Is There Something Wrong With a Man in His 40s Who Has Never Been Married Before?

smiling attractive man

I’m currently speaking with a guy from Yahoo personals, he’s 42 and still single, never been engaged… This is a big red flag right? We have been talking for the past month and a half via the phone, I’m in Minneapolis, and he’s in Chicago. We have great long conversations, many that last 5 hours long, he’s commented how great our conversations are. He’s attractive too. How do I know if he’s just another “nice-player”? They are slick today. It seems many are online with no intention of getting serious… I just told him that it’s wild we have great chemistry but we could meet in person and realize that we are not physically each other’s type. To me, as naive as I am, I’d like to think he is not a “player” trying to work me over because we have these long conversations with a lot of depth to them. Our emails were very long to begin with too. Please give me some perspective and advice on this situation.

Dear Kate,

You’ve got four different questions going on here.

There is “How do I know if it’s worth it to try a long distance relationship?”

There is “I don’t want to be the victim of a nice-player in a long distance relationship.”

There is “I’m falling for a guy that I’ve never met but have talked to on the phone for 6 weeks”.

Is there something wrong with a man in his 40’s that has never been married? My answer is predictable: Yes… and No.

If you read the above links, your dreams will be summarily dashed – not because he’s necessarily a player, but because the odds of ANY relationship working are slim, the odds of an ONLINE relationship working are slimmer, and the odds of a LONG-DISTANCE online relationship are the slimmest – especially when you haven’t even, um, y’know, MET yet.

That said, the part of your question which really intrigues me is the “red flag” question:

Is there something wrong with a man in his 40’s that has never been married?

My answer is predictable: Yes… and No.

This is where I would make an argument that stereotypes exist for a reason. The unhealthy part of stereotyping is not necessarily the stereotype itself, but the assumption that ALL people in the category fit the stereotype.

Thus, if you have preconceived notions about gorgeous people, rich people, short people, gay people, Irish people, etc – those notions probably came from SOMEWHERE. They’re not pure fabrications.

Jewish people like playing Twister on the lawn is a fabrication.

Jewish people are often highly educated and highly neurotic is not.

Are we together on this one? Good.

So there’s the stereotype of the forty-something bachelor – and it’s a valid one. He’s a player. He’s a Peter Pan. He’s a commitmentphobe. He’s too picky. He’s emotionally unavailable. He’s a heartbreaker. He’s unrealistic.

All of those things are likely contributing factors as to why a man might be 42 and never married.

So now you’re faced with this very real dilemma – is this man a victim of circumstance, or is he the common denominator in all of his relationship failures?

But what if he was living with a woman for seven years who didn’t believe in traditional marriage? What if he was in a three-year relationship with a woman who cheated on him? What if he was once ready to propose and she ended up breaking his heart? What if he spent five years in a dead-end relationship and has had difficulty getting back out there? What if – god forbid – he made a bunch of bad dating decisions and just hasn’t met “the one”? (Hey, all of us want to think that about ourselves – let’s just say for argument’s sake that it’s true!)

So now you’re faced with this very real dilemma – is this man a victim of circumstance, or is he the common denominator in all of his relationship failures?

And I think it would be very easy, and coldly logical, to say BOTH.

This doesn’t mean you should enter into a relationship with a forty-something bachelor with the expectation of failure.

It does, however, mean that he didn’t become a forty-something bachelor by making great decisions in love.

Click here to learn the 5 Massive Mistakes You’re Making In Your Love Life – And How to Turn Them Around Instantly!

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  1. 21

    I beg to differ from many of the comments posted here. I think the real issue is not the fact that the guy is in his 40s and never married. The real issue is the “false sense of intimacy” which might be building based on lengthy long distance phone calls. While he might be a great conversationalist, and you’re both finding out about each other, one meeting in person might wipe all of that out when the phone chemistry does not translate in real time. I would recommend to make a plan to meet sooner, rather than later.

