Does being single have an expiration date?

One afternoon I was sitting at a Starbucks, doing a little reading, when I overheard a young woman (I’m guessing somewhere in her 20?s) making the following comment to a Barista (they were apparently friends):

“If a guy is 40 and he’s never been married that is a red flag.”

The interesting thing is that roughly around that same time, this subject was briefly discussed in a Podcast I listen to (from time to time) called ‘Sex with Emily’. In this podcast they had some listeners call in with their take on this topic. I was surprised to hear how many people agree with this and how it was all directed negatively towards men.

The above had me thinking, is there an expiration date to being single? How long is it “appropriate” to have never been married before you become the proverbial dating-leper?

Let’s apply this to both men and women?

Questions for you:

Guys, at what age would you consider it a ‘red flag’ if someone you were interested in dating had never been married, and for arguments sake let’s also include never being engaged. Why?

Girls, same questions.

I understand that this isn’t necessarily “black ‘n’ white”. There are always going to be possible unknown factors (valid factors) that could explain why a person has never been married/engaged.

I’m 31 and in a very serious relationship; but for the case of this conversation let’s hypothetically say I’m 40 and single.

Having never really been a “serial dater” let’s say by age 40 I have been in three (3) serious relationships (last 6 months or longer). Using historical data we’ll estimate that I dated about 30 girls in the last 20 years; dating being defined as having gone out on a minimum of 3 dates.

My estimated average of Serious Relationships to Girls Dated is One out of Ten (1:10).

I have a steady job, close friendships, extra-curricular interests; most of them social in one way or another. Unless my friends have been lying to me all these years I have a great personality, sense of humor, level head and many other admirable qualities.

What there makes me a dating liability? Why does the red flag go up? Knowing only what was written above, what would someone speculate that could be considered a “warning”?

17 thoughts on “Does being single have an expiration date?

  1. threeturtles says:

    [I don’t think there’s anything wrong with not having married by age forty. Sometimes you just don’t meet the right person until later. I suppose the common fear is that a man who’s gone at least twenty years with nothing serious is probably a commitmentphobe or a manchild, but I think that involves many more variables and things you just don’t know until later.

    But what if you’re forty and you’ve never had a relationship go past six months? What if you’re thirty and that’s where it is? Would you consider those red flags?

  2. Dennis Hong says:

    [Well, that’s kind of ridiculous and judgmental. I bet that woman is single…. :-p

    If a person is 40 and has never been in a relationship longer than, say, six months, THAT’s a red flag.

    But to never have been married? Meh. Not in today’s society, no. Not a red flag at all.

    Or maybe I’m only saying this because I just turned 38….

  3. fast eddie says:

    [I was 30 and divorced, all the available women had or wanted kids. I didn’t and had a vasectomy to eliminate that possibility. It was difficult but after a few years this factor became a deal breaker so many times that the effort to have a relationship wasn’t worth going through the breakup. For 7 years I was celibate but lonely which wasn’t all that bad. Lady Luck smiled on me and a long time friend was just out of a 10 year relationship. We’ve been together for the last 23 years. Bottom line on this is that it’s never too late to have someone in your life.

  4. BreckEffect says:

    [My stance on this has actually changed as I’ve gotten older, dated more, and realized that not everyone finds the love of their life by the time they are 28. Once upon a time, I would have said that a guy who is 40 and never been married probably has an enduring problem with commitment. But, I really don’t think that anymore. This is partially because I know a number of men in their late 30s, early 40s who haven’t been married and they are great guys – they just haven’t gotten married for a number of reasons, including not having met the right girl, being focused on other things (career, athletic endeavors are the big ones), and just maturing later and not being ready for marriage at 30 or even 35.

    Also, I’m now in my early thirties and I’m not even close to married, although I’ve dated a lot and had two long-term, serious, relationships. I’d hate for someone to judge me on that and conclude that I’m undatdeable because I haven’t gotten married.

    Honestly, I remember when I said stuff like “oh that’s a big red flag” re: someone not being married, and I think I was just immature and judgmental. It’s amazing how much you learn as you get older ;).

  5. PKP says:

    [Yeah, total bull. Some people get married. Some don’t. Both are fully capable of being complete assholes.

    This issue is definitely about marriage (that ring) being a status symbol. Wasn’t there some movie (with Alec Baldwin maybe?) where he talks about marriage/ring being a sign that you’re not gay, you’re not a pedophile, and you’re just generally “normal.” Something like that anyway. The idea of marriage as this kind of thing you have to do to be “normal” was invented by stupid people. They like to make up all kinds of arbitrary rules to make themselves feel better (usually they’ve already conveniently fulfilled the arbitrary criterion involved).

    Pretty childish bullshit.

  6. MitziM. says:

    [I remember my mother, after a big break up with a guy she was seeing, telling me “I’m 35 now, if a guy doesn’t want to get married after a year, I’m wasting my time waiting.”

    Granted, even at 15, I knew she was crazy, but that was her logic. She’s been married almost five years now after meeting a guy who was cool with the crazy.

    I think a lot of women, especially women in their 30’s, see a bright neon sign hanging over age 40 that reads “Spinster”. I could see a smart successful woman fearing the idea of having a 40 yr old live-in boyfriend and therefore take the logical route and look strictly at a mans “relationship resume” Like in the job world someone who quit is more desirable than someone who got fired is more desirable than someone with no experience at all. Only the list goes Widower, divorcee, bachelor.

