Over 40 and single

Table of Contents

40 Reasons Why Being Single in Your 40s is the Greatest Thing Ever

The way we see it, your 40s are your best decade—period. You know who you are and you know what you want. On top of that, you’re more established in your career, your rough edges have been smoothed over, and you don’t let the small things in life distract you or get you down. And if you find yourself facing singledom—whether or not you want to be—we’d argue that there’s a lot to be excited about, even if it doesn’t feel that way at first. That’s why we’ve compiled all of the best reasons for being single in your fifth decade, starting with one simple fact: you can begin your days focusing on one and only one thing: you. And for more great advice, don’t miss the 40 Ways to Master Your 40s.

1 Zero Obligations

Stay out late, sleep in, eat any food you like, behave badly on a night out. “As a single person, you are free to do what you want when you want without being accountable to another person,” says Rosalind Sedacca, a dating and relationship coach. No one can tell you what to do, when to do it, or that they don’t like what you’re doing—because it’s none of their business. There’s something pretty liberating about that. “Singles too often take freedom for granted,” she adds. “When you take advantage of this reality, the single life becomes much more desirable—and harder to let go of.”

2 You Can Spend Money However You Want

“You may want to go on a vacation for the weekend, go get Botox, or go to an expensive play,” says Stef Safran, owner of the dating service Stef and the City. “If you are single, you don’t have to run it past anyone other than yourself.” You don’t have to ask your partner, for example, if there’s room in the budget for that new necklace or watch. Although you’ll probably want to stop overspending on these common things.

3 You Can Pursue That Impractical Dream Job

Want to go for a career that requires logging long hours, tons of travel, or moving to another country? Yes, you can absolutely do these things if you are attached, but it’s a lot easier if you’re flying solo. “Many people turn down or put opportunities on hold for relationships and then regret it later when they don’t have a new opportunity or their life just doesn’t allow for it anymore,” says Toni Coleman, a psychotherapist, relationship coach, and divorce mediator. So go ahead and do something exciting with your career—there’s no reason not to.

4 Traveling Solo Is Amazing

“Often a couple will have huge differences in their destination preferences,” explains Monte Drenner, a licensed counselor and life coach. “For example, one may love the mountains while the other loves the beach or one may want to stay local while the other prefers international travel. These different desires can cause huge conflicts in a relationship,” he says. Plus, when you take a trip by yourself, you get to choose the sightseeing spots you prefer without having to worry about what your partner wants to do. Before you head out, make sure you read up on the 35 genius travel hacks only experienced globetrotters know.

5 You Can Meet Tons of New People

Dating might seem like a chore, but it can help you expand your social network and could even end up being fun. “Meeting people through dating is a whole new world,” says Karen Bigman, a life transition coach with a focus on divorce. “With the right mindset, it can be a blast!”

6 You Can Make Your Bedroom Comfortable for You

“You make all the rules,” says Rhonda Milrad, LCSW, relationship therapist and founder of online relationship community Relationup. “You determine the temperature, the type of covers, the level of darkness, what side you want to sleep on, and the time you are going to wake up in the morning. There is no snoring, shuffling, sneezing, coughing or early morning to bathroom runs to disturb your sleep.” Sounds pretty great, right? If you still need some help falling asleep, though, try these 11 Doctor-Approved Secrets for Falling Asleep Faster—Tonight.

7 That Free Time? It’s Yours

“You don’t have to worry about arguing about what you want to watch, how you want to spend your weekends, or whose house you are going to for the holidays,” Safran notes. “Sometimes just getting to be alone, enjoying activities that matter to you, can be a lot better than being in a relationship.”

8 You’re More Focused

“Falling in love can literally change your brain,” explains Jonathan Bennett, a certified counselor and dating coach. “When you love someone, the critical decision making centers of your brain become less active. Combined with the increase in dopamine and other ‘feel good’ chemicals, people who are madly in love can act blindly when it comes to their partners and make irrational decisions. By being single, you can think more clearly and rationally in order to make important life decisions.” In other words, when you’re single, you know that you’re likely making the decisions that are best for you, which can lead to a happier life overall.

9 You Have Time to Get In Shape

Slimming down or toning up can be extra challenging when you have a romantic partner. Plus, sometimes just being in a relationship can cause people to pack on the pounds. “For many people, being in a relationship consumes all of their discretionary time and they tend to neglect other important aspects of life, like physical health,” Drenner says. When you’re not part of a couple, it’s easier to skip unhealthy meals that don’t help you meet your goals and prioritize healthier behaviors.

10 You Can Design Your Own Happiness

When you ask most people what their biggest goal in life is, they’ll tell you it’s to be happy. Luckily, being single actually makes it easier to accomplish that goal. “When you are single, you have the greatest flexibility to create your happiness,” explains Scott Carroll, MD, author of Don’t Settle: How the Marry the Man You Were Meant For. “The trick is helping people understand that you have to construct your life to promote your happiness and that your relationship status doesn’t really make you happy (but a bad marriage or relationship can sure make you miserable).”

11 Spontaneity Is an Option

“Because you are unencumbered, you have the freedom to do anything on a moment’s notice,” Milrad points out. “You can go away for the weekend at the last minute, impulsively decide to change up your plans, or go hear a musician that you didn’t know was in town. Your friends know that you are flexible, and you become the go-to person for last-minute free invites to great events.” There’s nothing like taking advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make you grateful for being single and unattached.

12 You Don’t Have to Deal With Anyone Else’s Family

When you’re single, you only have one set of crazy to deal with.

13 You Can Focus on Your Friends

“A significant other can have benefits, but sometimes it can be better to have time to focus on your friends who know you well,” Safran says. After all, relationships may come and go, but your longtime friends will always be there for you.

14 You’ll Probably Get Sick Less

You know that thing when your partner gets sick and you immediately know you’re going to get whatever they have, too? Well, not having an S.O. lets you skip out on that. “You’re not kissing, making out, or having sex with someone who is exposing you to the germs of all the people they have come into contact with,” sats Celine Alvarez, LMFT, founder of Inner Growth Therapy.

15 You Can Take Advantage of Solo Deals

“You can often find a great seat for one at events and restaurants,” says Milrad. “Because of this, you can check out trendy restaurants, find a single ticket for popular shows or concerts (think Hamilton!) and always manage to get a great seat at the movies.”

16 You Can Enjoy Variety

Part of the joy of being single is that you don’t have to look to the same person to fulfill all your needs. “Being single means you can have the person you have long, meaningful conversations with, one you dance with, one you do the foodie thing with, one you travel with—you get the idea,” notes Kim Olver, a licensed counselor and author of Secrets of Happy Couples.

17 You Accept Yourself and Your Looks

By the time you hit 40, gone are the days of being uncomfortable in your own skin. “You stop trying to fit into a cookie cutter mold. You know and accept yourself in your 40s and are comfortable with your style, without mimicking what the media tells us we should look like,” explains Isabel James, a dating and relationship coach and founder of Elite Dating Managers.

18 You Don’t Have to Deal With Relationship Issues

“This is a pretty darn good reason that being single in your 40s is awesome,” says Dr. R.Y. Langham, a professional consultant for the Between Us Clinic. “Contrary to popular belief, research indicates that single people who try to avoid conflict are just as happy (or happier) than those in relationships. The truth is, every couple experiences relationship issues at one time or another, but if you’re single, you don’t have to deal with the drama. You are too old for that crap, right?”

19 You Have Time to Focus On A Passion Project

“Your 20s and 30s were about validation and what society thought you should do,” explains Lisa Concepcion, a dating and relationship transformation expert and founder of LoveQuest Coaching. “From parenting to career, your true innermost passion may have been put on a shelf. When you reach 40, you realize this is the decade to leave that corporate job and open a juice bar or take up a side business decorating houses. Whatever that thing is that you would do for free if money wasn’t an issue is finally the passion you’re able to explore in your 40s without interruption.”

20 You Can Explore Spirituality Without Someone Judging You

“In our 40s, we tend to search for higher meanings in life,” notes Naomi J. Hardy, certified change management and relationship expert. Whether it’s through religion or something else, “being single allows you to the freedom to really discover who you are and your purpose in life.”

21 You Know Exactly Who You Are

“It takes a while to truly know yourself, to be comfortable with yourself, and to enjoy your own company,” says J. Hope Suis, an inspirational writer and relationship expert. “By the time you have made it to your 40s, these pieces should all fall into place. You are not intimidated to go out to eat alone or even take a trip to somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. You understand the value of time and know how you want to spend it.”

22 You Can Do Everything On Your Own Timeline

When you’re single, “there is no need to check in with anyone or figure out what works best someone else’s schedule,” says Trish Barillas, a life coach. “You are calling all your own shots, your way on your time exactly when you want it. That is some truly powerful personal freedom.” So whether it’s deciding when the time is right for something small, like scheduling a dinner party, or something bigger, like getting a dog, you can do what works best for you without feeling any guilt at all.

23 You Can Bounce Back From Dating Disappointments Quickly

“Even if someone wastes your time and leaves you a little heartbroken, you can recover well. By 40, you’ve been through some challenges and know how to pick yourself up, self-care-give, and say ‘onward,'” says Antonia Hall, relationship and dating expert.

24 You Know What You’re Looking For

“In your 20s and 30s you are learning through experience about what is right and acceptable for you,” notes James. “At 40, you know.” No need to waste time dating people who don’t quite fit the bill.

25 Your BS Radar Is Sharp

“By 40, your gut instinct about people is better, and your willingness to put up with BS is far lessened,” says Hall. “This can be a huge asset when out there dating. You know not to let people waste your time, so you can spend more of it with people worthy of your attention.”

26 Your Financial Security Depends On You Alone

“If you’re in a relationship, there is a chance you may have inherited someone else’s debt, are providing financially for them, or are spending money on things that are not of value to you,” says Kimber Shelton, PhD, a licensed psychologist, relationship expert and owner of KLS Counseling & Consulting Services in Dallas, TX. “Ideally, in your 40s, financial kinks have been worked out and job stability has been achieved.” That means you only have to worry about your own financial priorities and providing for your own future.

27 You’re Free To Reinvent Yourself

“When you start to put yourself first with understanding finally that doing so makes you stronger and better equipped to be there for others, you start to make a major positive shift in your life,” Concepcion says. “Taking courses, expanding your business, traveling, whatever calls you, you’re free to explore it.”

