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. 41
    Denise

    Karl #38

    That is your experience.   Putting together that many men do want to have families, have put off settling down for whatever their reason and are now ready to move forward with that, then end up on dating sites divorced with young children – seems to point to ‘any woman will do’ to me.   Guess we’ll agree to disagree 🙂

  2. 42
    morgan

    I’m a mid-40s woman, never married and have had to deal with awkward follow-up questions to “Have you ever been married?” numerous times. From “Why not?” to “Well has anyone even proposed to you?” I’ve probably had them all.   I can see these guys brains clunking going ‘She’s attractive, smart, good job, seems sane but there must be something wrong with her if no man WANTS TO MARRY HER.  

    I take these questions, particularly on a first or second date, as a sign of of someone who is simplistic/think inside the box or just plain gauche.   Nonetheless, I still dread having to deal with them and  am yet to find a way to respond that satisfies me.   Launching into a long spiel about how my parents’ marriage and early childhood experiences made me gun shy of committed relationships and how I’ve done a lot of psychotherapy to address this, might be the truth but sometimes the truth is best left unsaid (at least for a time anyway).

    I admit to being a hypocrite though as I have a bias against men in my age group who have not had children (particuarly if they state they don’t want them) as I view parenthood (rather than marriage) as a sign of the ability to commit.   Which is stupid, given it only takes one sex act to turn you into a parent, and some people are completely uncommitted to their children.  

  3. 43
    Harriet Bond

    Yes, this is something that seems to plague women more than men; the question of ‘Why aren’t you married yet?’ Sometimes I wonder whether we’ve moved on at all from the Jane Austen era (is that why we English people are, as a nation, obsessed with costume dramas?!), seeing women’s ultimate destiny as marriage, and anything else a ‘failure.’ Loads of women just haven’t found the right man (I am tempted to assert that there are more good women out there than good men, but I am trying not to be cynical!) and it’s something over which we have no control. I have faced with the comment ‘but how come you’re not married? You’re such a catch!’ quite a few times, and have taken it as a straight-up compliment. I do also find it mildly depressing and a bit frustrating! As my blog testifies, I have   now all but given up on internet dating….

  4. 44
    Annie

    @15.

    LOLOL!! I love it!

  5. 45
    Joe

    There are a few reasons why someone 35 and older gets this question.   (1) The other person is concerned with how many partners he/she has had and worried if they are skanky or slutty or needs to be tested.   (2) Obviously the purpose of dating is to figure out if an LTR or marriage is in the future, and determine if he/she wants marriage, children, etc. or if he/she is a commita-phobe who doesn’t want kids.

  6. 46
    Karl R

    Joe said: (#45)
    “The other person is concerned with how many partners he/she has had and worried if they are skanky or slutty or needs to be tested.”

    You really need to educate yourself about STDs.

    One of my girlfriends definitely had an STD. She was in her 20s (when we dated), she was a virgin, and she’d gotten the STD from a blood transfusion as a newborn.

    My current girlfriend is in her 50s. She was married for 3 years during her early 20s. Based on that information, please tell me how you would determine (1)  how many partners she’s had, (2)  whether she’s taken precautions, (3)  whether she’s slutty, and (4)  whether she needs to be tested?

    For that matter, I’m in my 40s and I’ve never been married. Based on that information, how would you determine the answers for the same questions as they apply to me?

    If you want to know about someone’s sexual history and health, maybe you should ask different questions.

  7. 47
    Joe

    Karl, that is the purpose of asking “why are you still single at 40” because if you answer “I can’t commit to a woman because I always cheat on them and have over 100 casual encounters and I hate kids and never want to get married” then that is a major red flag for anyone who is considering marriage to that person.   Its not the question – Its how you answer it.   Its a nicer way of asking “are you marriage material”?

  8. 48
    Karl R

    Joe said: (#47)
    “Its not the question — Its how you answer it.”

    I’ve been asked the question before (I’m 41, never married). Here was my answer: “For years it just wasn’t a priorty for me. A few years ago I began pursuing serious relationships, but I haven’t met anyone who was a good match for me yet.”

    Did that answer cover any of your indirect questions?
    Can I commit to a woman?
    Have I ever cheated on a woman?
    How many casual encounters have I had?
    Do I want kids?
    Do I hate kids?
    Do I ever want to get married?

    I answered the question truthfully, the same way I have in the past, and only one of those questions is indirectly answered. (You can infer that I might want to get married, since I’m pursuing serious relationships.)