    Personally, I don’t think being single has a strict time-frame. Everyone is different and everyone deserves to be happy. But I think this is the logic behind women raising “red flags” for certain ages.

    On the other side of things, I don’t think men see marriage as a social status. More so than men, women think that they’ve done something wrong if they aren’t married. Which means men are probably a lot less likely to worry about things like if a woman is “wife material”, men worry more about if their gal is ” best friend material.” So, I may be way off-base, but I doubt men factor previous marriages and engagements into choosing a lady.

    btw, before anyone jumps down my throat, these are sweeping generalizations. Of course not EVERY man is afraid to commit and not EVERY woman is running to the alter.

  7. Dave Jag says:

    [I’m just throwing this story out there as a singular example of how a person can get to middle age and still be unattached.
    One of my best friends desperately wanted to get into a serious relationship and jump into “real life”… you know, settle down and have a family and all. It took him up until he was 30-something just to realize that he wasn’t going to find a supermodel. In other words, he wasted over a decade because of his own unrealistic expectations. (We had many a long chat about that.) He was religious, so I was easily able to comfort him with the knowledge that “it’ll happen when it’s supposed to happen, and it will be worth it.” So, he called off “the hunt” and refocused on his own life. In a matter of a few years — during which he crossed the 40 barrier — he met the PERFECT girl for him and they are now married and fulfilled. She was 36 and had never been in a serious relationship either.
    Moral of the story? There is someone for everyone, and the right one is worth waiting for. Even if it takes 40 years!
    Personally, I think it’s a much bigger red flag to be 40 and have a string of failed relationships/marriages than to not have any at all.

  8. Solstice says:

    [If someone was 40 and has never been in a 6 month + relationship, then I’d probably consider that a semi-red flag. Someone who isn’t awesome enough to last with someone more than 6 months by the time they’re 40 – I don’t know. Maybe I’m being judgmental. But I certainly don’t expect someone to have been married by 40. That is not a red flag at all if someone has never been married or engaged before, by any age.

  9. Papa Geek says:

    [I think it kind of depends on where you are personally and what you’re looking for before it’s considered a red flag.

    Like if you’re young and looking for the fast track to marriage and kids, someone who’s single at 40 may be that way because they’re really not interested in getting married and having kids.

    Obviously this doesn’t hold true in all cases, but it would at least filter out the guys who think they’re George Clooney.

  10. Happy Pants says:

    [Actual reasons given to me by a friend why she won’t date anyone over the age of 36:

    “At 36, if you’re still single, there are only a few reasons as to why:
    1. You were in a long-term relationship or marriage and got your heart broken. Not a red flag, but too much baggage to deal with.
    2. You’re a manchild. I want no part in that.
    3. You’re a womanizer. I definitely want no part in that.
    4. You’re gay and don’t know it.
    5. You’re a commitmentphobe and/or completely undatable.

    I don’t see so much of a problem with it, unless the reasons you’re still single are one of three of those on that list. But I wouldn’t know that just by your age, so a lot of factors go into it. It isn’t just black and white.

  11. Sabrina says:

    [I’d be more concerned if someone were divorced 2 times by 40 than never married. Besides, maybe he’s never been married because he hasn’t met ME yet 😉

  12. Matt Sanchelli says:

    [I recall one thing that came to mind after I heard this conversation go down was the how a persons region largely played into this as well.

    This particular conversation happened basically near the center of the US (the midwest) where it is more commonly typical for people to pair up, get married, settle down, have kids and start a family. This was largely “proven” by the whopping large number of people I know in that region who all got engaged/married/had kids all before turning 30. This was a massive majority of friends.

    However, while living in Los Angeles, the number were completely opposite. I knew very little married couples that were younger than 35-40. It was perfectly acceptable to be single and 35 without anyone raising a finger.

    Definitely a difference in what people considered a “priority” on those areas.

  13. Kelly says:

    [I think a lot of fabulous potential partners can be overlooked when you believe singlehood has an expiration date. That quirky 40 year old who didn’t appeal to the masses could stir something in you.

  14. ladiejoy says:

    [Not a red flag at all. More like a smart flag… I’d take it to mean that the guy knows what he wants, and he knew better than to get married if he wasn’t sure about it.
    Hell, even a guy at 40 with a history of failed relationships wouldn’t necessarily be a red flag – sometimes people just have bad luck in love.

    But then I’m always the type to see the good in people no matter what, sometimes to a fault…

  15. threeturtles says:

    [The guy who recently shattered me is thirty and has never had a relationship go past six months. Additionally, he has lived at home for the last seven years, has nothing saved up despite having no bills, has been backsliding in his career for the last five years (as in actively moving backward in rank), and described all his exes as “stupid.” These are just a few examples.

    I’m just saying, sometimes it definitely is a red flag. But you have to look at the whole picture.

  16. jswim77 says:

    [I’m 35 with an disability just below LD. I’m dating a guy almost 8 years younger than me. We meet in the Special Olympics. October 2009. It does not matter how old you are or the age difference. Just that you like each other and want to be with them. Now I think 10 years is a different matter because you are a decade apart. Than you might not have much in common.

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