This is a thing: if you’re single in your 30s or 40s you can feel like you’ve missed a steamin’ big ship. Dominant discourse, sadly, goes like this: The pickings are slim; it’s all second rounds and baggage and receding hairlines. And it can feel helpless. Hopeless. Because you just can’t find people who fit the bill, who inspire something in your loins. Where are all the good men and women? They’ve been taken, you reason. You’ve missed the ship.

Image via Favim
Image via Favim

Whether we honestly feel this way in our more grounded moments or not, this is how our plight is often represented. But, I have another take; it goes like this…

By the time you’re in your 30s or 40s, your life is pretty ace. Most of us aim, at least, to improve our lives year by year (otherwise, what’s the point?!). And by this settled age, life is often in a pretty good spot, or, at least, better and richer than it was in our 20s: great friends, a career with up to 20 years back-end development, enough money to be able to not have to live off lentils and all-you-can-eat-Tuesday buffets, and to head to the pictures once in a while. You’re not frantically proving yourself. Perhaps you no longer work weekends. Maybe you finally feel you’re quite good at what you do. You know what hobbies make you happy. You don’t stay at parties any longer than you want to. You get the picture…

In an ideal world your partner should improve your life, not detract from it. Right? If a partner is making your life more difficult, and not not adding to your experience, then you probably shouldn’t be with them. Yeah?

So, add these together and you get this…

In your 30s and 40s, your standards for finding a partner are super elevated. Your personal bar for allowing anything or anyone into your orbit has lifted with each passing year, just as a course of nature. In my 20s it was pretty easy for someone to add to my life, because it wasn’t fully formed. When I started dating a guy at 21 we were building from a pretty low base, together. But now, my life is rich and varied and independent and fun and full. I don’t mean to sound as arrogant as I do when I say that my life now is too good for many men to be able to reach my personal bar. Or to be able to add to my fuller cup. It’s the logical truth of the matter, not self-flattery. It’s not because men are deficient (I hate this kind of approach to the issue – blaming men). I think it works both ways; my single male friends face a similar predicament.

And it’s not that a partner should exist to “complete” us. And it’s not my standards as far a man’s material qualities (height, looks, income, sense of humour etc)  have lifted. In fact, if anything, they’ve dropped (although, as I’ve got older and achieved a fuller life, such standards are literally immaterial).

And to my point. All of this doesn’t have to be a tragedy. Mid-30s and 40s singledom can be repositioned: some of us are single simply because our life is really rather good.

Would love to get your thoughts on this…I realise I’ve opened an inflammed can of worms…

Have your say, leave a comment.

  • I agree Sarah, I see so many of my friends in ‘sub-par’ relationships because they settled. They settled because they were afraid of being alone “one day”. I hate the phrase ‘settling down’ – why should I settle, and why should it be down? I’m turning 36 this year and I’m a conundrum to my family. They think I’m lost – when in fact, I’ve never felt so in control in my life. It’s been hard at times, sure, but I always said I’d rather be happily single, than miserably attached. The bar is high, but it also means we get to live our lives the way we want, in every way. Was lovely to meet you in London btw! I love your writing too… Always hits home. x

    • Kim

      perfect! I’d rather be happily single, than miserably attached!

    • OrganisedMuslimah

      My sentiments exactly. Life is hard enough as it is without settling for a sub-par relationship and the issues that come with that.
      When something that is supposed to enhance your life actually detracts from it, you have to ask; where’s the logic?

    • In need of snow

      I’m happily married with two small children. I hate people referring to me as a mother or a wife. I am ME!
      I never wanted to get married OR have children, but things changed somewhere along the line…lol
      Anyway….I’m almost 37 and no matter what stage you are in your life, the family always asks, ‘what’s next?’ You’d think by fulfilling their ‘desires’ already (Uni graduate, career, married, children, house, travel etc), they would no longer ask…well, the truth is, they never stop. After you fulfil the above, they ask for even more!
      My long winded point (and vent lol) is that you only need to please yourself, and if anyone questions your happiness, tell them to mind their own business! There is no right or wrong way to live life, but it is necessary to define your own happiness. That happiness comes in many forms and many relationships, not marriage or kids. So tell the family to shut up and worry about their own lives!
      In saying that, relationships are hard, so the sub-par relationships you are referring to, may just be the norm of ups and downs that every couple goes through. You can’t possibly live a fairytale existence with your significant other, that’s the reality of life. There are amazing days, and there are, quite frankly, some really shitty days!
      Having to justify your existence to others is ridiculous! If you can wake up in the morning, happy and fulfilled, then that is a match made in heaven 🙂

      • NotYourAvg

        Amen to that! Thank you.

  • Lauren Sime

    I totally agree, I have a two gorgeous kids, a lovely home and an amazing career. Any man would have to be pretty damn special if he wants to come into my world.

  • Carol D’Elboux

    Amen to that Sarah!

  • Nicola

    Couldn’t agree with this more Sarah. This extends to new friends too, so glad I learnt this at 26!

  • SB

    Agreed. I too am turing 36 this year and there are a lot of men and women in this generation that are not currently in relationships. The difficulty is the judgement from others but no one actually asks about me, my processes and my experiences. Although I would like to be in a relationship again, there is something in me that is for me and it is through, what I believe is the process, of truly finding my essence. And nothing can really top that! Sometimes the soul that has been so deeply touched and transformed can’t go ‘back to normal’…and I wouldn’t want that anyway.

    • Barb

      I met my husband at 36, we married at 38. He was worth waiting for.

  • Nicki Ferguson

    I agree with the sentiment… so long as we don’t close off from the opportunity to be open, loving, vulnerable with others. I feel that our most intimate relationships are the ones we learn from most – the ones we find hardest to hide from… the ones who reflect how we are being. Perhaps the ultimate relationship is with self but I do feel many of us (myself included) need to find great courage to be as loving and honest and open with others as we are with ourselves. Perhaps the true measure of whether our life is truly full (from within) is if we do allow ourselves to love, without guard. If the other doesn’t do the same and we can easily (and lovingly) let go and not take it personally – i.e. make it ‘our’ hurt or issue – then could say we are then full of love, or rather, are truly living love. And that is a very beautiful thing indeed.

