How Do I Let Men Know I’m A Catch When I’ve Never Been Married?

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How can I appear to be a great catch when I haven’t had a relationship in such a long time? In my mid 20’s, I realized I was in a disruptive pattern of falling for very wrong men and wisely stopped dating and put the energy into finding myself and being a mum. Thing is that, although I’ve been on a few dates, it’s been years since I’ve had any kind of relationship!   I can’t help but wonder what to say when a guy I like asks about my past relationships.

I’m so thankful to have that time to be single as I’ve truly grown as a person, but that’s too much to say to a guy in the early stages. I want him to see what a catch I am and not “Whoh! That seems like hard work ahead… Where’s the door!” So how can I come across as a fab lady and still be honest? Many thanks x Melissa

I’m in my early 40s and lately (since I hit about 38) a common question I get from guys goes something like this, “You’re pretty, smart, etc. – why aren’t you married/ in a relationship?” One guy actually even asked me what’s wrong with me. Well, frankly, I could tell you plenty of stuff that’s wrong with me and what was wrong with him and why other relationships didn’t work out. But it seems to me that there is no good answer to that question. And saying, “I hadn’t met you yet” doesn’t go very far either. How would you suggest I deal with this question?   Joy

 

For the ten years I was single and dating online prolifically, I went on a LOT of dates. Some were uneventful. Some were uneventful but ended in hookups. Some were classically awful — great stories that I still tell to this day about psycho women who are presumably still lurking on JDate, Match and Nerve. And then there’s one category of dates that I rarely bring up — the dates where I acted like a complete ass.

And then there’s one category of dates that I rarely bring up — the dates where I acted like a complete ass.

I once wrote a newsletter about some of them. How I drunkenly threw an ice cube down some unsuspecting woman’s cleavage. How I showed up at a sushi date plastered after a full day of drinking by the beach. How I brought a second bottle of wine to her home   to ensure that I’d lose my inhibitions if she turned out to not be as attractive as her photo. (Yes, most of my stories involve booze and sex. What do you want from me? My apologies to my mother-in-law who is no doubt reading this right now. Love you, Lani!)

Wait, where was I? Right. Booze. Sex. Bad dates. Yes. The worst date I remember was one that didn’t involve anything other than what Melissa and Joy mentioned above — it was a bright woman with devilish eyes, dark hair and a wicked wit. We had a lot of banter prior to going out on our date and I was unusually nervous for a guy who dispensed dating advice for a living. So I took her to my go-to bar, The Well (leather booths, mood lighting, candles, great vodka selection, amazing jukebox, cool atmosphere, not too pretentious.)

That’s when it all fell apart.

Suddenly, she said things like, “So, why are you single?” and “Do you bring all your dates here?”…and although she was actually just teasing me, like a guy friend would, I took it very, very seriously, and tried to answer earnestly: “Actually, I’m just a regular guy who gives advice, but is really looking for love,” blahblahblah. It was the real answer, all right, but it ground our electric chemistry to an immediate halt. Soon, conversation became stilted and awkward because I felt like she was attacking me (she wasn’t; she was flirting with me), and she thought I was being way too defensive (I was; it was awful). I saw the night spiral out of control and I couldn’t turn it around. When I dropped her off, I knew there was no way I’d ever see her again, and I beat myself up for 2 or 3 days afterwards for acting like a lame ass.

Essentially, if you BELIEVE you’re a great catch, you’re a great catch.

…In the end, it’s your confidence that the guy is buying

Why do I tell you this story, apart from the simple catharsis of admitting embarrassing things in a public forum? Well, because I realized that my main problem was taking myself so goddamn seriously! Of course, it’s funny that I was a single guy giving dating advice. Of course, I bring all my dates to this bar. In retrospect, it would have been far more effective to just laugh at myself and diffuse the situation entirely.

“Yes, I take all my dates here. I’m trying to set a record for the most dates by a guy who really wants to be married. Another 86 and I’ll be there. This is Kate, my regular bartender. She’ll be serving me the usual Vox on the rocks. Check out the jukebox. Make sure you go to the last page of CDs, otherwise you’ll miss out on the White Stripes album buried at the end.”

And if she laughed and said, “Seriously. Why are you still single?” I would probably give a politician-like non-answer, “Well, all the women that I loved broke up with me. And all the women who loved me, I broke up with. And I’ve gotta believe that if I keep getting out there, eventually I’m gonna get it right.” The end.

The real point, Joy and Melissa, is that if you don’t make this into a big deal, it’s not a big deal. If you sweat and stammer and get nervous, you’re only adding fuel to the fire.

Essentially, if you BELIEVE you’re a great catch, you’re a great catch. If you don’t believe you’re a great catch — and need validation of recent relationships to prove it — well, it’s going to be hard to convince yourself (and him) that it’s true.

