Relationships & Dating

Single and Happy? More Women Are Saying Yes

No longer so driven by financial needs, libido, nor emotional need — having established close friendships and family ties — a woman is freer to choose a path according to her true wishes.

Today, there is more of a stigma if a man remains unmarried than if a woman does. Older women who are active on the dating scene steer clear of the never-married man, considering this a “red flag.” I believe that this springs from an unspoken assumption that while a good man is hard to find, there is an abundance of “good women” — i.e. women who are emotionally available and willing to commit to a long-term relationship. A man who can’t find someone must be averse to commitment, whereas a never-married woman has the benefit of the doubt: she may be a victim of the shortage of non-phobic men.

Tracy McMillan, in a very controversial article on The Huffington Post website, titled “Why You Are Not Married,”says,

“. . . ultimately, marriage is not about getting something — it’s about giving it. Strangely, men understand this more than we do. Probably because for them marriage involves sacrificing their most treasured possession — a free-agent penis. . .”

Men who choose not to marry are saying to the world they would rather not be givers—they prefer to keep their freedom, their sexual options, and their love for themselves.

It is also assumed, implicitly, that men have an such an advantage that even the outliers—the seriously unattractive, underemployed, etc., can find someone, whereas the competition among women is fierce enough that only the top tier are immune from the risk of unwanted singlehood. The old trope that it is more likely that you will be struck by lightning (or become the victim of a terrorist attack) than you will find a husband if you are woman over 35 is an example of this kind of thinking.

But after divorce, given a choice, more women say “no thanks” to the idea of a second marriage than men do. This may be partly due to women’s increased financial independence. In the past, dependent on men for house and home, women had little motivation to be single. But without the need to be supported, many older women wonder if it’s worthwhile to enter another marriage in which a man may still expect them to do all the household work (as many still do) as well as bring in a paycheck.

Whether it’s a first or a second marriage, the idea of “choosing” not to marry can have different meanings. Rebecca Traister, author of All the Single Ladies (2016), says

“When I say ‘the choice to not marry,’ that doesn’t always translate into ‘I am a woman and I am deciding that I am not going to get married,’ or ‘I am rejecting marriage.’ The choice to not marry can also mean: ‘I would really like to marry or to fall in love or to meet someone, but I haven’t met someone who I feel is going to improve on the life that I am building and making on my own.’ “

No longer so driven by financial needs, libido, nor emotional need — having established close friendships and family ties — a woman is freer to choose a path according to her true wishes. This is in many ways, a breakthrough unique in the history of the gender. Previously, women have always defined themselves in terms of others’ needs but the never-married woman, the divorced, widowed, or the empty nester has more freedom than ever before to live the life she envisions for herself.

This does not mean that all of society has caught up with women’s freedom to define themselves, of course. It is dismaying how hard it has been to break the “glass ceiling” in terms of politics, equal pay, and reproductive rights. Marriage is a better deal for men: the happiest people, by self-report, are married men, followed by single women, married women, and finally single men. No wonder some women are not so eager to marry.

Maybe the secret is getting out. A woman without a man is simply that: without a man, but with the capacity to have a good, fulfilling life.


Traister, Rebecca: All the Single Ladies (2016

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