What is the Point of Dating When It Seems Most Relationships Are Unhappy or End in Failure?

What is the Point of Dating When It Seems Most Relationships Are Unhappy or End in Failure


Just a little confused about this dating thing; why?  Why do people insist that it should be done?  I have dated, cohabited, married, divorced.  I have also had a few long-term, no strings attached sexual-type relationships, which serve me better than any traditional type of relationship has.  I guess I am wondering, if scientific research has shown that humans are programmed to be in only short-term relationships, ie 4-7 years, then why do they strive for life long ones, and why the heck do people need to use the word love as a noun when using it as a verb is a much better idea (at least in my opinion).  OK, I know I am cynical, jaded, opinionated, bullheaded, miserable, confident, independent, etc…

I just wonder why it is that all my ol’ girls are always trying to persuade me to get a man, when I really don’t want one, I think, ok maybe if there were a hot, young vampire nearby it would work, but I doubt it.  They are all clearly miserable in their relationships, and I have been in the ones I have had in the past.  I think I am intended to be a single, with a few lovers on the side.  I guess I just need to be reassured that what I am doing isn’t going to cause me to burn in hell or something… haha.



Don’t worry. You’re not alone. Nor do I think you’re going to burn in hell.

Thou dost protest too much, Margaret.

But don’t worry. You’re not alone. Nor do I think you’re going to burn in hell.

I just think you’re going to be a bit lonely, that’s all.

So, let’s establish that there’s nothing wrong with being single. There’s nothing wrong with being a single woman. There’s nothing wrong with being a single woman in her 40’s. The real question is this: would you rather be single than be in a happy relationship? If you would, then there’s nothing to worry about. It’s EASY to stay single.

You’re posing a false dichotomy. Would I rather be single than in a bad relationship? Why yes, you would! And I would, too. Who could blame a girl who doesn’t want to be in a miserable marriage like all her friends?

But that glosses over a fundamental truth, which is that relationships can be tremendously rewarding. Does the intense chemistry wear off after 18 months to 2 years? Yes. Do most couples face a 7-Year Itch? Yes. Could you take the radical step of breaking societal conventions and spending your life in a series of good solid 5-year relationships which end the moment they get stale? You betcha.

So why don’t you? Why are you writing to me? Not for validation – you’re too smart for that. No, you actually wanted to be told the other side. The optimistic side. This is your lucky day.

It is human nature for us to justify our circumstances and find rationalizations to support our beliefs. When I was fired from a talent agency, I said to myself, “I hated that job, my boss, and my low pay” rather than “I wasn’t very passionate at my work, I had a bad attitude, and they probably found someone better.” Both are true. But I focused on the side that made my former employers wrong. Helps get us through the night, doesn’t it?

It’s easy to say, “I’d rather be alone”. It’s safe. It’s the result of your life experience – the one that made you into a cynical, jaded, opinionated, bullheaded, miserable woman. I don’t blame you for it. It’s just HALF of the story.

You took a fork in the road and are acting as if that’s the only option. “It’s either being alone or misery and I choose being alone!” I call bullshit.

The reason that so many people work so hard to find love is because it’s worth it. And while there’s nothing wrong with flouting societal conventions and turning your life into a series of relationships, like getting a new dog every 10 years, I would point out these two big flaws in your reasoning.

You took a fork in the road and are acting as if that’s the only option. “It’s either being alone or misery and I choose being alone!” I call bullshit.

First, you can’t build anything if you’re always moving. Hey, if you don’t want kids, that’s cool. But if you want to establish a stable family unit, you can’t do so by rotating boyfriends out every election cycle. That’s why people get married – to build something bigger and more enduring than anything they can do alone. I don’t stand in judgment of single people who focus on business and travel and hobbies – I merely point out that when you’re part of a family unit, it’s not all about you anymore.

Second, there are happy marriages. Is it a different happiness than the intoxicating scent of puppy love? Yeah. But if the rock star life of rotating partners doesn’t sustain itself into your 50’s and 60’s, you may find yourself wishing you had a husband – one man who was with you for the long haul.

It’s easy to justify the grass being greener on your side of the fence – no fighting husbands, no arguing kids, nothing but you and your backyard sunshine. But if that’s REALLY what you want, you have to ask yourself why aren’t you totally enjoying it and what could make it better. I’m thinking it’s a man who loves you as you are – and maybe even takes away some of your cynicism..


