Last week, we discussed the many ways singles are discriminated against. From “smug marrieds” thinking you could never be happy as a single lady, to having society judge you harshly for being uncoupled, single status can be a heavy burden to bear. In the last article, I neglected to mention the word frequently used in the past to refer to a single woman, especially one over a certain age: spinster. What are the chances of getting married over 40 or 45? They’re probably not as bad as you fear.
Fortunately, we rarely hear the word spinster anymore, but it highlights the history of our cultural negativity associated with single people, especially women. In the 1980s, there was a nasty rumor that was going around and perpetuated the idea that a single woman over 40 had a better chance of being killed by a terrorist than ever marrying. Although the “statistic” has been debunked, the fear that the chances of getting married after 40 are dismal lives on for many single women today.
Why did this rumor make people so anxious? It was a quote from a famous movie back in the 1980s called Sleepless in Seattle. When the main character heard it, she protested that it wasn’t true. In turn, the person who said it, played by Rosie O’Donnell agreed. But then she said, “But it feels true.” When something feels true, even if it isn’t, we can become twisted into knots with anxiety.
What are the chances of getting married after 40?
People are marrying later; there’s no doubt about it. The average age that women and men marry now is almost 30. In fact, sociologist Philip Cohen predicts that a never-married white woman who’s made it to the ripe age of 45 has a 26% chance of marrying later in life, while a black woman aged 45 has a 49% chance. You aren’t doomed to being unmarried if you want to change your status at some point. And if you’ve been previously married, your chances are even greater of marrying again, except if you’re younger than 24.
So don’t let your anxiety over never marrying get the best of you. You don’t want to rush into a relationship or marriage because of some fear that you better hurry up or all your chances of marriage will dry up. It’s more important to find a partner and relationship that is suited to you, or it won’t last. To illustrate this point, let’s talk about two women with very different approaches to their single status, Laurel and Karen. Let’s start with Laurel:
Laurel’s friends had been married for years and became worried that she had not met a suitable man and settled down. It seemed like most of the men she dated weren’t interested in her, or she didn’t like them very much. She let her friend’s concerns get to her and soon began telling herself that she was being too picky and needed to find someone. Feeling pressured, she pushed a relationship forward with Bob even though he was on the fence about her. When she tried to bring up the idea of marriage, he said he wasn’t interested in marriage.
And what happened to Karen?
Karen really wanted a long term relationship, ideally marriage. Knowing the pool of available men might be smaller because of her age, she tried to reassure herself that she just needed one good man, and she began to believe it. She took a good look at her dating history and was very honest with herself about the mistakes she had made in her past relationships. She knew she couldn’t afford to make any more errors, so Karen began to explore the reasons why she made them and everything she could do to change her future so that she didn’t repeat her past dating mistakes.
Which woman, Laurel or Karen, do you think is more likely to marry in the future? It seems evident that the woman who wants to learn from her mistakes is more likely to have a better outcome than the one who lets her anxiety get the best of her. Although it seems obvious in retrospect, it might be hard to realize it’s true if you don’t want to look at your mistakes.
Remember the lay person’s definition of insanity? It’s doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same result. While it’s true that being single over 40 won’t kill your chances at marriage, wasting time on the wrong person because you’re fearful in dating is never a good thing.
Which woman are you, a Laurel or a Karen?
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