28 You Know What You Want in Bed

“As we get older, we have an opportunity to get familiar with our body and its responses to pleasure,” explains Shula Melamed, a relationship and wellness coach. “You are less likely to stumble through unsatisfying sexual encounters without speaking up or having insight on how to make it better.”

29 You Can Grow And Change As You Wish

“Being single in your 40s allows you to grow how you want, at the pace you want, by trying different things,” says Hardy. “You can change your focus, your desires, your path many times without worrying about who it affects.”

30 It’s A Better Time Than Ever To Truly Fall In Love

“Often in your 20’s and 30’s, financial status is a key issue in choosing a partner,” James explains. “It dictates what area you will live in and how you will raise your children. In your 40’s, this is not nearly as important as finding somebody you can enjoy your time with is. Typically at 40, you have already established your career.”

31 You Already Know Where To Meet Dates

By your 40s, you’re no longer looking to meet people in crowded bars on weekend nights. That hardly ever worked anyway, right? Now, you know that you’re much more likely likely to meet someone you’ll enjoy spending time with in line for coffee or at a fitness class.

32 You Have Time To Get Back To Old Hobbies

Have you stopped playing tennis or visiting your favorite vineyards somewhere along the line? “You have more time when you are single, a half a lifetime of experiences to reflect on, and time ahead of you to use in any way you want,” Melamed points out. There’s no reason not to get back into something you once enjoyed.

33 You Only Have to Clean Up After Yourself

Laundry and dishes for one are surprisingly manageable.

34 You No Longer Feel You Need a Partner to Complete You

If you’re single in your 40s, you know that having a significant other is totally optional. “When you are comfortable in your own skin, you can take your time dating until you find the right person because you are happier alone than you are with the wrong person,” Olver says.

35 Relocation Is No Big Deal

“You are free to move to another city, state, or country as you please!” Hardy points out.

36 You Can Focus on Your Family

“Many people who had their kids in their late 20s and 30s find themselves with kids 10 to 20 in their 40s,” Concepcion says. “You are still young enough to keep up with their kids, yet old enough to establish and stick to rules and truly be there for them.” In other words, it’s the perfect time to really get to know your kids and be a great role model for them.

37 Dating Can Be More Fun Than Serious

Instead of dealing with the rush to get married and have kids people experience in their 20s and 30s, the pace of dating in your 40s is much more focused on enjoying time together without jumping into a commitment.

38 You Can Downsize Your Stuff and Upgrade Your Life

“Being in your 40s means you don’t need a 3-bedroom house and two cars,” Concepcion notes. “You can shed the extra stuff and lighten your load, allowing space for new experiences.”

39 No More Stressing Over the Perfect Gift

“One of the most challenging aspects of a relationship is buying meaningful gifts,” says Suis. “No scouring Amazon, trying to glean hints from conversations, or asking their friends. All that extra time and money can be re-channeled into buying something you have always wanted.”

40 You Can Have More Adventures Than Ever

“It is easy to get settled into routines and patterns when in a relationship,” says Shelton. “When you get comfortable in the relationship, you might stop trying new things and taking risks.” But if you’re single in your 40s? That’s the perfect time to go out on a limb and reap the rewards.

But if you’re feeling ready to let go of the single life (and just don’t know why it’s so difficult to find a partner), check out the 13 Reasons Why You’re Still Single.

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Best dating apps and sites for singles over 40

There may be plenty of fish in the sea, but the waters can feel choppy out there for the over-40 set.

Dating apps and websites, they tell The Post, have been both a godsend and a nightmare.

“A lot of the problems that older individuals are facing when online dating have to do with their expectations,” relationship coach Marisa T. Cohen, 35, tells The Post. Since boomers and Gen Xers didn’t grow up with social media, they struggle to understand its nuances.

So let these local singles shed some light on the most popular digital dating options. Here’s what they had to say about the best and worst of eHarmony, Match.com, OurTime, Lumen and more.

Tinder

Among its younger users, Tinder — which lets nearby singles swipe through each others’ profiles — is traditionally considered more of a hookup app than a place to find a love connection. And while Tinder tells The Post that 38% of users are 35 and older, New York singles in that bracket say they haven’t had the best luck finding love there.

“I’m not a Tinder person — there’s a whole sub-genre of bots, hookers and hackers,” says Neal, a 49-year-old divorced dad who otherwise loves the app scene. (He declined to share his last name, lest it hurts his dating prospects.) He says he once may have narrowly evaded a date with a prostitute on the app.

Maria Miliotis, a 49-year-old from Queens, also isn’t a fan. “I’ve had men half my age send provocative messages and d–k pics” on the app, says the twice-married hair and makeup artist.

Bumble

Consider this the Sadie Hawkins option: It’s set up so that only women can reach out to men. (Unless you’re gay, in which case, anyone can reach out first.)

“Bumble has been my favorite so far,” says Donna Pettigrew Fillweber, a 55-year-old entrepreneur from Pompton Plains, New Jersey. “It’s your choice.”

Todd Kosik agrees. Divorced, 46 and living in Livingston, New Jersey, he believes that having the lady reach out first is much easier than walking over to a woman in a club, which is how he met his ex-wife when he was in his 20s.

Still, just because Bumble is women-driven doesn’t mean that they can let their guard down entirely. Miliotis says she’s noticed her friends’ photos being used in scammer profiles on the app.

Plenty of Fish

This website doesn’t share an age breakdown, but the site itself is a dinosaur by digital dating standards. It has been around since 2003 and has singles take a personality test to help match them with people with whom they might have chemistry. The pro is that there are tons of people on it. The con is that there are maybe too many people on it.

“You get ones from the bottom of the ocean messaging you,” Fillweber says. “It’s kind of sad these men think they have a chance.”

In particular, she’s noticed that guys tend to drag conversations out for a long stretch of time on this site — maybe because it’s more desktop-focused than app-based, lending itself to drawn-out exchanges.

“You’re a grown-ass man, ask a lady out if you’re interested,” says this mother of two. “This isn’t pen-pal time.”

Lumen

This dating site is exclusively for singles 50 and over, which makes it the dating site of choice for singles such as Maria Rodriguez, 54. The county social services worker, who divorced in 2018 after a 29-year marriage, says swiping’s the only way to go.

“I’m shopping around,” says Rodriguez, who likes that her app of choice — Lumen — helps her weed out potential sleazeballs by limiting the number of conversations users can initiate and banning photo DMs.

eHarmony

While the company declined to provide any data on its over-40 population to The Post, the site is “pretty much the go-to for marriage-minded people looking for love that will last,” according to Mashable. The company surveyed singles in 2010 and found that the internet is the best way for people over the age of 50 to meet and marry, so if you’re in it to win it, this could be where you find your soulmate.

“In my life,” dating sites such as eHarmony “are the greatest thing ever,” Neal says. “I get all my dates without leaving my bed.”

Hinge

This is another popular one among the middle-aged dating set, and for good reason: It’s closely linked to Facebook, a platform that users in that age group are already familiar with. You can opt to log in through Facebook, so you can find potential matches who are in your Facebook friends-of-friends network.

Although Hinge declined to share numbers on its user makeup, several 40-plus New Yorkers we spoke to are fans — and appreciate that their connections are kind of pre-vetted by their friends of friends.

“It’s nice to see what’s out there. It’s exciting,” says Kosik, who says that 75% of his dates come through this app and Bumble.

Kosik says the only drawback to Hinge — although perhaps it’s a blessing in disguise — is that it’s pretty glaring if women don’t respond to his messages in a timely fashion. He says he finds himself losing patience with dawdlers.

“If a woman takes days to respond to a text,” he says, “I’m not interested.”

Match.com and Ourtime.com

About 2 million users this year alone have signed up with Ourtime, run by the parent company of Match.com. While 31% of Match.com users are millennials, the rest are between the ages of 39 and 74, the company tells The Post.

IAC, which owns Match.com and Chemistry.com, started Ourtime.com in 2011 for 50-and-over singles looking to date. “We saw a fervor for something just for them,” says Joshua Meyers, CEO of People Media, the targeted-dating subsidiary of IAC.

Reflections on Turning 40 While Single and Childless

I was 28 years old the first time someone called me “barren.” At a book club hosted by one of my friends, I met a 22-year-old graduate student who had just moved to the city. After our group discussion, she and I ended up in the kitchen talking about food, life, and expectations. As I shared with her the story of my recent broken engagement, I confessed, “I thought I’d be married by now.”

Later that week, she emailed me to say she enjoyed our conversation and that she, too, thought she’d be “married by now.” Then she said that I reminded her of “the barren woman” from the Hebrew Scriptures, of whom it is said in Isaiah, “Sing, O barren one, for the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married.’”

Did she just call me “barren?”

Thankfully, some girlfriends came over for dinner that night. All single. All gorgeous. All in their late 20s. I read the email to them, and we laughed. I wasn’t alone. I was like most women in Manhattan—single and successful, and with plenty of time to get married and have kids.

But perhaps that young woman was prophetic. Four weeks shy of turning 40, I’m still single and childless. “Barren”—a description that was laughable to my 28-year-old self—may turn out to be true.

Good Desires

It’s common, if not nearly universal, for a woman to long for children—to bring new life into the world; to put her hand on her belly as her baby grows; to wonder whether the newborn will have her or her beloved’s eyes; to hear “mom” not as a word uttered by her own voice to her own mother but as a call from her child’s voice for her. (As I write this, I’m sitting on the subway next to a teenage girl trying to get her mom’s attention: “Mom? Mom? Do you want my seat?”)

Childlessness isn’t just a married couple’s grief. I’ve never heard that call of “mom.” Never felt that baby in my belly. Never seen my features in the face of a child. Never experienced hearing a baby’s first word or taking a toddler to his first haircut. Never been “the preferred one” to the child who only wants her mom when she’s sad, scared, or sick. When a new mother shares how her heart unimaginably expanded when she first held her baby, I can understand what she means only in theory, not by experience.

Disenfranchised Grief

Some people think that by grieving not having children while still single, I’m putting the cart before the horse. They wonder, Can’t she just get married and have kids? Doesn’t she understand her biological clock is ticking? Is she being too picky, or not trying hard enough?

No matter why a woman remains single, she’s reminded every month that she was made, at least in part, to bear children.