Join our conversation (71 Comments).
Click Here To Leave Your Comment Below.


  1. 1

    I guess I am wondering, if scientific research has shown that humans are programmed to be in only short-term relationships, ie 4-7 years,


    In my non-expert opinion I don’t think any given scientist would say that this is “known”.

    It is my understanding that journalists frequently misunderstand or intentionally stretch what studies mean in terms of truth value.

    Aside from that I remember a neuroscience professor in college saying that despite some of the fancy things we have these days humanities stage of brain/behavior investigation is similar to the level of a chimpanzee trying to figure out electronics by tampering with a stereo.

    To make myself into a hypocrite, but also to inspire you to a more positive outlook, let me present this popular account of another isolated study about “love” that probably doesn’t mean anything in terms of facts

    A team from Stony Brook University in New York scanned the brains of couples who had been together for 20 years and compared them with those of new lovers. They found that about one in 10 of the mature couples exhibited the same chemical reactions when shown photographs of their loved ones as people commonly do in the early stages of a relationship.

    Full Article

  2. 2

    Seems to me the point of dating is because it feels good when you meet someone you really connect with. Great even. You can never predict how long a relationship will last, but does that matter? It might end up lasting a lifetime, who knows? The future has a way of taking care of itself despite all our plotting and planning.

  3. 3

    There are some things in life where it is better to have tried and failed then never to have tried. Finding love and looking for good relationships is one of them.

    Hurts can eventually fade with work, but the good memories of good times stay good. I’m a better and more rich person for those even though some of them happened in things that didn’t work out.

    A risk free life is also a poorer life.

  4. 4

    Obviously I didn’t write the letter, but Evan’s been reading my mail.

  5. 5

    Meaning that the cynicism, supsicion, etc is really just a cover for someone who doesn’t want to get hurt and has had plenty of rejection.

  6. 6
    Karl R

    Margaret said: (original letter)
    “I guess I just need to be reassured that what I am doing isn’t going to cause me to burn in hell or something haha.”

    Talk about forum shopping. If you’re asking an atheistic jew whether you’re going to burn in hell, you’ve already decided what answer you’d like to receive.

    Sure, most relationships end long before they get to a wedding. About half of all marriages end in divorce. Of the ones that don’t, some of them are unhappy. If the odds of failure are 99%, why bother trying?

    It’s kind of like Edison an the lightbulb. Who cares how many of his experiments failed? He only needed to find one that would succeed. And until I get into a happy marriage, I can keep trying new relationships.

    Granted, Edison probably searched as intelligently as possible for a workable filament, and I intend to do the same in my dating.

    And as Evan said, the goal is worth it (at least for many of us).

  7. 7

    This is slightly off-topic, though Evan DID bring it up: are you and the new wife gonna have some babies, Evan?

    Especially if you are, I’d be interested in a blog about THAT. The BF and I are not interested in kids and have yet to come across even ONE compelling reason why ANYONE would have kids. Ever. But we’re always all ears.

    Honey´s last blog post…Vegas Memorial Weekend Sextacular: Preview

  8. 8

    I’m so onboard with Evan and Steve and Karl R and Starthrower on this one.

    I think the thing is this- if you go in having already decided that a relationship isn’t worth it to you then it won’t be, no matter how great it is. If your mind is made up, then it’s made up and go with that. But if it’s not, if there are any nagging doubts holding you back, then consider how great the right relationship can be and how disappointed you’ll be if you choose to opt out of that experience.

    Oh, and to head things off at the pass about why we are talking about (good) LTRs and marriages like they are the holy grail- because it’s a dating and relationship blog, that’s why 🙂

  9. 9

    I was widowed after 24 years of marriage. I am now in a great relationship of 1 1/2 years and hope to get married again. If finding love is what you want then you will find it. It takes work and work to be in a relationship but it is worth it.

  10. 10

    One thing I’m finding out – which is part of why I say Evan’s “reading my mail” – is I have been struggling with the cynicism, being jaded, etc. I think many of us have. But here’s what I’ve found: if you harden your heart toward men, pretty soon, that hardness of heart extends to others in your life, i.e. friends, family etc. You can’t just choose to love some and be cold toward others. I’ve tried that and it doesn’t work. And when I say love, I mean the selfless agape type love. You have to show that love to all. But then, what you reap you will sew which can mean a good solid relationship with a guy.