    • EKougi

      Nicole, such a great comment. I found that to allow myself to be in an intimate relationship required a lot of courage on my part. Much more so than traveling solo around the world, or deep soul searching.

      The challenge I find is bringing to the table the great things in my life, whilst showing respect to us as a couple, and to him as an individual.

    • Romeo Bewicke

      Thats perfectly said Nicole 🙂 I am 41 next week and had two long term relationships back to back since I was 19 with two very special people. I feel a little lost right now being on my own for the first time in my life, but I am also enjoying it. I try to live decisively and take any opportunity that I think will enrich my life, after all there are no mistakes and everything and everyone that comes into our lives are on the way not in the way. I will fall in love again even though the bar gets higher every time. It was once said that “It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” 🙂

  • Aimee

    Hi Sarah at 27 I ended a relationship because it was making my life more difficult. I love being single and my life is improving so much on my own. I’ve finally taken the plunge into building an online business and have so much more energy to write and I am finally just being myself instead of feeling like I have to be who someone else expects me to be. I’m not in my 30’s yet but I totally agree with what you’re saying…life just keeps getting better and better xx

  • Andrea Wills

    Thanks for sharing Sarah, really great insights.

  • Jacqui Ish James

    I can’t agree more. But my life is pretty full in quite different ways to you!
    I am a sole parent to three children on the autism spectrum. Life is very busy but also very routined. There is simply no place for an extra person. And no need for one.

  • Guest

    Another timely post, thanks Sarah. I have been in a relationship for 6 years now but it has only been in the past year that I have asked myself the question of whether I’d feel happier on my own. I’m turning 28 in a few months and I feel like my life is in a good place: I am the most financially secure I’ve ever been, the career is on track, I can make plans for the future. But it seems my partner is not quite on the same page – he never talks about plans for OUR future, things that we can achieve together. And that really bothers me because I feel that instead of allowing me to move forward, his position is keeping me in the same place. Your point about having a partner that “should improve your life, not detract from it” is something that really struck a chord with me because I have been asking myself that very question a lot lately. And I cannot answer it…
    I don’t know why society has decided that being single in your 30s and 40s needs to carry a stigma. I salute all men and women who have been brave and bold enough to stick to their instincts and know that they deserve much more than settling.

  • Anna

    Love this!! Thanks so much for sharing, refreshing to read and such a great (and so true!) perspective xx

  • Clara Mearns

    I agree totally with the statements of how settled you become, I feel everything clicked in my 30’s. However let’s be honest there is a reason people pair up, it’s for all the other stuff you can’t give yourself. I want someone to share in my success, my joys and failures. I don’t feel like I am missing out on anything but I certainly wish it wasn’t more difficult at this age to meet someone because of all this prejudgement that come’s with becoming wiser .

  • Ally

    I love so much that you’ve opened the gateway for fulfillment not to rely solely on having a significant other. I am so sick of people acting and voicing and implying that my life is not going to be ‘really’ fulfilled unless i am ‘in love’ . What about the fact that i’m in love with knowing what i want in life, i’m in love with my friends, i’m in love with the freedom i know is afforded to me because i’m not tied down to a significant other or babies; the list goes on. Not to mention the idea of variety which we all know is what is the essence of life. Experiencing new things, people, places, tastes, ideas. People in relationships get SO caught up in not upsetting the staus quo in case they in turn jeopardize their relationship, that they fall into the cycle of monotony. So. not. for. me. If I can find a guy who wants to grow, explore, try, laugh and run together, then i’d consider letting them in. Otherwise, i’m happy having my bed all to myself (except when i decide i want to share it for a night here or there ;)).

    • Ally

      haha i didn’t mean to inadvertently code!

    • Justine

      My sentiments exactly Ally. I’m 41 & my family think it’s a shame that I have not yet met someone. They think I’m missing out! I just said why when I a) don’t have to share the TV remote, b) clean up after anyone, c) can have the bed all to myself & d) I won’t settle ? I know what love feels like, but I haven’t met anyone since my ‘first love’ where I have had that intangible chemistry/connection with. I’m in no hurry, I believe what will be will be……a relationship will present itself to me when the time is right!!!

  • Hannah

    Thank you for sharing Sarah! I totally agree. Only recently a single gal as I left a relationship that was no longer serving me. I am more confidant now than I have ever been and know exactly what I want! The bar is high, but like you said, my life now is also rich, independent and full of fun. Everyday I look forward to what is to come Xxo

  • Rees

    I’d like to see what people think of this point. After my own relationship failures years ago I had to do some serious renovating on myself. This enabled me to hopefully live in a way that would fill the needs of the woman in my life and also my own. It worked so well that I went on to put together a website and work with men around these issues.
    However I have come to the conclusion that the majority of guys aren’t really interested in emotional/relational development, even when faced with the crisis of a relationships demise (which is the only time I could get their attention). I have a number of single female friends who can’t find a good man. The majority seem to be crippled by baggage, can’t meets their needs and in essence can’t man up. I think the problem here is there are so few guys that are of a high standard available. The choice seems to be to either go it alone holding out for a goodun or drop your expectations and put up with the fallout. Makes me sad. Rees

    • Sara

      Well darn…. here I’d been figuring that the likelihood of meeting guys with some life and relationship experiences under their belts (failed relationships included) would be far more likely to have done some soul searching and personal growth. I suppose it depends a bit on the kinds of social circles you travel in.

    • Justine

      Hi Rees,
      You make an interesting point. Why do you believe men are dis-interested in making relationships work? Is it because they think that women are on this planet to serve them & thus have issues with women’s needs & wants or is it simply that they don’t want to be held accountable for their own emotions/actions and how it affects their partner? It seems men really are from Mars & women are from Venus ?