    I continue to be baffled by the judgmental attitudes of so many people who think there is something inherently wrong with people in their 40s who are still single. I’m a 48 y.o. single female, who wasn’t ready in her 20s to settle down, was focusing on my career in my 30s and moved to NYC at the age of 38 where everyone is single! I met a guy today who is 60 and has been married (and divorced) twice. My sister got married at 21, and after 23 years of marriage, is divorced (and now remarried). I can’t tell you how many of my friends in their 40s are either divorced or unhappily married or worse yet, having affairs, yet, there is still a huge stigma placed upon people who choose to marry later in life, and who are still single in their 40s. I think we all have a tendency to make sweeping generalizations and I’m trying to treat each new person I meet with a clean slate before I jump to conclusions based on stereotypes. And like Jennifer mentions above, we should all pay attention to red flags early on, whether the guy/woman is single and in his/her 30s or 40s, or divorced in his/her 50s/60s!

  2. 22

    Actually, you can pretty self-serving and set in your ways and NOT be single and independent. So I stand corrected [by me ;)]!

    Great post, JM.

  3. 23

    I just received “wink” on a site I’m using (yes, had an attitude adjustment) from a 51-year-old guy who’d never been married; that wasn’t what bothered me. What bothered me was that in paragraph one of his profile, he says he wants a no-strings attached relationship (more power to him if he wants that) then contradicts himself in the 2nd paragraph by saying he wants a marriage and children. I very clearly state that while I’m in no rush to walk down the aisle, I’m not looking for a dead-end fling. I also clearly state I don’t want to have any new babies (I could but I’m 41 and I’ve got 3 already).

    Of course I don’t think he was actually interested. He probably just like the profile and it was a tip o’ the hat, which is fine too.

  4. 24

    @JM post #21

    People are quick to judge older single never-married people in a negative light because that group of people is far less common than older divorced people.

    People aren’t going to judge themselves, their family members, their friends and their acquaintances as “relationship defective”, despite the hard numbers providing evidence to that end. They know themselves, they know their family members and they know their friends. Knowing them, they know that even hard numbers for a general demographic do not dictate a destiny for particular individuals.

    The people passing dismissive judgments on single never-married people may not know many of these types of people or have only met a few bad examples. Like the people who you can instantly tell why they are divorced. Since those people are not often in their lives they aren’t forced to reevaluate their thinking about them.

    Life is busy. Nobody has time to inventory, then analyze all of their beliefs. We do it as we have to. They simply haven’t had to. I don’t think that makes them less bright or more judgmental. Just more disappointing to come across.

  5. 26

    Thank you Diana 🙂

    Steve, I appreciated your perspective and spin on this topic, or shall I say, my post? 😉

  6. 27

    @ Steve

    I’m only judging from my personal experience dating never-married men over 40 (incredibly picky, right down to how the TP should should hang) and being friends with a number of women over 40 who have never married (also incredibly picky and set in their ways). I also know a number of physicians through work who are over 40 and never married–in this case, it seems to be their training and work environment that make them self-centered and socially awkward.

    I’ve never let what society thinks deter me from dating someone I thought was wonderful, but I’ve had enough bad experiences with over 40 singles that it’s my own personal yellow light (maybe not quite a red flag, but bears inspection). I’m sure there are exceptions, yourself included.

    1. 27.1

      Look at my handle.   That’s all any woman needs to know. Automatic rejection.

      1. 27.1.1

        Dude, if you’ve never been kissed by 40, your age is not the issue.
        Get out there and make something happen!  

        1. r

          LOL not going to work, women would touch him with a 10 foot pole.

      2. 27.1.2

        …I would suggest you get a dating coach……

  7. 28

    @Cilla post #27

    Lets take a look at some common negative thoughts about single people over 40 who never got married:

    1. They aren’t interested in settling down.
    2. They can’t be trusted for fidelity.
    3. They don’t know how to be in a relationship.
    4. They have a huge amount of emotional baggage
    5. They are self centered

    Who are the men it is possible for you to date? Single never married men or single divorced men. There are no other possibilities.