  11. 11

    @Cilla #12 – I have met many parents who list the reasons you do, but I have yet to meet any who appear to actually feel that way in practice or to have actually changed in those ways. They mostly seem broke, frustrated, out of love with one another, and miserable.

    As far as propagation of the species – I don’t think we’ve done a very good job as a species and the world would be better off without us. I guess I beat out everyone else for cynical and jaded!

    Honey´s last blog post…I Grabbed Some Chick’s Ass On Memorial Day

  12. 12

    “Hurts can eventually fade with work, but the good memories of good times stay good. I’m a better and more rich person for those even though some of them happened in things that didn’t work out.”

    Wow. If that’s not a quote for the day I don’t know what is! that is an excellent thought about what we are talking about here. I have been divorced now for about 3 years and I can tell you, the hurt and memories of everything bad that went on do fade out of your conscienceness, but the good times and good memories tend to remain. Some so much so that I wonder why in the world we ever got divorced sometimes? But I tend to keep the unpleasant things out of my thinking, maybe a little too much, but I wonder if some people tend to keep the negatives too much on the tip of ones mind, never letting them go, and maybe that is what keeps them from pursuing healthy relationships?

  13. 13

    @Honey #8

    I can see why you could fail to find a compelling reason why YOU and your BF wouldn’t want to have kids. But to not see a compelling reason why ANYONE would want to have kids?

    How about plain old perpetuation of the species.

    I won’t even try to explain how they can enrich your life, make you less selfish, make you laugh, make you cry, comfort you on a bad day, put life in perspective… I guess it’s good that if you don’t want kids you’ve recognized that and found someone else with the same philosophy. There are too many reluctant parents in the world already.

  14. 14

    I read once, “All relationships end until the one that doesn’t.” I found that very comforting during my dating days.

  15. 15

    Steve #3: You echo my sentiments exactly. I went through a devastating and grief-filled divorce after 26 years of marriage, and in one of the most difficult ways possible ~ infidelity. But I made a conscious decision early on to try my best at keeping my focus on the beautiful and good memories we created for so long. I feel grateful, blessed beyond my time, to have had the opportunity to have lived those moments, despite the altered reality. Because I received so much, I have much to give. And that is something that my marriage ending can never take away.

    As for the writer, we each walk our own unique path through life ~ there is no wrong or right way; only the way that feels right to you. If you think you know what is right for you, but struggle because of the baggage or the “noise” you create: conditional thinking, judgments, pre-conceived notions, expectations, etc., you have to learn to set yourself free and to simply be. It is only then that you will feel at peace with your life.

  16. 16

    Cilla May 28th 2009 at 11:32 am 12
    @Honey #8
    How about plain old perpetuation of the species.

    There are over 6 billion people alive with experts predicting that to double over 40 years if the capacity of the Earth to support more life doesn’t hit a brick wall. In Western countries much of the pollution a person creates and resources s/he uses is a function of the infrastructure such that simple green living habits will not make enough of a difference.

    In other words, there is no shortage of people or a *need* for anyone to have children.

    It is my understanding that there are a huge number of orphans so the joy of parenting thing can be gotten through adoption.

  17. 17

    @Honey, post #15

    You aren’t cynical or jaded. First, you are being responsible ( to the future ) by thinking about it at all. Second, you are being realistic.

    I’ve had this conversation many times before on my blog.

    There are many parents who are not happy being parents, but they will blow the sunshine at you. I think, because it seems like a pretty conflicting thing for someone in that position to admit that they aren’t into it. Similar to how somebody in the military has to believe in a war in order to survive and function.

    As far as not being lonely when you elderly, there are senior citizen homes filled to capacity with people whose kids might visit them 1-2 times per year if at that.