    • fel

      I think men find it hard to understand feelings, their own and other people’s, so they busy themselves with the practicalities of life and don’t think about, examine or discuss them. Maybe it’s how the male brain works, maybe it’s to do with how they are brought up, maybe it’s a bit of both. I have been happily married for 21 years to a wonderful, kind, funny, empathetic man but even he thinks psychology and anything to do with working on your emotional/psychological self is a load of garbage.

    • Kim

      Any way you can share your website with us Rees? I have a ‘friend’ who could use some help after a break up. I know it is generally uncool to advertise, but doesn’t hurt to ask.

  • Kim

    You’re so en pointe! This past week I would have had this exact discussion with around 6 of my single mid 30s-40s girlfriends. Our standards have been raised and have not lowered even though we’ve been single for some time.
    Our point is: our lives are FULL on. Full of enjoyable activities, full of independence, full of things we love to do, and full of other single women friends. We’re all super happy, although a lot of us do wish we had an outstanding man to spend time with.
    We barely would even have time for our perfect man, being as busy being awesome as we are… so why would we make time for someone not even remotely perfect?

    • Michele Nerlin

      Where are you now? Have you found that perfect, outstanding man yet? Have you also realized that the people who end up in amazing, outstanding relationships understand that they are as flawed and imperfect as anybody else?

  • Raymond Poncho-moishe Webb

    I found that I settled once and was miserable. The second was a rebound where I just could not appreciate her because I was still shell shocked and should not have married either time. I have been single for five years and have been working on me. I like who I am now. Although, there has been much confusion with the lady folk when I refuse to move in with them after a few months of dating or I don’t use Love as a way to express emotion so quickly.

  • eli

    I love this because it’s true.

  • grace

    Great article Sarah, I think it is really important these day to be happy with who you are first before opening up your world to another. I also think it is about removing that particular checklist we all seem to have and being really open to different people coming in to your life who can inspire you.

    I also think traditional relationships are a thing of the past (not talking about not being monogamous ) just that we would all benefit from a perspective shift that may be a tad out dated.

  • Amy Jo Beaver

    At almost 29, I completely agree!!

  • Frauline

    Sarah, I love your stance on sugar but you’re article here is so far under meaningful radar one might think you wrote it in your twenties. Men aren’t hanging around waiting to better our lives. You ever hear of Yin and Yang? Two independent worlds united. Do you expect to make your partner’s life “better” or add to it? We aren’t serving

    • Frauline

      One another in marriage we are observing, enjoying, supporting and walking the journey together, and after you wrote “receding hairlines” you suggested no man with one could ignite your “loins” well a) that’s unkind and b) dead wrong – your narrowing the field to eliminate all the sexy bald guys out there? Have another look at those men please. Don’t descriminate. And stop thinking that your partner will be your own personal witness & audience. You will also be his and if you get that privilege you might learn about a world totally different from yours.

      • I don’t disagree with what you say, aside from the slightly patronising remark up front.

        • Michele Nerlin

          I’m sure by now you have found a wonderful, amazing man as you are such an exceptionally older woman yourself who only deserves the best!

    • Elle

      Just interjecting to defend those of us in our twenties: we too crave meaningful relationships in which we will love and grow as people and as partners! And secondly, although I really like your thoughts on marriage as a collaborative and lifelong learning process, and a privilege, I have to say that I don’t find this topic insignificant or without substance at all… quite the opposite actually. As someone who hasn’t yet had a relationship, I find pieces like this incredibly brave – largely because they require a degree of vulnerability and honesty that most people just aren’t willing to call on. I often wish I could speak about these sorts of things with my friends and sisters rather than have them lurking in my head, all hazy and unformed, but I feel unbearably exposed. So thank you, Sarah, for sharing your thoughts and yourself with us all. It’s a courageous thing to do.

  • Andrew Doyle

    Not so sure I agree entirely although it perhaps feels nice for us singletons. People’s paths and experiences are leading them to greater individuality and being more about the goals of the self. This doesn’t mean life’s fulfilled, don’t be so easily fooled by the media bandwagon and commercial pressures that promote less families and increased selfishness. For those fulfilled they are perhaps best to stay alone and not as many do fooling with the love of others. For those seeking love, wanting love, good luck and God Bless. I sincerely hope you can find everything you want or at least what you need. However having the view I’m fulfilled and wonderful does not then lead to love as you have left no space for your partner. You may gather experiences but it’s less likely you will find true love in my opinion. Be brave, be honest, be patient, be yourself and true love is more likely to appear.

    • Kerin

      I dont think its about finding or not finding love! I believe what Sarah means is that the norm today is to live in couples and I agree with Sarah that there is alot of people choosing to live like this with or without love just to be a part of the norm and because it is more socially accepted. Beeing a single woman I constantly have to defend or explain my choice, while no one is questioning couples with “Why did you chose to live with him/her?” And when it comes to love, I believe I have more love in my life then most of my coupled up friends! And being single is not equal to increased selfishness in the same way as creating a family is not a sign of beeing a great parent. Compromising and prioritizing is apart of ANY type of relationships

      But I also think that saying your life is too full or good for someone to enter is taking it a bit to far, and find that a bit scary. Just because you are single dosent mean you have to be alone! I rather see us move away from this norm and see that you can fill your life with any constellation of people. As long as you love, respect and find support in eachother – thats a family in my eyes.

  • Loz

    I agree that life is great in 30’s and you’re more settled within yourself but I do not believe my standards have elevated. Its nearly the opposite. With more self acceptance I have found myself more accepting of others and way more open to people. Right now, I know myself more, I know my head, I know my heart, I know my desires. I would talk to any man with any style and any type of look or desires as I love people and am open to finding a partner. However, the reason I have not found someone isn’t because my standards have elevated. Perhaps the people I have met are incompatible (that is the very few people I have met), perhaps I work too hard and am not making room in my life for the other, perhaps I am scared to open up my energies to the other, perhaps we use reasons such as ‘elevated standards’ to excuse or mask something deeper thats going on within us…. fear, vulnerability, fear of being truly seen. I do not know the answers but I can appreciate what you are saying. Food for thought!

