by Maggie Robinson, MaggieLoves.com
Have you ever thought about the phenomena of our times: why are there so many single, educated, beautiful women over thirty? They are not high maintenance, but sociable, down to earth, solvent and kind, so why quite often the only regular company they have are their pet animals?
Are we so scared of failure, heartache and repeating the mistakes from the past that it hinders our present and the future?
We enjoy economic freedom our mothers could only dream of, so why are we single? Are we putting all our effort into making sure our lives look better on Facebook than behind closed doors? Are most of us putting more effort into our careers, our homes and our wardrobes than we do into our romantic relationships? When did all this happen? When did we go from happy couples to the epidemic of singletons? Let’s try and shed a light on the recent phenomenon.
Unlike our mothers, we are not dependent on a man for social status, new dress or property purchase. In the '70s very few women could get approved for a credit card, much less a mortgage, without a husband’s or father’s signature. We have overcome this and currently single females make up around 18% of homeowners in comparison to 10% of single male homeowners.
The way we evaluate property may, in a way be compared to the way we evaluate men: “Single women are very discriminating buyers”, says Karen Krupsaw, vice president of real estate operations at Redfin. “I don’t think they’re unrealistic. They can see beyond the way [a house] may show as well as how they can fix it up and how it can be a dream home.”
The average salary for a woman still lags behind men’s (the American Association of University Women says women earn 82 cents for every dollar a man makes one year after graduation) and lenders still look more favorably at applications with two-income households, so even though women are making more sacrifices to get a home, we still place a high value on owning one on our own, and we do not approach this extreme debt lightheartedly. According to Experian, despite lower pay, women handle credit more responsibly than men, with 7% lower incidence of late mortgage payments and 4.3 % less debt then men.
With that in mind, it becomes harder and harder for a successful, independent women to let anyone into their hard earned, stable life, however lonely we may feel at times. But, it’s not all about properties.
Building our independence comes at cost to us and therefore we value it more than men. “These days being single is easy and comfortable, almost too comfortable. You like to have evenings to yourself, sometimes without cooking, without expectations from someone else, without trying to please someone else. If I need company, I pick up the phone, call and boom! They are on their way. The longer we stay single, the more our expectations grow, because we feel like there’s more to lose.
"I have not yet met anyone I would be ready to completely change my life for," says Martyna Grzegorzewska, a 28-year-old financial economics student from London. “The symbols of success have changed over the years. Our mothers and grandmothers were mostly told that women are the closest we have to walking incubators and that without the husband and kids we are comparable to second-class citizens. They were known to be leaving their full time education the moment they found a suitor, only to have a family. The society and themselves considered this to be the success every woman should aspire to. I still remember my own mum saying that without a men, women is worth less and that life is easier when you share it with someone. I feel my life is much easier now that I am on my own. I am better off financially, have more time, travel more. Women never believed they could make it on their own, but finally we broke out of this vicious circle. Would I want to have a great guy by my side? Sure, but the price is just too high to pay.”
How do guys feel in all this? Confused. According to Martyna, “They used to do whatever they wanted, party 'till dawn, live like teens until their late twenties, and when they wanted to settle down, there were always lines of ladies who dreamt of nothing more than a big, white wedding. Now those women are a dying breed, and guys are left confused, because the order of the world got turned upside down.”
Unlike previous generations of women, who made getting married a priority, we didn’t have to. Instead we played the field just like men have always done. We viewed men as something that’s nice to have but not a necessity. Relationships were started with the best available guy until a better prospect came along just like men had been doing for centuries, when things got tough or complicated, we didn’t hang around. We didn’t put up with as much as our mothers and grandmothers did. The problem is, when we finally woke up ready for a steady relationship, all the decent men had gone.
Today we reach out for better education, gaining more degrees in engineering, law and medicine than our male counterparts. With more women bettering themselves, the pool of similarly well-educated men has rapidly shrunk, and since we are reluctant to “marry down,” we are left fighting for the few eligible bachelors left. Considering our lesser drive to compete than our male counterparts, we quite often take a step back from the love scene rather than prowl for a suitable partner.
We know female perspective on all this, but what do men say? I have asked a number of my male friends, and the most common opinion on why it just doesn’t happen for the ladies these days were:
“Women are controlling and uncompromising, this is not the way to attract a guy.”
“They all want to marry and have kids!”
“It’s all Disney’s fault, deep inside they are hoping for happy ever after with a handsome Prince.”
“Overinflated sense of value and princess syndrome drives unrealistic expectations.”