    If you haven’t, go to the top of this thread and read my first comment. There is real research done by real degreed experts with real statistics that show that divorced people are “defective” for relationships.

    Common reasons for divorces are #2, #3 & #5 making them similar to those “defective” single never married people. Divorcees also frequently have issue #4 as a result of their divorce. Think of all of the people (bitterly) talking about their ex’s. 4 out of 5 of the defects that never-marrieds over 40 have. Scratch anyone who is divorced from your list of potential dates.

    What about single never married people who are exactly 39 years old? Red flags? Why not? They are only one year away from being 40? Does “39” and never married feel better than “40”? Why? Okay “39” is cool. What about “38”? Still too old? What about 37? At what point do the datable never-marrieds in their 30s spoil? What happens at what age and why?

    What about single never married people in their 20’s? The generalizations for that demographic also match up with single never people in their 40s. Issue #1 is a very common generalization about that group. Fidelity? I have friends in their 20s & 30s tell me that cheating is more common than not. Add defect #2 to the list. Issues #3 & #5 are expected for people that young. They just aren’t grown up. Emotional baggage? Well the 20 somethings are the product of those broken homes those defective divorced people generated( most of whom got divorced in their 30s ). So, as a group, 20 somethings have all 5 defects of single people in their 40s who were never married. So add them to divorced people as people you should never date.

    I’ve heard issues 1 – 5 complained about, a lot, for divorced people as well as single never married people in their 20s, 30s and 40s.

    Cillia, if you judge a man by the general demographic he belongs to you don’t have any men left to date or hope to find for a relationship.

    I have lousy writing skills as all of the regulars know. However

    – I’m interesting to talk to and a good coversationalist.
    – I’m good looking.
    – I care about my appearance
    – I have no substance abuse issues
    – I have a great sense of humor
    – I’ve never cheated on anyone
    – I have no debt whatsoever
    – I’m not a narcissist.
    – I’ve never let myself be used for somebody else to cheat
    – I fight fair and in a non-toxic way
    – I ask people about THEIR opinions and THEIR lives.
    – I have a steady job in a good career
    – I love talking just for the hell of it, even about relationships
    – I keep my appointments, I’m on time and I keep my word
    – I’m great for getting things off of high shelves
    – Unlike many men, I love (as a group) women
    – I change light bulbs
    – I take out the trash

    I’m also over 40. It is a bad cliche, but I don’t look it. I’ve never been married. If you came across me on you would pass me up

    If you met me the old fashioned way at a bar or a party you would stop returning my phone calls once my ugly secret came out.

    I’d be having all of those balloon rides, dinners in rustic restaurants, bike rides, hikes, movies, watching videos while sick with someone else.

    1. 28.1


      You sound like a great guy!   Hope you find someone.


  8. 29

    Cilla, doesn’t everyone have a way they think TP should hang?

  9. 30

    Steve…YOU ROCK!

    And yes, there is only one way to hang the toliet paper – clearly the end goes on the outside. Sheesh. (Smile)

  10. 31

    “At what point do the datable never-marrieds in their 30s spoil?”


    1. 31.1

      Some would say men over 37 are spoiling because by then should have had ample time and opportunity.   That’s I think a last call for married life and after that maybe early 40s. After that the real danger zone hits and they really tend to have something holding them back in mt humble opinion.

      1. 31.1.1

        More than likely what is holding them back is that  by that age  most men who haven’t tied the knot  have probably seen the marriages of several of their male friends and family members  who married in their 20s implode and have heard about divorce court, child custody fights,  etc., etc.   Most have probably also  had several seemingly happily  married friends tell them they wish they were still single.  I am 45 and  single and  my college roommate  has been married and divorced  four times.   I can’t count the number of married men who have  told me they wished they had never gotten  married,  or that they  would never do it again,  or simply  said  “don’t do it bro!”  

