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Every generation has an age where, consciously or otherwise, we expect to be married by. In the old days, it was 30. In more modern times, it was pushed back to 35. Now, it’s 40, and likely still increasing. These expectations are based on what society is doing – the earlier the average person marries, the earlier we’re expected to marry. These days, the mean age at first marriage is at an all-time high: 26 for women, 28 for men.

Whenever you discuss “means” or “averages,” that’s a number to represent a much broader distribution. However, this distribution is (somewhat) bell-shaped, in that the bulk of the population doesn’t deviate too far from the average. So what happens if you do? I’ll tell you what happens: people will wonder. Why? Because people wonder about anyone who deviates from the norm. They can’t help it.

So, as a single person, what happens when you meet someone who is past a certain age and hasn’t yet been married? Do you assume there “must be a reason?” Do you assume the worst, that the person is unmarryable, that if he or she were a good partner they’d be married by now? Many people think such things. But they aren’t often fair.

Yes: if someone is over 40 and never been married, they are outside the norm. Yes, there probably is a reason for the deviation from the norm. But does that reason have to be a negative thing? No. Does that reason make that person a poor partner? Not necessarily.

There are many reasons a person may delay marrying. Here are several you may not have considered:

Career. Some people choose to focus heavily on their careers in their youth. Let’s face it: trying to manage a career and a relationship/family in modern times isn’t always easy. Most of us don’t live near our parents, who can help take care of children, so sometimes it’s easier to just put off marriage/family.

Late Bloomer. Some people take longer to develop the desire for marriage, or the maturity necessary to take that step. Marriage is a big step, and sometimes it’s easier to postpone it until you’ve done all the “single” things you want to do.

Shy/Socially Awkward. Some people want marriage at a younger age, but simply lack the social skills necessary to meet the right person. So it takes longer for such folks to meet their other half. When they do, they’re often excellent partners.

Personal Convictions. Some people value long-term commitment, but don’t want or need the legal part of marriage.

Commitmentphobia. There are plenty of people who want marriage or its equivalent, but have deep-seated fears about actually doing it. They get involved in relationships, then drag their feet when it comes to pulling the trigger, terrified they’re going to lose their freedom or marry the wrong person. When people fear getting involved with never-married people over 40, it’s often because they fear the commitmentphobe.

These are just a few examples of why a person may not be married by age 40. As you can see, many of them are not problematic. When you meet an unmarried single over 40, don’t assume the worst. Get to know them. Yes, there’s a reason they aren’t married yet. But the trick is to figure out if that reason is a problem for you, or not.


Useful Links

Christie’s Books (Amazon)

Christie’s Books (iBook)

Over 40 and Never Been Married: Problem, or Not? Part 2…

Dating and Relationships archive