In the end, it’s your confidence that the guy is buying. Nothing more. Nothing less.

But if you overreact to his innocent (or not so innocent) question, he’s going to wonder about your confidence, which is inherently going to make you less attractive to him.

What you also seem to be missing is that “Why are you still single?” is a compliment. That’s right. Here’s how I know that:

Imagine you met a fat, stupid guy with absolutely no manners. Do you think you would ever ask, “Why are you still single?”

The defense rests, your honor.

The REAL problem is not the question itself; it’s that the question is triggering GENUINE insecurities in you about being a great catch.

Someone only asks that because it seems incongruous that someone as amazing as you hasn’t yet been snapped up by somebody else. The REAL problem is not the question itself; it’s that the question is triggering GENUINE insecurities in you about being a great catch. If you believe you’re a great catch, then the question shouldn’t bother you at all.

Just take it as a compliment.

By the way, here’s how a 31-year-old Evan handled a very challenging question about his own dating credentials in early 2004.

Enjoy:

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Comments:

  1. 21
    Goldie

    Alright, I confess, I’ve asked the darn question – but that was when I’d first started dating, right after my divorce, and what I was really trying to ask was, I guess, “so what’s it like out there? how did it work out for you? what should I prepare myself for as I start doing this?” Needless to say, this question did not get me a second date, but I probably wasn’t ready for one anyway 😉
    @Still Looking #11 – you bet I want to know whether the guy has a criminal record, addictions, bad habits, personal issues etc. But coming straight out and asking him about it on our first date won’t get me anywhere. Also, odds are a real con man/sociopath would come up with a quick answer that will convince me. A regular guy on the other hand, would probably just end the date and never call back.
      
    I’ve got a question to all that is somewhat related to the topic at hand – what’s a “serial dater” and how do we avoid projecting ourselves like one? Reason I ask is, back when I started dating, a lot of advice I got from friends was about avoiding these serial daters and ways to filter them out early on. But then in the same breath, people would tell me that a good way to find that out is to ask a guy, “So how do you like dating so far?” – if he says he does like it, then he’s a serial dater and I should run. This boggles my mind as I am a positive person. I try to enjoy everything I do. I don’t complain, especially on my first date to someone I just met in person. Will I really come across as a serial dater if I say “I like it”? Am I actually supposed to tell the person how I suffer through my dating process? This kind of goes against my nature.
      

  2. 22
    KellyAnn

    @Ruby “Isn’t there actually more of a stigma against never-married men (especially over 40) than there is for women?  

    I’ve never understood why being divorced is like a badge of honor for some people. If they were really all that committed to their marriages, then why are they divorced?”
      
    I’d rather find someone who has never been married than someone who has already broken their wedding vows at least once.

    1. 22.1
      LMJ

      I am wary of men who are over 40 and have not been married, simply because a good looking and successful man has plenty of opportunities to get married by that age. If he hasn’t, there are a few reasons why and most of them do not bode well.
      I started dating a 40 year old who was handsome, active, and shared various interests. Unfortunately I missed glaring warning signs, now I am 38 and forced to respond to the “question” that is the subject of this post.

  3. 23
    Diana

    To Karl R #19, your post basically sums up what I was thinking, in that   you can find out why a person’s still single organically and in a more comfortable way than directly asking, especially early on. These types of questions feel a little imposing to me and risk making the other person feel uncomfortable which is not something I want to do with someone I am interested in.
      
    It’s interesting how people think. Sometimes we are thinking what we’ve been taught to think, instead of thinking for ourselves. One of the questions I am asked is, “Why are you divorced?” Given that an affair was the basis for my divorce, some people automatically assume that something must be wrong with me. Why else would he have an affair? But the truth is they would hear something far different, if they were to ask my former husband. I just try to respond as gracefully as I can (without giving them a three-hour speech [LOL]), and then move on.

  4. 24
    Goldie

    Wow, all the stereotypes out there are making my head spin. So, if I’m divorced and I’m the one that left, then I betrayed my wedding vows. If I’m divorced and he’s the one that left, then I must’ve done something to have lost his love. If I was never married then I guess I must be a crazy cat lady (if I’m a woman) or a fast-food employee living in my mother’s basement (if I’m a man). And of course, either way I’m a commitmentphobe. Sounds like there’s a label for any single person over 25. Nice 😀 Not that I’ve never been guilty of applying those to other people myself… will definitely refrain from doing it now. Like Karl said, if I wait a while, I’ll get the whole story in context, and won’t have to jump to conclusions.

  5. 25
    Karl R

    Ruby asked: (#20)
    “Isn’t there actually more of a stigma against never-married men (especially over 40) than there is for women?”