These questions are common—from both strangers and loved ones. But the answers are complex and particularized. And for every single woman you meet who you think has a fatal flaw making her unmarriageable, you can probably think of another woman with that same fatal flaw who is happily married.

But no matter why a woman remains single, she’s reminded every month—in pain and in blood—that she was made, at least in part, to bear children. Her body doesn’t let her mind and heart forget.

Melanie Notkin, the author of Savvy Auntie, calls this type of grief—grief that’s unaccepted, unobvious, or silent—disenfranchised grief. “It’s the grief you don’t feel allowed to mourn because your loss isn’t clear or understood,” she writes. “But losses that others don’t recognize can be as powerful as the kind that are socially acceptable.”

Going It Alone

These days it almost seems passé to talk about needing marriage before having children. Today’s single woman doesn’t need marriage—or even a man.

Single mothers by choice (SMBC)—in contrast to by circumstance or chance—are single women who have chosen to have children through sperm donation (75 percent, according to one survey) or adoption (25 percent). The difference between these women and women like me who choose to remain childless, says Kate Bolick, author of Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own, is desire. She writes:

Again and again, the I spoke with described how they’d wanted to be a mother for as long as they could remember and how the urge to get there became so overpowering, it felt less like a rational decision than a compulsion. This conviction—that no matter what, they would have a child—is, I’ve concluded, the most common denominator uniting all choice moms.

Such women are praised for their courage and confidence. One SMBC, who became a mother through sperm donation, says that her friends called her “amazing” and “brave.” Yet she confesses that she didn’t feel brave. “It’s not about being brave—it was about wanting to stop feeling like a childless mother, and take the next step before I ran out of time.”

My single friend, Christine, on the other hand, became a mother by adoption. Her journey was less a pursuit of self-actualization or self-fulfillment, and more a response to a need—not a need she felt within herself, but a need she saw in someone else.

While working with high schoolers through a faith-based nonprofit called Young Life, Christine met Ana, a 15-year-old expectant mother. When Ana’s water broke, her mother refused to take her to the hospital. That’s when Ana called Christine. Christine drove her to the hospital and stayed with her through the birth, holding her hand in the delivery room. Over the next few years, it became apparent that Ana and the birth father couldn’t care for their daughter, María.

It wasn’t easy, but Christine stepped up. At one point, she and María shared a 425 square foot apartment and, since María’s biological familial ties weren’t completely severed, there were some relational challenges, too. But Christine says María is the greatest joy she has ever known—in spite of the obstacles. She also says that she didn’t stumble into motherhood. “I longed to become a mom, so I diligently prayed for God to give me a child,” she explains. “When this opportunity arose, I had eyes to see it. If this hadn’t happened, I believe I’d have seen another opportunity. I was on the lookout for it.”

My Own Choices

With the rise of SMBCs, single women like me face new questions. You say you want children, but do you really? Then why aren’t you adopting or using a sperm donor? Which do you lack—desire or courage? Again, though, responses are complex and particularized.

I’m open to becoming an SMBC through adoption or foster care. My situation isn’t ideal: I work full-time for a nonprofit and live in a 4th floor walk-up in Manhattan. But giving an orphan a home is making the best of a harsh reality. After all, one parent is better than none.

I’m not, however, open to becoming a single mother by sperm donation. Perhaps I lack courage: I can’t imagine facing pregnancy alone with all its potential complications, and I fear that I’m ill-equipped to handle parenting responsibilities without a husband.

But I’m also cautious. Knowing that many sperm-donor kids struggle with the deliberate loss of their biological fathers, I don’t want to intentionally bring a fatherless child into the world. Despite what the movie title boasts, sperm-donor kids are not all right, according to a 2010 study, My Daddy’s Name Is Donor.

“As a group,” write the lead researchers, “the donor offspring in our study are suffering more than those who were adopted: hurting more, feeling more confused, and feeling more isolated from their families.”

Although I’m not open to sperm donation, I sympathize with single women who go this route. Like me, they’re looking for a family, and for children to love.

Beyond the Biological

Yet I believe family is beyond the biological. Seven years ago, my brother and sister-in-law adopted my nephew, Khai, from Vietnam. He doesn’t look like them, but there’s no doubt that he is ours. He laughs at the same jokes his dad does, never withholds a kindness just like his mom, and fights with his sister like any other sibling. Family resemblance isn’t merely physical.

I also think “family” is more than formal adoptive relationships. As a Christian, I find comfort and security in the knowledge that I am part of a spiritual family. In Christian theology, when someone comes to trust in Christ, she becomes a member of the household of faith as an adopted child of God. Other Christians become her brothers and sisters, and she is to love them in deeply significant ways.

The faith family of which I am a part is expansive—uniting the old and the young, the black and the white, the orphan and the widow, and the single and the married.

Such relationships are often more precious, and more permanent than relationships in families. In The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis, the narrator and his guide visit heaven and encounter a ghost named Sarah Smith. The narrator immediately recognizes that Sarah is “a person of particular importance” because she’s surrounded by young men and women. Describing them as her sons and daughters, the guide explains,

Every young man or boy that met her became her son—even if it was only the boy that brought the meat to her back door. Every girl that met her was her daughter…Her motherhood was of a different kind. Those on whom it fell went back to their natural parents loving them more.

Sarah Smith’s motherhood wasn’t biological but spiritual. Her children were born through faith, not through sex.

As a Christian, I worship a man who was a biologically childless parent. Jesus Christ never married, never had kids, and yet he said, “Behold, I and the children God has given me.” Jesus never held a son or daughter in his arms, but he nonetheless came to bear children, to give birth to a people, like me, who bear his family resemblance.

A Bond of Love

To be clear, having spiritual children isn’t the same as having biological or adoptive children. But just because it isn’t the same doesn’t mean it can’t satisfy. The faith family of which I am a part is expansive—uniting the old and the young, the black and the white, the orphan and the widow, and the single and the married. When I look upon the families that have brought me into their homes, loving me and giving me children to love, I realize that I am already a single mother by choice—even if our only bond is one of faith and love.

This summer, I went with my friend from church, Bekah, and her two daughters, Ellie and Claire, to an amusement park in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Although her girls are now 5 and 3, I’ve known them since they were born. They are precious to me. I bring them gifts, and we play Go Fish using extra large Frozen playing cards.

At the park, Ellie desperately wanted to ride a rollercoaster for the first time. Since Bekah was 8 months pregnant, she couldn’t go on any of the rides with her. So I went in her place. As we got on the ride, Ellie was excited. But once we starting climbing the hill, she got scared. Her eyes grew wide as she grabbed my hand to feel safe. When we got off the rollercoaster and reconnected with Bekah, I said to her, “I know you, as a mom, get to experience lots of ‘firsts’ with your kids. First tooth. First laugh. First taste of ice cream. First day of school. But I don’t. I almost never get to see a kid’s first anything. But you gave me that gift today. And it’s one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.”

Bethany Jenkins is a writer and editor with The Gospel Coalition and the director of vocational and career development at The King’s College in New York City.

10 Lies Singles Tell Themselves About Love After 40

Single and sick of it? Find out what you can do to change your behavior.

If you are a single woman over 40, you have a love history. You’ve been in relationships before and you may want one now, but for whatever reason you haven’t found the right person yet.

Maybe you’re divorced and frustrated with dating or haven’t ventured back out to the dating pool. You could be a widow and unsure of ever finding another man like your husband. Perhaps you were in a live-in or long-term relationship that ended, so you’re single again.

As a dating coach for women over 40, I know finding love the second time around (or even the first) is not easy. Still, people fall in love every day and many of my clients do find that loving man. So what’s the problem?

This might seem harsh, but you are likely telling yourself several lies about love after 40 that are hurting you. These negative beliefs prevent you from connecting, or worse, stop you from even looking.

Clients come to me with these limiting ideas about dating, love and men, and it’s my job to help them turn things around. Working with me, women transform the lies to create opportunities. And that’s how they manage to find love again!

More from YourTango: 10 Uplifting Quotes To Make Your Day

Here are some of the lies you may be telling yourself that are preventing you from finding love.

