Mr. Right- To search for him or not to search for him?
March 21, 2014 5:34 PM   Subscribe

I've never been that little girl who dreams about her wedding day and I'm still not that girl 34 years later. I've also never had a desire for children. If I'm ever financially secure enough I'd love to adopt someday, but when it comes to having my own biological children my attitude has been thought- well if my husband really wants them then I'll have kids, but otherwise I'm not hankering for them. However now that I'm approaching 35 maybe this is something I really have to think about. I know how difficult it is for a lot of women to find spouses after age 40 so I guess if I ever want to find Mr. Right I have to start looking for him instead of just waiting it to happen on it's own. But everyone says that love happens when you're NOT looking for it. So what's better? Should I scope the subway and the streets and start striking up conversations with strangers who might be single? Or should I just let nature take it's course and see where destiny takes me?
posted by manderin to Human Relations (28 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Do you want a partner, even if you're not daydreaming about getting married? It seems like most single people I know do online dating now...probably an easier way to find someone you'd match well with rather than trying to meet someone on the subway. It's not clear from the question if you really want to be with someone, though, or just think it's sort of expected of you...
posted by three_red_balloons at 5:46 PM on March 21, 2014

If you don't feel a strong urge to birth kids, just don't it. This world is full of too many people already, and you would be doing yourself and some lucky kid and the rest of the planet a huge favor if you'd adopt instead. Never having kids at all is just fine, too! Really!

As for romance, I'd say if you're not strongly compelled to seek a partner, don't make a big deal out of it. Do some looking, but don't treat it like your time is running out. There are people of every age seeking partners. There are guys out there who will be thrilled to meet you when you're 40, 50 and beyond. Men can marry late, or become widowed, or get divorced. All the single guys don't disappear when they hit 36.

It really comes down to what you want. If you are not feeling a powerful urge to settle down with a man now, don't force it.

But I also think waiting for it to just happen is kinda for suckers. If you ARE hoping to meet a guy, try some dating sites. That's where it's at. You can seek out guys who share your interests and goals, and not waste a lot of time chatting up random dudes who eventually turn out to be serial killers or Republicans.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:51 PM on March 21, 2014 [11 favorites]

"should i scope the subway and the streets and start striking up conversations with strangers who might be single? or should i just let nature take its course and see where destiny takes me?"

the second one.
posted by bruce at 5:52 PM on March 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

It's hard to strike the balance, but I think there is a middle ground between randomly approaching strangers or sitting back and waiting for life to grant your wish - one that I hope will come true for you. I think you should look but if you look too hard you'll come across as desperate, which will scare off the good ones and swirl up the bad ones. At the same time, you need to be open to meeting Mr. Right. I would concentrate on finding out for yourself what traits you really want in a partner. Think about what you find attractive, what you must have in a relationship, what you're could be flexible about, etc. I suggest actually writing this stuff down, just so it's really clear in your mind. Then when you meet potentials, you won't fall into the "love the one you're with" trap. After that, go about your days in open-minded mode and fashion. Think about places or activities where you might meet the type of guy you like and let your friends and family know you're looking if that's comfortable to you. You could even give online dating a whirl - or approach a random stranger on the subway - but do so with an attitude of experimentation. You're just checking it out. Is there a genuine connection or not? And last, try to be patient. I think if you do these things - and it will be easier at some moments than others - you will find your mate.
posted by lolo341 at 5:53 PM on March 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

If you want a partner, yeah, you probably should be somewhat proactive about it. You can't force it, but you do have some agency here. So the question is, what do you want?
posted by J. Wilson at 6:09 PM on March 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Everyone says that love "happens when you're not looking for it" because they're always looking. They meet people at social events or through friends or at a party, but they were generally looking to meet someone anywhere they went. So. If that hasn't been your attitude or approach, it's not really going to happen.

Online dating is a wider pool with some ability to sift through the field, unlike randos on the subway.
posted by kavasa at 6:20 PM on March 21, 2014 [8 favorites]

Seems like you are asking a couple things here, and I just want to try to clarify for myself what your question is.

Are you saying you always assumed you would be married some day (but never really thought much about how it would happen), and ALSO assumed that unless your husband insisted on kids you wouldn't have any, BUT now that you are in your mid-thirties you figure you should try more actively to find a man, get married and have kids?

