Women Choosing to Be Single Instead of Married in Old Age

I really didn’t plan on beating this marriage thing to death, but there have been a spate of articles about marriage recently.

This one validates something I already suspected from writing this blog for 5 years: that single women, in particular, are opting out of marriage and remarriage.

It makes sense from many perspectives. Women are self-sufficient in a way they weren’t 30 years ago. The stigma against divorce is largely gone. There are other single women with whom you can have a strong community. And there’s been an increase in people looking for happiness and being unwilling to suffer through unhappy marriages. These are all good things.

I agree wholeheartedly that it’s better to be single than to be in a bad relationship.

Because if it’s not abundantly clear from the previous Saturday posts on marriage, I’m not a dogmatist, I’m a pragmatist. I believe that marriage can and should be a positive force, but only if both parties are on the same page and willing to make the necessary sacrifices for that marriage. I agree wholeheartedly that it’s better to be single than to be in a bad relationship.

Just don’t forget who’s choosing the bad relationship – you.

Which means that you can choose a good relationship and a good marriage when you’re good and ready.

You don’t have to opt out of it for life as so many of these women in the NYT article do. Click here to read the article if you have a NYT subscription.

Your thoughts are greatly appreciated.

Join our conversation (154 Comments).
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  1. 61

    #67, Are you saying you don’t want to kiss them at all and haven’t kissed them?  Or are you saying you kissed them, but the chemistry and connection through kissing wasn’t there?

  2. 62

    #67, I feel your pain. Yes older people are less attractive for both sexes.
    Of course no one is forcing you to date much older men, but by refusing to do so, you have effectively decided to remain single. 

  3. 63

    Michelle, I have kissed a couple of them but I haven’t wanted to take it further.  I have hoped with a couple of these guys that the desire would grow but it hasn’t.  Admittedly, I am still somewhat attracted to the ex who I see part time for work and yes, that is most likely a contributing factor…I have found other men attractive since our relationship ended, but they have been unavailable for one reason or another.  I am considering online dating again (although the thought of it does not excite me, I hate the lack of privacy involved) and I may need to leave the work situation with the ex eventually, am aware that continued contact is not helping matters.  This is complicated.
    Thanks Zaq. What exactly do you mean by “much older”?  Are you saying that since I am 50, this is my only option? Once again, just like you and other men, I cannot force myself to be attracted to a person and if he is 10 or 20 years older than me, the chances of physical attraction are less.  Like many women, I prefer dating men who are more age appropriate, who I would have more in common with and who physically would be more my match.  I am in great shape for my age and one of my latest suitors was a 41 year old male.  Despite that, I was not attracted to him.  Attraction is a mystery – it either happens or it doesn’t.  Maybe I place too much importance on this.  If I met a 60 y.o. male who I was physically attracted to, I would date him but this has yet to occur.  

  4. 64

    Got it Susan, I think you have a pretty good handle on looking at this objectively.  I dated a man who I was someone attracted to, and when he kissed me, he was one of the best kissers I had ever been with, so the attraction increased dramatically–which is why I asked if you were giving them a try at least.

    Why is the men we find sexually attracted don’t seem to be the available ones?  It’s a cruel trick the universe plays with us!

    Totally agree about attraction…it’s either there or not.  I have a theory on why 2 people may be more attracted to each other than others, but not appropriate for this blog (no it’s not X rated, but it is unproven and not based in statistics and facts).

  5. 65

    Susan61 #67, I can relate. I am 59 (just turned) and my last ongoing relationship before this one was with a man 17 years younger. We had great chemistry too, but secretly he wanted a younger woman I think. He was probably biding his time with me til he could trade up as he changed his age limit on his profile (which he never closed btw) whilst we were at our strongest I thought (about 5-6 months in, weekend dating, steadily, talk of trips, etc.).

    You’re right- the heart wants what it wants. Or the mind. But the level of denial (of aging) going on- by both sexes as lots of women my age want to date younger too- is just breathtaking and funny really.