  1. All the good men are taken. This is what I hear most frequently from clients. However, thinking about this statistically, there just has to be good single men available since half the adult population in the U.S. is single. Men get divorced for the same reason women do; they grew apart from their wives, their wives cheated or circumstances just changed. Some men had their heart broken earlier in life and are just recovering and ready now. There are lots of reasons why good men are single and looking for a woman like you. The fact is that now, more than any other time in history, there are a lot of people in their 40s, 50s and 60s who are single and looking for love. So don’t believe that there are no good men out there!
  2. I already had my one shot at love. Widows often believe this, particularly if they had a wonderful relationship with their husbands. They come away thinking that they will never find such a good man again. However, this is exactly the reason why it is possible; if you found great love once, you can certainly do it again. You have the track record for success. Consider your circumstances differently and recognize that you are a magnet for love, since your energy is filled with loving thoughts from your past.
  3. Looking for love is not worth the trouble. Dating is tough and you may reach a point when you feel that it is too exhausting and too much effort. But that feeling is just a symptom of your belief that you don’t think it’s possible to find love. On the other hand, if you really believe that you will find love, then you know every man you meet brings you one step closer to finding the right man for you. I dated 30 men in 15 months to find my adorable husband. Was I ever sad, disappointed or disgusted? Of course! But I would remind myself that I was on the path to find love and nothing was going to get in my way. So nothing did. It took dating 30 men, but it was completely worth every bad date and heartbreak along the way. Dating is a process. Be in it to win and find the love you deserve.
  4. If the guy’s not a 10, I can’t be bothered. If you feel this way, you will surely be single for a long time! After 40, the chances of Mr. Right knocking on your door are zero. You are going to have to get off the couch and do your part to cross paths with lots of men. Dating is a numbers game so the more men you meet, the better your chances for finding the love you want. Will every man you meet be perfect? Of course not! Most of the men you meet will not be right. But you don’t need them to be because you only need one. In addition, no man is perfect (and neither are you). The perfect man does not exist; he is a myth and a fairytale. However, I guarantee there is a man who is the right one for you. Get over this idea of perfection or you will stay single.
  5. He’s not as great as my girlfriends. I’m often surprised when a woman compares the men she dates to her girlfriends. Seriously? How could a man ever compare to your girlfriends? Men are not like women! They are dramatically different. We are not brought up the same, we have different innate skill sets and our brains are wired differently. We may be equals, but that does not make us the same. Expecting a man to be like your girlfriends means he is bound to fail. Most men will never be as thoughtful or have the same depth of understanding as your girlfriends. However, that doesn’t mean that men don’t have their own amazing contribution to make to your life. The right man expands and enhances your life in ways your girlfriends never will. My advice is to let go of this idea, because it will prevent you from finding the love you want.
  6. Most men are liars, cheats and players. Women who have been burned by a man (or know people who have) tend to believe this, which I can understand. As your dating coach, I ask you to consider whether it can really be true that all men are like this. Mathematically, it is just not possible. There are definitely men who do not cheat, lie or refuse to settle down. Personally, I found a man who is not like that, and I have many clients who have also found a fabulous, moral guy. When you believe that all men are terrible, you will look for evidence that your viewpoint is correct. If you believe men are wonderful, you will see examples to support that. Start looking for examples of quality men and you will notice that they are all around you.
  7. I never meet any interesting men. After 12 years of being a dating coach, one thing I know for sure about women who say this is that it’s not that they don’t meet interesting men — they don’t meet any men at all! These women usually aren’t active and don’t date much or interact with men. So it’s no surprise that don’t meet anyone interesting. I was like this myself, before I got serious about finding love. Another note about wanting someone “interesting”: I’ve noticed many women find nice men to be boring and bad boys to be interesting. Yes, a bad boy’s unpredictable and aloof personality does make him intriguing and you want to unravel the mystery. He becomes a challenge for you to win over. However, a bad boy won’t change his stripes for you and won’t be good relationship material. If you insist on dating bad boys, count on heartbreak and torturous love affairs that do not satisfy.
  8. There aren’t any single men where I live. One of my clients, Sally, insisted that all of the men in her town were married. This is similar to the #1 lie that all the good men are taken but with a local spin. Granted, some areas do have more married than single people. But overall, 50% of adult Americans are not hitched, so they must live near you, too. Through coaching, Sally, who had lost her ability to notice men, was able to open her eyes to the ones around her and find one for herself.
  9. Men today do not want a relationship. Let’s refer to Lie #6 about all men being liars, cheaters and players; obviously, generalizations don’t hold much water. While not all men want a long-term relationship, there are certainly some who do. If you want love, you need to do your part to meet plenty of men and screen them. Coach Amy Schoen says one way to know if a man is serious about finding love is the way he talks about his life and dating. For example, if the guy you meet mentions moving or how much he loves women, he’s probably not ready settle down. If he says he’s tired of dating, he might be more serious about finding love. There are definitely men out there who would be thrilled to fall in love with you, but you need to do your part.
  10. I don’t have time to date. This is something women tell themselves constantly. Yes, I know you are busy. But you make time for what you decide is important. To find love, you’ll need to make it a priority. Carve time out of your calendar at least once a week to meet new people. If you cannot do that, you don’t really want to find love. When I was looking for my husband, I went out at least once a week to a singles’ group or dance. Plus, I met men through personal ads (online dating was not popular yet in 1998) and had at least one coffee date, if not more, every weekend. You need to create the space in your schedule to find the love you want. If you say you just don’t have it, I understand. But you also need to admit that love is not a priority for you. There is no shame in that because finding love takes effort and requires a strong desire to take the necessary steps.

More from YourTango: How To Deal With Depression After Divorce: 5 Tips That Actually Work

I hope reviewing these lies opened your mind to new ways of looking at dating over 40. Once I found love, I dedicated my life to helping single women over 40 make that dream come true for them as well. Since I found love, and many of my clients have too, I know you can do it!

This guest article from YourTango was written by Coach Ronnie Ann Ryan and appeared as: Over 40 and Single? 10 Lies You Are Telling Yourself About Love

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The 5 Easiest Ways to Be Happy – Bet You’re Not Doing #4

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10 Lies Singles Tell Themselves About Love After 40

Researcher Nancy Smith-Hefner was chatting to university students in the city of Yogyakarta, Indonesia, when she noticed a trend. In a country with near “universal marriage,” where only 2% of women in their late 40s are estimated to have never married, young women were saying they wanted to finish their education and embark on fulfilling careers before getting hitched.

Smith-Hefner was struck by some problems faced by those following that path. The young women were trying to fit so much into a small window of opportunity that it sometimes seemed impossible. Having concentrated on graduating and working hard, they ended up wondering how to find a partner with whom to start a family. Sometimes, this state went on and on, becoming a source of stress and disappointment. They worried: Is it just me?

It’s not just them. In fact, Yogyakarta’s young people are experiencing a phenomenon that’s being felt across the globe, from Brooklyn to Paris, Rwanda to Japan. It’s called “waithood”; and it might be leading to a fundamental change in the way we think about love and partnership.

Smith-Hefner, an associate professor of anthropology at Boston University, has been researching Asian societies for years, but when it came to waithood she started to see clear parallels between the young Indonesians who were the subject of her research and her young American students back home. “They too are facing this problem of how to find a partner,” she said.

A growing trend

Marcia Inhorn, a professor of anthropology and international affairs at Yale University, convened a conference on the theme of waithood in September. The umbrella term can refer to delaying other decisions, such as moving out of one’s parent’s house, or taking on other trappings of adulthood like home ownership.

“One of the global trends that was really seen throughout many of the papers was the delay in marriage, especially among more educated classes of people, and especially for women,” she says. The trend showed up in papers from Jordan, China, the US, Rwanda, and Guatemala, and the list went on. (The papers are yet to be published, but some have been reviewed by Quartz.)

Diane Singerman, associate professor in the department of government at American University, Washington DC, coined the term “waithood” in 2008 after studying young people in the Middle East. In her conception, the term relates to both genders and is at root economic. In many places—such as Egypt, where some of Singerman’s research has focused—marriage is just too expensive for young people to manage, while having kids outside of that formal union isn’t yet socially acceptable. This kind of waithood can hit young men hard: A youth bulge across large parts of the world, high rates of unemployment, and low wages combine to hold men back from relationships (especially in places where high dowry payments are expected), and therefore from starting families. Even in places where it is possible to become a parent without an expensive wedding, fertility rates are falling: Inhorn mentions Greece, Spain, and France as facing age-related fertility problems, in part because young people can’t afford the trappings of adulthood, like their own place to live.

“Why are people putting off marriage, why is the age of marriage rising around the world, and delays in childbearing? There were different reasons in different places, but it’s a global trend,” Inhorn says. “Especially as women seem to be rising educationally around the world, often outstripping the achievements of their male peers.”

In a range of places where women are able to access education and careers they have begun to do so with zeal, often overtaking their male counterparts. One key metric is attainment at university, where women globally are becoming the majority of students, both applying in greater numbers, as in Sweden, and completing more degrees, as in South Africa. While both men and women can experience waithood, the situation of singledom becomes more pressing for women as biological imperatives loom. Most people, globally, want children, and men can become fathers at later stages of life. But even with advances in fertility, there are clear indicators about the increased difficulties women can face getting pregnant later in life.

Some of Inhorn’s work has focused on why women freeze their eggs. In it, she has cited World Bank data which pointed to how greatly women’s educational achievements are surpassing those of men:

But it’s not just university education that’s making women wait. A recent multi-country study from sub-Saharan Africa found that even when women themselves hadn’t received more formal education, they were likely to delay marriage if more educated women around them were doing so. Many of these women aren’t waiting until their 30s; but they are pushing back against the traditional model of marrying in their teens, wanting to instead gain some life experience first.

Playing the waiting game

For women, changing behaviors and biological imperatives are leading to a material imbalance, which tends to be felt once they’re ready to start a family, and can’t. This is at least in part because of some expectations and behaviors that aren’t changing. From relatively conservative, predominantly Muslim Indonesia to nominally liberal America, it’s a widely accepted norm that women marry men with as much, if not more, education than themselves; men who will earn equal or higher salaries, and be the main household breadwinners. This isn’t necessarily right, but it’s deeply ingrained, connected with traditional ideas of masculinity, providing for a family, and protecting it, that are hard to shake. (There’s even a term for it: hypergamy.)

Whether by choice, accident, or a combination of the two, more and more educated and ambitious women are finding themselves unable to find the mate that they want at the time they’re searching. It’s not for lack of trying. The kind of men they are searching for—available to embark on family life, ready to commit, and with similar levels of education and ambition—simply aren’t there in as great numbers as are needed. Journalist Jon Birger—a co-author on Inhorn’s egg-freezing research— noted the disparity among American women in his book Date-onomics. In the US population as a whole, for the time when the egg-freezing research was carried out, there were 7.4 million university-educated American women aged between 30 and 39, but only 6 million university-educated American men. “This is a ratio of 5:4,” the study notes.

To wait or not to wait

What are women doing in the face of the disparity?

Many are taking what action they can. In the west, that might be internet dating: In 2016 the Pew Research Center found that 15% of American adults had used dating apps, and meeting online has moved from a niche romantic practice to the mainstream. In a predominantly Muslim culture like Indonesia, some are turning to matchmakers, or to events that offer introductions to potential partners.

But a bigger solution to the issue might be a paradigm shift, the academics suggest. Both women and men may have to start thinking truly differently about those gender roles, and what they want from a marriage.

One obvious solution is for women, men, and the societies around them (including influential figures like parents) to accept the idea of women becoming the major breadwinner for families, Smith-Hefner said. Such a shift could include women marrying men who are younger than themselves, or men who have less formal education. In order for that to work, societies would need to get over their prejudices. But of course, there are other problems than social judgement. People pair off for a vast number of reasons, and it’s notoriously difficult to change who one is attracted to simply by effort of will.

More common, then, is waithood: A lingering, liminal state in which women and sometimes men put the next stage of their lives on hold because they’re unable to find the partner they want or are held back by financial imperatives. Formal marriage isn’t the only structure in which to have a family, and people are certainly experimenting with other ways to progress to the next stage of life, including not having children, or having and raising them in less traditional contexts.

But many want, if not marriage, then at least “a very secure, very committed, monogamous reproductive partnership” before they bring children into the world, Inhorn says. “Until that notion changes, and until people feel more secure being single parents…I just think this issue is going to be a global issue.”

I’ve been single for nearly all of my adult life, am still single, and I finally figured out what the problem is.

I used to believe the reason was because I hadn’t met the right person yet. I believed that all I had to do was keep on enjoying life, focus on my passion, identify the qualities I was looking for and soon enough I would attract the perfect partner.