Why is that, exactly? Is it because your biological clock is ticking and you really WANT to have your own biological kids now?

Because unless you are very, very sure you want biological children YOURSELF, there is no hurry for you to find a man and/or get married.

Certainly, you should not feel that you HAVE to get married soon because potential mates might prefer a woman of maximum potential child-bearing age! That is completely looking at the situation in the wrong way.

If you are not just thinking this is something you should do, or that the way to get a man to marry you is to agree to have kids with him, and you ARE feeling your biological clock ticking, then I agree internet dating is probably the best method for you to find someone who feels the same way as you about settling down. Dating is a numbers game, and internet dating lets you find the most potential matches.

But your post reads more like your stance on kids is very laissez faire, like "Eh, whatever my partner wants". As a parent myself, who always knew I wanted kids, I would never advise someone who is not 100% enthusiastic about the prospect to have children. You have got to go in fully committed--it's a huge responsibility that literally lasts a lifetime. Do you see yourself being a mother not just to a cute little baby, but an adult, 20, 30, 40 years down the line? If not, again, don't feel like you have to rush out and get married before you're 40 or whatever.
posted by misha at 6:25 PM on March 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Are you happy / content with how your life is? If yes, don't change anything. If no,identify what's not excellent and consider options /opportunities. This may entirely preclude reproduction, and that's okay. I used to think jumping out of a plane should be on my list of priorities - exciting, unusual, lots of people say its one of the best experiences of their life - but I've learned I don't have to (want to) do something just because its there (and/or other people rave about it).

Just the way you worded your question leaves me feeling that you have no need or desire to chase parenthood.
posted by b33j at 6:25 PM on March 21, 2014

This year, after almost two years of "just waiting for it to happen when I'm not looking" (and totally not meeting anyone), I decided to start actually trying to date again.

I met someone I liked pretty much right away. We are now in a relationship. It's fucking great. I'm sure there is inevitable heartbreak down the road, but honestly I missed having romance/sex/etc. in my life. I was content enough before, but you know what? It's nice to have plans on the weekends. It's nice to have someone to go to the movies with. It's nice to be able to share little things with someone. I like being in a relationship.

I would say that if you feel that way, sure! Go hunting! I don't think you should frame this as "looking for Mr. Right", because that's a lot of pressure to put on something that is supposed to be enjoyable. And a lot of pressure to put on your prospective partners.

You don't have to want marriage or kids to go out and have fun with another human being.
posted by Sara C. at 6:44 PM on March 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: It's not a "Whatever my partner wants" response to kids. It's a matter of not denying fatherhood to the man I love if he really wants that. I don't think that's a bad thing. Lot's of guys would rather not have kids, but their wives want them so they have them. Why can't women do the same? I knew a couple where the wife was 10 years older than her husband and she wasn't into being a mom, but her husband really wanted kids. So she said- well if you want them, we have to have them now because I'm 38. So they had two kids. After she had the kids she ended up being way more devoted and loving to them than her husband was. Should she have denyed her husband children just because she wasn't that into it? Once a woman has her kids she loves them no matter what. I'm just saying- I'm not here worrying about my biological clock because I'm just fine not having kids.
posted by manderin at 6:46 PM on March 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

Once a woman has her kids she loves them no matter what.

I don't think this is true for everyone. That's a pretty risky line of thinking.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:58 PM on March 21, 2014 [33 favorites]

Lot's of guys would rather not have kids, but their wives want them so they have them. Why can't women do the same?

Because babies will ruin and take over your entire life in a way that doesn't happen for men. Your body is utterly affected, your career will probably take a hit, and women almost always end up with most to all of the childcare burden because of things like breastfeeding. Men can have kids and still somewhat have a life resembling their old one. Women cannot. Most women don't seem to go back to having time for their own interests at LEAST until five years after the last kid is born. You give up everything to have a kid and he doesn't. Given that you will make a billion more sacrifices for a kid than he will, you'd better want kids more than you want AIR. Women can't just be all, "Oh, I'll have them because he wants them" in the same way.