  • kaz

    Just as long as everybody understands that being in a “meaningful” relationship is always going to be more fulfilling than going it alone. You may think that being single is great (and it usually is), but there will come a time when you realize that its not the holy grail to being happy.

    • I think the messaging is mostly the opposite – that coupledom is the holy grail. No?

      • Yes and if you’ve ever been invited to a mostly ‘consciously coupled’ event, then you will know and be made to feel that coupledom is the holy grail. Pfft.

        • Lewis

          Either way, our genetic imperative is that “the grass is greener on the other side of the fence”… It can be hard work to step back and actually ” be happy ” with where you are in life….

      • Michele Nerlin

        Sorry, most movies don’t culminate with people ending up alone for a reason…

    • SW

      Why does everybody have to understand what may be true for you? Please do not assume life is more meaningful to be coupled up in ALL cases – for that is a ridiculously arrogant and simplistic point of view.

    • TDMJ

      What an awful attitude, Kaz!

      Really, what you’re saying is, ‘I guess it’s okay to be happy with your lot, just as long as you understand the alternative is better and far more meaningful …’ – gosh, is this the way you speak to your friends who don’t (or God forbid, can’t ..) have kids – ?

      I mean this as a serious question – can you really not entertain the notion that someone can be at least as happy as you might be – if not moreso – having made a completely different choice to you?

      Or that happily single people might be so happy because they have wonderful meaningful relationships throughout every part of their lives – without having an exclusive romantic interest?

      x TDMJ

  • Jody O’Halloran

    Life does not have to be measured by whether you are in a relationship or have children. As a younger person in my late teens and early twenties I did not have either of those things, I really never met the person I felt I should be with, just crushes and sexual attraction was enough for me. Now, as an older person ( in my 40’s)! I have been referenced to that time by others, was I a lesbian or why could you not close a deal from making a casual shag into a fledged relationship. Like I was a failure. For me I was just having fun in my youth. Sure, my friends were in long term relationships, I did not judge them. It was just that I did not find my partner in life until my mid 20’s, I did not want to invest in a relationship to fill gaps. I wanted it to be on terms that were real and substantial, a person I had met my match with. Life is different and fulfilment comes in many different ways and from many different things. I do have a loving husband and three children but I also study and work, and that works for me, for my personal growth and if it does not work for you that is cool too, because life IS good.

    • Evo

      Jody, I share the EXACT same story as you! Thank you for sharing 🙂 …and frankly, I’m tired of the single vs married rubbish! Let’s just get on with our own lives and happiness, and stop justifying it to everyone 🙂 Here’s to HAPPINESS! (in whatever form we choose)

      • Jody O’Halloran

        Thanks for your reply and incite. Cheers to you and may your life be happy and merry!

  • T’Dubs

    Great article. I’m approaching 40 this year and i’m happy and content without a partner currently and love my life. However I seem to always get told – ‘this is your year to be happy and find that man’. When I meet him I will know – but it’s often hard to tell girlfriends that having your life together isn’t just about landing a man or having a child. There are many fulfilling things in life. We don’t all subscribe to the same ideals . I’m happy with that.

  • Sarah

    Great article Sarah. I agree with a lot of what you said. I’ve had a many long stretches of singledom – including most of my thirties. I don’t think my bar is higher necessarily just more flexible.
    I used to justify a lot of things to myself in relationships that I wouldn’t put up with now. Superficial things like looks and money aren’t as important to me as they were in my twenties I look more for what kind of person they are, how they treat me and others and how they make me feel. So my bar is a lot higher where it matters and nonexistent where it doesn’t.

  • Maz Compton

    Agree! Well said. When someone asks me, ‘how are you single?’ I usually respond with, ‘I haven’t met someone equally as awesome just yet.’

    • Hey Maz, Loveeeeeee that response 🙂 I think I might steal it xxx

      • Michele Nerlin

        Perhaps you don’t understand that you are a flawed human being who should probably lose a few pounds…

    • Zeli

      My stock answer was “I always expected to marry ‘up’, but now I realise there is no further ‘up’ to go”

      • Michele Nerlin

        Wow…most people who end up in fulfilling, romantic relationships realize they are just as flawed as anybody else. Good luck…

    • Michele Nerlin

      I would suggest that you are simply a narcissist and not that awesome. Sadly, your mating value does not go up as you age. Perhaps, come back down to earth…

  • Sara

    Oh. My. God. Yes.
    I just turned 32… and was essentially in one relationship or another from the age of 18 until 31. All live in, share finances and everything type relationships. In some cases I even had a few running simultaneously (as I’m polyamorous)… And I have a son who’s now 9.
    The last two relationships I had I kept at a bit of an arms length… kind of slowed things down… and it’s been this transition to true singledom.
    I’ve had so many profound shifts in my mindset over the past… month even! I’ve been learning more about feminism and seeing some issues that I’ve carried with me my entire life that I’m just now recognizing, and healing.
    And I am SO happy. So satisfied. So completely content with my life. And I love that I have so much space to get to know ME, to develop a stronger circle of close friends, to spend really high quality time with my son, and to work on building my businesses and giving gifts to the whole world… not just the person (or people) who are my intimate partners.
    And it’s so sad how many of my friends have awful relationships. I have always had high standards for my relationships but they are definitely far more elevated now that I’ve got some experience under my belt.
    After dating someone who was impatient with my son… I have no desire to date anyone that isn’t absolutely amazing with him. That’s definitely a standard that has been raised. After realizing how much I was conditioned to just let guys take what they needed from me… yeah, I’m all set.
    I wish I was a bit more well off financially – but at this age, I know that I can survive on my own (vs. when I was a young single mom and had only ever lived with a boyfriend or my parents) and I know that if I really need another person around to help pay the bills… I can get a room mate. I really did spend my 20’s being supportive and taking care of every other person in my life… and didn’t focus on my career at all. But now I co-own a grocery store, and I have other business ventures in the works. Life is good 😉

    Oh, and I recently deleted my online dating profile because I realized that I’m just not really looking – and I’m not really looking for someone who’s “looking”. I’m looking for someone who’s incredibly happy with their life, who’s living! Not someone who’s decided they should put some effort into finding a partner. Plus, I’m too busy to give anyone on there any attention.