        1. Patrick Coyle

          I agree, seen couple of my friends and brother dragged through the divorce courts and be completely ruined even when the spouse was unfaithful due to no-fault divorce laws.   I’m 45 and single and still date but i’m now extremely picky.   My biggest issue from my personal experience is trying to find someone who would be faithful.

        2. Fromkin

          I can’t count the number of married men who have  told me they wished they had never gotten  married,  or that they  would never do it again,  or simply  said  “don’t do it bro!


          Oh, we’ve all said “never again”. Coexisting is tough. The good times are good though.

  11. 32

    @ Joe

    Yes, it should only hang from the back. LOL

    @ Steve

    As I said before, I’m only judging from my personal experience. This is what people do, right or wrong, when making any kind of choice, whether it’s buying fruit, looking for a new employer, or replacing a lawn mower. I also said it’s a yellow light to me, something that gives me pause, not an absolute deal breaker.

    I feel the same hesitation about someone is divorced or widowed but has lived alone for decades or someone who has been married two or more times–he may be a little too set in his ways or too picky to make MY life easier or more fulfilling. The men I dated who fell in these categories WERE difficult, demanding, self-absorbed, and unsupportive. Judging prospective dates who fall in these categories is no different than saying I prefer to stay away from men who are religious conservatives, who don’t like pets, or who hate to read–we are just not likely to get along.

    Everyone who participates in online dating (and really, dating in general) judges people by SOME demographic they belong to, whether that’s geography, marital status, age, educational background, or income. If those distinctions didn’t work for the general population, the sites would have abandoned them long ago. It’s my right to use those standards as I see fit to find a mate who works for ME.

    BTW, I’m currently in a relationship with a man who is also divorced. We are both divorced because our spouses cheated on us. Does that make US the “defective” ones? I don’t think so.

  12. 33

    Oh dear … I surely do hope that just because I am divorced that does not make me defective for a relationship. I am doomed. Just as for the older singles who have never married, you cannot paint everyone with such a broad stroke. Everyone is human and makes mistakes. The wonderful thing about mistakes is the fantastic opportunity they create for personal growth and wisdom.

    You really do have to know a person before you can determine if they’re defective for anything in life. For some reason, the term “defective” makes me cringe.

  13. 34

    Steve, you sound like a great guy! So what website are you on???? hee hee…..
    You make some excellent points, and by the way you are a pretty good writer.
    I admittedly was a person afraid to date the “never been married at almost any age” people. I don’t want anyone to assume why, how, who, when about me. I chose to just get to know the people that peak my interest. I think us divorced folk, as hard as it is, need to revaluate ourselves and our own responsiblity in our broken relationships. I have done alot of soul searching for myself and made some incredible progress. I have learned in the last year alot about my hand in my last relationship and now have so much more to offer someone else. I dont’ want to be holding onto baggage…I want to go through it and get rid of what is bad
    and take the good polish it up to be better for that next person in my life. Isn’t that what we all should be doing? Learning to be better? No one wants to take responsibility for themselves and their faults and actions. We just have to remember though that not all divorces are alike or circumstances especially things beyond peoples control. I just think that people whether divorced or never married need to learn from EVERY experience and use that to improve themselves. Got away from Kates’ problem, sorry
    Kate. I say meet the guy and see what is there. Long distance relationships mean in time someone is gonna make a demographic move. Will it be you….or him? Things like this
    you should consider….ponder those….what do you want? You mentioned this guy might be a player with no intention to get serious. Have you talked about that during one of your 5 hour conversations? What is he telling you and how does it feel when he tells you? Does it sound like a line? Are you familiar with what and how a player…..plays? You are right that you might meet and not have “chemistry”. I know its happened to me….so tests of all tests…meet and see…
    Take things in levels, it passes the first then graduate to the next until seems absolutely necessary for you to end things. Wishing you the best……

  14. 35

    One reason people might not marry by the age of 40 is that they have not found a suitable person who wants to marry them.

    It is difficult for me to meet women my own age who have never been married and never had children.