I now know this approach to life is total bullsh*t. Before I explain why, check out the video below where law of attraction “expert” Bob Proctor tells you why you only need to visualize the perfect partner to attract him or her into your life.

The way to attract the perfect partner into your life is completely different than what’s shared in the video. Life isn’t a fairy tale. There are no easy solutions, despite what the law of attraction gurus will tell you.

The brutal truth I discovered is that the problem is me, not the women I’ve been dating.

I knew this as soon as I came across “attachment theory” in an article by Mark Manson which describes the nature of emotional attachment between humans, and the four types of people in relationships.

I’ll share the 4 types of people according to attachment theory below, but first I’ll explain the problem I was facing.

Living my whole adult life as a single man

Every time I meet someone new, the same thing happens. I feel incredible excitement about the possibility of sparks flying. I spend some time with them. The usual sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach returns. I conclude that she’s “not quite right” and move on to the next person.

(Have you experienced this before? Have you tried dating someone like this? Let me know in the comments below.)

Week after week, month after month and year after year this same thing happens. I continue to succeed at my external focuses in life, but don’t have any success at building any kind of emotional and loving connection with a romantic partner.

The truth is that I’m 36 years old and have lived almost all of my adult life as a single man.

Credit:

Recently I read about attachment theory and came to the sudden and painful realization that the problem isn’t the women I’ve been dating.

I’m the problem. I’m the “avoidant type” (number 3 below). And I now know what to do to live a better life.

(If you’re interested in self-improvement, check out the free salon I put together: The hidden trap of “improving yourself”, and what to do instead)

4 types of people in relationships, according to “attachment theory”

As Manson explains, attachment theory began in the 1950s and has since amassed a sizeable body of research behind it. In short, researchers have found that the way in which infants get their needs met by their parents determines their “attachment strategy” throughout their lives. Your attachment strategy likely explains why your relationships have succeeded or failed, the manner in which they did and why you’re attracted to who you’re attracted to.

The four attachment strategies people adopt are: secure, anxious, avoidant and anxious-avoidant.

1) Secure: people who are comfortable displaying interest and affection

These people are both comfortable showing affection towards their loved ones while also being alone and independent. They can prioritize what’s important in their relationships and can draw clear boundaries.

Secure people can accept rejection when it happens and can also be loyal during tough times.

People who are secure are the best people to have a relationship with.

Over 50% of the population are of the secure type, according to research. I used to think I was one of them, but learning about type 3 helped me see that I’m not.

Secure attachment is developed in childhood by infants who regularly get their needs met, as well as receive ample quantities of love and affection.

2) Anxious: people who are often nervous and stressed about their relationships

These people need constant reassurance and affection from their partner. They are uncomfortable being alone, and often succumb to abusive relationships.

Anxious people have trouble trusting their partners. This is the girl who constantly wants to check their boyfriend’s messages and the guy who follows his girlfriend to work out of fear she’s going to meet someone else.

Anxious attachments are developed early in life from infants who receive love and care unpredictable from their parents.

3) Avoidant: extremely independent, comfortable being alone and uncomfortable with intimacy

These people have massive problems with commitment and can often rationalize themselves out of any intimate situation.

They are highly sensitive to feelings of being “crowded” or “suffocated” in a relationship, and in every relationship they always have an exit strategy.

Avoidant types of people often create a lifestyle that supports their constant independence.

It’s the man who works 80 hours a week and gets frustrated when his partner wants to spend some quality time together on the weekend. It’s the woman who dates many partners over a number of years, telling them all she “doesn’t want anything serious.”

It’s also me, and before coming across these attachment types I had absolutely no idea that I was creating the problem.

According to research, attachment strategy is developed in childhood by infants who only get some of their needs met while the rest are neglected (for instance, he/she gets fed regularly, but is not held enough). It’s not always the case — personally, I was fortunate to grow up in a happy and loving family, but I did have some challenging relationships in my early years of adulthood which set the course for my avoidant behaviors.

4) Anxious-avoidant: the “fearful type” who bring the worst of both worlds

These types of people are not only afraid of emotional commitment and connection. They also lash out at people who try to get close to them.

Anxious-avoidant types often spend large amounts of time alone, but they’re miserable in doing so. When they’re not alone, they’re often in dysfunctional and abusive relationships.

According to studies, only a small percentage of people are anxious-avoidant types, and they typically have a multitude of other emotional problems in other areas of their life (i.e., substance abuse, depression, etc.).

Anxious-avoidant types develop from abusive or terribly negligent childhoods.

What happens when different attachment types date each other?

According to attachment theory, different configurations of relationship types coming together have different impacts on the nature of the relationship itself.

Secure types are capable of dating both anxious and avoidant types. They’re comfortable enough with themselves to give anxious types the reassurance they need and to give avoidant types the space they need without feeling threatened themselves.

Anxious and avoidant types often end up in relationships one another. This is because avoidant types are so good at putting off others that it’s only the anxious types that stick around. And the lack of emotional availability of the avoidant types ends up triggering the anxiety of the anxious type, which keeps them coming back for more.

Anxious-avoidants often date each other, or the least secure of the anxious types or avoidant types. These relationships often abusive or negligent.

According to the theory, people can change over time. Secure types can help anxious or avoidant people “level up” over the course of their relationship, but unfortunately the converse is also true with avoidants and anxious people also able to “bring down” their secure partners.

(Buddhism has an incredible amount to teach us about having healthy relationships. In our new eBook, we use iconic Buddhist teachings to provide no-nonsense suggestions for living a better life. Check it out here).

Now that I discovered my attachment type, what am I going to do about it?

The first point I want to make is that I don’t think a theory can perfectly describe who I am. I also don’t see myself as a “flawed individual”. Rather, I’m using the insights from attachment theory to help guide me in creating some personal shifts.

As Manson points out, everybody has elements of each attachment type. But we usually end up demonstrating behaviors of one particular attachment more than others over time.

I know that I have elements of a secure type, along with moments of anxiety. Yet if I’m honest with myself, my perpetual single life can be explained by the avoidant type in attachment theory.

In my case, I’ve decided to embark on a journey of addressing the parts of myself that result in my avoidant behaviors. I don’t think I’m a bad person, and I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with me.

However, in my view, a natural part of life is to understand there is always room for personal improvement. I also believe I’m capable of changing the circumstances in my life, and becoming a person more secure with intimacy and companionship.

I would like to experience a committed and intimate relationship. My first commitment is to myself and creating the change within.

There are many supposed “gurus” like in the video above who claim that it’s easy to attract what you want in life. I don’t think it’s that easy. Instead, I believe the journey of opening up to myself is full of challenges. But that’s okay.

I have decided to take control of my own personal development and start connecting with my “inner child”. There are a number of methods in doing so. For example, just the other day I did an incredible masterclass hypnotherapy session with Marisa Peer (it’s online and free – you can do it too by clicking here). In the session Marisa takes us back to childhood in order to clear any traumatic experiences we had that have resulted in a fear of rejection.

The hypnotherapy session was really powerful, and it made me think about the concept of “the inner child”.

I’m glad to be on this journey. I want to live a full life and embrace my own challenges head on. Are you with me? Let me know your own experiences in facing up to your attachment type in the comments. And check out the video I created on this topic below.

NOW WATCH: The author of this article shares what he learned about being 36 and still single in the video below

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A new book is redefining what it means to be single and child-free in your 40s

Can you be happy and single in your 40s? Of course you can.

You don’t need a baby or marriage to succeed in life. And yet, women, in particular, are so often cast as caregivers, there is no narrative for those of us who veer off-script.

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Do you know about @novellanyc? I’m so impressed by what they’ve created and the group of women they brought out tonight, and so flattered to be asked to participate. If you have any interest in writing get on their newsletter and get to an event. What a great experience.

A post shared by Glynnis MacNicol (@noonetellsyouthis) on Jul 24, 2018 at 7:35pm PDT

It’s an issue that lies at the heart of No One Tells You This, a new memoir by New York writer Glynnis MacNicol.

Approaching her 40th birthday a few years ago, Glynnis had a great career and a life that she loved.

But still, she found herself framed by the expectations of other people: people who felt she must want babies or a partner in order to feel fulfilled.

Read more: Solo travel fuels this major happiness habit

And that message was backed up by almost every book, film and magazine she came across.

“It was nearly impossible, no matter how smart, educated, or lucky I was, not to conclude that I had officially become the wrong answer to the question of what made a woman’s life worth living,” says Glynnis.

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A post shared by Glynnis MacNicol (@noonetellsyouthis) on May 9, 2018 at 12:19pm PDT

With more and more of us choosing to live solo and not have children, child-free women in their 40s are a growing demographic. But our understanding of what this means is still evolving.

Instead of feeling bad about being child-free and single – as society expected her to – Glynnis decided to create a blueprint for women like her. Women who are happy living alone, without a partner or kids.

No One Tells You This documents the first year of Glynnis’ life in her 40s, from life-changing adventures to dating and friendships.

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Thank you to everyone who came out tonight to The Strand! You were an amazing crowd. Tomorrow night at Greenlight in Brooklyn ?

A post shared by Glynnis MacNicol (@noonetellsyouthis) on Jul 10, 2018 at 6:46pm PDT

It unpicks the question, “If a story doesn’t end with marriage or a child, what then?”

Here are just a few of her insights about being a single woman in her 40s:

The single women myth

“Culturally there is a lot of messaging out there that after the age of 40 if you have not acquired a partner or child, you are sort of in a no man’s land of invisibility and things will probably be horrible for you from here on out I had been prepared to dread this period of my life but never prepared to enjoy it.”

(via Refinery 29)

Read more: Why being single gets more satisfying with age

Questioning the narrative

“I’d never bothered to seriously question whether I actually wanted to be married with kids, or even just with kids. I had simply taken it as a given, like financial security and regular exercise, obvious outcomes sane people generally aimed their lives toward.”

(via Simon and Schuster)

Alone, happy and free

“I made myself say it out loud: ‘I might always be alone’. It sounded less overwhelming against the noise of the breaking waves. I laughed. ‘Fuck off,’ I thought, ‘I am done feeling bad.’ And then aloud: ‘I can do whatever I want.’”

(via Elle magazine)

Read more: Why spending time alone makes us happy

Living a fulfilled life

“There’s no such thing as ‘all.’ I simply have as much and as little as any other woman I know and look forward to the day when women — single, married and otherwise — no longer need the words ‘husband’ and ‘baby’ to act as a special lemon juice squeezed over our lives in order to make them visible.”