    • Jessica

      I definitely agree with what you said about “not looking for someone who’s looking”!

      • Sara

        Yeah, that’s a very specific kind of energy. I’ve dated a lot of people who were looking for a partner because they were unhappy alone. They felt incomplete. I don’t want to complete anyone. I want to spend my time with someone who’s whole, and happy and know how to source those things within themselves.

  • Hello Sarah, great post. Sometimes it’s not even whether someone else can live up to whatever ‘ideal’ we have in our mind, sometimes it’s just about choosing ‘you’ instead of someone else. I love my time alone, sometimes much more than my time with other people. I’ve always felt single, even when I ventured into relationships or fell in love, they rarely lasted, either because men found me too intimidating or perhaps couldn’t see that I needed them and left. Perhaps I didn’t. I remember feeling panicked around the age of 40.. thinking it was my last chance to find love. I’m now 54. Love affairs yes, a lasting relationship? No. Do I regret? No. I have a fear, bordering on the pathological of feeling alone or lonely when in a relationship. If i’m going to feel lonely I’d rather do it on my own. Is there a price? Yes, I do not and will not have children, which I am okay with most of the time. I realise I am probably not quite the demo of others here, but perhaps I give a view from the other side of 40 and into the 50’s. For most my age I am sure it is a terrifying prospect to be single, to have never married, I’m sureI am a rarity, most women my age, even if single have been down the aisle at least once and probably have children. Perhaps I am naive about a single woman alone later in life or perhaps because I am single I have retained a youthful enthusiasm for what might come next. There are no guarantees, no relationship can ever give you that. Don’t settle. We only do this once.

    • J

      Just wanted to say – Julie, what a thoughtful comment. Thank you.

  • Delaney

    I love this, the getting of this information into the general psyche of people is important. I’m 35 and struggle more with the preconceived notion of what is successful at this stage in my life. No matter what I have achieved, unless its closely followed by, husband and children, it seems to fade into insignificance. Which is really so very sad, isn’t it? Why do we define ourselves this way? I fluctuate between feeling empowered, happy and driven and kind of left behind and lacking.
    I would rather be happy alone than settle for second best. The problem my friends and I talk about though, which is a curse for women, is that ticking. That bloody ticking. Shits me. I don’t know if I even want kids but I don’t want to not have the option either.
    That aside, I am very much at peace with my own time, my own life, this relationship is the most difficult and awarding one I will ever have.
    Anything else is a bonus 🙂

  • I am in the older category, but I found love a second time around at the age of 50. Your statement about a partner not having to complete you really rang a bell with me. I prefer to think we complement each other and bring out the best in each other. We actually had dated as teenagers, but hadnt seen each other for 35 years. When/if you do find someone he will be a lucky man!

  • Guest

    Great article, thank you! good to hear this today!

  • JJ

    Best day to read this article – thank you!

  • Bell

    I see it as a fine line between those moments when you drift off desiring that special company of a partner – that is human nature. It’s good to be able to be on one’s own and so comfortably at that, life can be good and ever improving. I find the time spent on meeting new men to be very uplifting, connective and interesting – there are some beautiful souls out there, just as I am one too. I like being open to the possibilities until I feel ready to settle.

  • Emma

    My Mama divorced old Paps more than 10 years ago! Since then she has vowed to never remarry or let herself be locked into anothers’ way of living. She has shown me that you can do anything you want to – with or without a man. Love her for this more and more every year!

  • Penny

    Agreed! I’d rather be single than wish I was.

  • Secret Admirer

    You know, Sarah, I would totally take you out on a date if you were up for one!

    Would you even consider a mature 20 year old who has done a few incredible things himself and has a job and can take care of himself?

  • Lewis

    Perfectly said Sarah! – what’s your number?? ?

  • Steph

    What a great blog. I can’t agree more. I love my single life and that’s not to say if someone came along I wouldn’t let them in but I feel so comfortable that if they don’t I know I will be perfectly fine. Turning 40 was a bit scary but as you say I now know myself so much better that I can enjoy the things I do and avoid the things I don’t.

  • Razz

    From a guys point of view this topic sounds very similar to a trailer/movie I saw a while ago.

  • Ren

    I think this is great attempt to change the discourse around being alone in your 30s/40s. Absolutely, single people have great, rich and exciting lives. Somehow though, when the public discourse towards women is so directed at characterising being alone (and childless) as a form of lack, it is very hard to negotiate personal sadness or desire with what appears to be a very public failing by normative societal standards. This is what i find hard. Our whole society is geared towards couples AND there are obviously some wonderful benefits like intimacy, sex, an automatic breakfast partner etc. This makes the personal negotiations of wanting to find someone/i’m happy with my life hard to explore when it is seemingly a very public transgression to be alone. Good work on being brave Sarah.

  • Jessica

    Thanks for this Sarah! I really appreciate hearing someone put to words the thoughts I have been thinking about for some time. I recently ended something for the main reason that he wasn’t adding to my life… and really I was more lonely in the relationship than I am now out of it. I think it is important to realize that I have built a pretty “cracker jack” life for myself and while I would love to find someone to share it with.. I don’t want to share it with just anyone. It does make dating harder and the dating pool smaller but.. we must continue to have hope right?

  • denniallen

    And when you’re in your 60’s your standards are either super, SUPER, SUPER elevated….or you are simply very content to be on your own. Happiness is a state of mind. Not a man (or woman)

  • Anthony

    When I have been out with friends that are in good relationships, I tend to think more about being in a relationship than when I’m with others. I have elderly uncles, aunts that have never married, but have lived happy, healthy lives. When I think about it and put it all into context, isn’t that what we all want, happy healthy lives.

