Category Archives: Single

Dating Insights from Carolyn Hax

Reading Carolyn Hax is like a sitting down with a hip, worldly older friend. Her advice may be coming from a secular point of view, but at least it contains much sense and even a bit of refreshing prudishness.

Recently I read her book, “Tell me about it: lying, sulking, and getting fat and 56 other things not to do while looking for love” and I would recommend it to any single looking for advice on things to watch out for while dating (or who is in a dating funk). Excerpts follow.

What not to do when dating:

2. Get fat.

The person who gets fat, who gets big as an adult from eating too much – as opposed to being lifelong big […] – does himself the grave disservice of making his “issues” immediately visible.

15. Have sex before you mean it.

There is, in fact, no way to make this point without sounding like a prig. So if I’m going to be the prig here, I’m going to be the prig with gusto: Stop having sex with people before you develop an exclusive emotional bond with them, you slut.

22. Pine silently for your “friend”.

Just tell the person your feelings have changed and deal with the consequences. In fact, if you are a man, confess as soon as you feel them change. Otherwise, the object of your affection will pick up on your unexpressed feelings (instantaneously – trust me on this) and will, consciously or not, read your silence as a sign of weakness. Not a great moment for your masculinity. Call it sexist, but I call it true: Women can get away with hesitation, men can’t.

23. Be indecisive.

This much I know: Indecision in men is a deal breaker. [..] A decisive man, on the other hand, is a magnet, for reasons that are hard to describe. […] Whatever the reason is, it’s gone, pft, the moment a woman sees she has to run the whole show.

47. Listen to your family and friends and ignore your family and friends.

On one subject, though, friends and families almost universally excel. […] They can tell if you’re happy. If one of them sits you down and says, “I’m worried about you,” listen.

49. Expect marriage to fix a problem.

If you’re considering marriage, don’t look deep into her pretty green eyes and ask if you can imagine life without them. Look deep into your problems with her and ask, “Am I ready to make these permanent?”.

56. Be a single parent and have screwed-up priorities.

Don’t fear being alone. Fear him. Fear the weakness in you that makes you so deeply crave the presence of someone in your life that you’ll let anyone into your life, regardless of how toxic.

58. Rule out the possibility that you might always be single.

Marriage has rewards I won’t torture you by listing here […] and still, anyone who shares a life with someone is lying if she says there’s nothing about single life she misses (or she’s choosing to forget what she misses about it). […] Having been both, I’d rate the quality of these common life configurations as follows:

1. Happily coupled
2. Happily single
3. Unhappily single
1,074 Unhappily coupled

Here are some things single people should never take for granted: making your own decisions – great stuff, I could stop the list there. But then I’d leave out the surface perks – viewing habits, eating habits, reading-in-bed habits […] and the profound ones – where you live and what house you live in and how you live within it. Eight hours of undisturbed sleep, bliss bliss bliss. If there’s a mess, it’s your mess. Ice cream for dinner! Cool! No section off holidays to appease the needy in-laws! Cooler. No compromising on the future you see for yourself. Coolest.


It’s only when you’ve made some sort of peace with yourself that your judgment becomes reliable. Then you can look at your already happy life and decide, does this person add enough to justify the compromises?


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Filed under Book Reviews, Dating, Single

How to meet your future spouse

While reading an article on loneliness and whether Americans really are more lonely today than in past generations (answer: probably not), I came across to a reference to a research paper on how people meet their romantic partners. Now, the manuscript says right at the top, “do not cite without permission”, so I’m not going to link to the manuscript. You can click over from the article on loneliness if you want to read it. All data below is culled from that manuscript.

How do spouses originally meet?

Friends: In the past, couples met through friends (~40% in 1990). Today, less than 30% meet through friends, but it’s still the most likely way to meet a future partner.
Online: Works for about 22% of us.
College: About 11% of us met our spouses in college.
Family: This used to be the most common method, but today it is less than 10%.
Primary & secondary school: A huge shift from 21% in the 1940s to about 5% today.

Who has highest quality relationships?

That would be couples who met in church or in primary or secondary school, followed by those who met online. Those who met through family are less likely to rate the quality of their relationship as high.

Who is more or less likely to break up?

Couples who met in church or primary or secondary school are less likely to break up. Couples who met online are also less likely to breakup. Couples who meet through friends are more likely to break up.

Who most benefits from online dating?