    My current bf is my age, about a year younger. All he knows is I am in my 50s- I won’t get specific about age. Told him he could grab my wallet and check if it was a big deal. So far he hasn’t! lol But because I dated a 41 year old for 7 months and other much younger men before him dating my current 58 year old took a little adjusting. Initially he just appeared- old! Which is hypocritical is it not?! But we kept dating and I kept finding him endearing. Noticed on our second date what a great physique he had. On the third he told me he also was on bioidentical hormones (we talk about hormones some! lol). His energy level is the same as mine, better really, as he is on his feet building boats all week.

    It takes some adjusting of your perspective, kissing a lot of frogs before you find that jewel. I haven’t a clue how we will work out, but this is the strongest relationship I’ve had in three years. The best I’ve ever felt, the safest, the most loved.

  6. 66
    Saint Stephen

    Is no mystery that women are attracted to unavailable/already taken men.
    Studies have shown that women are naturally attracted to a man that a whole lot of other women are attracted to. Though unlike women, men don’t seem to have a  consensus of women they find sexually attractive. Some men like them thin, some like them curvy, while some of us are chubby chasers. But ironically, all women are attracted to tall, dark and handsome.

    One of the studies conducted by Oklahoma state university shows that by having a girlfriend a man’s sexual attractiveness increases by 40%. And he automatically becomes desirable to a lot of women.
    Given my experience i find the studies to be true. Most women get a thrill out of striving to possess the unobtainable man.They secretly desire the man who already has a girlfriend or are holding out for the man who isn’t interested in having a LTR.

  7. 67

    Saint Stephen, I didn’t realize you were an expert on women and that MOST WOMEN secretly desire unavailable men…hmmmm.

    Your ‘study’ almost sounds like it can be a male challenge as well, hespeler’s posts come to mind. 

  8. 68

    Gawd I just love the ageist title the actual title of the article did not include the words “old age”.  In fact the whole thread is so full of ageist stereotypes.  Let me know at what age “old age”begins because I so want to be cantakerous and use nifty phrases like “young whippersnappers.”

  9. 69

    St Stephen

    No, plenty of women are attracted to certain types also. I’ve known petite women who actually prefer shorter men, or blonds (not dark), or whatever. People in general are attracted to those that others find attractive as well. Oddly enough, I’ve known very few women who were not looking for LTRs, at least those over the age of 25. And many of those university studies use younger students as test subjects.

  10. 70

    What ?, I find myself disagreeing with Saint Stephen ! Doesn’t happen often.
    I look at the studies too.

    Women are more attracted to a man who has been “pre checked” by other women. Scientists think its an evolutionary throw back. Other women about mean that this man is considered safe, which in days gone by (and perhaps even today) was very important.
    However none of this is pointing to women wanting unavailable men, though it looks like it from the outside.

    Also studies show men exhibit a very high consensus on what they consider attractive. “Chubby chasers” are probably a small proportion of the overall population. Possibly they may have differences of opinion on secondary characteristics.
    On the other hand women seem to agree on  the small minority of men they find attractive, but disagree on the rest (possibly they are not attracted to the rest ?)

    Both men and women want attractive partners. Age is not really an issue.
    Women have a number of characteristics they find attractive in addition to looks. Men just go on looks.

    Theoretically this should work well for women, as it should give them many more opportunities to find someone with at least one attractive characteristic.
    Unfortunately women want men who possess ALL the attractive characteristics. Women have very few options as a result.

    Age is not a major issue for men – as long as you look like an average 25 year old you should have no problem getting a date.

    Men will date younger women because they can (as long as they possess enough of those additional characteristics).
    The men who are unable to attracted younger women are invisible to older women, so again older women are left with few options.

    Hope that answers all the questions !

  11. 71

    @Zaq 77
    Age is not a major issue for men – as long as you look like an average 25 year old you should have no problem getting a date
    That WAS sarcasm, right? I mean, if someone said the same thing about women: “Age is not a major issue for women – as long as you look like the average 25 year old. . . “

  12. 72

    I get the sense that these studies being cited are flawed from the beginning. If you focus on looks, you’ll get an outcome focused on looks. Even if you just zero in on sexual attraction, it’s much more complex than that. Everything from how someone smells, to general body movement patterns, to the sound of someone’s voice play a role.

