I know a female colleague who is 32 years old and single. She is attractive, smart and wants a relationship. Yet she can't seem to find one.
I've seen this situation occur many times - people at a certain point in their lives are simply unable to find a long term relationship, despite being a good prospect. What's going on?
Part of the problem is simple math. The rest of the problem is - like a fine wine - we become more sophisticated with age. Crap we put up with at 20 no longer flies at 40.
The chart below is my naïve attempt at encapsulating the reasons why it might be so hard for my colleague to find a significant other. I've described each data point below the chart.
Pool of Eligible Mates: As people age, the pool of potential mates shrinks because eligible bachelors and bachelorettes get married. However, the pool starts to grow again once these same folks start to divorce.
Flexibility: Young kids are fussy but become more open to change as they reach teen hood. However, as people continue to age they become more set in their ways. They have their idea of how things should be done and what they want in a mate. This lack of flexibility makes it difficult to get past a first or second date.
Baggage: The longer someone lives the more crap they've dealt with throughout their life. Negative experiences can make people untrusting and cynical. Not exactly pair-bond material.
Fertility: For men this isn't an issue, so this line is a proxy for female fertility. For women, fertility drops precipitously after age 30. While fertility isn't always a deal-breaker, it certainly limits the opportunities for a single female over a certain age.
Substitutes: Before puberty, toys come first. But then puberty hits and suddenly the opposite sex is the most interesting thing in the world. However, as people age, hormones subside and people become more comfortable in their own skin. They know what they like and they care less about what others think. So by the time someone is in their 30s or 40s, they may no longer feel the peer and hormonal pressure to pair bond. Or they may have begrudgingly accepted singledom, and discovered better things to spend their energy on.
For these reasons, I wonder if it is important to encourage our children to find a good (not necessarily perfect) relationship in their 20s and stick with it (assuming they intend to get married someday). It seems like holding off a) until something perfect comes along or b) until establishing a career/life/wealth/etc. means risking one might have a very difficult time finding a life partner.