Let’s say you’re checking out someone who just might be your soul mate. Maybe a friend sent you a link to this person’s Facebook page after you agreed to be set up on a blind date, or perhaps you were matched up via an online dating site. You’re digging this person’s pictures, winning smile and non-smoker status…then, you notice that your potential life partner is past 40 and has never been married.
Suddenly, your excitement does a swan dive into a pool of doubt, suspicion, and — let’s face it — stereotypes and myths about the perpetually unmarried. If your prospective beloved has never been married, it’s clearly due to anger management issues or a cat-hoarding obsession, right? But if you let those kinds of assumptions guide all of your dating decisions, then you just might be missing out on finding The One. Your first step on the road to an awesome relationship should be questioning these common myths about the never-been-married dater… regardless of whether you’re a man or a woman.
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Top five misconceptions about over-40 bachelors:
1. “He’s probably a jerk.” Well, it’s true that he might be — but there are plenty of men out there who have been married who have the exact same character flaws. When it comes to online dating sites, this particular trait is more likely to reveal itself in places like photos and usernames (i.e., he’s shirtless in front of the bathroom mirror with a username like RichHotLover75). If so, marital status notwithstanding, he might be a jerk… or he might just be clueless on how to make the right impression on women.
2. “He’s a womanizer.” Just because a man’s never been married doesn’t mean that he’s spent his entire adult life in pursuit of the next notch on his belt. Marni Battista, founder and CEO of Dating with Dignity, believes that women conjure up this particular stereotype in an effort to gain control over the dating experience. “Their emotional safety is at risk,” says Battista. And stereotyping becomes a tool for women to determine whether a man is a safe bet before they get emotionally involved with him. “And if they ever knew a man who wasn’t married by the age of 40 or 50 but was a ‘player,’ they have further evidence that their false beliefs and assumptions are actually true,” adds Battista.
3. “He’s a commitment-phobe who’ll never marry.” In this case, the exact opposite might be true. Perhaps he was laser-focused on settling down before now, but his ex-girlfriend decided that she wasn’t quite ready to take the plunge when he proposed. We’ve all bet on the wrong partner before at some point in our lives, and there’s no reason to punish the guy simply because his previous relationships didn’t work out.
4. “He doesn’t want to have children.” Kids may not have been on this man’s radar 15 years ago, but people’s priorities do tend to shift quite a bit as they age. So now that he’s a few years older and is financially secure after building a successful career and paying for his education, maybe settling down and making babies are the next items he’s hoping to check off of his to-do list. Why make assumptions when you can just ask him instead?
5. “He’s just not good husband material.” Maybe he is, maybe his isn’t — but the whole point of dating is to try each other on to see how the other person fits, so to speak. This is why Jeremi McManus, founder of SF Relationship Coaching, recommends that his clients always ask the right types of questions on their first few dates with a new love interest. “The most important part of this vetting process is to find out whether the other person is responsive to your needs (e.g., gets back to your texts in a timely manner, makes you a priority, etc.),” says McManus, “because if this person doesn’t, you may be setting yourself up for a long-term relationship that is lacking some key elements.”
Top five myths about unmarried women over 40:
1. “She’s too ‘difficult’ for any man to deal with.” That word can refer to anything from someone who’s hard to please to someone who simply has her own ideas and isn’t willing to do what everyone else wants her to do — and neither interpretation is necessarily a character flaw. “The modern woman, at any age, is [very] independent,” says relationship blogger Anjana Dixon of The Anjana Network. “And if a man wants to go from stereotyping to making a real connection, he must go about his search with an open mind.” That “difficulty” that you think you’ve identified in someone’s personality may just be what makes her the perfect mate… for you.
2. “She’s desperate.” Lack of a past marriage doesn’t mean that she’ll accept a ring (much less a date) from just anybody. Maybe she’s been working her way through medical school or caring for an elderly relative until now, or feels no sense of urgency about children. So don’t go into the situation thinking that your B-game will suffice, because this woman just might end up dumping you before the waiter’s even taken your drink order on date #2.
3. “She’s too picky.” We all have the right to select the partner that’s right for us, and it’s possible that The One simply hasn’t crossed her path quite yet. Resisting the temptation to marry to the wrong person just for the sake of getting married should be applauded, not vilified — wouldn’t you like to be given the same courtesy?
4. “She doesn’t know how to be in a serious relationship.” “Remember that ‘never married’ does not mean ‘has never been in a serious, committed relationship,’” says psychologist Dr. Holly Parker. There’s no reason to think that a woman who’s never been engaged is in any way ignorant of how to be a good long-term partner. Parker notes that “we tend to only pay attention to whatever confirms our stereotypical beliefs, and we ignore anything that contradicts it.” So, in the interest of broadening your own horizons, Parker recommends looking past the lack of marital status and instead paying attention to any aspects of her personality that may indicate that she’s kind and easy to get along with before you pass judgment.
5. “She’s already married to her job.” These days, you can’t really blame anyone for working 60 hours a week — it may be the only way to ensure that you still have a job next month. But the truth is that women can (and do) successfully juggle relationships along with their demanding careers. And hey, if you can manage to balance both, remember that she can, too!
Dana Robinson is a freelance writer who frequently contributes to Happen magazine. Visit her at Dana-Robinson.com or follow her on Twitter @DanaRobinSays.