Gays, lesbians, and older heterosexuals. This is because they are less likely to live in environments that contain other eligible singles in their demographic.

In sum: We’ve done away with matchmaking by family. If you met at church, you are probably in a great relationship – but good luck finding a spouse in that environment; it doesn’t say how many people meet in church, but it’s probably less than 7%. Meeting through friends is very common but also more prone to breakups. And online dating is a good way to meet a future spouse, especially if you’re in a niche demographic.

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Filed under Marriage, Single

Manliness and the mating game

A friend who has lived in Mexico says that Mexican men are extremely romantic; poetry recitations and serenades are common ways to woo ladies. American culture largely does not allow for such actions lest one’s friends wonder about the manliness of the love-struck friend.

There must be something about Mexican culture that instills a sense of security in one’s manliness. Mexican men have no doubts about their standing as men; men are men and women are women.

To serenade well, one must be an accomplished singer or musician, so in some sense this is a peacocking activity that shows off skills and confidence, two qualities that women find attractive in men.

Contrast the US where men often are insecure in their manhood. If men can’t convey confidence, women loose interest.

I suspect that the problem many American men face is that they want to convince others that they are men, instead of being men. They have no idea what the 2nd means.

Instead of properly defining manhood as adulthood, some men believe that by buying the right products, wearing the right clothes, driving the right car, or having the right chick on their arm is what will define them as men.

Even if they manage to acquire A, B, and C but can’t get D, they tend to get whiny. “I did everything right, why can’t I still get a girlfriend?” The hard truth is that a lot of time it’s because women can smell the desperation behind the advances. The desperation need not stem from loneliness; it may stem from men using women as props for their attempt to convince themselves and others that they are men.

When courting fails, they end up blame their inability to connect with women on the women instead of seeking the advice of men they look up to, doing some introspecting, and learning what women really want from men.

But whatever the reasons for courtship failure, nice guys, and I use that term to talk about decent men who are not bitter at women but do not do well in the romance department, could use some pointers.  In order to make themselves more attractive to women, men should:

– Stop treating a woman like a friend when you have feelings for her. She can probably tell that you have a crush on her and thinks you’re lame for not manning up and asking her out already. (And if she shoots you down, you foolishly continue to hang out with her, even tho it’s torturing your heart.)

– Stop flattering women.

Flirtatious teasing is the opposite of flattery. Flattery is telling a woman that she’s a 10, that she’s your ideal, that’s she the most beautiful and smart woman in the world. Worshipfulness has its place but it’s only effective coming from a man that the woman already admires. For most men this will be after the relationship has already been established. And the hotter a woman is, the more the flattery strategy is going to backfire, because the more she’ll think that you just want something from her. She doesn’t need your approval, why do you need hers?

Teasing (not the mean kind) shows that you are interested in her but aren’t sold on her. This keeps her interest piqued.

– Examine your life situation.

So you’re looking to woo a wife? In the circles I’ve run around in, there are many smart young men in grad school. They are also horribly in debt, their conversations revolve around esoteric knowledge, they are often unable to relate to average people partially because they are so intent on impressing them with their intelligence and knowledge, and they take themselves far, far too seriously. No wonder many women do not go for them.  So if a life goal is to have a family and all that entails, young men should think twice about whether going to grad school is a good next step (here’s 100 more reasons to avoid grad school).

Men who excel at something (law, engineering, carpentry) that also gives them social standing are much more attractive than men who are still in school at 28. The former are in the adult world, supporting themselves. If they are trying to woo a traditionalist girl who would love to stay home when the kids are young, they will have better success than the grad student.

Never, ever tell a traditionalist girl that you “wouldn’t mind being a house husband”.

You can’t find the right person for you until you know who you are. So pick a career. Pursue something. Build a business. You might fail but you’ll be a better man for having tried.

Most women do not want to be responsible for their man’s stability. I guarantee you that every woman you are wooing is going to be wondering, consciously or unconsciously, what kind of life you can give her and her (future) children. If you live at home with ma and dad at 33 and hope to woo the hottest girl you know, good luck with that.

Women want to be proud of their man. So do something worthy of respect and admiration.

– Stop looking in the wrong places. If you want a nice Catholic girl, stop dating non-practicing Muslims. If you want a witty liberal who is indifferent to religion, stop asking out the girls who go to church every Sunday. Too many nice men waste their time on OK Cupid, trying to date women who identify as “bi”. Yeah, that’s the kind of girl you want, sure.