(via the The New York Times)

A new kind of story

“There are literally no stories about women that don’t end with marriage or a baby. We have so many role models as girls, growing up, independent characters: Harriet the Spy, The Secret Garden, The Hunger Games. But those stories essentially end with puberty.”

(via the Washington Post)

Read more: Words of wisdom from fearless female pioneers

Women and solo travel

“Women on road trips aren’t tragedies waiting to happen. Like men, we’re free. We don’t hear enough about women doing epic, exhilarating things without the comfortably defining presence of a man.”

(via the Guardian)

Finding purpose

“My life is more enjoyable now than it has ever been, and more fulfilling. My relationships have deepened; I feel more secure and confident. The word I come back to is that I feel incredibly powerful. That is the antithesis of what you’re conditioned to think – you’re supposed to think of yourself as a disappearing entity with no agency.”

(via the Washington Post)

Read more: Why it’s OK not to want kids

Single in your 40s? Jump aboard for a group adventure

Join our community of like-minded travellers of a similar age and life stage all around the world

Explore the wild frontiers of Oman

Wild swim your way through the cool green pools of Oman’s spectacular wadis, and waterfall-jump in a hidden turquoise grotto. Head off-radar in bustling souks, ancient fords and remote Arabian villages, and discover the delights of Omani cuisine in the elegant capital Muscat.

Come to Oman

Vespa the Spanish countryside

Learn how to ride a Vespa through countryside Spain, in this immersive four-day escape. Zip past sunflower fields, mountain gorges and remote hillside villages, and soak in the spectacular scenery of Duratón Canyon Nature Reserve. Escape the crowds, grab a taste of rural Spanish life and master a brand new skill.

Join us in Spain

Toast a brave new world in Colombia

Tube down the tropical wilderness of Palomino River, visit a Colombian coffee plantation and cruise around the spectacular Rosario Islands by private boat. Trek the rainforest of Tayrona National Park with a beach picnic en-route, and learn how to salsa and knock back rum in the colourful city of Cartagena.

Say hi to Colombia

Get your chill on in Kerala

Hike through shola forest in the mellow Munnar hills, camping out in the Western Ghats for sensational mountain views. Then, kayak the Kerala backwaters, discovering hidden canals and sleepy villages as you go. Spend the finale of the trip at a luxury beach-side hotel, with powdery white beaches, al fresco yoga and an Ayurvedic spa.

Get zen in Kerala

Smash your comfort zone in South Africa

Put your surf skills to test with a lesson on idyllic Knysna Lagoon, and paddle-board your way across the shimmering Cape Peninsula. Then, come swimming with seals, the playful dogs of the ocean, and try abseiling down Cape Town’s Table Mountain (if you dare). A safari on South Africa’s Eastern Cape is the jewel in the crown of this magnificent trip.

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Learn the secrets of happiness in Costa Rica

South Africa is one of the happiest nations on earth: it really is all about pura vida (the pure or simple life). Join us kayaking through the wild wetlands of Tortuguero National Park, with a chance to spot monkeys, sloths, nesting turtles and more. Then, hike the lava fields beneath scenic Arenal Volcano, bathe in bubbling hot springs and chill out with a day’s beach-hopping around the gleaming Pacific coast.

Costa Rica seeker

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They are calling us the ”silver singles”. It is not a term that I – nor, I suspect, anyone else not coupled-up in their fifties – is that keen on. It makes us sound like we spend our evenings forlornly signalling to each other across a creaky old dance floor by waving our Zimmer frames, while our hearing aids whistle shrilly.

Being over 50 is not old, these days. I know fiftysomething women who are running marathons, starting businesses … I even met one recently who had just won her class in an Iron Man contest (basically a triathlon on steroids) for age 64-69. But there is a definite demographic shift going on when it comes to our relationships. New figures from the Office For National Statistics show that while the divorce rate continues to fall overall, the trend is not mirrored by the over-fifties. We are now the only group whose divorce rate is actually rising.

At 51 years old and single, I am now part of a growing group surfing a zeitgeistian wave of 50-plus freedom. And, in my experience, this is the best age yet for flying solo.

In my teens, I waited by the phone for a boy, any boy, to call. In my twenties it was all high drama, getting my heart broken and dating rotters. During my thirties, my biological clock meant I needed a partner if I wanted children. My forties were spent dealing with the romantic hangover of my thirties – divorce and being a single parent to small children.

Being single in my fifties feels like I’ve finally got myself back.

There is such a joy to being able to do whatever you want without permission. I now shudder when I hear a woman say, “I’ll have to ask my husband.” I finally understand my Great Aunt Florence, who never married and lived alone in a cottage by the sea, happily collecting cat ornaments. Her life was completely uncompromised and I can entirely relate to her contentment.

It’s not easy for everyone. As a nutritionist and hypnotherapist, I see many fiftysomething women. They come to me because they want to lose their menopausal tummies. Yet, dig a little deeper, and what they really want to divest themselves of is the big lump in the armchair called their husband. Their comfort eating and drinking is often a symptom of their unhappiness – but a fear of being alone stops them from tackling the real problem.

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Many fiftysomething women’s desire for a different kind of life is also hindered by the need to look after ageing parents and/or demanding children. I am lucky though. My mother is pretty self-sufficient, for now. My children are becoming more independent and this is my golden time. I can do as I please. I don’t have to go to boring business dinners as a plus-one, or schlep up the motorway to visit someone else’s parents. I don’t have to cook “his” dinner or do “his” washing. I can be fabulously, unashamedly selfish. I can go on holiday when and where I want, I can eat the food I fancy and spend my money exactly as I please.

Of course, having three children, aged nine, 13 and 16, does clip my wings a bit. And indeed, concern for them is another important factor in why I am not flinging myself at the first available man. After divorce number two, my eldest made me promise “no more step-dads”. But, even if that were an option (having teen children is a pretty good boyfriend repellent, I find), I am still very, very picky. Do we fancy fewer people as we get older? Perhaps. Or maybe our patience for bad or boring behaviour is lessened by the ebbing of a biological need or ability to reproduce.

There is such a joy to being able to do whatever you want without permission

It certainly takes courage to be single in your fifties. Those who remain married into their fifth decade can sometimes wear their marriage like a status symbol. “Smug marrieds” get even smugger. But role models for a new normal are emerging. Twice-divorced Carol Vorderman, 55, recently talked about being “happily single” saying that she was finally revelling in doing her own thing and running on her own “clock”. Thrice-married actress Kim Cattrall, who celebrated her 60th birthday this year, says of her single status: “You know so much more about what you want and what you don’t want and what you’ll put up with. I feel in that area, romantically, retired.”

I did register with a well-known online dating site a while back. It promised to match me with my perfect partner. The only “matches” that came back were men 10 to 15 years older than me. So, the question I asked myself before going ahead was not “do I fancy him?”, but “do I fancy spending the next decade counting out his blood pressure tablets in the morning?”

It wasn’t hard to answer.

Five thing you know when you’re single and 50-plus:

  • How much more time you have when you’re not looking after a partner.
  • The only men who will answer your online dating ad will be over pension age.
  • If a younger man claims to prefer older women he is: a) still living with his parents and needs a woman with her own place; b) is using you to avoid dating a woman in her thirties who wants children; c) is after your money.
  • You will no longer get invited to dinner parties, but that’s OK because they are boring anyway.
  • Having a dog will not help you attract a partner as you may have been advised in your twenties. However, it will link you up with many slightly mad dog-loving women of a certain age, who wear fleeces and are an absolute hoot.

I’m 25, and I talked to 3 single women in their 50s about what it’s like to use dating apps like Tinder and Bumble. Their experiences surprised me

  • Single women over the age of 50 are finding themselves discouraged with dating apps that tend to cater to younger generations and embrace hook-up culture.
  • Tinder can be too aggressive for someone fresh out of a 20-year marriage, while Bumble can give an older woman control over her preferences and allow her not be bombarded by messages, women say.
  • Some find apps catered to their age group, like eHarmony and Match, “too old” and others like Happn too “trendy.”
  • Despite frustration, many are leaning into the apps, using them as means to meet people and explore their new single lives.

A few weeks ago, my mom came to me with a question: She was becoming increasingly frustrated with dating apps. Were other single women her age feeling that way, too?

What she was searching for was innocent enough: someone who she can have fun with, travel with, and ultimately be in a long-term relationship with. Marriage? No, thank you. Kids? Been there, done that. A one night stand? TMI.

She’s over 55, has been married, had kids, owns a home, and has been providing for herself for years. She was no longer looking for someone to take care of her — she was doing a fine job already — but someone to love and be loved by.

She moved to Abu Dhabi in 2015 and was teaching at a university there, when a female colleague two decades younger introduced her to Tinder. It was exciting and unlike any other dating experience she had before.

“What was exciting was I was meeting people I would never meet,” she told me over the phone recently. “It is different when you are in a foreign country, you have people from all over the world, and unless you are going out to clubs and bars, it is difficult to meet people.”

So, she swiped right. And she swiped right a lot. One man she met she described as a multimillionaire who picked her up in a Jaguar limo and took her to the Dubai opera. Another asked her to be his fourth wife after only a couple of dates. There were lots of late nights out dancing, followed by cozy nights in chatting online, getting to know someone.

At this point, my mom estimates she’s been on nearly 50 dates — some with men 20 years younger. And though she didn’t join Tinder with specific expectations, something wasn’t clicking. After a year of using the app, she deleted it.

“No one I met on the app, none of them, wanted a committed, long-term relationship,” she said. “A lot of them are looking for threesomes or just want to have a conversation, but what about me? What am I getting out of that other than having a date once in a while?”

As an older woman, my mom was confronted with a simple fact: she was now living in a society where the most popular way to date catered to younger generations and fully embraced hook-up culture.

So, what’s an older lady to do?

This is also a truth Carolina Gonzalez, a writer in London, came face-to-face with after her 28-year marriage ended.

At 57, she downloaded Bumble — Tinder seemed too aggressive, she told me. She’s also tried Happn and OkCupid, but quickly trashed them because she didn’t find a big enough pool of users in her age range, or found the app to be too trendy. Sites like eHarmony and Match, she said, seemed “a little too old” and hard to “get a full sense of who is available.”

