am a male in my late 30’s. i recently moved to a new state and i am currently working towards a high level graduate degree at a major university. I have not been in a relationship in almost a decade, mostly due to a 5 year period when i endured two separate but related acute psychotic episodes which kept me out of the relationship scene. i did date some but refused to get seriously involved with somebody until i had a handle on the issues i was facing.
over the last 4 years i feel i have successfully conquered my severe mental issues, generally what is left is normal everyday concerns that most people have. since moving to my new home, i have been healthier and happier than i have been in a decade. i have to say life is really pretty good right now. the only thing missing is a special woman to share things with. i have put myself back out on the market and met a lot of great women, both through friends and through online means. however, things have not worked out with any of the women i have met. after a year and a half i am becoming discouraged and curiosity has grown about my odds of finding somebody special. i did a quick web search and found the following….
1. Approximately 22% of men aren’t married by my age and 10% of us adults will never marry. (so i’m definitely in the minority and i’m hoping i’ll fall into the next 12%)
2. only 10% of us adults think an age difference above 10 years is acceptable. (i am on a university campus and 90% of my friends and the people i meet are at least 10 years younger than me. although i have met women online who are closer to my age, i prefer meeting women through friends, prefer educated women, and prefer more liberal minded women which are more prevalent on campus. actually, there have been several instances where i was talking with a woman and things were going great until the topic of age came up…i could literally see the light leave their eyes when they learned i was 10 years older than they thought).
3. 70 to 80% of people say looks are important in choosing a companion. (the antipsychotic medication i was put on caused me to gain approximately 50 lbs due to metabolic changes. although i have recently come off my medication and lost 13 lbs, i am still 40 lbs larger than i would like…this makes a big difference to most women and many friends have suggested i lose weight to increase my chances…working on that).
4. higher education is increasingly negatively associated with the probability of ever marrying. (i am working towards a high level degree and i hope to meet somebody with a high level degree..ugh)
5. The chances for marriage for patients with acute or chronic psychiatric illnesses are less (the stigma towards mental illness is very severe). In addition, male patients, because of their handicapped potential, have more difficulty in finding wives. (i don’t want to hide my medical history from a partner…i’m very worried her feelings will change when i tell her this information)
6. And finally… http://www.calculatorslive.com/Chances-Of-Getting-Married-After-30-Calculator.aspx
“After taking into account various statistical and individual factors, the chances of your getting married at your age is 39-53%. This calculator is based on statistical information and well known factors that influence the chances of marriage.”
although every situation and person is different and lady luck may come my way at any moment, how does one remain positive about finding love with these statistical realities?
down on dating
Dear Down on Dating,
First of all, congratulations on getting through the worst stage of mental illness, getting stable, being able to live med free (going off meds under the supervision of your psychiatrist and not on your own, I assume) and losing 13 pounds! Congratulations also on getting into a PhD program and slogging it out in the name of higher learning. You go!
You know, your question of statistics was close to my heart, having been a statistic bucker myself. I myself walked down the aisle as a 37 year old woman, to a guy three years my junior. I started a private therapy practice at age 35 when a good number of people said I shouldn’t count on it for income and to get a day job. I just read that the greatest predictor of divorce is the presence of children from a previous marriage, with divorce rates in 50 percent higher in remarriages with children than without. Supposedly, if you make it through the first three years of such a marriage, the odds go up. I also remember some statistics about a woman marrying after 35 having the same odds as being hit by lightning.
And to that, I use my sensitive statistical analysis technique: I put my fingers in my ears and go, “la, la, la,” and I bet on myself. And change what I can change. Like you, losing weight these days. And I focused my mind on my goals, and let everything else be fuzzy grey noise in the background. I let through what was useful, let the rest slide off: water; ducks back.
Because you can take statistics and make them mean anything, and there’s plenty of people who take dire looking statistics to re-confirm an already low self image. Hopefully you won’t fall into that trap. Come on, it is a numbers game. Statistics are a self-selecting game. If you do the things you like, you’ll meet those who like the things you do. There may be only a few people around who are right for you, but you only need one. Just be you, and you will draw to you the people who want to be near you. Be your best self, and you’ll attract those who want to be with you and be their own best selves.
Your own comfort level with your previous psychotic episodes, and how throughly you’ve worked through any shame around, will set the tone for how you communicate with people you are interested in. I trust that you’re looking after yourself, and that you have a safety plan in place should you find yourself visited by depression or any other unwanted thoughts. The clarity with which you communicate that safety plan to a loved one has a direct relationship to their confidence in you, and that you are safe. The willingness on your part to follow through with that plan when it counts will also give yourself and your partner confidence. I don’t think it is something you necessarily have to reveal during a casual dating stage if you aren’t comfortable. It is something that needs to be discussed once things are headed in a more serious direction.
The age thing? The light might leave their eyes, but I’m sure you could put it back in by how you handle the next few minutes of the conversation. Just like with handling your own mental illness-know yourself, stay true to yourself, and communicate from the heart, and the person will have more data besides your age with which to accept or reject you.
And please don’t take rejection too personally, by the way, in more formal dating scenarios as well as in the bar. (Women follow this advice, too!) Because if dating is a numbers game, and it is, DOD, then you’ll be rejecting people too. In dating, it’s best to learn how to reject and be rejected gracefully, and then to refocus yourself on what you want and elegantly move on. If there is one thing that will save a lot of heartache and drama, it’s not needing to know why things didn’t work. Most people are chicken to say why they are breaking off a romance, and if they don’t tell you the first time, it’s not worth your time to get it out of them. (Even though you might legitimately be open to and able to integrate feedback.) It’s a fit, or it’s not. A fit? Explore. Not? Move on. You can’t help it if people aren’t into you. One truly awesome thing about being 38 is you can step into a place of not giving a shit about them (and therefore burning up your valuable energy), and moving toward the folks that really get you and matter. And if you aren’t into them either, and don’t particularly want to be their friend? Avoid any guilt over that. Life is too short, and we are all grownups.
The more you sit around and worry over statistics, the more statistically likely you are to sit and do that alone. So keep doing what you are doing: getting out there and talking to people, having interesting conversations, learning. If you don’t click, move on. A lot of people are out there. You only need one: the one who knows she’s a fool if she let you go.