    This topic has been addressed before. See responses 18, 27 and  83 for examples of that stigma.

    starthrower68 said: (#16)
    “Ah, the fishing expedition that doesn’t sound like a fishing expedition.”

    I know what you mean.

    After a dozen different dates asked me several dozen questions which were fishing expeditions carefully phrased to not sound like fishing expeditions … that’s exactly what they sounded like.

    Goldie asked: (#21)
    “what’s a ‘serial dater’?”

    Here’s an article that gives a reasonable (and broad) definition of the term. Of course, it is partly contradicted by this other article.

    Goldie asked: (#21)
    “how do we avoid projecting ourselves like one?”

    Very carefully … especially if you’re a serious dater who is simultaneously dating multiple people in order to improve your odds of finding a long-term relationship.

    When someone asked one of those fishing expedition  questions, I would  let her know that I was interested in ending up in a serious, long-term relationship, but I was more interested in waiting for someone  who was a good match instead of jumping into the first possible relationship.

    It’s not something that’s easy to preemptively volunteer. You have to wait for the fishing expedition … the one that doesn’t sound like a fishing expedition.

  6. 26
    SS

    @20
    I’ve never understood why being divorced is like a badge of honor for some people. If they were really all that committed to their marriages, then why are they divorced?

      
    I agree. I never understood this either. I have even found that a number of dating coaches/matchmakers say that divorced men in their late 30s and over (don’t know about women) are better catches than never-married men, because at least you know that they are willing to make a commitment because they did in the past.
      
    I never totally bought that. I don’t negatively judge anyone who has been divorced (because I don’t know the story behind the divorce), but I also never saw it as a feather in their caps that they were once married. I’d rather meet a late 30-something guy who has never married but is VERY committed to finding a wife than a divorced late 30-something guy who might need a while to recommit to the idea of marriage and makes me wait longer for commitment than a never-married guy might have because his divorce makes him more squeamish about marriage now.
      
    As with anything though, you have to judge the person, not the situation. But I don’t find that being once married makes anyone a better catch than never being married… I know for me, it was the opposite (of course, I’m barely in my 30s, so I figured I was still in the age group where there were a reasonable number of never-married men out there).

  7. 27
    Luxe

    @15 Steve – I’m going to use this next time.

    I get along better when I get to know the person naturally and with time versus asking some type of fishing question. Since I don’t really like the “why are you single?” question at all, I could just come up with some simple short answer that doesn’t give the person anymore information then they had from the beginning. So what’s the point?

  8. 28
    Selena

    It’s ironic that the people who are most likely to ask this question are themselves divorced. As a veteran of a few long, serious relationships where marriage was considered (and later rejected – by me), I usually end up saying I lived with someone long enough to realize we wouldn’t be able to keep the “till death do we part vow”. Then I smile and say I have been lucky, the money I’ve saved on divorce attorneys. Compared to the person asking the question, I have been. And  it diffuses that uncomfortable line of inquiry.

    A  first date should be fun! Getting into discussions about previous relationships is NOT fun. All of that will be disclosed as you get to know and feel more comfortable with each other.

  9. 29
    Ruby

    SS #26

    I don’t assume that someone who is divorced is any more or less flawed than one who is never-married. In fact, I do think there is some truth to what those dating advisors say, especially when you’re talking about the over-40 crowd. But again, it all depends on the individual.  

    Karl R #25
    The article came up “not found.”

  10. 30
    Selena

    Thing is, all single people are single for essentially the same reason: they’ve yet to have the relationship that lasts a lifetime.

    Applies equally to the divorced AND the never married. And makes the question “Why are you still single?” irrelevant.

  11. 31
    Sayanta

    #15- I like Steve’s answer- I’m using that from now on.

  12. 32
    Sayanta

    #22, Kelly-Ann,

    Amen. Me too.

  13. 33
    ss

    @Ruby29
      
    I don’t assume that someone who is divorced is any more or less flawed than one who is never-married. In fact, I do think there is some truth to what those dating advisors say, especially when you’re talking about the over-40 crowd. But again, it all depends on the individual.
      
    I also agree there might be some degree of truth as well when you’re talking about the over-40, particularly mid-40s crowd… actually, I dated one of those guys when he was 35 and unmarried and he’s now 43 and unmarried. Good guy, but has social issues… and yes, he admitted as much. About three women (myself included) have moved on and gotten married after dating him for a period of time simply because he has an issue with turning a safe platonic friendship into a romantic, sexual one.
      
    However, when you’re talking late 30s (which is the age range I usually dated), I found those never-married men to be the best catches. A lot of them put career first or maybe just took a little longer to mature, but they usually were at the point in which they knew what they wanted, and they were determined not to stay on the market very long.
      