She enjoyed the control Bumble gave her, and the ability to not be bombarded by messages but to make the first move instead. It seemed noncommittal, she said; clean, in fact. The variety, though, “can be scary.”

“When you just get out of a long marriage or a long relationship, it is weird to go out with anybody,” Gonzalez told me. “Though there is still a hope you will meet someone and fall in love, but I am probably never going to meet someone and have what I had before.”

But that, she said, was also liberating. She was free to have 15-minute coffee dates, be vulnerable, and feel sexy. At her age, Gonzalez said, she feels much more confident in who she is — a trait, she said, that younger men find appealing.

My mom said this, too. She frequently matched with men 10 to 15 years younger than her because, she said, she was able to “hold a conversation.”

For Gonzalez, dating apps only proved to her that her life wasn’t missing anything, except maybe the cherry on top. Bumble lets her go out to the movies and dinner with people and form relationships, even friendships, with men she would have never met before. She’s in a place where she is not doing anything she doesn’t want to do, and experimenting with dating apps as a way to have fun as a 50-something divorcée. Her life is not shutting down with age, she said, but opening up.

She did, however, see that the options available to her younger girlfriends were much more plentiful. Peaking over their shoulders, she saw her younger friends swiping with much more fervor and not running up against the spinning wheel — an indication the app is searching for more people with your age range and location.

“This is a big business and they are missing out,” said Gonzalez, referring to popular dating app companies who don’t cater to older people.

Business Insider/Bumble

Tinder declined to comment when asked to provide its app’s age demographics and whether or not it thought its platform catered to older users. Match, eharmony, Happn, and OkCupid did not respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

Jess Carbino, a sociologist for Bumble, told Business Insider in a statement that out of its female users over 40, 60% believe the app will “most likely to lead to the type of relationship they desire.”

But how many swipes must a single lady swipe to get there? My mom compared it to panning for gold. (I swear she is not that old.) “You really have to dig in the dirt for that speck of gold, you have to go through hundreds of different profiles,” she said.

Though, she questioned, this may not be entirely the fault of dating apps, but how people use them.

“Dating apps work for men, and older men, but don’t work for older women,” my mom said. “Most women who are older are not looking for hookups, where most men are looking for whatever experiences they can get. How do you find those few men who are out there who are looking for a relationship?”

That is a question Crystal, 57, has been asking for the 15 years she’s been single. (Crystal declined to have her last name published.) She’s a single mom living in Pittsburgh, and she’s tried it all: eharmony, Match, OkCupid, Plenty of Fish. Just before the holidays, she canceled Bumble, finding it all to be too stressful.

She’s hopped from app to app like most people do — hoping to find a new pool of available people. But what she found was just recycled profiles.

“Whenever I go out, I see all these license plates from states all over and think, ‘There has to be some available people here!'” said Crystal. “I am self-sufficient, I just prefer not to be alone. I guess the idea of the long-term relationship scares people away.”

Crystal wants to try Silver Singles after Valentine’s Day and plans to change her profile to say “just looking to date.”

Her best advice to other ladies her age on the apps: don’t list yourself as looking for an activities partner.

“That is when all the weirdos come out of the woodwork,” she said.

The takeaway

I have to admit: as a 25-year-old, the kind of dating the 50-plus ladies I spoke with described is the only dating I have ever known. However, I grew up in the digital era, where you can be flaky in real life, flirty over text, have low expectations, and shallow notions.

This is a new frontier for older women like my mom. She’s living in a world where society tells older men that they’re silver foxes, and older women to take up knitting. It’s not the best message to take into the next chapter of her life — one where she is newly single and searching for something not so vapid, all the while playing the dating game with rules made up by a younger generation and tools that condone it.

In light of that, she’s gotten a lot more specific. She realized she didn’t have to feel frustrated so often if she just leaned into it.

These days, she refuses to date Cancers — or any water sign, for that matter. And that is why she recently re-downloaded Bumble: she gets to see right away if a potential match has an unappetizing astrological sign.

I asked her why she decided to do it all over again.

“If I didn’t have the apps, I would have no options,” she said, laughing. “The benefit is it gives you options. You get frustrated and get off it and then get lonely and get back on. It’s a cycle. It’s like anything else, you run the gauntlet. That’s life.”

Are you over 50 and using dating apps? Want to share your story? Contact this reporter at [email protected], (646) 768-1658, or by Twitter DM @MeiraGebel

I met Lana on a tour bus in Paris and we became instant pals. In your twenties, it doesn’t take much more than matching Canadian flag patches on weathered backpacks to cement your status as travel besties.

Lana was cute, whip-smart and sarcastic as hell. The more I talked to her, the more she reminded me of someone I knew. I went through a mental Rolodex of my female friends but just couldn’t place her. Later, she said something a bit geeky and I felt a jolt of recognition. The person she reminded me of was Cameron, a university pal.

I asked Lana if she was single (she was). I asked her if she had a type (she didn’t). I asked her if she’d be open to meeting a funny doctor with a penchant for bar trivia when she got back home (she very much was).

Five years later, I was toasting Cam and Lana at their wedding.

I started introducing single people to one another and they just kept falling in love (or, at least, lust). After the third or fourth like-minded couple dated courtesy of my meddling, I took a huge gamble. I walked away from the 9-to-5 job I hated and started my own matchmaking company.

Now, I had no actual training as a matchmaker. Yet somehow, lonely stranger after lonely stranger entrusted me with their money and their heart. Forty clients registered in my very first week. I was in business.

Gushing, grateful emails and smiling couple selfies started piling up in my inbox. For the first few years of matchmaking, I burst into tears at every client engagement, wedding invitation and birth announcement. It was good and meaningful work—with the added allure of having power over people’s fates. Early on, I remember seeing a production of Hedda Gabler. In it, the tragic anti-heroine says, “I want for once in my life to have power to mould a human destiny” and I sat up very straight in my chair.

The vast majority of my female applicants were in their 30s and 40s with amazing lives. A lot of them were homeowners and were absolutely killing it in their professional and creative endeavours. They were doctors, lawyers, ad executives, entrepreneurs, writers, politicians and powerhouses. But no amount of hard work could help them find love. These women were done with endless hours of swiping on Tinder. Done with the flakes on OKCupid, the crickets on eHarmony. Done with the disappointing set-ups by well-meaning family and friends. They were ready to find love, settle down and maybe start a family.

There was unfortunately one roadblock to running the ideal matchmaking business: there weren’t enough men in their 30s and 40s signing up. Those who did were mostly looking to date women in their 20s.

If you’ve ever been unwillingly single for more than a few months, I don’t have to tell you the romantic playing field is uneven. In general, people of all ages, shapes, sizes and appearances value the young, slim, tall and objectively beautiful. Straight men are particularly guilty of ageism in dating. I’ve had men in their 50s and 60s tell me their dating age cut-off for women is 33.

“Humans aren’t hot meals made to order. People aren’t paper dolls. I’m a matchmaker, not a magician.”

That said, the women could be just as fickle as the men. One early client was a beautiful, stylish and successful woman in her 40s. She told me she wanted to date a tall (minimum six feet), handsome, never-married man between the ages of 40 and 50, ideally with salt and pepper hair. Oh, and also? He had to be a firefighter. I tried to talk her out of her rigid preferences, but she was resolute. I went home discouraged. How was I ever going to find a firefighter to ignite her heart?

The following week, a wonderful man signed up for the service. Who happened to be a firefighter. I practically leapt with joy and relief. But when I presented him to her as a potential match, she turned down meeting him…because he was 39—one year below her preferred age range.

That wasn’t the first or last time I failed to convince a client to be more flexible. I’ve tried, time and time again, to talk rigid clients out of unhelpful preferences. Thick hair doesn’t last and neither do washboard abs. Fancy cars chip and rust. Designer suits fall out of style. “Be open to what different people have to offer,” I’d tell them. “You might be surprised.”

Here’s the thing: You can customize just about anything you want these days, but you can’t customize a partner to suit your exact specifications. Humans aren’t hot meals made to order. People aren’t paper dolls. I’m a matchmaker, not a magician.

Eventually, my matchmaking successes were eclipsed by my frustrations. Clients would Google their dates before meeting them and reject the match, saying they didn’t find them attractive. Other clients would ghost on their dates or on me. Clients would write sad or angry emails when they hadn’t had a date in a while, or if it took too long to send them their first match. Sometimes they’d tell me I was pushing them to settle, when I gently encouraged them to go on a second date with someone kind but short. Or smart but bald. Every good match felt overshadowed by tantrums from people who came into the experience with difficult standards and questionable expectations. I started to wonder why I’d become a matchmaker in the first place.

There’s a lot to be said for helping people find love. So many people feel disconnected and lonely. But I’m done with the ugliness: later this year, I’m getting out of this business and focusing on other things. I’ve started a new career in communications. I’m working on a book of short stories.

And I’m spending lots of time with my partner. Last year, at the practically geriatric (for women) dating age of 37, I fell hard for a sweet, smart and funny man over Twitter. I may not have ended up with him had I not taken the advice I’d given to so many of my clients over the years.

He’s a little older than my ridiculously arbitrary age cut-off of 45 and is a quiet, thoughtful introvert—far from the gregarious comedian/actor/journalist/whatever I’d always imagined myself with. But our online chemistry translated big-time in person—we now have that beautiful cheeseball kind of love where I hear a Phil Collins song on the radio and think, “Holy wow! I totally understand those lyrics now!”

Had I come across my love on OKCupid instead of slowly getting to know him through his tweets, would I have given him a chance, despite our (totally unimportant and completely unnoticeable) 10-year age gap? I’m not sure. I’m so glad things unfolded the way they did.

Singledom can feel interminable, but if you’re openminded and know your needs, I have faith you’ll find your person, too. Despite having helped so many others find love, I was certain I was going to be alone forever. Now, I’m the luckiest person to have ever loved and to have been loved in return. But I had a professional matchmaker’s inside advantage: I got to learn from hundreds of other people’s mistakes.

After the ultimatum, there’s one more thing you can say to prompt your partner to pop the question.

“Nothing is for sure,” you should say. “So if we marry and it doesn’t work out, it would be bad, but not so bad.” Allow a short pause here. “Because, at a certain point, it is better to have been married and divorced than never to have been married.”