  13. 73

    Dear Evan and all, this is a very interesting topic and I have a well established definition about both men and women who chose to live alone: quitters. Yes, it does take a lot of work and time investment to find and keep the right partner because we all agree that we should not get involved in bad relationships only for the sake of being in a relationship. There are obviously plenty of lazy people out there who get easily demotivated and are reluctant to make a continuous effort. It is not easy and I know it from my personal experience but people in relationships, with families and friends live better and longer. No matter how hard we try to defy biological theories about the humankind, we are collective creatures, not solitary robots.   

    I got divorced at the age of 36 and wanted to immediately be in a new (better) relationship and possibly have a child. It took me 6 years and a tremendous amount of disappointment before I found the right man. (It did not work out with the child because the biological clock has no mercy for women.) Along the way I met tons of horrible men who were out there looking but had subconsciously or more consciously decided that they were better off single. I had to go through series of awkward situations before I understood what was going on in these guys’ minds. I never quit though.

    On the other hand, older women who have made the choice to stay single are sincere about it, or at least are not on a lookout creating more confusion on the dating market. I respect their choice however the problem with these women is that they tend to surround themselves with the same kind. They create isolated anti-male capsules and make it hard for anyone with a different mindset to interact with them. I had to work with one such group who ran a charity I was involved with. It was not a pleasant experience and regretfully I had to drop this activity. I could not stand being around a bunch of older ladies who were non-stop ranting about how happy they were without any men in their lives.         

  14. 74

    @ AMY – instead of spending time writing these huge replies get back to the dating world instead of wasting your time online go on a date.

    There are tons and tons of great guys around but the problem most women do not find them attractive enough to date or to pursue a relationship. In general all women want to a man who is not just highly attractive but also have a list of other qualities. 

    I listen to my friends who are way older than me. I told them at your age all the good family men are taken. When you meet a good man who you don’t find attractive enough to want to date give him a chance because there aren’t many of those around. 

    We live in a society where TV will influence your reality. Even when someone does lower there standards they are still pretty high.

    Amy the truth your NOT attracted to a good guy it is who you are. You haven’t change it why try because it wont happen. 

  15. 75

    You don’t listen so good, Bill. I’m not looking for a family man. I’m done having kids, and I don’t need a guy coming around trying to play daddy, leave me cleaning up after him. Your advice works for a woman who wants a traditional husband/father more than anything else, and is willing to put up with some significant problems to get one.

  16. 76

    Amy’s writings on this thread are very impressive. I am a man but the way she puts things, I’m not particularly offended. Without breaking down all sorts of specifics, well written, Amy. 

  17. 77

    Regarding sweeping generalizations, I’d like to point out Fifi’s admonishment (#80): “I have a well established definition about both men and women who chose to live alone: quitters.” I’m pretty sure that’s not a definition. That’s an opinion…which you’re certainly entitled to, but let’s call it what it is.

    In my opinion, Amy speaks a lot of truth, although I admit, I had to skim over some of it. I find her no-nonsense observations very refreshing. Besides, anyone who uses the phrase “awesomesauce” gets my vote. But I’m not sure why some of the male commenters find it so crucial to parse her comments with such a fine-toothed comb. Why the critical analysis? With all due respect to Evan, this isn’t a science blog, it’s a blog about male-female relationships and finding love. Amy isn’t vicious or mean-spirited. She’s speaking from her experience, and she’s not telling anyone they should think like she does. Does she over-generalize? Of course, but since when is that unheard of on a blog? Her content lays out what many women, including me, have described about what it looks like from the woman’s side when trying to maneuver in a culture where women are asked to be both sexy and maternal, independent and financially responsible without making their man feel threatened, fun and easy even when worried or worn-out, because that’s what a supportive woman supposedly does.

    When I hear comments like P’s, who pitches that “Women are NEVER happy,” characterizing any women who talks about disenchantment with their experience with men as Nazi-feminist ball-busters, I can’t help but point out what might cause a woman to believe that theirs is the kinder, gentler, maybe even more evolved gender:
    -world-wide men commit more crimes than women do, particularly crimes of violence;
    -men are more likely to perpetrate domestic violence, including murder and sexual assault, against their spouse or partner, than women are;
    -men, not women, are the ones with the power and authority to initiate military conflict (i.e., war, occupation, juntas, etc.), and they do;
    -it wasn’t all that long ago that a wife was considered a husband’s property;
    -if I hear someone approaching from behind in a parking garage, and I turn to see it’s a woman stranger, I relax; not so if it’s a man (and men have told me the same is true for them); and
    -men are more likely than women to be crabby, cranky, and blaming in situations where no one is to blame (financial woes, sick kids, malfunctioning ATM machines, traffic jams!) — okay, I admit it, this last one is subjective.