Back to your original question: if you don't care if you have kids or not, then don't worry about finding a babydaddy. You sound like you will feel fine without a boyfriend or with one and that you will definitely be fine without kids.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:36 PM on March 21, 2014 [18 favorites]

You are me, 4 years ago. I asked myself the same question. I decided that although I was content being single, I would like to experience love, romance and partnership. I am ok with eventually being 80 and single, but not with being 80 and looking back and realizing that I was closed off and didn't give myself a chance to find someone. (I already have that regret about my teens and 20s, and it sucks.)

I started online dating in earnest. I didn't put a lot of pressure on myself or my dates, just tried to meet a lot of different people and think outside the box. I've had some romance. I'm still single. I keep working on this, because love seems to be a transformative and amazing thing, and I'd really like to experience it.

So my advice is: don't overthink it. Get out and date. You don't have to partner up with anyone you don't like, but give yourself a chance to meet different people and be informed by your response to them.

Good luck!
posted by bunderful at 8:11 PM on March 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: "Once a woman has her kids she loves them no matter what.

I don't think this is true for everyone. That's a pretty risky line of thinking."

It's not risky for someone who is ok with adopting like I already said I was. :)

The point was I'm ok not having biological children. It won't shatter me. But if my husband were to want them then I would do it. I think people here have missed the part I wrote about adoption which is something I do want to do if I'm able to someday. The point was simply to say that I don't care about my biological clock so I'm not in a hurry to get married. I probably should've just written that instead. lol.
posted by manderin at 8:58 PM on March 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

I saw that - and it seemed to me, your question is - do I need to find someone to marry right now just in case he wants to have kids? I reckon no.

If your question is, will I end up alone because I will be infertile by the time I find the right partner - my answer to that is also no. I doubt that your ability to bear children will have a significant impact on that. There may be a percentage of men who are otherwise ideal for you who will find that a deal breaker but it will not be all of them. Many will have children from other relationships and be content not to do that again.
posted by b33j at 9:32 PM on March 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think it depends on what "letting nature take its course" means for you. If it means living a vibrant, socially active life where you're constantly meeting new and eligible people to date, then sure, letting nature take its course might work out for you. If you are like I was, which was sitting at home every night noodling around on the internet and barely stepping foot outside except to go to school, letting nature take its course was not going to do anything for me. A man would probably have had to fall through my ceiling for me to meet one.

And I wasn't unhappy with my life in the least bit. I was always an introvert who didn't have many friends, but I was close with my family and generally okay. It wasn't until I started dating that I realized what I was missing. And now that I'm in a happy, steady relationship, I actually want to be more social and experience more happy feelings in the company of other humans.

I think just the fact that you wondered about it enough to ask this question means that it's worth for you to at least go out and test the waters.
posted by madonna of the unloved at 9:45 PM on March 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

If you're unsure about having kids, then you can ignore the biological clock. Kids are wonderful, I love mine, but it's fine to not have any, esp. if you don't feel compelled to.

Partner. It's really nice to have someone to do stuff with, share stuff, talk to, have sex with, etc. If you want a partner, look for one, don't just assume a terrific person will cross your path. Your willingness to have or not have kids may make it a bit easier.
posted by theora55 at 10:18 PM on March 21, 2014

I don't think chatting up strangers needs to lead to marriage and children, but if you want to meet more men, why not? Nature taking its course could mean a conversation in an elevator.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:36 PM on March 21, 2014

This just all seems completely back to front to me.

But if my husband were to want them then I would do it

But... you don't have a husband. You can't build your life around the possible desires of someone who is currently theoretical, and whose wants you can't possibly know.

If you meet someone next year, you can work out between you, with that specific individual, what you both want.

If you meet someone when you're both 45, chances are he will already have kids/not want them/have come to terms with not having them.

It's not like there's one guy out there who you will definitely eventually meet, and you need to get to him in time to offer him your ovaries.
posted by penguin pie at 12:31 AM on March 22, 2014 [8 favorites]

how difficult it is for a lot of women to find spouses after age 40

But... is it, actually? My mom got remarried in her fifties. My 60-some-year-old aunt just moved in with her boyfriend. The divorce rate being what it is, there are a lot of single people who are 40+, of both genders. It's going to get very difficult if you have some sort of problem with dating men who've had past serious relationships, but by your 30s that's already a problem. My mom is, well, I may be biased, but neither particularly pretty nor particularly likable, I feel like if she can manage this, pretty much anybody can. All men are not looking for women to breed with by default, and by the time you're in your mid/late 30s, a lot of them have already had kids and are not looking to have more, which looks better and better for you--not having and not wanting kids by that point is very conceivably a positive, not a negative.