– Learn basic dating etiquette. It’s really not that hard. Schedule dates at least 4 days in advance. Pay for all dates. Ask her about her interests. Tell amusing stories. Don’t try to make her feel bad when she doesn’t want to hold your hand/kiss you/go to bed with you.

Read “He’s Just Not That In To You“. Then do the opposite of what those guys in there do.  (h/t: OSC).


Filed under Dating, Men, Single

Singles in the WP

Good read about long-term singles (via Seraphic). Also thought the survey they did was interesting.

I’m curious; for single readers, does the article make you sad and panicky or happy and serene?


Filed under Single

The Mating/Marriage Dance amongst young, educated Americans

The Institute for American Values did a very interesting talk titled “The Mating/Marriage Dance: Is the Prolonged Search for a Mate by Young College Graduates a Problem for American Society?” with Kay S Hymowitz and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead. If you want to watch it, you may do so here.

Here are my notes:

Kay Hymowitz wrote her book after she noticed romantic discontent and despair, amongst  education 20-something females. That’s when women start to feel really anxious about finding a good man to marry. They were great catches, so why were they worried? For women, the romantic despair comes from not knowing.

In doing research for the book she found that there was an upheaval in the system of courtship that had been in place for certuries. In its place came the “relationship system”.  We went from romantic courtship with a clear destination to marriage to some call “relationships”.

The differences are huge. In the romantic courtship system (RCS), the population that is involved almost exclusively is young, never married men and women. The destination is marriage. The relationship system includes just about anybody under the sun who is looking for a partner (young, old, single, divorced, married people who want “something on the side”). With the RCS, there’s a series of clearly defined steps, the “ladder of commitment”. In the relationship system, people are constantly moving in and out of relationships which are of varying duration and commitment.

Young women go through many of these relationships that have no destination in mind.

Now we have a new stage in development, pre-adulthood. This lasts from early 20s to mid 30s. It has lead to a different set of problems for men than from women.

Women have a clock in the back of their heads going “tick-tock tick-tock”. Even if they haven’t decided by 25 whether they want to get married and have kids, they know that the decision needs to be made within the next few years. Men don’t have this same sense and when they do think about that same decision, it’s typically way down the line. They don’t see a problem with waiting until 35 or 40. So women hit 25, 27, are ready to get married but men are in no rush to commit. Disillusioned, women assumed it would unfold naturally.

We have the reverse problem today than previous generations. It used to be easy to pair off during college while the career path (for women) was harder to discern. But today it’s hard to find someone who wants to commitment but easy to find a career path. How do you meet the right man to marry? This is a great puzzle for women today.

Growing up, men were taught that women could do anything men could do and that women should be treated with respect. Gender-neutral society was the ideal. But they found that women didn’t like that when it came to dating. The complaint of the nice guy was that they treat women well but then they go for the jerks instead.

The loss of the script, no one knows how you’re supposed to behave, unless you naturally have a great deal of social skill, you’re going to have a hard time. A lot of guys don’t get what you’re supposed to be doing.

Women respond to confidence but these guys had no idea how to project confidence.

With the loss of the classic courtship model, we’ve lost a lot of male initiative. In fact, in order to get married, the burden is on the woman to push the guy that she’s been in a long-term relationship with to get there. She sees her job as turning a live-in boyfriend into a husband.

If females and males are equals as we have been told since childhood, then why is it up to the guy to take initiative to ask women out? So they don’t, and women become frustrated.

Who pays for dinner? A lot of single, childless women make more than men, but then still want men to pay for the meal.

Institutions are no longer vested in getting people to meet each other and get married. Onus used to fall on families, schools, religious institutions. On a larger scale, today young people are not rooted anywhere; they live their lives very autonomously.

Young women, 5-10 years out of college and having had a few relationships that ended badly tend to become suspicious, leery of men and romance. (Harden their hearts). It adds to the gender conflict.

For a few of these women, they are not going to be able to overcome this; they will chose to have children alone. A number of women are going to remain single and a number of men as well. They will be disconnected from family life. In the grand scheme of things, this is not a huge social problem. It’s the people without a college education (read: lower classes) that are not getting married. Most college-educated people in America get married (about 80%).