    I fall in the demographic they’re speaking of in this article. I’m 59, was divorced after 20 years of marriage & kids, and have been living alone for 12 years, and for most of that time, I’ve been dating. I work full time at a challenging job, which I fortunately like. I worry about whether and when I’ll be able to afford to retire, but I made up my mind a long time ago that I wasn’t going to become an isolated, bitter woman, complaining about how unfair it all is, boo hoo, poor pitiful me. But sometimes I’m just too damn tired to put in the effort to go meet yet another male stranger and do the work that’s sometimes involved in keeping the conversation going, or trying to fit in a word edgewise, or not commenting on the fact that he’s a good 15 years older and 50 pounds heavier than his picture.

    I don’t have a laundry list of must-haves in a man, and he need not be tall, dark, or even classically handsome. I like kind, funny, interesting men who don’t rage about their jobs or their ex-wives in our very first conversation. I’m fortunate to be in good health, good shape, and attractive. Still, I haven’t found a “match,” and although I think highly of Evans’ work here, I don’t think I’m single because I’m not attracting the right kind of man to myself. I think it’s because there aren’t many men out there I find interesting and attractive, and those that I do haven’t been interested in anything other than casual physical relationships.

    The truth is, I don’t know anymore if I ever chose to live alone, or whether it’s just my reality, so why not make the best of it? That doesn’t mean I don’t get lonely. But I’ve lived with more than one unhappy, unaffectionate, self-involved man who didn’t share themselves and who didn’t have my back, although they enjoyed me having theirs. Living alone is so much better than living with that, hands down.

  18. 78

    According to the UK Office for National Statistics, in 1982 women’s marriage rates fell off a cliff after 40 by 2002 the cliff was 50. Older women are more attractive and active than they used to be. The male cliff is about 5 years older, from memory.

  19. 79

    @1 “women are essentially punished for being the ones who sacrifice their careers in order to raise children.” Isn’t the career the punishment?

    In the 1970’s the banks forced women into the workforce by giving loans based on the incomes of both members of a couple so all women had to go out to work to afford the same housing as a single earner could once afford. Happened in Europe too. There is US based research (a lady professor at Harvard) demonstrating that after the increase in house prices generated by dual income mortgates, two cars, child care and various strange insurances Americans need for health care, dual income US families are worse off and more vulnerable than single income families in the early 1970’s. The mortgate lenders and automobile finance companies are the gainers. The answer is to work on the stability of marriage (tax breaks and SS benefits awarded to wives – most divorces are initiated by wives in most countries) then there may not be so many single older women looking for a man.

  20. 80

    The men I meet (lots of them) through online dating are for the most part very nice guys. Now, I cannot speak to all of their characteristics or how they would end up treating me, because I never get that far. I don’t consider myself overly picky. But I am wondering if after 20 yrs married to one person, if it just isn’t possible that I had one love, my one chance, my only marriage. I could find a companion, a sex partner a date, today. But none of them feel right. Are any women out there experiencing this? That they just don’t want a man because he won’t be the right man? Not through any lack of the man’s intent or character, just their own inability to make it work?

  21. 81

    This is my mom!
    She is approaching 60 and got divorced when she was in her mid 30s.
    She hasn’t dated a SINGLE man since her divorce and not for lack of options.
    She has aged VERY well and is in very good shape for her age.
    She has had a lot of seemingly nice guys express interest. My brother and I foolishly tried to set her up a time or two….somehow women are happier coupled.
    Which is a load of crap by the way.
    My mom is incredibly happy single. She always shakes her head vehemently when we suggest she date.
    She. just. doesn’t. want. to.
    Why is that so hard for people to understand? She is HAPPIER single.
    She likes going out with friends, walking her dog, hanging out with her kids etc. There is no room in her life for a man.
    Of course most of the men in her age bracket are off chasing younger tail anyway (GROSS) but she doesn’t even want the decent ones…
    She complains sometime about having to work until old age (single women obviously make less money) but I think working keeps you sharp. Keeps the ugly beast dementia at bay.
    So yes I do believe she is better off single. And no we are no longer “concerned” for her. She is just doing fine on her own. 🙂

