She’s confident, stylish, attractive, intelligent, successful… and single. She could be you, she could be someone you want to date… whatever the case may be, she’s also probably being judged. Many people can’t help thinking, What’s wrong with her? And that is so unfair! Just because she’s a woman who happens to be in her 30s or 40s — but not wearing a ring on her left hand — does NOT necessarily mean she’s “damaged goods.” And chances are, she’s just as tired of making excuses for her single status as others are of trying to figure her out!
Type 1: The married-to-her-job gal The assumption: She’s super-focused on getting ahead and feels that a relationship might thwart her from achieving her career goals.
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The reality: “It’s tempting to assume career-oriented women have focused too much on their work, thereby neglecting their love lives… and for this reason, they remain single,” says Dr. Anderson. “However, economist Heather Boushy analyzed U.S. survey data for over 33 million females and found that high-achieving career women are no less likely than average working women are to be married or have children by 40. We therefore shouldn’t assume a woman is single because she’s spent too much time at the office.” The bottom line: Statistics show that many successful career-driven ladies who have devoted a great deal of time and energy to their jobs have still managed to find Mr. Right and have a family, too. Therefore, it’s an erroneous assumption that this type of woman is single because she’s married to her career.
If this describes you: If you recognize yourself as this type of single woman but are looking for a relationship, it makes sense to take stock of your current lifestyle — if your career brings you joy and you have no interest in stepping away from the office, then don’t! “It is illogical to blame your career for preventing you from meeting ‘The One.’ If you love what you do, keep doing it,” says Dr. Anderson. “Besides, women are most attractive to men when they live full, exciting lives and are passionate about what they do.” However, if your job drains you emotionally, sapping your energy to such an extent that you lack enough enthusiasm for engaging in social pursuits, then it might be time to reconsider your priorities and your schedule.
Type 2: The Samantha from Sex and the City prototype
The assumption: Like a wannabe-Samantha Jones, this woman is all about enjoying the company of many men while she is still hot enough to reel ‘em in.
The reality: According to psychological research, individuals who live authentically are highly functional in many realms of life. “Specifically, living authentically is related to feeling good about yourself, reaching goals, mastering challenges, coping with stress in a healthy manner and having satisfying relationships,” says Dr. Anderson. “If our ‘Samantha’ type is resonating with her authentic self, we’d be remiss to suggest she should settle down and try to become more ‘Charlotte-esque,’ since authenticity research suggests that trying to change her core self would decrease the quality of her life.”
If this describes you: All of this speculation automatically assumes our Samantha’s “love ‘em and leave ‘em” attitude comes from following the whims of her true self. But, of course, such behavior often derives from a more dysfunctional place. “The inability to form long-term romantic relationships may stem from insecure attachments in infancy — most of us don’t realize how much our day-to-day functioning reflects back to the dynamics within our family of origin,” says Dr. Anderson. “Often, we unwittingly try to ‘correct’ deficits we experienced in childhood by recreating similar scenarios in our adult lives and ‘getting it right’ this time.” In other words, Samantha’s style may indicate either high or low states of psychological functioning. If you recognize yourself in this type but recognize that these behaviors are beginning to bother you, you might want to get to the bottom of it through individual or group counseling to sort out which part of your behavior is truly reflective of “you” and which part may persist from previous emotional wounds.
Type 3: The chick who’s always been TOO picky The assumption: Seriously, there are some women for whom NO man could ever fulfill their entire wish list of traits for a mate (i.e. handsome, rich, funny, neurosurgeons with a full head of hair who speak six languages). Naturally, they might run the risk (or choose to) end up alone rather than compromise.
The reality: Attraction is incredibly complex. “Sometimes we observe a woman who dismisses a suitor and wonder what her problem is — why would she blow off such a great catch?” says Dr. Anderson. “But recent psychological research shows that, although we think we know the qualities we find attractive, we are also influenced by forces outside our awareness. These factors play a strong role in moving us toward a particular partner.” For example, one guy might not smell right. Yes, you read that correctly: sense of smell may make the final call in determining who someone finds attractive. Specifically, women “sniff out” men whose immune systems differ from theirs, because coupling with these men will produce children with strong, healthy immune systems. It’s science, not science fiction!