  • Niikii

    I hate go against the grain but life has taught me some simple observations.
    1) The older you get the more stuck in your ways you are, and the less compromise you are willing to make. One is more established and is less likely to alter their ways to be with their significant other, and more likely one will be to easily throw something away that could have been meaningful. The younger one is, the higher tendency (although not always, just generally speaking) one is likely to be malleable, flexible, compromising, understanding, willing to please, and moreover extremely SOFT and loving, and it is harder for them to throw away meaningful relationships. The fact is life is tough and it toughens a person. That’s why most guys in their 30’s and 40’s are still going for girls in their 20’s – their softness! True story. Its not their looks… because everyone knows most men prefer the confidence and prowess of a woman in her 30’s and 40’s, over the looks of a 20 something. Its her attitude, and willingness. (sounds archaic but don’t shoot the messenger!)
    2) From experience and general observation, the softer one is, the more rewarding and the more dedication they receive. The more you give the more you get.
    3) Sarah, your comment ” I don’t mean to sound as arrogant as I do when I say that my life now is too good for many men to be able to reach my personal bar. Or to be able to add to my fuller cup.” sounds like you are trying to convince yourself. Its natural and evolutionary (and paleo, if you will) that one should seek a partner (not procreation-ally speaking, but in terms of emotional higher order needs). No matter how high and mighty one may appear to themselves, there will always be a natural need to seek a partner. So its one is better off being realistic and approaching the matter with a balanced wisdom, not all one way or the other.

    Personally, I’ve never seen or heard of anyone with a better marriage than mine! Its divine!

  • Merit La Frenière

    As one of those desperate young girls who married young to get away from her family, and thus have been married in some form or another my entire adult life, your single life (surfing, hiking, bicycling in foreign cities, cooking healthy, interesting food that your bratty kids won’t eat) looks like a dream. I read your blog to escape and live vicariously through what looks like your iindependent, idyllic freedom.

  • OrganisedMuslimah

    I’ve got a motto that I’ve had for the past 4-5 years: “I can do bad all by myself”

    Not that I intend to do badly at all! But I agree with you on the point that although a life partner does not complete you, they should be expected to add something to your life.

    My grandmother told me once “when a woman is rich, her money becomes her husband”. Lol as funny as that sounds, I agree in the sense that, nowadays women have to rely on a husband for a lot less (namely basic life necessities), meaning that we can afford to not “settle”.

  • I became single again at 35 after my marriage ended. I’ve learnt a lot about myself, life and what I want in the 18 months since he left. It’s been hard but my life is better. I recently ended another relationship because a partner “met” a 25 year old and had an “instant connection”. He was confused, I wasn’t so I let him go. That was 3 weeks ago – now he wants me back, I can’t get him out of my life. Unfortunately for him, he wants his cake and to eat it too – he wants a partner and a mistress. I don’t NEED a man so I don’t NEED or want him. At 36 I may not know exactly what I want but I know exactly what I DON’T want.

    This is my blog about being single in my 30s – my recent post is Ten things I learnt from getting divorced in my 30s.

  • Campbell

    Totally resonate with this. Having been in an incredible dont-think-it-can-be-more-love-filled relationship for 5 years in my mid 20’s, felt shocked to lose it as if it were my only chance. But it’s caused me to look at stresses and anxieties which I didn’t really comprehend were affecting my life so much. Now I follow my passions relentlessly and my entire world has been flipped on its head in such an incredible way, living a life I didn’t think was possible.

    There’s a great Osho card about the difference between being alone and being lonely. Loneliness is thinking about the ‘other’, the absence of oneself, assumptions about your need for a partner and your deficiency without one. Being alone is the presence of oneself, an overflowing presence, able to fill the whole universe with your presence and not needing anybody to satisfy a socially conditioned idea that you should be with someone.

    If you can be in that place and then find a partner is the magic. But you don’t necessarily need this. Find love in friends and family too. Otherwise if you chase a relationship you are likely short changing yourself and plastering over the cracks of attachments you have within yourself that satiate confidence issues you have with yourself.

    Thanks for the reminder! It’s a tough one, love is so powerful and spellbinding. Just make sure it is love and not thankfulness to be not lonely anymore.

  • Stellina

    I am a few months off 31 and have been single since my last relationship ended at 25. After having to piece myself together again after that, I have a fantastic life and feel more “together”, contented, and purpose full than I ever have. I have beautiful friends, family and pets, a steady job that allows me the time, funds and flexibility to make great leaps in everything else I am working towards, and I am definitely living in accordance with my desires, values etc etc etc. I have softened. I am more open, less hidden behind defence and bravado. More interested in finding out the stories of others, making meaningful connections and being real.
    But I still get these awful, gnawing moments of loneliness. I still wonder “why not me”. Watching all my friends go through the cycles of single to blissfully (yes, truly) in love over the last 12 months is so wonderful, but it still has that edge of hurt. I am thrilled and supportive for them, but devastated that I am yet to find my person, because it’s what I desire so deeply. I’m not ashamed of wanting it. In the sadder moments I remind myself that there is no grander reason for it – that I simply “haven’t met him yet” (THANKYOU Sara Eckel), but occasionally it still cuts deeply.
    Yes, my life is definitely good. Yes, I love my life. But that shouldn’t be the reason for not finding love. To me, that feels perverse. Good should attract more good. I shouldn’t have to “comfort” myself wit the fact that life is good, so that’s the reason I haven’t met my person. The goodness, the openness, the adventure – that’s the stuff that makes me want to share. Otherwise it’s like baking a beautiful big (sugarfree) chocolate cake and realising there’s nobody there to enjoy it with you. That doesn’t mean you can’t love the heck out of that cake… but wouldn’t it be even lovelier to share?

    • Clementine Rose

      I can completely relate to what you are saying, Stellina, especially regarding watching close friends form great partnerships, having children etc. I too am genuinely happy for them but also find it hard not to feel left behind and to feel like a bit of an outsider, just observing others moving on with their lives… I have sadly discovered that many friendships seem to greatly diminish post marriage/babies, not because they stop caring, but because they are too frantically busy and exhausted to catch up or even return a phone call. Some days it doesn’t bother me and other days it feels painful and lonely.