  18. 18

    I’m reminded of the immortal words of Woody Allen as Alvy Singer in Annie Hall:

    Alvy Singer: [narrating] After that it got pretty late, and we both had to go, but it was great seeing Annie again. I… I realized what a terrific person she was, and… and how much fun it was just knowing her; and I… I, I thought of that old joke, y’know, the, this… this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, “Doc, uh, my brother’s crazy; he thinks he’s a chicken.” And, uh, the doctor says, “Well, why don’t you turn him in?” The guy says, “I would, but I need the eggs.” Well, I guess that’s pretty much now how I feel about relationships; y’know, they’re totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd, and… but, uh, I guess we keep goin’ through it because, uh, most of us… need the eggs.

  19. 19

    @ Steve, thanks! I’d love to see what you write – what’s the link to your blog? Visit me at mine to get my e-mail.

    @ Cilla – I do have some friends with children, but they mostly live out of state (i.e., I met them in college or grad school) or are work colleagues, not close friends that I’d spend time with socially. I don’t have any close friends that I see on a regular basis who have small children, though I’m only 30 so that will probably change rapidly in the next few years. Most of my really close friends not only don’t want kids, but are also atheists like me – we’re all pretty unusual as far as “social norms.” Check out my guest post ) to see my reasoning.

    Honey´s last blog post…How I’ve Avoided Having The Talk – Guest Post by Demeter

  20. 20


    I am frequently broke, often frustrated, and fell out of love with my (now ex) spouse nearly two decades ago. But my kid is fantastic, and I wouldn’t change a thing related to him, other than wishing I had made more time to spend with him when he was growing up–he’s leaving for college in the fall. I bet your friends all have younger children. I see so many people around me going through what I did when my son was little: putting themselves and their marriages at the end of the list, thinking it’s better for the kids. Clearly, it’s not. What we need to do as an American society is not give up having kids, but figure out how to have them without sacrificing our relationships (including the nurturing one we should be having with ourselves).

    1. 20.1

      Normally its the man that gets cleaned out from a divorce since he makes most if not all of the income, and if he is frequently broke, how does he “date” anyone, I’m confused here,” One divorce” and a man is done? “Off the circuit” seems to me? What woman wants some ones “tossed out trash”? A woman is tossed out and she is still viable, but a man, loses half if not, seventy five percent, a relationship after that is just destine for the same fate right? How do “make” someone happy in this situation? So what’s the point of dating after a man is divorced?
      And if he’s stuck in this perpetual isolation, why did he get married in the first place? There is another blog on the net called “Don’t Marry” look it up, talk about Enlightenment!

  21. 21

    From Margaret’s letter:

    “I have also had a few long-term, no strings attached sexual-type relationships, which serve me better than any traditional type of relationship has”

    After reading all these comments, it appears that the majority are disagreeing with Margaret’s sentiments. I thought her above sentence spoke volumes. Doesn’t this boil down to the ole “different strokes for different folks”?

    I’m in my 40s and single, and still trying to navigate the dating waters. Am I a tad cynical and jaded at this point? You betcha! Why? Because I know at the present time, I have two married friends pursuing affairs, another friend living with a boyfriend for 15+ years having an affair, and countless friends who are divorced (with/without kids) who are back in the dating pool. These are all intelligent, professional people who I’ve respected over the years, so I’ve learned not to judge. [And I know most of you are thinking – “gee, maybe she needs to find new friends”!] 🙂

    As much as I’d love to believe that we will all live happily ever after, I think we also need to be cognizant of the fact that times have changed and maybe the traditional marriage or longterm relationship just doesn’t work for many people anymore. Let’s not delude ourselves (out of fear) that it does.

    I will remain optimistic and hope that eventually I too will be in a healthy longterm relationship, but at the same time, will not go naively into the night!

    And I think Diana expressed it perfectly above:
    “If you think you know what is right for you, but struggle because of the baggage or the noise you create: conditional thinking, judgments, pre-conceived notions, expectations, etc., you have to learn to set yourself free and to simply be. It is only then that you will feel at peace with your life”

  22. 22

    Margaret may be going through a ‘mating’ phase, nothing wrong with that. I’ve had so much guilt dumped on me through out my life, that I know Margaret won’t burn in hell, ’cause I’ll be there first, selling shaved ice cream…

  23. 24

    @Cilla @ Honey I know tons of single people who are broke, frustrated and alone. lol

    There is always someone who is going to say that we need to be in relationships. I say it could be a week “Jerry McGuire” moment. Not everyone wants a long term relationship. Sometimes short term, under 4 yrs, works well. You never get bored if you have dating options. But it’s not for everyone.