    1. 81.1

      Your mom is my new hero. 😃

  22. 82

    I’m 44. I have several friends who are 10 years older than I am. All are single (divorced) women. They date, have boyfriends and so on. They have mixed feelings about marrying again. Older women (the ones who aren’t broke at least) have assets to protect. It’s a lot to risk in a 2nd marriage (check out the dismal divorce rates for 2nd marriages). One of my friends told me she’d like to have a boyfriend – someone for companionship and dating, not necessarily to move in with or get married. She said most of the men she dates either want to move in together, or just have a no-strings sex arrangement — neither of which she wants. She tells me often she’d be interested in dating if she met someone she really liked, but most of the men she meets she just doesn’t like that much.

  23. 83

    I’m 60 soon.  Not a professional woman as one could say, but certainly have a decent income, a kind personality, told I’m good looking, stable and intelligent.  Also divorced.
    Yes, I would like to have a relationship with a single, emotionally available man.
    My experience on dating sites has led me to two alcolics, (one of whom I nearly married), one swinger, quite a few nutcases, and irresponsible men.  I’ve tried dating sites for nearly eight years.  Many different ones. 
    I’ve done the one, two, three and you’re out.  Also been very patient and given the benefit of the doubt.  As in four, five, six and seven (tries, I mean).
    All of this (i.e. meeting Mr. Going Nowhere at all) does not do wonders for a woman’s self-esteem.  A woman reaches the stage where she doubts herself most sincerely.  At least, this woman does.
    Whether a woman is sexual over fifty, over 60? Yes, of course.  Do you think that sexual activity or desire just goes away? (the “you” in this sentence is not aimed at anyone in particular).  And having sex with an alcoholic is not something that actually turns me on for a start.
    I’m not an aggressive bitch, psycho or man hater.
    Men at 60 or over are not always necessarily the ones who are physically fragile.  It can also be up to the man to look after the woman.
    I think that over a number of years a woman and man takes stock of what we do have – our health, our intelligence, our friends and family, love that does come our way.
    If by any chance the great love of our lives does come our way, it would be fantastic.
    I suppose that at my age, I should consider myself lucky to have a man of say, 70, to love me.  Wouldn’t that be great? (I quite frankly prefer to stay single, than have a wrinkly old man as a companion).  But experience has shown me that when you are attractive, sweet, kind, etc. and single, you attract an awful lot of…………………married men who “just don’t understand their wives”.
    Before some smart ass says “you have to be doing something for a married man to approach you, etc.” – this is the same kind of argument used for a raped woman.
    Recent experience – minding my own business on public transport – wearing T shirt and jeans no make-up and in walks Mr. Universe with wife in tow, and starts flirting with me (and a much younger woman) in front of his wife.  His wife did not seem to mind.  I DID and told him to f— off.  Great offence was taken that I DO NOT WANT TO BE THE MATURE WOMAN WHO GOES OUT WITH MEN WHO ARE TAKEN ALREADY.
    And that is part of the reason older women cannot find single men.  Why should they divorce when they have food and company at home (or not) and their little mistresses on dating sites?????
    I’m sorry Evan if this sounds hateful.  It’s my experience and my truth.

  24. 84

    I’m prolly the odd one, as ususal, but I feel like I am finished with romantic relationships with men and do not see my self remarrying.  As a result, I do not see any physical intimacy in my future, especially because I will not seek it out.  I guess I am a freak of nature, eh?

  25. 85

    @ST68, if you don’t want any more relationships with men, what are you doing on this website?  This is not an attack – I love the fact that you hang out here and comment – but I’m genuinely curious.

  26. 86

    I’m not the only one on here who has ever admitted to feeling this way.  I find this site entertaining.  The topics are compelling and EMK offers very good advice. I don’t think feeling the way I feel makes me unqualified to offer an occasional opinion, having been married 12 years and having navigated the dating seen on occasion in the past 10 years.  I also like to watch “Say Yes To The Dress” on TLC even though I’m not planning on shopping for one ever again.

