Why is Finding a Good Man so Hard for Single Women Over 35?
On our third date, he told me he had sex with hundreds of prostitutes…while he was married.
You might be picturing a toothless unemployable criminal, but he was a charming, intelligent, attractive, and successful lawyer. I had fallen hard for him in a short time period. His confession blindsided me.
I immediately wondered the obvious — why would you admit that to someone you are dating unless you were in self-sabotage mode?
I asked a few friends. One friend's reply was enlightening.
“He confessed to having sex with prostitutes because he wanted to see if he could get away with it in the future. His wife clearly allowed it, so he wanted to see if you would. He told you who he was— a disloyal man when his sexual needs are not being met. And you know who you are. Are you a woman who is cool with her boyfriend having sex with prostitutes?”
“Ah, no.” I stammered. “I was hoping I wouldn’t have to settle for a relationship with an STD risk.”
There obviously wasn’t a fourth date.
If you are rolling your eyes by now, I don’t blame you. I am tired of regaling readers with my horrific dating tales too. And I don’t have the stomach to write about this crap anymore. It’s hard to stay hopeful.
I am not alone. It’s a question that many women over thirty-five keep asking — where have all the good men gone?
Fortunately, economics and game theory have an answer — The Eligible Bachelor Paradox. Game theorist Mark Gimein developed this theory to explain why the dating pool of eligible men shrinks for women after age 35.
Buckle up… You are about to get a scary lesson on why you should settle for Mr. Good Enough.
According to Gimein, nubile women fall on a spectrum of either “high or low quality.” High-quality women possess attractiveness and social adeptness, while low-quality women have less of these traits. But high-quality women have the majority of the bargaining power in the dating market, so they hold out for Mr. Right.
As those women age, their dating pool of eligible bachelors gets smaller and smaller as the high-quality men are coupled with less choosy women. And as the numbers of eligible bachelors decrease, those high-quality women continue to compete for the same limited number of high-quality men.
But these women do not lower their standards. Mostly because they are used to calling the shots and might be blissfully unaware that their dating clout is diminishing. The bloom may be coming off the rose, but the rose still doesn’t want to grow with weeds. And besides, many women decide that being single and cultivating their own damn garden is a better option.
Unfortunately, this leaves the dating market with a disproportionate amount of less than desirable men and a glut of eligible single ladies.
The Eligible Bachelor Paradox is illustrated with data from dating apps. According to a 2019 Pew Research Century study, 57% of men reported that they did not receive enough messages, while only 24% of women reported the same.
Aviv Goldgeier, an engineer for the dating website Hinge, proposed an explanation for this discrepancy. The top 5% of men on dating apps receive 41.1% of all women’s likes. So the hot guys hog all the attention while the regular guy gets ignored. (In contrast, the top 5% of women on dating apps receive 30.6% of men’s likes.)
And if you are a man in the bottom 50%, you will get only a dismal 4.3% of all women’s likes. But if you are a woman in the bottom 50%, it is not as grim — 7.9% of the likes.
Clearly, this illustrates what Darwin knew all along — it’s ladies' choice. And if you feel like the choice is yours, you are more likely to delay that choice and wait for the ideal partner.
Now add to this problem socioeconomics. Statistically, women seek wealth in a partner. Men seek beauty. But this paradigm is being turned on its head by education.
Today, more women than men have undergraduate and graduate degrees. According to the U.S. Department of Education, more than 57% of 2018 college graduates were female. The gap for master’s degrees was even wider — 59% female to 41% male.
Obviously, more education correlates with more financial security. Those that earn a college degree earn $78,000 on average compared to those with only a high school diploma earn $45,000. And although women still make eighty-two cents for every dollar a man makes, the wage gap disappears with childless women — the same women who can’t find a good man.
Consequently, educated and uneducated women both flock to urban areas in hopes of finding Mr. Right. Unfortunately, the most eligible bachelors living in urban areas do not particularly care whether a woman is intelligent, educated, or successful. He cares if she is attractive. (I have already tackled this subject and the comments from men proved my point.)
Thus, the educated woman is competing with more women but has fewer choices of eligible bachelors. And she has even fewer choices if she lives in an urban area vs. a rural area.
This leaves women who desire independence with your typical Hobson’s choice. If you choose higher education and delay marriage, you can obtain what your grandmother probably had to get from a partner — financial security. But you also risk never finding a partner. If you don’t choose education, then you might be stuck having to depend on someone. Even worse, that someone could be a controlling or abusive husband. That’s not much of a choice.
And most women do not want to choose a man based on his bank account. Their financial independence allows them to choose someone based on kindness, intelligence, ambition, humor, and loyalty. But here is the rub — most men are emasculated by the woman who can pay her own bills. They don’t want that independent woman.
Thus, we have a slew of women frustrated with their dating options. They broke the glass ceiling only to find the roof deck unfurnished.
In turn, this frustration snowballs into another problem — the infertility crisis. With fewer eligible bachelors, many women are deciding to delay or forgo marriage and kids. This creates an inverted population growth with a decreasing younger generation and a burgeoning older generation. As most demographers have warned, a society weighted too heavily with an older generation will have devastating economic consequences.
To be clear, I am not editorializing. These generalizations are both cultural and biological. And the data doesn’t lie. Women are bettering themselves through education, and men are not. And despite the cliche “opposites attract,” biology disabuses that platitude. The research on assortative mating shows that humans choose those that share similar traits. And education is a big one.
This leaves many of us in a thorny conundrum — lower our standards or stay single? And as the hourglass empties, many of us are well aware that our rose is turning to dust.
Personally, I prefer to stay single until I find “Mr. Doesn’t Have Sex with Prostitutes.” That’s a low enough bar.
He is out there. And perhaps he doesn’t have the fancy education. But he also won’t give me anything to write about.