    With a divorced man, I found that it all depended on how long he’d been out of his marriage. If you as a woman wanted to settle down and marry (and had never been married), a guy just a year or two out of a marriage was often a bad bet. Not because he was a bad guy because he was divorced, but he was rightfully a little gun shy about doing the whole marriage thing again. The ones with more years away from the marriage were better, but still more gun shy than the never-married late 30-something.
      
    So yes, he might marry again and might marry you, but you probably have to go through a lot more mental and emotional hoops waiting for him as he tries to come to terms with his feelings. And seeing that I did enough of that with poor results in a seven-year period, I easily determined that the never-married late-30 something (and maybe early 40 something) was the much better risk.
      
    I find that many dating books don’t take that into account when they rave about how commitment proven a divorced man is versus a never-married man.
      
    But yes… it does depend on the individual too!   🙂

  14. 34
    james

    I wholly agree with EVAN!!!! Great great great POST!:)

  15. 35
    Sayanta

    Just curious- what if you’ve never been married or in anything serious or too physical because all the guys you fell for were gay. All of them. Seriously. Is this something you want to tell a potential boyfriend at any point?

    There must be others with this problem, right? 🙂

  16. 36
    Helen

    Evan, I want to focus on a point of your response that others haven’t discussed as much, which is awesome and applies not just to relationships, but to worklife as well:
      
    “If you don’t make this into a big deal, it’s not a big deal… In the end, it’s your confidence that [people are] buying. Nothing more. Nothing less.”
      
    That ought to be a mantra for problems in general, or, in any case, what we perceive to be problems. Others don’t see our problems as much as we do.   So don’t make a big deal of them.   Be nonchalant.   If you act as though something is not a big deal, others will generally pick up on your cue.   This isn’t a call to go out and do outrageous things – rather, to understand that we see our flaws and mistakes more harshly than most others do.
      

  17. 37
    Denise

    #33

    Yours is a good post and especially this:

    A lot of them put career first or maybe just took a little longer to mature, but they usually were at the point in which they knew what they wanted, and they were determined not to stay on the market very long.

    Reminds me of ‘any man/woman will do’

    This is a danger area for men too.   I’m a woman in her mid (now late! yikes) 40s and am really surprised at the number of men around my age or older that have young children.   I’m sure some of them married and waited to  have children, but  I bet a lot of them are as you describe and got married later in life.   I also know of a man in particular who waited to get married now regrets the choice he made.   He’s around 50 and has a long way to go before his children are grown and on their own (which is what he is committed to doing).  

    Just goes to show that men and women have a ‘time clock’ and that  sometimes works against them.

  18. 38
    Karl R

    ss said: (#33)
    “usually were at the point in which they knew what they wanted, and they were determined not to stay on the market very long.”
    Denise said: (#37)
    “Reminds me of ‘any man/woman will do’”

    I disagree with Denise. As ss said, “they knew what they wanted.” Of the men I know in this situation, they haven’t hesitated to end a relationship that wasn’t what they wanted.

    And that’s where these men differ from me. I don’t want kids. I have no sense of urgency. I’m a lot more willing to hang out in a relationship that won’t last as long as I’m enjoying it in the short term. A few extra months won’t make that much difference in the long run.

    I dated one woman for 6 months. After the first month, I told her that I didn’t see it becoming a serious relationship. Since we were having fun, we continued to date until I met someone  whom I wanted to be serious with. That non-serious relationship lasted longer than two of my serious relationships.

    If my main goal was to get married, every minute I spent with the non-serious girlfriend was a waste of time. If my main goal was to have fun, those minutes were time well spent.

    The men that ss was talking about, they wouldn’t have spent/wasted that time.

  19. 39
    Joe Amoia

    Where did we get teh idea that if a person is still single in their 30’s/40’s that there is something wrong with them? Is it better that they get married just so they could meet the age quota?
    The odds are the person sitting on the other end of the table is single as as well & if one would dig around in their closet they would see why.   For years I was single & was constantly asked “WHY?” The truth was I didn’t meet anyone that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.
    It didn’t mean that I was broke, needed to be fixed or had baggage (any more/less than anyone else). I didn’t feel the need to explain myself & if someone couldn’t handle my answer I didn’t waste my time on them
    Evan, U nailed it! It’s simply a matter of how confident you are. You don’t owe anyone an explanation & if a person isn’t satisfied w/your honest answer than they obviously aren’t the one for you.

  20. 40
    Ruby

    Karl R #38
      
    I dated one woman for 6 months. After the first month, I told her that I didn’t see it becoming a serious relationship. Since we were having fun, we continued to date until I met someone  whom I  wanted  to be serious with. That non-serious relationship lasted longer than two of my serious relationships.

    I’m curious, what kept you from being more serious with this woman if the relationship was so much fun?

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