Okay, maybe it’s not the best or easiest gambit to lob over the table, but there’s truth in it. Being divorced may say a person has failed, but it also suggests a number of good characteristics – the most important being the willingness to take an emotional risk.

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The decision to marry is always a leap of faith. The clouds do not part to give you a sign from above that this is what you should do.

While a common-law arrangement – the state 15.5 per cent of Canadians are in, according to the latest census – may carry many of the same emotions and commitments, not to mention legal ramifications, in my opinion it does not count as a marriage.

Many people who marry know how the ceremony changes, and deepens, the nature of their relationship. Aside from religious deterrents or a philosophical aversion to marriage, knowing what the sanctified union means, and how it alters everything, is exactly why so many choose not to do it, even though they say they love their partner.

“Common-law relationships provide a back-door escape psychologically,” says Barbara Hudson, a relationship coach in Rocky Mountain House, a small community in Alberta. “It’s a coping mechanism. It’s how we trick ourselves into being okay about the relationship. We figure we can leave more easily.”

Marriage, on the other hand, suggests the best of human attributes. It shows an ambition, a conviction in one’s ability and a stepping up to serious responsibility. But also the willingness to be swept away by faith in love, a letting go. It’s about a surrender to the ideal of forever romance.

Having serial love affairs may be great and fulfilling in the moment, but over decades, a history of romances, live-in or not, that did not result in marriage can make others suspicious.

“Above the age of 40, whether it’s a man or a woman, if that person has never been married, it’s because there’s something going on in their heads,” says Gloria MacDonald, principal of Perfect Partners dating service and co-author of Laws of the Jungle: Dating for Women over 40. “Boiled down, it’s almost always fear. Fear of something. Fear of being rejected. Fear of a relationship. Fear of intimacy.”

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Dr. Phil McGraw has weighed in on the problem. On his TV show, he once tried to uncover a fortysomething woman’s inability to say “I do” by asking the probing question, “Don’t you believe that when you love them, you lose them?” Her high-school sweetheart had died in a car accident. Her father and uncle had also died. Dr. Phil decided that she was afraid to lose another man to whom she was emotionally attached.

In the middle-age dating scene, a lack of marital history can be a red flag.

“I always ask people, ‘Are you fine with someone divorced, separated or widowed?’ ” says Ms. MacDonald, whose Toronto-based company specializes in matching up professionals age 40 and up. “Most people prefer to meet someone divorced rather than someone who has never been married, and that’s true for both men and women,” she says.

“Women definitely question why I have never married,” confesses Dan, a friend who is 48. “I get everything from people thinking I must be gay to saying I am a playboy.”

Would he be wary of a woman over 40 who has never married? “I probably would be,” he says sheepishly, adding that he recognizes he has problems with commitment and he assumes a woman who hasn’t married by that age likely has issues, too.

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Women who have never married are often subject to speculation that their standards are too high; that they are too ambitious in their professional lives and lack the nurturing gene; that they are unattractive or unreasonably difficult; or that they have been unlucky in relationships that didn’t work out, or stayed too long in ones they intuited weren’t right, and then discovered they had missed the prime female eligibility window – their 20s and 30s.

As marriage is often viewed as a passive choice for women – it’s assumed they have to wait to be asked – many never-married women in their 40s and beyond feel compelled to mention the proposals they turned down.

“The perception is that something is wrong with me,” says a friend who is 50. (And yes, she is slim and very attractive.) “But then I say I was engaged three times to different men, and that I backed away from it each time, and I can see them thinking, ‘Oh, okay, at least there’s not something so bizarre about you that no one ever even asked.’ “

It’s far easier to explain away a failed marriage. Besides, a marriage that ends in divorce earns you a PhD in the Human Heart. In my long (and ultimately failed) marriage, I learned how the heart can swell with love, how it can break, ache, be betrayed, grow hard and, after time has passed, how it can revive itself and even skip a beat in love again.

I regret none of that emotional education. It was an important part of my development. Having a failed marriage is an experience that others who have gone through one can understand. It’s a universal story of courage and disappointment. You tried. You failed. Not having taken that risk may protect you from the pain, if it fails, but you miss out on the roller-coaster ride that takes you to highs and lows, and along the way, some memorably big emotions.

And, well, that is life.

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Never-Married Men Over 40: Date-able or Debate-able?

“I’m getting married in fall 2013,” my 38-year-old friend John told me, when we caught up in Paris the summer before. Congrats! Who’s the lucky woman? I asked. “Oh, I haven’t met her yet,” he’d responded, deadpan, over dinner. “But I’ll be married by 40,” said the guy who’s deliberately been a player for the past two decades. “Because if you’re a single guy after that, it’s like, you know, ’What’s wrong with him?’”

He’s always been very self-aware, John. Very conscious of his life choices, of his — some might say — semi-misogynistic way with women. But I’ve always found my old friend’s honesty refreshing, and rather insightful.

Anyone with salt-and-pepper hair who shows up in your online matches as ’Never Married’ might as well come with a flashing Warning Sign.

In many ways, he’s right: Never-married heterosexual men over the age of 40 have always had a stigma. Especially back in 1970, when they represented only 4.9 percent of the male population. But I wondered: As marriage inches toward the take-it-or-leave-it category — for both sexes — and there are more never-married men between the ages of 40 and 44 than ever before (20.4 percent at last census count), is being a perpetual (hetero) bachelor still considered a little … creepy?

Apparently, yes. Unless, of course, the perpetual bachelor is George Clooney — and let’s be honest, most aren’t. Still, even Clooney was once briefly married. Anyone with salt-and-pepper hair who shows up in your online matches as “Never Married” might as well come with a flashing Warning Sign, say women with marital aspirations who date them anyway. They are Workaholics. Playboys. Commitment Phobes. Gay. Definitely gay.

Source Gallery Stock

But in a way, steadfastly heterosexual single men over 40 are sort of pitied too. Or, rather, they are dissected, thoroughly examined — not by a class of seventh-graders using microscopes but by a table of 30-something women, well into their third bottle of wine.Oh, we can collectively cry, Double standard!! over the sad fact that never-married women of a certain age aren’t players; they’re pitied. See Bridget Jones 1 and 2; in 3, she’s a 51-year-old widow, cougar and mother of two.

“Perception is that it’s perfectly acceptable for a man to be single and dating because he was likely concentrating on his career and is now ‘ready,’” says one smart, fun, beautiful 34-year-old singleton in San Francisco — a city that is home to a seemingly disproportionate number of older, never-married men. (A lot of gay men, yes, but also a lot of straight dudes who care more about their triathlon training than tying the knot.) “The guys over 40 I’ve dated all have the Peter Pan complex,” she says. “They tend to resist growing up in a certain way. Worse: Many still have roommates and wear backpacks. (Over 40? No. Just no.)”

Still, like many women, she continues to give ’em a go. “There are always exceptions.”

I question a heterosexual male’s commitment to anything if he is unattached at that age.

Even, apparently, in New York City, another hub of never-marrieds. A physician named Amy says she was “totally wary” of her now-husband, who was 42 when they first met. “You can always judge a guy by what’s in his refrigerator,” she says. “Literally all he had in his was a pint of vanilla Häagen-Daz. Because, as he said, he could eat it and use it in his coffee instead of buying milk.” Also suspect: He once flew to see her in Portugal at a moment’s notice. “It was really fun, but I kept asking him, ‘Is this, like, what you do? Just jet off to meet women for weekends in Europe?’”

Turned out he was an older, never-married guy with nothing to hide. But most aren’t, says a 44-year-old opinionated gay man with no dog in this fight. “I question a heterosexual male’s commitment to anything if he is unattached at that age,” he says. “I just do. There’s something slightly predatory about it. Untrustworthy. Scarlett Letter-type mistrust.”

He admits he’s grossly generalizing and then breaks it down: “There are two models. The successful man who has it all but no spouse, and the dork who is infantilized because he can’t get his act together. (Gays, of course are exempt from this, he says, until gay marriage is completely commonplace, “and the gays are subjected to the same pressure to become more boring and mainstream.”)

Source Corbis

That’s sort of spot on, agreed Raina, who was widowed at age 27 and spent the next decade dating. All types, all ages, but she was always wary of the guys over 40 who’d never been married. “They’re clueless,” she says. “They can’t make coffee. They just become kind of weird.” (She’s since remarried a divorced, devoted 40-something father of two.)

”Men who want to enjoy the intimacy of a lifetime commitment of marriage will likely be married younger (despite financial resources or their access to technology that feeds a feeling of entitlement and ongoing search for ’the best’),” says Dr. Monica O’Neal, a Harvard-trained psychologist in Boston. A city, she says, “with a high number of eligible (meaning ’good catches’ on paper), never-married people ranging in age from mid 30s to late 40s.”

Indeed most guys approaching 40 who’ve never been married are likely to stay that way — according to a not-so-scientific study conducted by author John T. Malloy and cited on the not-so-scientific site Dating Without Drama. Additional conclusions? “Until men reach age 37, they remain very good prospects. After age 38, the chances they will ever marry drop dramatically. The chances that a man will marry for the first time diminish even more once he reaches 42 or 43. At this point, many men become confirmed bachelors.”

The choice not to marry, whether by a man or a woman, is a life choice made by a rational human being.

Dr. O’Neal offers this as an explanation, not an excuse: “Men who have long-term relationships without (conscious or unconscious) intentions to marry may have what psychologists call an avoidant attachment style when it comes to intimacy. They may enjoy having relationships but struggle with the requirements of intimacy and dependence that marriage requires.”

But the question — apart from the obvious crime of leading someone on — is whether there’s anything really wrong with being a confirmed bachelor. Definitely not, says Carl Weisman, the guy who literally wrote the book on men who never marry, So Why Have You Never Been Married? He subsequently found the love of his life and got married four years ago — at age 50. “But if I had not met her, I’d probably still be single, which would have been fine too,” he says. The choice not to marry, whether by a man or a woman, is a life choice made by a rational human being. To stigmatize someone for making their best possible life choice, a choice that hurts nobody, seems ridiculous, especially in light of the divorce and affair rate.”

Courtney, a most eligible 36-year-old bachelorette in Manhattan, dismisses any such stigma. “Generalizing by age is silly,” she says. “Never-married men over 40 are no different than unmarried men in their 30s or 20s. They just haven’t met someone they want to be with.”

Turns out, neither has my friend John. Fall 2013 has come and almost gone. He’s still single. And quite fine with that.

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