    When you’ve asked  women why  they’ve never gotten married, have any of them told you that they were habitual cheaters? I’m under the impression that habitual cheaters will lie about that sort of thing.

    Joe said: (#47)
    “that is a major red flag for anyone who is considering marriage to that person.”

    Really?

    My girlfriend and I intend to get married (to each other). Neither of us wants kids. If she hated kids, it still wouldn’t be a red flag. She could stay home when I go visit my nieces.

    I don’t know how many casual sex partners she’s had. She doesn’t know how many casual sex partners I’ve had. (She believes I’ve had more than her, and she may be right.) Neither of us really care.

    Joe said: (#47)
    “a nicer way of asking ‘are you marriage material’?”

    If you’re trying to be nice, you might want to find a nicer way to ask the question than, “Why haven’t you ever been married?”

    If you’re trying  discover whether  someone is marriage material, you might want to ask questions which will get a useful answer.

  9. 49
    Joe

    Okay, re-phrase it to “Have you ever been married or in an LTR” and “Do you ever want to get married” – Also, I could be wrong, but most women under 35 want to have children and want to be married.   So any guy who says he hates kids and does not want to be married ever, raises some major red flags.   A guy should be honest, and not waste a woman’s time if he has no intention of marrying her ever.   Women have a biological clock that runs out after 40, thats a proven fact.   Don’t waster her time, and be honest about your intentions.   I’m surprised you don’t share your high number, or maybe she doesn’t want to know, but at least get tested and share the results with your wife/gf.   Most women want to know if a man/husband is promiscuous, cheater, or has any std.

  10. 50
    Andrea

    @Joe,
    How many people do you think run around admitting to being a cheater? Does anyone get married and say, “Oh by the way, I plan on taking several lovers during our marriage.   Hope you are cool with that.”
    Who says most women under 35 want to be married.   Who even knows what that number is?
    And “promiscuous” is also a subjective term.   In some cultures, any number higher than 1 makes you a “slut.” What you consider to be a high number is not the same as the next person.   And the longer you are single, the higher that number can be.   A 30 or 40 something person who has had a series of relationships will likely have had a good number of sexual partners. I personally don’t see how a consenting adult making responsible decisions about how to use his or her body is “slutty.”   A person who has 50 partners and but who uses condoms and gets tested is probably a better bet than a person who has one partner but who takes no precautions.
    How many 2nd dates are you getting with this approach?   Are you grilling people about whether or not they are sluts and demanding to know how many boyfriends they’ve had and for how long?   Do you think that you are coming off as a charming first date?
    It doesn’t sound like your approach would be very successful. I can’t imagine that anyone likes being grilled or judged.   How could anyone know if they want to marry someone after a handful of meetings?   It’s not a lie for a man not to tell a woman that he hasn’t figure out yet.
    Karl R. is right.   Your questions don’t give you useful information.    You pose a bunch of questions that then require that you infer and assume things that are more likely than not incorrect.   You are judging people through your own very narrow lens.   Karl gave a great example about someone who wasn’t “sluttly” by your definition but who still had an STD. Yet by your reasoning, she would be “safe,” yet she has something that many more sexually experienced women do not have.
    And while fertility does diminish as a woman ages, all women have different fertility levels, which aren’t very measurable, so you have women who at 26 cannot get pregnant, and women who at 40 or older can have babies with no problem(w/ no medical help).   I know some women who would probably have 12 kids if they had started procreating(or been more careless) in their 20s.   So for some people, that delay helps them have smaller families.   Everybody is different.
    I don’t know how old you are, but you have a biological clock too.   If you are over 35, the quality of sperm that you produce is more likely to produce children with spectrum disorders and other genetic defects.

  11. 51
    Joe

    I never said that I ask the question, somebody else brought it up.   I’m saying if a woman/man asked this question – they are really thinking about the person’s ability for LTR, mental and physical well-being, if they should be tested, etc?   If you are looking to find a husband/wife, you want to know if this woman/man even wants to get married or LTR or if they just want to have a casual fling with no strings attached, which is fine in my opinion as well.

  12. 52
    MilkyMae

    It’s a shame that our culture has turned the desire to get married into a blemish.    Finding a  partner is difficult.   Why do we need to pontificate or think of a snarky reply when asked this question?    These days, I have to search for a man while I pretend having a man is no big deal to me?