  • aliballismalli

    Fully agree Sarah, and thanks for putting the matter in to a digestible form – i find it difficult to voice these sentiments without coming across as too self-satisfied/arrogant. I’ve lately described myself as ‘solo’ rather than single .. it feels like more of a conscious, cup half full kind of choice rather than just what you are left with when a relationship ends.

  • Nicole

    My last long term relationship ended when I was in my late 20’s and until recently had been single for 6 years. Those years were tough – there were times when I thought I’d failed, but I also learnt more about myself is those years and I’m, now grateful that I “got to know” myself. I learnt how I operate, what I need (or don’t need) in my life, who is suited to my lifestyle and who isn’t. I finally worked out that I didn’t need people in my life who weren’t making it any better, they didn’t really have a place. You’re words just reiterated that! Thanks for the reminder!

  • Sherri Goodman

    It’s an interesting perspective now being over 50 and married. In my generation (sounds funny to hear myself say this) getting married was still expected/hoped for by my family. I didn’t get married until I was 30…going on the late side for age. And it seemed to me that every relationship I was in leading up to “Mr. Wonderful” kept improving (not the right guy, but better than the last one). By the time I met “Mr. Wonderful” I was so well-versed in what I wanted and expected in a man and a relationship – qualities along with attraction – it didn’t take long to realize we found in each other the qualities and enjoyment of being together was much greater than being separate. And if you ever pay attention to the words in a wedding ceremony – the whole point of a marriage is that being with that special someone is greater…you’re a team. Your partner enhances your life, not detract from it. Your qualities and skills dovetail with your partner’s and together – it’s really wonderful. Are there things my husband does that irritate me? Sure – but for the most part – it’s been pretty fun, 20+ years of fun. Every so often I have to remind myself that he was a fully functioning adult way before I met him…and quite capable of taking care of himself. Ha ha – I laugh because I come from a long line of women who are leaders and husbands who play supporting roles in family dynamics. 😉

    I tell my grandkids (from husband’s first marriage) – if the relationship’s not right, don’t stick around hoping it’ll get better. Cut your losses. But at least give it a chance to see if the relationship will blossom and then sustain the bloom. And remember – it takes two. You have to give of yourself as much as the other person. And you have to be willing to be vulnerable and also to walk away. Most importantly, never lose sight of who you are and what you want in life. You have to be true to yourself and be yourself, otherwise a relationship with anyone else won’t work anyways.

    I never wanted kids. I was totally okay with being single if I never found a partner in life that made living so much richer. My career has been successful. I was and am involved in my community. I have a bunch of friends and supportive family.

    I have friends who are in their 40s and 50s and 60s – still single, and totally happy with that. Shoot – I’d say they’re doing more than I am. It’s a lot easier to take off at a moment’s notice for a road trip…amongst other things.

    I think it comes down to the choices in your life – what you want to achieve, who you want to be with or without, how you want to live. If it makes you happy – great, do it. If it doesn’t fit in…don’t do it. 😀

  • I finally found the right person at 41 and it is great – plus I get to be a step mum having never had kids of my own. It was worth the wait and I am glad I waited.

    I did get a little sick of all the sympathy votes – but personally never understood why going to the movies alone was such a big deal – more popcorn for me I thought 🙂

    Yes it is nice to be with someone – but being alone taught me that being alone and being lonely are very different; I can cook for one without filling the freezer with left overs; my partner can go away and my world does not fall apart; silence really is golden; and not having kids of your own will not kill you!

    Be whole and be happy…..

  • mw

    So I guess this means you won’t be signing up for the next ‘ Love/embarrassing weirdness comes to town. ‘

  • Jess

    Absolutely love this article. Thank you thank you thank you! x

  • Mars Just Me

    Love the article Sarah — more and more each day I feel at ease with being 43, single, never married, no kids – simply because I have not yet met the one who will enhance my life – I learnt the hard way of putting up with someone “just because I didn’t want to end up on the shelf” – now 6 years later – I’m happy being me !

  • sally

    perfectly written, and oh so true, especially the bit about life being really rather good. What a nice ending to a fairly full on week.
    Im now heading off to pour a friday vino – for one – and that makes me happy. 🙂

  • Christine

    I love this article. It’s exactly how I feel! At 42 and a single parent, I’m more confident and happier than I’ve ever been. I love where I am right now and while I haven’t ruled out the idea of a partner in the future, I’m certainly not looking and my bar is pretty high now, for the exact same reasons as you, Sarah.

  • trevor otto

    The general vibe on this forum is onwards and upwards towards betterment or perfection, which is fine, but it is only when we can accept and appreciate another’s imperfections as part of the package that things become real !

  • Priscilla

    Thanks Sarah. Yes the live improvement is incremental – thanks for pointing out those things, they do take 15 to twenty years and not be taken for granted!
    I’m 35 and was discussing this the other day with an older married male friend. He said you seem like someone who enjoys your own company (true, but I take that for granted) and some people get married and even have kids because they don’t have that same level of contentment in their own company.

  • M

    What an insightful article. I thought I would add my two cents – as a married (9years) mother of two there have been many times I have thought I would enjoy aspects of being single again. I am 33 and although brief I enjoyed my years as a single person. What I wish now for people to realise is it’s not always rosy in the married corner and quite often there isn’t time to finish that argument or discussion as one of the children interrupts yet again. Despite that the happiness that comes from sharing with someone is what I think makes any kind of relationship worthwhile, someone that you can at least share a laugh with in your later years whether that person comes in the form of a current/ex husband, wife, lover or friend.

  • Amanda

    That just totally hits the mark, Sarah! It’s refreshing to hear such musings…ones that often cross my own mind. The closing line is the truth!