If this describes you: It’s OK to be picky, but if you think your traits-I-want-in-a-mate list isn’t completely relationship-prohibitive (i.e. you know what your “must-haves” are and what you’ll relax on in your guy), then several additional points should be considered. “Given the fact that biology profoundly affects attraction, be open to the possibility that your ‘sniff test’ may lead you to a guy who doesn’t meet every criterion on your list,” says Dr. Anderson. “You would be wise to listen to your physiological responses — ultimately, the compatibility of your body chemistry may provide a stronger foundation for your relationship than the kind of car he drives or the amount of dough he’s got in his 401K.” Also, Dr. Anderson suggests considering birth control methods other than oral contraceptives. Why? Because when she’s on “The Pill,” a woman’s body “believes” she is pregnant and assumes she already has her mate, therefore causing the “sniff test” mechanism to malfunction.
Type 4: The “nouveau feminist” The assumption: She was raised by a mother who taught her she could do anything men could do...but possibly better. And that’s awesome! But her “can-do” attitude might make her appear so independent that it intimidates some men, who worry they’re unnecessary in her life.
The reality: This is a tricky one for today’s modern female. “Women hear contradictory messages. On the one hand, we’re told guys ‘need to feel needed’ but on the other hand, we also hear guys complain about how needy and clingy women are,” says Dr. Anderson, who relates the answer back to the research on authenticity. “If our ‘nouveau feminist’ remains true to herself, it’s likely she’ll eventually meet a man who’s drawn to her because of her independence and autonomy… after all, we tend to talk about an ideal marriage as if there’s one template to follow, yet this is hardly the case.” The reality is that there are millions of healthy marriages out there, and within each of these, unique relational dynamics are at work — it’s all about what makes sense for that particular couple.
If this describes you: “If you frequently chase away men with whom you’d like to connect, it’s not a bad idea to evaluate the vibe you’re emanating,” says Dr. Anderson. “When your feminist mom burned bras and marched for women’s rights, did she lace her pro-female statements with anti-male sentiments? If so, you may have internalized a negative attitude toward men without even knowing it.” How do you discern whether you’re doing this or not? First, do you catch yourself “male-bashing” with your female friends? When you hear of one man behaving inappropriately, do you consider his actions indicative of what all men do? If so, Dr. Anderson warns that you may hold a prejudice against men in general (also known as misandry), and it’s likely your pejorative perceptions come across to others in subtle ways — even on a casual first date. “Men pick up on it and aren’t interested in pursuing a relationship with someone who disparages them,” says Dr. Anderson. If you want a relationship, start trying to focus on the good things a man can bring to your life instead of worrying about the potential perceived headaches.
Type 5: The woman for whom it just hasn’t happened (yet) The assumption: She’s maybe some combination of all of the above types (or maybe not), but she’s not yet found a match that she’s willing to say “yes” to… possibly through no fault of her own. Timing and fate do play a hand in the love game, after all.
The reality: “This woman has heard it all — that she’s too neurotic, too clingy, too intimidating, too something — and yet, she’s stuck to her guns, refusing to force a relationship that doesn’t ‘feel right,’ believing her time will come eventually,” says Dr. Anderson. “Ultimately, we should applaud her for trusting her gut and not settling along the way.” More and more research shows that our gut feelings often point us in the right direction and we should pay attention to those feelings — not just for minor decisions, but major ones as well. “It makes sense, really. The same neurotransmitters that operate in our brains appear throughout our nervous systems — even in our stomachs — so there’s actually a biological justification for trusting our gut feelings,” says Dr. Anderson.
If this describes you: Get on with your life and enjoy all the fantastic elements of your existence! Timing and fate will eventually align; until then, create a full, fabulous life for yourself. “Don’t live in ‘the whens’— waiting for when you meet ‘The One,’ when you get married, or when you have children. That’s a waste of a perfectly good life,” says Dr. Anderson. “If the timeline of your life hasn’t played out as planned, what can you do about it? Nothing! It’s out of your control. But you can decide how to respond to the frustration of waiting for Mr. Right.” If you allow negativity to take hold of your life, it’ll fester even when good things do happen. Don’t let yourself become bitter, angry and jealous by believing you’ve been robbed of what was supposed to happen — the perfect husband arriving at the perfect time to give you the perfect babies, or whatever variation of that standard that would satisfy you the most. “A discontented single gal will likely become a discontented married woman — especially if she’s expected that finding Mr. Right will miraculously make her life perfect,” says Dr. Anderson. “Happiness is a choice. It takes work and effort, but it’s well worth it.”
Kimberly Dawn Neumann (www.KDNeumann.com) is a New York City-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Women’s Health, Marie Claire, Maxim and more. A frequent online contributor for Match.com’s Happen magazine, she’s also the author ofThe Real Reasons Men CommitandSex Comes Firstas well as the founder of www.DatingDivaDaily.com. She is still single and KNOWS she’s a catch!