    Eathan´s last blog post…First Impressions

  24. 25

    My response about perpetuating the species was to counter Honey’s argument that NO ONE should have children. If no one had children, obviously the population of the planet would die out. That was all I was saying. Not suggesting we continue to multiply at our current rate. Jeesh.

  25. 26

    I saw a biography of Mary Tyler Moore years ago. In it she describes how upon her divorce from Grant Tinker an interviewer asked her, “How does it feel to have your marriage be a failure?” MTM said she was flabbergasted. “How could I consider a marriage that lasted 18 years a failure?”

    There does seem to be an attitude among some people that any relationship that does not last a lifetime is a failure. Is somehow “less than”, less meaningful, less fulfilling. That isn’t necessarily true. Many of us can review our past relationships, of whatever duration, and say that despite the fact it eventually ended, for a time it provided joy. And meant something to us. And fulfilled us in a way we needed, desired at the time. We may take away memories, intangibles from such relationships that we value highly. Always.

    Just because a relationship didn’t end up lasting a lifetime doesn’t mean it was any less VALID than one that did. And does not mean it was a failure. Or that we “failed”.

  26. 27

    Family. Yeah, I talk to my dad about three times a year, my sister less than that (mom’s dead). I haven’t seen him in over two years and haven’t seen her in over five. My BF has cut his mom, dad, and brother out of his life entirely for a variety of reasons. I guess that’s an urge I don’t understand, either.

    As far as the activist work that you reference – I vote for politicians that I believe agree with me (re: sex education, abortion rights, etc.) and take the birth control pill. I think most of the procedures for women are too invasive/dangerous though I still have hope of convincing the BF to get a vasectomy.

    But as for the rest of it, the BF and I have decided that society’s views/values are just too entrenched and that most people aren’t capable, emotionally or intellectually, of challenging/changing them. So we have made a decision to wash our hands of people-based charities. We only donate to and volunteer for animal welfare organizations. I’d rather spend my life making another being’s life better than trying to deny other folks of what they believe is their inherent right (even if I don’t agree).

    Within 100 years the consequences of overpopulation (famine, pandemics) will do all the work for me – but if that’s the future everyone’s so invested in, at least I won’t have any progeny around suffering because of it. Am I choosing the lifestyle that is easiest and most enjoyable for me? Yes. How does that make me any different from any other human being on the planet? I don’t think it does, really.

    Honey´s last blog post…I Grabbed Some Chick’s Ass On Memorial Day

  27. 28

    Selena #26- I tend to agree with your post and the points you make but I do want to make a point in defense of the interviewer.
    If you vow to be with someone till death do you part, but both of y’all are still alive and not together anymore, technically it’s a ‘failure’ in that you were not able to fulfill your pledge.
    Now, do i think some marriages should end and it’s better for everyone involved- absolutely! Do i think people in LTRs who did not take vows that break-up failed? No i don’t.
    Not trying to bicker with you, but the reason people consider it a ‘failure’ when marriages end is not entirely invalid, to me.

  28. 29

    Oh, and I never said that no one should have children. I said that I didn’t understand/relate to the emotional desire and that no one could give me a single logical reason why it’s automatically “good.” Which isn’t the same point at all.

    Honey´s last blog post…I Grabbed Some Chick’s Ass On Memorial Day

  29. 30

    The compelling reason for people to have children is because they want a FAMILY. You can rail against overpopulation, you can stomp your feet about the “selfishness” of it all, but you are unlikely to change the minds of people who feel having a family as a basic human need.

    And if you are adamantly against procreation what are you doing about it besides blogging? Are you tithing a percentage of your income to Planned Parenthood? Are you strenuously lobbying your local school boards for sexual education curiculums? Funding and lobbying for reproduction rights laws? Are you volunteering at low income clinics dispensing free condoms and literature on the many different options for birth control? Are you going to countries that have high birth rates because of lack of information and access to birth control, putting in time and effort to correct the situation? Have you gone through voluntary sterilization so you can be (almost) sure that you will never conceive?

    Or do you think simply defending your personal choice not to have children by writing on the internet No One Should Have Children is enough? Spare me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *