Living Single: What happens when you never find The One?

Feb 13, 2012

Washington Post Magazine reporter Ellen McCarthy wrote about what it's like to live without a partner for years and decades, and the changing social and cultural implications of being single. She and Wendy Braitman, who writes about the unmarried life the blog "First Person Singular: Notes from an unmarried life," took questions and comments on Monday, Feb. 13.
Story: The single life: Some people never find the love of their lives. And live to tell about it.
Survey results: What single people said about advantages, disadvantages, goals and rationales
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Hi everyone. Wendy Braitman here. I’ve been writing First Person Singular, Notes from an Unmarried Life as a way to give voice to the single experience, with its ordinary and not so ordinary challenges. I’m excited about getting the chance to be in real time conversation with you today.


As one who has also not found 'the one', I very much appreciate the candor expressed in the article. We are viewed by others as 1) pathetic losers, 2) rivals, 3) mysterious creatures... I view myself as happily unencumbered, answering to no one for travel, etc. You do have to get used to dining alone, taking care of issues alone, or of finding friends etc to assist. Settling for less than what you want just to conform to parental or societal expectations is a non-starter, as is staying in a bad relationship just to conform. THANK YOU

Hi.  Thank you for this note.  I was so lucky to find people like Wendy who were willing to talk publicly about a subject that often gets swept under the rug. 

Hi everyone. Wendy Braitman here. I’ve been writing First Person Singular, Notes from an Unmarried Life as a way to give voice to the single experience, with its ordinary and not so ordinary challenges. I’m excited about getting the chance to be in real time conversation with you today.

Wouldn't it have been appropriate to publish the story of an unhappy single who has struggled with their loneliness ? I'm sure they're out there.

We’ve been bombarded, historically, and even in modern life, with a portrait of the single woman as a misfit and someone to be pitied. So to read a description of living single, satisfied, and well adjusted, is long overdue. I thank Ellen McCarthy for writing this sensitive piece.

Good Afternoon, Ellen, Thank you for writing this article and for attempting to dispel some myths and stereotypes. I was a bit surprised by the tone of the article, almost melancholy. Was that your intent? Certainly the title of the piece on the website. "The single life: Some people never find the love of their lives. And live to tell about it." was more hopeful than the article and the accompanying photo. Wendy, I enjoyed finding your blog. I would have preferred the photo of you in this Q&A over the dog walking photo. The former is a much more positive [and flattering] image. I am impressed by your ability to express in your blog posts how a person can be happy in the life they have while still hoping a different life in the future. That perspective is often unfairly characterized as "false cheer". What is your opinion of the article? What parts of the article did you like / dislike? Thank you both. Tom Murphy

Hi Tom,  thanks for reading.  I'm not sure that I intended the tone of the story to be melancholy.  I wanted to tell the truth.  With each person I interviewed we talked about the ups and downs of life without a partner. There were both, as there is in any life, and so my intention was to write a story that covered that spectrum. 

Read the article and thought you are talking about those who live single which is one group of people and then there are those single/divorced people who live with children, roommates and even parents. Both groups can fall under the category of "never having found the one" but it seems as if the latter group doesn't fall into your definition of single. So if I'm single and I have/adopt a baby who I presumably love to pieces, do I suddenly not become a "lonely heart" or is my heart extra lonely because I live alone. Speaking of lonely hearts, I'm sure this piece was timed for Valentines Day which is rather insensitive, IMO. Sheesh, have a heart for the lonely hearts!!

Do you think being single is to be lonelier than people in couples? I love this quote from Anton Chekhov: "If you’re afraid of loneliness, don’t marry."

As a 30 year old guy, I'm sure I'm not your normal reader- but saw the headline and it definitely was something I've thought about. All my high school friends and college friends are now married, some having their 2nd and 3rd kids, and at any get togethers- especially the weddings- I do feel out of place a little when everybody is with their husband/wife/kids dancing, taking pictures together in the photo booth, etc. It's those times that I feel a little lost, similarly on Saturday nights now and then when I'm sitting at home after a day with friends- as there is not a lot of thought to the singles out there. I date a lot- but I know what I want in a relationship and don't have a problem saying no to pushing something that might lead to marriage, but I can tell just isn't "it". BUT- I don't feel like I'm not living a fun/enjoyable life- I might even say it's more full than others because I have to find things to do that some might not think about.

It sounds like you've got a great attitude about this. I hope you continue enjoying life, regardless of what happens in the romance dept. 

i have been single for years, and finally, lately, started having anxiety attacks that i think come from being alone. i am always waiting pro-actively to meet someone real, but what if some people are just meant to be alone?

I think to be alive is to feel an existential loneliess, but no matter if we're coupled or single, I think it's important to have community. It's where I draw strength, and remember that I'm part of something bigger. And it puts my issues into perspective.

I once read a great article about a segment of singles that are actually 'ambivalent' about being in a relationship. They don't want to take risks, prefer to focus in a career, perfer to hang on to their lifestyle, or simply want to avoid the possibility of pain. As a single male in his 40s, I am meeting a significant number of ladies who fit these situations. It is quite frustrating, but the signs have become more obvious. Overall, I think this concept works with the article. The singles wonder why it never happens. Well, there are reasons and often internal to the single person. They really don't want it to happen.

When I started my research, I found that singles fell into two categories: those who want to be in relationships and those who are happiest on their own.  The results of our survey bore that out, as did my interview with Bella DePaulo.  Her phrase for the latter category is "Single at Heart."  I hope that as society evolves everyone will feel free to live in whatever way works best for them, without judgment. 

This question is for Wendy. The title of this article is "What happens when you never find The One?" but it doesn't seem that you've given up hope that you may find the right person. Have you resigned yourself to being single for the rest of your life, like the article's title seems to suggest?

Let me say that, although, I loved Ellen's piece, I hated the headline. NEVER is a strong word. And it misses the point. What if "finding the one" isn't what you think it is. Who knows what tomorrow will bring!

This is more of a comment than a question. I'm a 39 year old man who has recognized that I'm not cut out for marriage. I've been in long-term relationships, and each time I've eventually found myself looking for a way out. After my last breakup, I felt like I needed a break from dating. It's now been two years, and I have no desire to jump back in. I'm comfortable with who I am, and recognize what works for me and what doesn't romantically. It looks like not being attached is what works best for me. It's not something to get stressed about - it's just how some people are made.

Thank you!  A really great perspective.  You were lucky, perhaps, to figure out what you needed early, so you weren't trying to squeeze yourself into mold that doesn't fit. 

While it was certainly interesting to have a peek into others' lives and see the interesting things Wendy, etc. have been up to, I didn't care for how the piece was framed overall. Even though it was on how people live their lives while single, I found wording such as "some people never find the love of their life" as off-putting because it's so biased from the get-go, that paired existence is the default ultimate goal. I would have framed being single differently, certainly much more positively. Maybe the question shouldn't be 'why are you single' but 'why are you in a relationship'? Thanks!

The full headline on the story was "The single life: Some people never find the love of their lives. And live to tell about it."

When the piece first came online on Friday, there was my photo with the headline, The Lonely Hearts. OUCH!!!! That was a rough moment.

hi ellen. i enjoyed your piece, but am curious as to why you didn't include any gay women or men or african americans in your piece? d.c. has a large population of both gay men and women and african americans. not including them seems an obvious oversight.

You're right.  And i think this is a flaw in the piece.  It wasn't easy to find people willing to talk on-the-record about this, and those I did find happened to be white, but i wasn't intentionally looking for people of any specific race/gender/orientation at the outset.  I was just looking for honesty. 

My SO was unhappily married for most of 37 years - left when the youngest child finished college. I had been single 30+ years and dated A LOT. We found each other at age 60 & knew right away we would be together forever. We also knew we wouldn't have been ready for each other sooner. Moral: things work out the way they're meant to.

Congrats! Great story. 

I know folks who have been married got "the One" and ended up picking "the One frog". Grass ain't always greener on the other side.


I'm a single woman, young enough that it's not so unusual to be single but coming to the conclusion that I may always be single. I've largely made my peace with that, and read this story as hopeful -- you featured smart, successful and interesting people who were living full and happy lives. Another single friend my age read the story and said it was the most depressing thing she's ever read. I was surprised by our radically different interpretations of the picture painted by the story. Perhaps this is some sort of ink-blot test....

I have a friend (who is a bit dramatic) who said the piece made him want to commit suicide. And I do think what I would've liked more of was that the challenges of being single are both unique and utterly ordinary in terms of facing what it takes to get through life with gratitude and grace.

I have many female relatives that never married and have sucessful and fulfilling lives. The truth is that most females will be single longer than men. Women live longer men and then add divorce. I knew many elderly female relatives who were single or married and no children. To my young eyes these seniors where fun, engaging and living life. My role models were both single and married females and no one was lacking or better than because of their marital status. These African American women were born in the 1900 - 1920s. My family reunions never consisted of which females were getting married or had prospects. I did not hear about this pressure until my 30's. I was shocked since this wasn't my experience on my mother's or father's side of the family. Education and indepedence had a higher value.

I'm glad you didn't feel pressure early on.  But I wonder if anyone ever talked to your single relatives about their singleness.  I find that this is something we just don't want to touch.  We'd rather make assumptions that our single aunts are doing just fine and move on. 

There is no such thing as "The One." Anyone who thinks differently is destined to be alone. Relationships are about compatibility and both sides wanting to make it work. Why do people insist on thinking/believing we live in a romantic comedy?

Hollywood has definitely influenced our thinking on romantic relationships, and certainly not for the better.  We were using "the one" in this instance to mean "lasting love."

Wendy, I think both you and the pooch look fabulous in the photo! Do you think having pets helps?

I LOVE my dog, Rose. Such unconditional love. And good cuddling in bed. Pets help EVERYONE get through the day. I highly recommend it!

How come we never see 'how-to' articles about retirement planning for singles? What suggestions do you have for this important chapter in life? Thank you.

Ahh! I think this is an important question, but not one I'm qualified to answer.  I'm going to forward it on to advice columnist Michelle Singletary. 

I wanted to say thanks for this. I'm sick of advice columnists saying "you'll find someone" or pooh-poohing the fear of being single forever. Being single forever is a reality for people and this is a beautiful article that celebrates these people.

Thanks for this note.  I'm glad it resonated. 

I'm a 38 year old woman, never married, never really dated much and never wanted to be married. (No, I'm not a lesbian.) My 3 closest friends are in the same position, although one has had a series of long-term relationships. We've all had very good lives and don't regret not having married at all. Of course, in order to pull this off you have to make enough money to support a decent lifestyle. Also, none of us ever wanted children, which would at least for mehave definitely changed the equation. I do have a couple single women friends who badly wanted marriage and children, and that's very sad.

The question of children definitely changes the equation -- or at least it used to.  It will be interesting to see how society changes as reproductive technologies continue to evolve. 

Have you read her book "Marry Him?" It's an interesting take for single women who want to marry and have kids, but perhaps haven't found the right person, or so they think. Is it ridiculous or smart advice?

I read Lori's original article in The Atlantic, and had such a hard time with it. It made me furious. But it's certainly provocative, and that sells books!

Ellen, what prompted you to write this very well done, honest story?

Here's a blog post on just that topic that we published earlier today.

I wanted to know the answer to the question: "What is it like, if you never find lasting love?"

But I'll admit that when the idea occurred to me, the second thing I felt was fear.  This isn't something we like to talk/think about.  

I am a never-married woman in my sixties. I dated several men that I thought might be The One, but they felt that they could do better than me. I'm ashamed, if that's the correct word, to say that I've dated practically every man who ever asked me out. I never wanted anyone to say that I was still single because I was too picky. I never turned up my nose at a guy and said that he wasn't good enough for me. I always gave them a chance. But none of them were The One. Lately, it has occurred to me that maybe I have met The One, or maybe even several The Ones, but I never knew it, and they never knew it, because instead of waiting to meet me, they married a woman who wasn't as good for them as I would have been. So I've been waiting for them, but they sure didn't wait for me! And now I'm angry. And I know that's bad. How do I make myself feel less angry? And what's the point of telling yourself that eventually your pot will find its lid, if your lid gave up years ago and joined a pot that it doesn't fit and doesn't care that it doesn't fit?

Along the way, I've felt anger, shame, guilt, remorse. And a lot of that has to do with the larger cultural response. So I think it's important to dig down deep and keep coming back to your own truth about it.

I am single and I know plenty of unhappy marrieds. In fact I would say I know more unhappy married couples, than happy married couples. I think single or married - there is no guarantee of happiness. I do think there is still a stigma to being single however - which is weird considered there are SO many of us and we are single for lots of different reasons.

It's kind of amazing that the stigma has persisted, no?  But now that singles are a majority and there is so much being written about them, I suspect this is about to change. 

Ellen, no offense but you look like Gidget. What are you, 25? What could possibly qualify you to write about people twice your age who have led complex, nuanced lives?

yeah.  fair enough.  that picture is probably 8 years old and needs to be replaced.  

But what qualifies anyone to write about another's life?  I don't think there's anything concrete.  Curiousity and the ability to listen without judment, perhaps. 

I am one of those single women who decided to go it alone and adopt a child. I have no regrets and ultimately think motherhood was more important to me than partnering. I still hope to meet someone (even if it doesn't lead to marriage) for companionship - but I'm a lot less concerned about it than I used to be. If it happens, it happens.

I'm always amazed at the fortitude of women (and men) who choose to have a child on their own. It seems impossibly hard. When I thought about having kids, I could only image doing it as part of a team. 

Thanks, Ellen, for the great article. I could totally relate...I didn't get married until age 44, and had to "endure" years of many friends and 5 siblings getting married (at one point, when only a brother and myself were left unmarried, my Dad suggested a contest to see who would be last to marry...I "won"). There is definitely a societal bias there (e.g., even in my family, my 3 sisters wanted a picture with their kids and my Mom and Grandma together to show all the generations, but I wasn't allowed in the photo b/c I didn't have kids!) (and no, my family actually is a good one!). Another single friend and I laughed in our late 30's of how we have to get all the good "home stuff" for ourselves (since we never got married), and she promptly bought me a really nice mixer for Christmas that year :-). I have tried to make an effort to give a gift to a close male friend my age who has never married, such as when he bought his first house a few years ago, as he too never got all that "home stuff." I think as you say singles are overlooked and esp. females pitied. Too bad society can't expand its definition of all the different ways someone can be "happy", and they don't have to all include marriage and/or kids.

Oh my gosh -- you weren't allowed in the photo?  that's so harsh!   I think talking about it more openly may help expand that definition of happiness. 

As a gay man who grew up in the 70s, there was no gay marriage, no Will and Grace. Successful gay couples were out of sight. There was only marry a woman (almost did) or stay single. I didn't meet any same sex couples in long term relationships until I was in my 30s. While my parents had a successful marriage of over 50 years, there just was no role model for me to follow. Having lived longer as a single person that as one in a relationship, that's probably the way it will stay. I am well adjusted to being single.

It used to be that my gay friends were the ones I could count on in my single life. And now, most all of them are married or on the way to the altar. That's progress!

Ms. McCarthy, As a single (by choice) woman, I was disappointed by your article. Even the title is prejudiced against us singletons, implying that there is a "One" and if you haven't found him/her your life is somehow lacking. What do you believe was the point of your article? As a reader, my takeaway was that you further marginalized people like me who don't fit neatly into your box. After all, your day job is to write about people who get hitched. I don't believe you approached this subject matter fairly or dispassionately. As a result, the article was naive and one-dimensional. A disappointed reader.

Thanks for the note.  I tried very hard to approach the story fairly and I'm sorry you feel I missed the mark.  But I consciously chose not to focus on people who are happiest single.  There has been a lot written lately about people proactively chosing single life -- and loving it.  I'm all for that.  But the tension lies in the stories of people who deeply want to find a partner and aren't able to.  That's the subset I chose to explore. 

as when I was married. Of course, I was married to a rotten control freak whohad me convinced I was worthless, ugly, stupid, etc... Happily, I got away and have been "living single" ever since...

I always loved the Marilyn Monroe quote on this: "It's better to be unhappy alone than unhappy with someone."


First, thanks for taking my original question! "And lived to tell about it" was exactly what I meant about the title being negative. I realize it's tongue-in-cheek but one probably would not read such a by-line about marriage. I'm finding the chat a really good follow-up to the article. It's interesting seeing different people's opinions as well as hearing the insightful answers!

When I first saw the headline, The Lonely Hearts, attached to my photo, I thought - what would really be interesting is to have that same headline next to the photo of a married couple. That's when we'll know there's parity.

A lot of married people never find "The One" either. I know quite a few.

Sure.  And even the concept of "the one" is highly debatable.  (I recently read that use of that term has increased dramatically in the last few years, perhaps because of the marketing done by a particularly savvy online dating site.)

Hi, I'm married 6 years along with lots of my friends in our 30s. I don't see many friends, period, with 2 little kids in the mix. But I'd love advice on how to make sure I make the effort to keep up with single friends over time. I realize I've been absorbed with the kids and my husband (and I am so tired too). But I don't want to be a friend who disappears 'into family life' for good. Advice? Thanks!

I LOVE this question. I have lost relationships when friends get married, because they just don't make time. Or the other thing that drives me crazy, is that you no longer get to spend any time with your friend, without their spouse. So I really thank you for thinking about this. It's about prioritizing.

I am glad someone has recognized the plight of the terminally single-and-unattached, and I am glad the article featured at least one guy; but we guys have just as much skin in the singles game as the ladies. I can speak from my own experience as a 47 year old terminally-single LA transplant. In looking back I feel my happiest times where when I wasn't focused on trying to find "The One"; instead, I focused on myself ("If I am not for myself, who will be?") and didn't even bother with the dating scene. But I gotta tell you, it gets tough during the end of year holidays; that's actually the WORST time of year to be on the lookout, in my not-so-humble experience!

Thanks for chiming in.  I think it has challenges for both genders, though the lingering stereotypes do seem to be slightly different. 

I am a member of the Jersey Co. (IL) Historical Society and, by coincidence, this item appeared in a newsletter I received last week. The item is dated May 8, 1913. "More than 100 proposals of marriage . . . confront [30 year old] Miss Gertrude Seago, who yesterday received $25,000 [a huge amount in 1913] due her 3 years on real estate sales . . . . Miss Seago says marriage is a failure [and] she is positive no man will ever get her money. She declared the money would be used to care for her parents." It would be interesting to know if she stuck to that resolution!

Wow.  Amazing.  If you find out how the story ends, let us know. 

Can I just sing the praises of Ellen McCarthy for a moment, who BTW, doesn't look anything like Gidget. We spent real quality time when she came to Los Angeles. She has such depth, insight and wisdom. I only wish she lived closer!

I attended Catholic schools in the 1950's where the only 2 career paths for women were to marry and raise a large Catholic family or to become a nun. After 2 brief, unhappy marriages in my 20's (the first was annulled) I contnued to date for a few years until it struck me that I had been sold a bill of goods. I returned to school, eventually received a Ph.D in microbiology, achieved some prominence in the field and became a tenured professor at an Ivy League school. Ironically a few years ago I started talking to a man at the Opera. Things took off from there and we have been happily married for going on 6 years, While I'm delighted to have found him, I did not feel my life was lacking without him. There is truly no one path to happiness.

Amen.  I'm glad you landed in a good spot, detours and all. 

I come from a big Catholic family and we've always had our share of singles. At least five that I can think of off the top of my head. I don't remember us thinking of them with any pity, I think it might be the natural consequence of coming from a rather large family. I'm thankful, it gives me perspective at 30 about leading a meaningful life. Did my great-aunt who had a 40 year long career at the phone starting in the 30s have a worse life because she never got married? I don't think so. I've always thought of her as a role model.

Did you ever talk to her about what she thought/felt?  It'd be interesting to hear. 

I'm a 53 yr old never married female. I dated lots in my 20s and 30s and was engaged twice. Yet, my dreams never included being married at such and such age, or having children. All older siblings are married and now their children are getting married. I love my life. Have an engaging job, have a small house with a small mortgage that is filled with animals. I honestly can't even see myself married. When I complain to friends about not being able to move furniture or some other household event that takes two people they tell me I don't need a husband, I need a handyman! I think what matters most is how those around you treat you. My family and friends treat me like a "normal" person, never asking if I'm dating, etc. My mom when she was still alive would never end a phone call without say how proud she was of me. I can't imagine what life would be like if people were constantly asking me about dating and why I wasn't with someone, etc. I think is also helps that I'm an introvert so I really need a lot of alone time to charge up my batteries You know what I miss? Having more single female friends to do things with. I do on occasion get tired of going to things of interest by myself. .

I'm glad to hear you live in what sounds like an enlightened environment that's so supportive. I do own a toolbox, but I am lousy with a hammer. And one of the things I miss about living with my gay best friend is that he was great at fixing things.

I was very lucky to have parents who valued the singles in their lives. In fact I was named after the great-aunt who helped raise my mom, who had always been single. Being single is not, contrary to some postings, a deficiency. I could have married several times, but I realized in good time that we would only make each other unhappy. Now I have a friend who is a wonderful companion so I don't need to live alone. We each have to bend to each other's ways, so we have not become rigid. And we have someone to say poor baby and get chicken soup when we're sick. Maybe it's not the best part of marriage, but I think it's the most lasting part, the companionship.

Who's to say it's not the best part of marriage, the chicken soup part?

Is marriage for love obsolete?

Absolutely not. A vast majority of the couples I profile each week marry for love.  Of course that doesn't mean it always works out, but that's the common motivation. 

Yes people in their 20s never live complex lives. I just wanted to second your great article. And say that having dated a "I'm searching for the one" type, it's true they live in a weird world of disappointment.

What always makes me laugh on some men's profiles on dating sites, is when they have a list of what they're looking for that is so detailed, that it would be impossible to live up to. I wrote a piece on my site, 94 Reasons Why the Man I'm Dating is Not Right for Me. And there were people who took it seriously, and commented on how picky I was, and that I was doomed to be alone.

I agree that finding support is really important for those who remain single. My family is amazed at all the many friends I have made over the years (compared to my married siblings), mostly because I did stay single for so long. Those friends can sure be a blessing, over the long haul!

They're a blessing for everyone!  Which is all the more reason for couples not to exclude singles from their social lives.  

So why did you use it in your title?

Because like it or not, that phrase has come to signify what we mean when we talk about lasting romantic partnerships. 

I am 38 years old. Never married. No kids. I get this question all the time: Why aren't you married? We'll heck, I don't know. I don't know anymore than you do. Then they ask: What are you doing wrong? Why does something always have to be "wrong". I am single, attractive, hard-working, sensible, animal loving, church going, thrifty, fun and smart. So YOU tell me what's wrong. Anyway, looks like you have a great topic for Valentine's Day. I'm looking forward to the live chat.

In the survey, we asked participants how they responded when people asked "Why aren't you married?" And we got a lot of good answers.

My aunt is elderly and never married. My father's brother once proposed to her, but she didn't love him, so she said no. She's led a relatively good life with my parents, her church, and her friends, but I know how much she regrets not having children. None of today's methods (artificial insemination, single adoption, etc) would have worked back then. I know she loved my brother, my cousins, and me, but it would have meant so much to her to have her own children.

You should talk to her.  Let her tell her stories. I think there's something very powerful in feeling seen and heard.  

Maybe it's my location, job, or social group, but most of my friends are single. As a group we currently average 30 years old. There doesn't seem to be much, if any, pressure from our families and certainly not from each other. I hope that's a sign that things are getting better.

Me too!  Glad you have that! 

Looking at the comments, it seems like people were far harsher towards the single women, who actually struck me as very empathetic, than the men, who came across to me as far more picky. Yet, it was the women being judged as being too unattractive and picky, rather than the men. It seems like single women bear more stigma than men. It's almost like it's ok for men to chose a different path, but beware the unconventional, independent woman!

I also thought the tone of the article was on the melancholy side, with the singles hoping for marriage/partnership as the "happy ending." I'm now 53 and so happy in my always-single life, I can't even imagine being married. I relish and cherish my freedom and independence, and quite frankly don't think I could tolerate having to compromise with someone else's lifestyle. I felt the same way at 30, and probably all my life, too.

Since this article got published, I've been in touch with the brilliant Rabbi at my synagogue, which is very a progressive, dynamic and social action oriented place. She loved the piece. But we talked about what I saw as the melancholy aspect of it. And as she knows so well, the journey of life includes challenges and disappointments for us ALL. Single, coupled, healthy, sick, old, young. Having a spiritual outlet really helps with the perspective. And it gives me a forum to do try and make my community, my city, the planet, a better place.

I believe there was one reference to sex in one of your profiles. Can you comment on how these singles deal with their sexuality? Is there any sex or is that considered part of a coupledom and necessarily diminished?

I would also consider asking long-time married couples how much sex they've been having lately.

But, seriously, physical contact is really important. I wrote about this on my site: How To Survive a Sex Drought.

I read your article, but was kind of disappointed that of the people interviewed, there was only one guy, who basically admitted to letting himself go and was really picky. As a man who is getting older, watching friends and family marry, and who has never really had luck in the whole dating department, but wants that -- the wife, the children -- the article resonated less.

Both times we put call-outs on the Web site asking to hear from people who've never found lasting love we heard from WAY more women than men.  I'm trying to figure out why this is.  I couldn't find any good studies that looked at whether single men or women are happier in life.  But I think it's worth exploring.  I hope you were able to find some things that resonated from these people's experiences, regardless of gender. 

Yet Married guys I end up talking to at sporting events or memoribilia shows have "wives who don't understand how they like sports"! Yet I remain single and am not "girly girl" enough for single guys! >:( I took care of my Mom through her health issues and only recently am I "free to date" again. Unfortunately, its hard to get back in the game when you no longer know the rules. What's your take?

I'm not sure what the rules are, exactly. I'd say, if you're interested, just go for it, and get back in the game. You'll find your way.


Thanks for an interesting article. Something else that I think played a big part for a lot of women now in or approaching our 60s, when we were in our 20s and 30s and wondering about getting married, was old-fashioned sexism -- The sacrifices we were expected to make in return for having a mate ... Including career and, for some, enjoying sex!

Thanks. Our view of marriage definitely seems to shift slightly with each generation. 

In your article you provided one example of a single man who had lots of dates but decided he was too picky - essentially, he didn't have room for someone else. The other examples were women who wanted to be with someone but for indeterminate reasons "it just didn't happen", and one woman who appears to be asexual. I'm curious - did you look for a single man who wanted to be with someone but for indeterminate reasons "it just didn't happen"? Did you look for a single woman who, like Geoffrey, essentially determined that they were picky and it wasn't worth settling? I guess where I'm going is that there was an undertone to the article that single men are so by choice whereas single women are often so based on bad luck. Was this a choice in how you structured the article, or were you unable to find counterexamples?

I will point out that we had a wide range of responses from men represented in our survey of single people:

On whether people make assumptions about singles: "People assume I'm either a playboy or a Peter Pan. Some assume that I enjoy being single and that's it. All three assumptions are incorrect."-- Ted, age 40

On why he's still single: "I keep thinking I was standing in the wrong line. That I should have thought more carefully about where to attend college. The person I was looking for married someone else or just never crossed paths with me. Now that I am in my early 50s I don't know what I would do if I met her tomorrow." -- Steve, age 52

On the disadvantages to being single: "Loneliness, and the sense that one has been weighed in the balance and found wanting." -- James, age 61

why don't you write another piece, this one celebrating those of us who don't mope about being single?

Who's moping?

My single friends always tell me it's easier for men to date because there are more available women and fewer men for women to date ??? I don't know how this works, theoretically a relationship (hetero) involves one of each and I don't get how the women feel like there are so many more of them out there.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 88 single men over 18 for every 100 women.

What I find interesting is that it is assumed marriage means the one (I despise and disagree with that term but for shorthand...). I know many couples, many of the gay, who have been together more than 20 years and clearly have found the one, but cannot or don't want to marry. Let's expand our definition of committed, please.


Thanks for this spirited chat today. It was really fun! And let’s continue the conversation on my site. First Person Singular, Notes from an Unmarried Life 

Thanks everyone for joining us today. And for your insightful comments and questions. Please feel free to continue the conversation in the comments section on the story:

In This Chat
Ellen McCarthy
Ellen McCarthy writes about weddings, love and relationships for the Post. The On Love page appears each Sunday in the Style section.
Wendy Braitman
Wendy Braitman, 58, writes the blog "First Person Singular: Notes from an Unmarried Life," at
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