  27. 87

    I don’t think it’s more that we WANT to be single as more, well does a gentleman really exist? Who’s articulate, financially independent, presentable, needing a WOMAN not a mummy, who can hold his own conversation, flexible, etc. etc.
    So far, (suppose I’m repeating myself here), I have not met this kind of man.  Notice the lack of physical lists, and maybe my list in paragraph 1 is just wishful thinking.
    The side that would make me double think about committing again is that I am comfortably off (in a rather enviable situation) and once I tell men what I do for a living, they flock around me – and I know it isn’t just for me.  More for their security for the future.
    Yes, I’d love the wedding dress – and the love and commitment but fact is, sometimes life just doesn’t go that way.
    Dating sites and real life situations – great men are not easy to find – and when you do find them, goddammit, they don’t want to commit!

  28. 88

    Mr. Katz has a business to operate, part of which includes the blog discussion that has the intent, by the nature of its discussions, to attract new clients.  So he is doing nothing more than trying to make a living for himself and his burgeoning family.
    And then along comes Amy with her excessively long diatribes, and in my opinion illogical and entirely only subjective conclusions, reflecting her adolescent perspectives on heterosexual relationships.  I am not going to attempt to validate myself, from the perspective of the standards that Amy has proclaimed for evaluating a particular male as a potential future partner.  But I will simply state that I am ecstatic that my wife of 29 years is not AT ALL anything as a person like Amy! 
    I do not understand the comments/complaints from women, as a generalization of some of the posters on this blog, who are past the point of child-bearing, regarding the diminished pool of, purportedly, eligible males available to them.  Why should they be surprised at such a diminished pool?  There was a relatively recent article in the New York Times about the fact that the marriage rate, and the retention rate of those marriages (meaning that the marriage lasted for many decades), among people at a certain “wealth” level (I do not recall the amount of that wealth level)(likely upper middle class to truly rich) was well above 75%!  No surprises here!  Those who are able to make “wealth” better understand the complexity of the totality of life (and understand the progressions that occur in life as one ages) and can take advantage of it to create their own wealth, compared to someone (male or female) who brings into supposedly adult relationships a childish perspective of what their life-and-sex partner should be.  The differences in perspectives are reflected in the differences in expectations that a person has for their life partner and are expressed in how one accepts the “aging” in their partner (or does not at all accept such aging)!

  29. 89

    Observer 95 – wealth is not the number one priority.  Love is.  Sex comes with that love (admittedly, others don’t think so, and have sex first, and love second, whatever).  And no, I don’t believe that  “Those who are able to make “wealth” better understand the complexity of the totality of life (and understand the progressions that occur in life as one ages)”.  No, because those who don’t have wealth (in the sense of money) can still love too, can’t they?
    If a woman believes that she’ll never meet a great guy, she won’t.  And if she does believe it, she will.
    Please don’t forget that of those marriages which lasted for many decades, there were also affairs on the side, moments of doubt, and the bad times.
    No, I for one am not going to give up.

  30. 90

    I’m 65 now and only occasionally get that second glance from men, but in my younger years, I was the beautiful girl that all the guys were after. Many of the men calling me back then were married and didn’t seem to care that they were jeopardizing their marriages. That was my first inkling that men were dogs.

    I remember as a younger woman being repulsed at the attention I received from much older men. My 60-ish eye doctor, for instance, called me at home to see if I would be “interested” in a free pair of contact lenses. Just one example of many.

    I was married twice, and my last husband (to whom I was married 20 years) died three years ago so I am alone for the first time in my life. I joined a dating site recently and was dismayed to learn that older men are largely after the younger woman, especially if semi-nude pics are in the offering.

    Even my late husband became semi-senile in his last years, checking out college-aged girls and making lewd comments. We had a happy marriage up until then, and then he just became disgusting to me.

    What is it with men? Maybe there are a few decent ones out there, but I haven’t met many, either as a young single woman or as an older widow. In fact, I have decided that I don’t like men very much at all and will live content for the rest of my life as a single woman !!

    Just my two cents ..

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