totally reversed as in men are the ones after college and getting their careers going wanting to find a lady and settle down and it’s so frustrating for a lot of men these days constantly hearing so many women constantly complain about men, always wanting to “party” and so many women thinking like two year olds as in there is always this “something” like in men better. Like if they (a lot of women) just keep holding out, and constantly say no there’s going to be this god like man just going to waltz up to her etc etc.
    I think there’s going to be a very harsh reality wake up call for a lot of women in the next say 5, 10 to 15 years.

  10. 50

    Take this seriously. Women that have careers, friends, hobbies, basically their own lives may want to find love, but they do not want to trade their lives for it. No matter how good of a guy you may think you are, there are  usually   some sterotypical  gender roles that you play into that will cause the woman, who has all of those things I mentioned, to work even harder to take care of something else. This is most often seen when it comes to having children. I have friends that have men that cook and clean but when it comes time to go to an outing like a BBQ or the beach, it’s always the woman who has to run around after the kid and not enjoy herself. I think career women who  want children are complaining that there aren’t enough men that will equally share all chores that come with having a family. I had a child early, became a single mom after 3 yrs and then found my career later when he was older. In my early 30s I took the time look for a lifelong mate and found one that didn’t want children. I believe that if I wanted to have more children I’d still be single because I can see that even my husband, whom I adore, would have been lacking in helping with the day-to-day of raising a child. You can’t recede into your cave for “me time” when your child needs you and expecting your woman to give up her “me time” when she has a fullfiling but time consuming  career as well  is unfair. Treat women completely as equals and don’t expect gender roles or go for a woman that does not have a career or an education for that matter. Again, not all men are like that but there is a shortage of men who are not like that. Just something to be mindful of when in search of a woman.

  11. 51

    i would certainly say so, and that is why many of us serious men can’t seem to meet a good woman to accept us for who we really are. much more women nowadays think that they are all that with their very high paying job that many of them have now. we certainly need women like June Cleaver and Donna Reed again, and they were very committed to their men which made their marriage last.

  12. 52

    Bill #51
    “we certainly need women like June Cleaver and Donna Reed again, and they were very committed to their men which made their marriage last.”
    You do realize that those were FICTIONAL television characters, right? And they were played by PROFESSIONAL women actors? It was the Donna Reed Show, not the Carl Betz (who’s he?) show. Oh, the irony.

  13. 53

    Bill they were also fictional television characters. If you are trying to find a fantasy woman, you will be  continuously  disappointed.  

  14. 54

    Bill #51, I have always been the June Cleaver type, extremely devoted, faithful, loyal – cooked, cleaned, massaged, listened, pampered my husband. I worked outside of the home until our first child was born.
    He left me and kids for a career woman.   A woman’s commitment to their men is not the only thing that makes marriages last, it takes two to tango.

  15. 55

    by the way since a few of you answered my comment, there are so many women out there today that think they are all that with their very high paying job which many of you do have today. and i am trying to make a point here, that many women did accept their men for who they were years ago and now most of you women today want a man with a very large bank account. very pathetic.

  16. 56
    Sparkling Emerald

    I know this post is probably older than dirt, but I hope Adam takes EMK’s advice to heart and follows it.
    I did TWO things that helped my online dating experience.   Re-wrote my profile according to the advice in FTOO, and took a Hiatus from my second job, and stopped filling every minute of my spare time with yoga, meet-up, & time spent with girlfriends.   (Although I did get a few dates through meet-up)
    BIG IMPROVEMENT, started hearing from a better quality of men, and actually got past 2 dates with one.   (However, it did not work out, because he hid a “deal breaker” from me, knowing it was a deal breaker) and also, even tho he knew I was separated but not divorced, from day one, he started questioning me to the point where I knew it bothered him, so we mutually decided that we just weren’t a good match.   I must say tho’, that it is the BEST short term relationship I have had   with the best break up ever.   (No hard feelings)
    I know now, that the next step I must take is to get a real divorce.   Unfortunately, that is going to set me back financially, so I might have to go back to working more hours at my second job, which will put me in the not enough time/energy to find a relationship.   Hopefully,   will eventually be able to have the time, image and necessary relationship status to pursue a relationship again.   Since I saw such stellar improvements just by re-branding myself and making more time to be available, I am hoping to see a big   difference when I change my status from “currently separated” to “divorced”.