  15. 36

    It would never occur to me to think that there is something wrong with someone who is over 40 (or 30, or 100, etc) and never married. If someone was over 40 and never had any type of relationship ever, that would make me stop and think a bit. But marriage? I don’t care.

    1. 36.1

      I’m 40 and never kissed.   100 percent of the women will auto reject me.

  16. 37

    Steve, you forgot to mention that you kill bugs, too. Just teasing. 🙂

  17. 38
    Curly Girl

    I very much believe that staying single is a very healthy relationship option. As do many sociologists/ psychologists/ researchers, even though this idea is against mainstream “marriagemania,” as Dr. Bella DePaulo writes in her blog on the Psychology Today site:

    Her book, “Living Single,” talks about the wrong-headed research that supports the “married is the only healthy way to be” belief. The book also points out the many ways that single people are discriminated against and discredits the stereotypes, many of which have been expressed on this board. She’s not anti-marriage, I have to point out–she’s just saying that you aren’t weird if you choose not to marry, just as you aren’t “healthy” because you choose to.

    Also, another interesting article in the May issue of “Self” magazine about a woman who is in her early 40s and not married and how during her 20s/30s she internalized all the negative messages about being “still” single–which in most corners is synonymous with “defective” (or why would EMK ask the question in the title of this blog entry?) She spent a lot of time and money trying to figure out what was “wrong” with her, even as she saw so many people who clearly had things wrong with them getting married and receiving the societal stamp of approval. Finally, she just gave it up and concluded that she just hadn’t met the right guy, and that was the only reason she was unattached. She did, after 8 years or so without a significant other, meet someone and embark on committed relationship.

    I did suggest to EMK that it’s possible to be single and happy and healthy and dating and NOT looking to get married or in an LTR and what about that; he wasn’t so receptive, but then there were some blogs along those lines (why are so many successful people single, why NOT to settle, etc.). So I was happy he opened it up.

  18. 39

    I’m so much more interested in the why’s than the whats. Why is someone divorced? Why has someone stayed single. Its not that they are – its why they are. I’m divorced, I don’t consider myself “defective” at relationships – I was married for 18 years and am divorced due to things beyond my control. I would hope that someone would (if they were interested) get to know me, see who I really am, listen to what I say, and watch what I do rather than dismiss simply because I’m divorced. Therefore, I do the same for others. We are all so individually unique that it seems even if we have the same story how it shapes who we are can be completely different for each individual.
    @ Steve –
    I’m glad you pointed out that your list could go either for divorcees or never marrieds. Again — its all according to the individual; some cheat, some don’t; some have poor relationship skills, some don’t. Except maybe the baggage – i think thats universal.

  19. 40
    Karl R

    VR said: (#18)
    “Personally I would not date a guy over 40 who hasn’t been married, that is a long time not to legally commit not even a youthful, silly marriage? Major Red Flags, imho.”

    I can’t imagine discriminating against someone solely due to their previous marital status.

    However, I can’t see why being still single is a red flag, and being divorced is not.

    Earlier this week I was looking at divorce statistics provided by the CDC. For women who got married the first time at the age of 25+, there was a 24% chance that the marriage would fail by the 10 year mark. For women who got married the second time at the age of 25+, there was a 34% chance that the marriage would fail by the 10 year mark. That’s a 40% higher failure rate on second marriages. (Extrapolating, that’s a 60% to 70% chance that the marriage would fail over the long run.)

    And this afternoon I found book online discussing divorce and infidelity (“Marital and sexual lifestyles in the United States” by Linda P. Rouse).

    59% of divorced women have had an extra-marital affair (compared to 25% of married women).

    Just looking at the statistics, there’s about a 60% chance that you have a history of marital infidelity, and there’s about a 60% chance that your next marriage will end in divorce. Why are the single people considered to be the “defective” ones?

    And if you’d like potential dates to avoid judging you for being a divorcee, why don’t you extend the same courtesy to single people?

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