  13. 53
    Michael17

    WOW. Do people really ask these questions on a first date? It’s basically a non-issue for me. On the one hand, I’ve dated a divorced woman for a couple years, and I am seeing one how. On the other hand, most of the women I’ve dated (late 20’s up to early 40’s) have never been married, and I have never even thought to wonder why or hold it against them.
    Now I DO want to know though, if (a) her status is separated–then it’s a no-go for me, (b) she is still in a relationship and not really available, or (c) she has been married more than once. I admit that (c) is a red flag, as well as (a) and (b).
    I’m in my late 30’s and have never been married. As someone who is being evaluated for this (I don’t think I am), I don’t know how having the status of “divorced” would possibly somehow reassure women that I am a better prospect. Maybe that it’s a certification of sorts–if at least one woman found me marriage-able, then on some level I must be OK?

  14. 54
    NonExist

    Admittedly when I have met a woman who just had an irresistible charm and we went out a few times i’d ask in a warm tone why she was single.
    And usually I’d supplement it with her traits that I thought were just simply alluring.

    Of course I slowed down over time because when either of us decided we were not a match long term I kinda felt like a heel for saying it.   Especially if I was the one who ended things.   *facepalm*

    I’ve learned a lot as a guy from Evan’s blog.   And I am recommending it to a lot of lady friends who are looking for a husband.

  15. 55
    monica

    Very enlightening, very inspiring and very positive comments. Great job helping people become better and see the truth with open eyes.

  16. 56
    Renegade

    To corner someone in this way by asking such an indiscreet question is simply bad manners. It is in the same category as asking someone immediately “So why are you divorced?” or “Why don’t you have kids?”. “Why do you have kids” would be in the same category but people never ask that since becoming a parent seems to make you “normal” even though there are some horrible parents out there.

    I am not dating right now because I am simply too busy and found meeting possible partners via the internet very frustrating (I think my standards are realistic, I was not expecting instant chemistry, nor model looks, nor a 6 figure income. Just a friendly regular guy who took good care of himself and was able to have a pleasant conversation. But that was already hard to find). But when I was dating THAT question was asked from time to time: “How come a woman like you is still single?” I perceived that question as very judgemental and indiscreet. I have no problem to talk about my relationship history but I refuse to defend myself against someone’s prejudgements. Nothing I will say will be a satisfactory answer for this person because what he is looking for is not an open dialogue but a reason to not pursue the contact. I liked this column by Melanie Notkin: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/melanie-notkin/single-and-childless-nothing-wrong-with-me_b_5940642.html. I think she remains very friendly with this guy and hits the nail on the head by telling him “if you spend the rest of our date searching for what’s wrong with me, you’ll never discover what’s right with me.” In my view this is what this is really about; looking for a reason to reject a person. If someone really has an open attitude, he/she is patient enough to wait for a moment when discussing each other’s relationship history comes natural and spontaneous.
    If I would date again and I come across this kind of “interrogation” I would simply walk away from the date. If a guy cannot behave in a pleasant way on a first date, things will never be pleasant with him. Life is too short to be stuck with a pretentious man on a date.
    And of course there is nothing wrong with being single and never having been married. I am in my early fifties, attractive and I have built out a very good life for myself with an interesting career and a comfortable income. A partner is welcome but only if my life will be better with him not worse. When I see the worn out women my age who have been married 25-30 years with a guy they gave a lot to but received very little back from, I know I made the right choice.

     

  17. 57
    James

    Can a career woman accept the man for who he really is even though he doesn’t make a lot of money at all?   I really doubt that since most women today are looking for men that have a lot of money, or who are completely rich altogether now unfortunately.

  18. 58
    Talley

    There are a lot of women and men in their 40’s and 50’s that have never been married. I don’t think marriage is as important to some.and I also think people are more self absorbed. They are also looking for someone perfect to come along and sweep them off their feet. Unrealistic expectations. It is a new day. There is nothing wrong with being single as a choice but what gets me is when people don’t reflect on themselves and blame the opposite sex for their not being married. Than again, everyone is not meant to be married. Some are just not marriage material. Simple as that. I had a friend ask me why I thought they were not married. Too picky, got a wall up and stuck on themselves. I of course put it in a nicer way. That is not a good person for marriage or a relationship and unfortunately that is what you find in the dating scene. Marriage is a great thing with to people who are open and compromising. The choice word is “Compromising.” That is also hard to find.

  19. 59
    DigitalBob

    Honestly I would find such candor refreshing as I tend to be rather open.   I mean we all know why we’re on a date, right?   So why act like we’re not in search of a partner?   I think the best way to answer this or any question for that matter is straight-up honesty and I would consider it a positive that someone has that much interest in bettering themselves.   And if someone can’t handle and appreciate honesty you don’t want to be in a relationship with them.

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