  17. 57
    Margaret Thatcher

    @Bill #55
    What’s wrong with wanting a man to pull his weight financially?
    I don’t know of any man who has such a   “brilliant Personality” that he should get to sit on the couch half the day and work part time fast food the other half while I bust you-know-what full time at my job to support us. Even two retail-type jobs…. it’s not that I think I am “all that” because I make money. It becomes an issue of coming from two different worlds.Women like being challenged by men, and I haven’t met many men with less education who challenge me. And more education, by and large, equals more money.
    Men might be ok with pulling in $150,000 after getting out of med school and marrying a second-grade teacher with a community college education, but most women want at least an equal moneywise. I don’t think that’s any worse than a man wanting a woman at least as attractive as he is–men and women want different things, and neither are any more or less rational than the other.
    If men don’t like that women are making more, perhaps   men need to step it up a little bit. I have read studies about earning power in relationships, and it turns out that it’s detrimental to the relationship when the man earns over a certain amount less than the woman. There are always exceptions of course, but the best setup seems to be when men and women are equal financial contributors, or when men make somewhat more.

    1. 57.1

      I’d love to find a girl that actually *did* make a good salary. Instead, what I’ve noticed is that many of these professional women don’t actually make that much — maybe $50K-$75K, which doesn’t go far in DC.

      Many of these women — after numerous luxurious vacations, designer clothes and purses each season, years of post-bachelor studies (in non-lucrative fields), fabulous weekly ‘brunches’ and nights out with the gals, and a trendy apartment in the city — are living far above their means. That’s before we get to the six figure grad school loans and credit card debt.

      I had a good relationship going — we both wanted a family, kids – the whole nine yards. I began to ask her how exactly she was prepared to help pay for these things – kids, pets,big house near the city – considering she already was negative cash flow each month. It became apparent that she assumed that was my problem. Her priority was paying for another gals-only trip to the Bahamas and would need a new Louis Vuitton this spring.

      1. 57.1.1

        @Marrion 57.1: you bring up a valid point and I’ve noticed the same thing, of some* other women. They consider themselves to be modern, successful career women and want all the benefits that feminism has brought them in the workplace, and yet they still expect to be financially saved (or, at very least, supplemented) by a man.

        I am horrified but I’ve noticed that, for some men, this is worn like a badge of honour. Just like a Ferrari in the driveway that costs a fortune to buy, insure and can’t be driven in the snow, the cute wife who spends more than she earns is a status symbol that proves he can afford a luxury item (luxury wife?) that (who) is inherently high-quality but a poor financial-investment.

        Evan certainly doesn’t promote this… but he does admonish men to go for women who are, above all, sweet and “make them feel good;” traits like being financially responsible are secondary or tertiary considerations. My brothers don’t like it but feel that it’s just the nature of the dating game; “the price of admission” for dating a high value woman is providing her with a lifestyle she can’t afford and if they don’t, there’ll be plenty of other men who are willing to do so.

        A few men, however, are understandably ~ and wisely ~ wary of women who want to live champagne lifestyles while earning crackers-and-spam salaries. But this begs the question: for women who live well beneath our means, how do we reassure men that we’re neither bad financial risks nor feel entitled to our future husband’s earnings? Eg. My online profile listed some of the interesting travel opportunities I’ve been fortunate enough to experience but guy friends said this would make men worry that I’m an “expensive” woman. Of course, I never stated in my profile, that I own my house outright, have no debt and put at least $50k/year into my savings. How do you suggest that fiscally-responsible women walk this delicate tightrope? And how many men actually even care?

        *granted, I also know several women who pay for almost all of their family’s expenses while also doing the lion’s share of household management (childcare, cooking, gardening, etc), while the husbands dream of their next entrepreneurial venture (that never fails to lose money when put into place).

        1. Chance

          Henriette, you have just asked some very good questions, and yes, a lot of men do care about whether a woman is fiscally responsible. However, in order to help you, I need to find out a little bit more about your preferences. I say this because, while many men certainly don’t want a wife who is a bad financial investment or feels entitled to a man’s earnings, I think a deeper fear for these men stems from the more common phenomenon of women who expect men to make at least as much as they make or more (even if these women make a lot of money). I guess this goes to your point of women who, at least, expect to be financially supplemented. I’ve met many women who thought they were quite independent because they didn’t want to be taken care of, which was generally accurate, but they also weren’t open to dating a man who made/had less than they did.