  • Peta

    I’m nearly 42 still want kids but never been married, never been close.. I go through shifts of feeling that something is wrong with me and then thinking it is because I don’t accept second best and I am completely comfortable on my own.. my life always seems to disintegrate when I am with someone.. it’s that whole need to be with someone yet life seems to be much better when I am on my own… I must admit I am struggling with the fact that I will probably never have children but once I get past that I really think my singleness won’t be an issue…
    I will still want the companionship but the base need to be in a relationship to have kids will no longer be a factor… I also see too many relationships that really aren’t relationships but two people in the same orbit and I am glad that I am not in that situation…. Thanks Sarah for reminding me that I am not on my own here!!!

  • MizzCheryl

    I’m 59, but this still hits home with me. I was very unhappily married, but the longer I’m single, the more I like it. My kids are grown and gone and I’m not accountable to anyone. Outside of work, I can do whatever I want, volunteer where I want, vacation where I want, and I love that. I can be spur of the moment. People ask me if I’m worried about growing old alone. I remember looking over at my husband one night and thinking, we have nothing in common. I don’t even like him. What on earth will we talk about when the kids are gone? So no, I’m not too worried about it. Certainly not worried enough to rush out looking for a man to take care of me.

  • Rachael

    Yes I agree, I am 44 and find myself single after a relationship that started at 18. It wasn’t my choice to split but I realise that the marriage wasn’t good and I was hanging onto it out of fear of being alone. It’s pretty scary but I know I’m strong and am embracing the future. I would like to meet someone but realise that it’s not as easy as when you’re in your 20’s. Still it’s better to be alone with some dignity than with someone who makes you feel crap.

  • Eliz

    I don’t think there is a guide, or a manual, to having a successful relationship and if there even needs to be a strict measure for success. I do think, though, that it isn’t helpful to adopt a ‘me’ vs ‘them’ attitude. What has helped me is understanding why I have turned out the way I have and how I react to others around me. For example, I have found something (late) in my life I love to do (writing) and put much less pressure on my partner now, to fill in the gaps that were missing. Also as I get older, I also feel the norms place on me when I was younger – to alway be the one looking after others, to act out the numerous roles society pressures on to women – have much less influence on my conception of who I am. for your honest post.

  • Eliz

    Thx for your honest post.

  • Richard J D’Souza

    Nothing wrong with being single. Any relationship requires compromise. I see it as a 2 way exchange. What can you add to each other’s lives? If you can’t, don’t bother!

  • simon

    You’re nobody “till somebody loves you…

  • Sharron

    43 child free by choice, and starting to realise single by choice, your post resonated with me so much. I don’t expect Brad Pitt in the looks department because I am no Angelina Jolie, but I have a really good life with a lot going on. I am not anti finding love, and am open to the idea of it, but in the meanwhile I am not going to mope around bemoaning my single status. I embrace it. In other news I just bought your I quit sugar book….I am going in…wish me luck 🙂

  • Kristin Jade Neuwirth

    I send people to you to quit sugar, but now I think I may be sending them for dating advice. Empowering.

  • K

    I thought my single life was pretty great. So much fun, no need for man or children – I loved it! Then I went on a few dates with a great guy who I’d previously considered ‘not my type’ I resisted for a long time because I wanted something more (exciting? adventurous? glamorous? I didn’t know…). When I stopped resisting my life happiness increased in ways I could never have fathomed. We are now married with children and I feel like I am the luckiest person on earth.
    He was not the man of my dreams, but I gave it a chance and found that he made new dreams become a reality, and that reality was far better than any dream. Sometimes you just gotta go with the flow, It could take you somewhere even better!

  • Age for me has always just been a number, and i have never lived my life by it. This week I turn 49 I am happy , and I look and feel fantastic. This is what is important to me! I married at 48 ,divorced after 7 years . Now I am in a great relationship, for three years now , with a man that is ten years younger than me, and the fun in my live continues.

  • Andy

    I’m a 32 year old male, just out of a 4 year relationship and I hate it. I’m a gentleman, apparently attractive, have a good job, healthy lifestyle, good upbringing… I guess what I’m trying to say without sounding like a complete knob is that I’m a good person and I feel deserving of having someone to share my life with. Now that I’m into my 30’s all those feelings of being washed up and fear of ending up alone are hitting me. Whilst the article and Sarah’s outlook is admirable (and I know that I too can enjoy aspects of life on my own) I just know in my heart that being in love is what I want, and I’m scared shitless that I won’t find it.

    • Anon

      Hi Andy.

      I am also 32, although female, and recently out of a 7 yr relationship.

      Be patient and be kind to yourself. It will take time, but use this time to ponder, heal and focus on yourself.

      My theory is, if you’re happy and healthy within yourself, you’ll find you’re more likely to find quality in the future.

      Have some fun…..its damn scary but it’s all experience!

      Desperation breeds unhappiness and unfulfillment (is that even a word?)

      Good luck!

      • Andy

        Thank you 🙂

    • Michele Nerlin

      The fact that you are so self-reflective and honest about your desire for companionship probably means that you are one of the few commenters here that are not still single.

  • Ron

    The idea of marrying beneath you is a red herring. What I hear, is that I am SO good, and I show no affects of aging, that only the finest, most successful men are good enough for me. At least your self-image is still fully both functional and delusinal.

  • SkewedPerception

    Being single is better than being in an unhappy relationship but it’s still painful and lonely and awful and no amount of success in any other area of life really makes up for it.

  • Matthew Bayer

    I’m glad that so many people are happy with their lives, married or not. My own experience has not been so pleasant, and before any assumes I’m playing the martyr, I full accept the flaws as my own. I settle down during college and was gas-lighted by my child’s mother for the bulk of ten years. After leaving her over her cheating, I dated and fell madly in love with an old high school friend. When that fell apart last year, I was left alone and broken. My “career” never blossomed during my 20’s. My friends are better classified as “fair-weather” in most cases. I survive on minimum wage, and live as a stereotype; white male, 30’s, living in parents basement. Any career options I’ve searched for are fruitless and I’m severely co-dependant. I’m doing what I can to fix my failures, but it’ll be well into my 40’s before I’m where I should have been at 30. Chances of being “happy” anytime soon are fairely small. I am glad that I’m an exception, however, perhaps even a cautionary tale.