There is no prescription by Kay S Hymowitz and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead to help create a modern courtship script; that is something that will have to develop naturally.


Filed under Dating, Female dignity, Marriage, Men, Relationships, Single

Formulas for marriage

Singles know that there are plenty of well-meaning suggestions to help you get married. Some single people pray to God and to saints while others consult the stars.

What Single People Wish Married People Knew has some good thoughts on this.

In the very thick book of popular theology that is not actually in the Bible, a book I like to call “First Assumptions”, we have this formula:

“Not letting go=being single.
Letting go= being married.”

Yep, if singles would just “let it go” and “leave it to God” then “love will come when you least expect it”.

Back to the article:

I have a theory about why it frustrates us so much. At the root of this formula is the idea that all single people have done something wrong and all married people have done something right. Married people, I know you probably never meant to make us feel that way, but it is the nature of that formula.

Bridget Jones introduced the concept of Smug Marrieds; many Single people have encountered married people who give well-meaning advice that leaves the single feeling patronized.

These formulas makes us feel like our being single has nothing to do with God’s will or our choices or the enemy or any other theory you have on why hard things happen. It has to do with our lack.

We humans who live in the West like to believe we are in control of our destinies. And we certainly don’t like uncertainty. “Will I ever get married?” is a torturous game to play because it can go one of two ways and we are sure we won’t like the answer if it’s negative. But it’s the not knowing that drives Singles up the wall.

The fact is this: Getting married is not just up to us. There at least one other person involved in the process, the future husband or wife; not to mention the families being joined together and the larger community that is affected as well. Perhaps right now your future spouse is in a relationship with the wrong person. Perhaps you are not ready for them, yet. Whatever the reason we are not married, we are not in control of what happens to us, and that is scary.

So what are we in control of? Our thoughts and behaviors. We can choose to dress provocatively or classy. We can be self-piteous or cultivate happiness by putting others’ needs first. Women can choose to chase men or let men come to them. Men can sit at home and play video games, or they can go out and meet women. Women can choose to believe “there are no good men left” and men can choose to believe that “all women are sluts”. In short, you can choose to develop a mindset and a way of behaving that will increase your chances of meeting and being a good spouse, but you can’t control other people falling in love with you or not.

Come to think of it, “let it go” is pretty good advice. Just don’t assume by doing so you will gain a spouse. Aim for peace, not bargains with God.


Filed under Single


Currently I’m reading a book as slowly as possible because I don’t want to have to part with it, even tho I’m dying to find out what happens to the characters. Unless it absolutely falls apart at the end, I will undoubtedly declare that I love it and recommend it to others (or force them to have it in their book collection because I buy it for them as a present).

We all have books or songs like that that we love. They speak to us in ways that other books or songs just do not. We invest time and money into these things (and other writings/songs by their creators).

How much more it is with people; there are some that we are just fond of and care about more than others. When this happens on a romantic level, we call it falling in love. The proper end of this scenario is marriage.

However, a lot of people are desperate to have just anyone they are even slightly attracted to be their romantic partner.

Settling is not marrying someone because you love them, care for their well-being, want and are able to share your whole self with them, and desire to build a life with them.

Settling is using people. It is marrying someone because you are lonely, because you don’t want to spend yet another Saturday night alone. Settling is getting married because you’re panicking that you’re 24 or 29 or 34, that your fertility is almost gone and that your sexual market value is about to go into free fall (obvious question: why would you want to marry someone who wants to marry you just because your current hotness levels are high? What’s the likelihood of that marriage ending in divorce one wrinkles show up and skin starts sagging?)

In real life, when people marry someone that they think they are setting for, they have unhappy marriages. If people don’t think that their spouse is all that great, they are going to grow resentful of having to sacrifice their own needs for their spouse’s needs. Eventually, they just won’t, and the marriage will sour. A poor relationship between spouses means sexual and emotional needs are going to go unmet.

If you are embarrassed to introduce your boyfriend to your family, could take or leave an evening with him, you’re probably Just Not That In To Him.

I am not saying that you should marry whomever you fall in love with. Obviously it’s important to take into account values, life goals, and maturity levels. But falling in love with someone is a sign the lack of which does not bode well for the future affection of married couples.

(And before JW jumps in with a comment about arranged marriages: I am not talking about those. We live in the West, we have marriages based on different values and expectations.)


Filed under Books, Marriage, Single