          Based on your comment, I couldn’t quite tell if you were open to dating someone who made/had less. This is a very important point because most men just don’t feel like they have a shot with a woman who makes more than them (and, let’s face it, they feel what way for good reason). Unfortunately, this doesn’t bode well for you because I can tell that you do better than the vast majority of men out there. To illustrate: I am 32, I make about $110k/year in a low-cost area, debt-free, and put about $35k into my savings each year. I do better than the vast majority of women my age that I came across online, but I’m pretty sure I don’t do nearly as well as you. Couple this with the fact that nearly all women’s online profiles that I saw with a specified income preference contained a floor for the man’s salary that was equal to the woman’s salary, and I probably wouldn’t have very high hopes of piquing your interest. I would still message you because I place a high value on someone who is frugal (assuming that would be indicated in your profile), but my hopes wouldn’t be high due to your being in a higher income bracket than me, which would likely come across in the effort I would put into getting to know you. Men generally cast a wide net, but we tend to gravitate toward the prospects where we think we have a better shot, even the most confident men. The point is that you could possibly be inadvertently discouraging men who are certainly financially secure, but definitely not wealthy, because men are often scared off by women who make more due to those women’s preferences.

          Are you willing to date someone who makes less, even significantly less, than you? If so, that really helps your odds and you should showcase it in your profile! How about something along the lines of “I really appreciate a man who is financially responsible and who can take care of himself, but I certainly do not expect him to make as much as me. I’m more interested in your character, and I’m happy to share what I’m lucky enough to have with someone as long as your willing to accept my generosity :)”. (btw I’m not saying you’re lucky for your financial situation by any means… I’m just trying to think of a way to put it in a humble manner)

          There are many men out there who care about character and fiscal responsibility (which is really part of one’s character, anyway). If it’s any consolation, frugality is the second biggest reason I chose my partner (her 800+ credit score is very sexy!), behind her overall character, of course.

        2. Henriette

          Thanks for the thoughtful response, @Chance. My questions about how I ought to proceed were more or less rhetorical, as I’m taking the next year+ off dating, but I guess I’m asking on behalf of all women who have a bit of money and are financially responsible with it. I agree with Evan that most men don’t care much about a woman’s solid income and good fiscal habits; understandably, making a guy feel good about himself and being a happy person seem to trump other traits.

          I’ve never dated guys who have as much money as I. I do wonder how many happy, successful couples exist in which the man earns, say, less than 10% of what the woman does; I certainly haven’t seen any but I hope that they exist and become increasingly common.

  18. 58

    Could be for some ladies, particularly ones who strive for lots of control (in my humble opinion) but it isn’t this way for me personally – I may have my dreams and ambitions of being a model/animator, lol, but it doesn’t mean I don’t need snuggles, someone to wake up with in the morning and that I don’t feel those warm fuzzies inside! 🙂

  19. 59

    well with so many independent women out there nowadays many of them do really enjoy being single, and most likely will stay single for the remaining years of their life. but there are many of us men that are hoping to meet a good woman to settle down with, and are tired of going out all the time and can’t seem to meet a good woman, just like the other man said. women have certainly changed over the years and not for the good at all, since i myself come across so many of the i am better than you type of an attitude women that are a real turn off anyway since they do think that they are better than anyone else. the women of the fifties and sixties were certainly much more educated than now.

  20. 60

    To Margaret#57, many of you Women do really think that Your God’s gift too men. And it is very sad that we don’t have the Real Good women like we had years ago that Accepted their men for who they were which Money wasn’t such an issue that many of You want today. Most women had to Really struggle to Survive, and many Men did also. Today many women out there want to be treated like Gold, and are Very Spoiled Too. It is all about Money for many of You Women which it is Very Sad, and it is just too bad that we don’t have a Real Time Machine to send many of the women back in time to see how Rough the Real Women Really had it, and most of the women today wouldn’t never been able to have handled it. It is Very Obvious why many men like us can’t meet a Real Good Woman Anymore, Especially with the Attitude Problem that many women have Now.

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