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..


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  1. 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”

  2. 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…

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. 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”.

  6. 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

  7. 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.

  8. 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

  9. 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.

  10. 31

    @Selena, post #28

    I don’t think Honey nor I used the phrase
    “No One Should Have Children”.

    I agree with you that for many ( not all ) people having a family is a strong, natural drive. People can still have families with adopted children. They can also have their own children and reduce over population problems by have at maximum 2 children ( slightly under the world replacement rate ).

    A word about natural drives. IMHO I think one natural drive is for parents to want their kids to have better lives than they have had.

    In the end, the story is over for people who choose not be parents.

    However, the polluted, disease ridden, impoverished world of the future is a world that parents will be making for their children and their descendants by not watching their family sizes.

  11. 32

    Margaret is a smart lady and maybe my soul sister. I ask the same questions. My deal is this, and I would invite any commenter and EMK to answer: WHY is a LTR or marriage past the 5 to 7 year mark better and totally worth it? What exactly are the benefits? Seriously? If you have kids then yes, the stable family unit is a good thing. But Margaret doesn’t at all sound like she’s concerned about children.

    I think folks are going to cite how happy couples in LTR’s grow together and establish these super well developed bonds that somehow make them higher life forms in a relationship sense. I don’t believe it. The married folks that I know who have been married for 10+ years just aren’t that cool, they don’t have sex any more, and they stopped growing as individuals a long time ago. How is that something to look forward to?

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

  12. 33

    I apologize. It seems I have misinterpreted some of your posts. Not just on this thread, but some others on this blog as well. I wonder if you and your bf’s feelings about reproduction may be influenced by the relationships you have with your respective families of orgin? No? Sometimes that can happen, or go in the opposite direction: some people who have unhappy/non-existant relationships with their family of origin truly want to build a family of their own. Be it with children, or just a partner, or a family of good friends. That’s the emotional desire. For anyone.

    I always enjoy reading your POV. Why don’t you post a link to your blog? I’m sure you would draw many of us here to it. Or is that what you are afraid of? LOL!

  13. 34

    @ Selena – Apology accepted! And I’m sure that our decisions have to do at least in part with our families. I won’t go into details, but there are emotional reasons we don’t get along with our own families as well as genetic reasons we shouldn’t have our own kids.

    But, for me, the ethics of choosing to have a child given the state of our environment still plays a role, as does the fact that I’ve never even been alone with a child under 6 or 7 years old, never changed a diaper – and have a very pronounced tendancy to dislike anyone younger than me. Children automatically fall into that category!

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

  14. 35

    @Jennifer #27
    “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.”

    No, technically, it’s not a failure. It means you were mistaken.

    Perhaps the ‘failure’ lies within construct of the pledge; you cannot predict the future, and it’s futile to try.

  15. 36

    @Selena #33: I see what you are saying, i guess i just disagree.
    If I promise to arrive somewhere tomorray at 10am, and I don’t for whatever reason (I get hit by a bus, I sleep late, whatever) I failed to get there. I may have been mistaken in making such a promise given the unpredicatbility of things, but I still made it and failed to keep it.

    But I guess the overall point that we agree on is that whether people deem a relationship a ‘failure’ or a ‘mistake’ doesn’t negate the significance of it or the great things that were gained from it. And when you’ve gotten some good things from a relationship, no need to feel bad about it whenever it ends.

  16. 37

    Very nicely articulated Lance. I have also noticed that many people who are married and in LTRs cannot bear the thought of being alone. Unfortunately, what I’ve also noticed, is that our society seems to judge people more harshly who are single and never married. [I find it rather troubling too that 50% of marriages do not work out, and I’m not sure what the “happy” statistics are for the remaining 50%, although with all the infidelity around, it makes me wonder]

    I always find it somewhat ironic when I go out with divorced men, and they ask me why I never got married! I think there is something to be said for late bloomers, or maybe being honest with yourself and knowing when and why you should settle down, and doing it for the right reasons.

  17. 38

    Lance #35
    “WHY is a LTR or marriage past the 5 to 7 year mark better and totally worth it? ”

    Seems to me the answer to that should come from people currently in a relationship that has lasted more than 5-7 yrs. Better yet, someone currently in a relationship that has lasted more than 30-40 yrs. Don’t know how many folks who follow this board are in that catagory lol!

    I imagine your responses are going to be based on the “hope” of people who want a r’ship that lasts a lifetime. Or at best, observations based on what they believe their parents, grandparents long term relationships to be like. Since we can never know what someone else’s relationship is *really* like, how valid can such observations be?

  18. 39
    Karl R

    Lance said: (#35)
    “The married folks that I know who have been married for 10+ years just aren’t that cool, they don’t have sex any more, and they stopped growing as individuals a long time ago. How is that something to look forward to?”

    I guess we just know different people.

    A couple acquaintances of mine (let’s call them Harold and Gina) just celebrated their 15th anniversary. A couple weeks earlier, Harold celebrated his 80th birthday, and Gina’s not much younger. They met at the dance studio where I take lessons, and they still take classes there. I’ve also run across them while out dancing at other venues. This summer a large group of dancers from the studio will be going on a Carribean cruise. Harold and Gina will be part of that group.

    Harold’s daughter, Debbie, mentioned that she always calls before she drops by their house … because she’s accidentally walked in on them in flagrante delicto.

    If you stop growing as an individual, then your long-term relationship is going to suck and you won’t have much to look forward to as the years creep by. But I would say that the failure to grow is the cause, not the effect.

  19. 40

    Well said, Karl! I agree COMPLETELY. The trick is in picking someone who is also willing/eager to grow over the long term…because if one person does and one person doesn’t, then the effect is the same (misery, breakup, divorce, etc.) but the cause isn’t directly yours (though you did choose the person).

    In fact, the argument could be made that Lance’s proposed model of subsequent short-to-medium term relationships doesn’t mean that you’re growing as a person. Plenty of folks (lots of them who read this blog, in fact) are really just dating the same person over and over again just with different names and bodies. They’re not growing either, and as we’ve seen in many of the comments, they’re unhappy just as often.

    My own personal philosophy is that happiness is a decision you make, not something you wait to happen to you. The same could be said for growth, fulfillment, and any number of things that lead to self-actualization.

    Honey´s last blog post…Vegas, Baby, Vegas!

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