“Social conditioning and programming, repeating the same errors over again, not knowing who they really are and what they want.”
“All we want is a warm dinner and a smile, but girls these days want the looks, the money, the confidence, the patience, and even when you give them all of those, they suddenly feel you are just a 'nice guy' and they’ll leave you for someone else, who doesn’t quite fit the 'perfect guy' description.”
“They see the seemingly perfect marriages of [the] 'Pitts and Beyonces’ of this world plastered all over the media and they aspire for nothing less than house featured in the episode of Cribs and their future kids wearing little Prada pumps, it all got out of hand and they hinder themselves with their inflated expectations.”
While women were going forward to professional freedom, guys have changed too. Intimidated or emasculated by their shaken vision of the world, men reverted to being big teens, they seem more immature now than they’ve ever been, a higher percentage of them cannot hold jobs, they are uncommitted and seem more self-centered than ever.
Dating expert Luke Kilpatrick sees the problem somewhere else, “I actually place the blame more on the current culture of emasculating men to be sensitive and caring to the detriment of all else. I have found the more hard charging and successful the woman is the more successful and masculine a man she requires to be attracted to. Instead the culture instead of rising all boats it has given men the message to be more feminine to get more women. This is a complete failure. Sadly the more success a woman has in a career the smaller pool of men she finds attractive. Women traditionally have always dated up for a higher status man, men have always been happy to date a lower status but pretty woman. [Ladies] are fighting over the top 1-5% of men, where those men have the choice of probably the 30-40% of the top women.”
Another issue that affects the current situation is the fact that we let our past and future dictate our “now” instead of the other way around, living in the moment. When in a restaurant, we often spend time on the phone, even with our companion at the table with us. We don’t make effort and create conversational opportunities as it’s much easier to connect online for more stimulation and entertainment. It almost seems like the easier life choices got us to where we are. Instant gratification over deep connections, quick swap over working on relationships. To top it all, social media that we are all immersed in, is anything but social, and when we open our computers or pull out our phones, we send the “do not disturb” message to the world and to any potential future partners.
The little spare time we have these days between ever expanding work, commuting and sleeping, we spend glued to various devices instead of getting to know people around us. We may even sometimes get the idea we do know them (we have them on Facebook, right?) only to find out, when spending more time with them in 3D, that they are nothing like we have originally thought, and since we mostly portray ourselves as “awesome” online, the other face we have for people in real life is rarely better, more interesting, or smarter. That’s where our online dating plan fails. Unless we get to know someone well in real life, we rarely know them at all, and if we rarely interact with people in real life, the pool of potential partner candidates gets smaller.
With all the benefits of staying connected 24/7 there are some major downsides too.. let’s take the staple of any good relationship and dissect it: how is Trust doing in the age of online interactions?
Trust is paramount, but in the world where an interesting conversation is often just a few clicks away, contact breeds familiarity and familiarity creates connections which may or may not develop into something more. We rarely trust ourselves to stick to our chosen partner and we often fail when the opportunity arises to create a path for a potential future romance, most often than not this happens consciously. Are we not happy with our existing choices? Have we settled for the wrong person? Sometimes. More often than not it’s just the many choices available, which lead to infidelity. If we ourselves are not capable of being faithful it’s unlikely we will ever trust anyone to be faithful to us. In situations like this, we don’t want to be hurt and definitely not cheated on, so quite often we steer off the track first, as we expect our partner would have done it sooner than later.
How to rectify the current situation? We complain, so it's obviously not working.
Being single is rarely the answer, we are drawn to each other in pairs and born to co-exist, but how much of ourselves are we willing to sacrifice? Can a relationship exist without the sacrifice?
Regardless of what we are told, we should never give up on having it all. We can adjust the setting and our requirements, as not everything can and will be perfect in our life plan, but we should aim for a healthy balance regardless. We should understand that finding the right partner is just as important, and as much of a “success” as building a fulfilling career or our personal independence. It will involve compromise, but let’s make sure the compromise is on both sides and our needs are being accommodated. We will never know who the right partner is if we shut the door on an opportunity because the potential person doesn’t fit the Hollywood description of happiness.
The "LeanIn generation" is still trying to figure all this out and we are not quite there yet, but the one thing we know: we would never want to go back to the times where marriage was our only option. Having it all may be a far away concept for now, but we figured out more complex things before. We will get there eventually.
Maggie Robinson is a co-founder of social media back up service Frostbox, HR director at Targeted Media, blogger at MaggieLoves and GreatestParents, yoga fanatic, avid cook and a dog lover. Find her on Twitter @_gosia