If you're lonely and you feel up to a relationship, look. If those two things don't apply, don't.
posted by Sequence at 12:47 AM on March 22, 2014 [8 favorites]

I know how difficult it is for a lot of women to find spouses after age 40

Are you sure this is a statistical truth? I remember a bunch of panicky articles about this years ago but I'm not sure if they weren't looking at data that actually meant 'fewer women get married after forty because most women get married before forty and some don't get married at all'.

In any case your question is a pretty common concern and I think the thing to focus on is your life, your happiness, your hobbies, goals, and interests, and just be the best, happiest person you can be. That way, either way, you score. You're either content and happy in your life and you live alone, or you're content and happy in your life and get married.

With regard to the ambivalence about kids and marriage thing -- I see a lot of modern people saying if you're ambivalent about X, you absolutely shouldn't X, but I really feel like that doesn't allow for a lot of complexity in human experience. I was ambivalent about both. My husband was ambivalent about both. We've done both. We're very happy and don't regret anything. It could have gone the other way, but it goes the other way sometimes for people much more certain about what they wanted their lives to look like than we were.

I find the idea that 'feeling absolutely certain about something' is the best or only way to make monumental life decisions. I think much of the time you're doing your best to make the best decision you can and take a leap.

These threads always fall heavily into anecdata but for what it's worth, I met my husband at 34, moved in with him at 35, had a kid with him at 38, bought a house with him at 42, married him at 43. "We took our time" should be our family motto. You should see our kid get ready to go outside. It's like time stops.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:04 AM on March 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

Urgh, and I missed the edit window.


I find the idea that 'feeling absolutely certain about something' is the best or only way to make monumental life decisions.

should have read:

I find the idea that 'feeling absolutely certain about something' is the best or only way to make monumental life decisions to be inadequate.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:11 AM on March 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Wait a few years, or date up in age a little, and you'll hit prime divorced-guy-already-with-kids territory. Not a bad route to go, assuming he doesn't have too much baggage.

A lot of "average" mid-to-late 30s guys will want kids. They are generally aware enough by then that they do. Online dating will make it easier to find outliers who don't.
posted by quincunx at 6:32 AM on March 22, 2014

If you want to catch a fish, your chances of doing so are vastly improved by putting a hook into the water. If you want to catch a fish and don't care what sort, use a net. You'll catch something pretty quickly. If you want to catch a specific type of fish, that's more difficult - you'll need a specific rod and bait and hook, etc. It's very very rare that a fish will leap out of the water at your feet. It's even more rare that the leaping fish will be the species you want.

Regarding finding someone when you're older, I think that while that's historically true, it's not necessarily the case any more. There has been a lot of upheaval in the dating game in recent years - look at how many places in the US now allow gay marriage compared to even ten years ago. People are finding themselves free-er to make different choices now. There's not a lot of evidence yet of people dating in their 60's and 70's, but I bet that in 10 years time there will be.

I think destiny as a concept is something of a red herring. You end up where you end up, irrespective of whether you fought hard to get there or not. You might end up in different places depending on your attitude and actions, but both endpoints could be considered your destiny.

Marriage isn't the only kind of relationship. You could just cohabit with someone, or not, or have kids, or not. Only you can answer the question of what it is that you want. To get that answer, you'll ave to do some soul searching and be completely honest with yourself. It's scary, for sure, but the results are worth it. You'll actually be finding out what you want, which is hidden underneath layers of "that's too scary" or "I don't really want that" or "I should want this".
posted by Solomon at 7:02 AM on March 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

I am stuck on the idea of "letting nature take its course."

If you are working to be out in the world and actively meeting new people and dating casually and keeping your options open, then the odds for love and marriage are good. If you are being the single girl who is not very social and are always with the same people who know you as the "single girl," odds go down.

Have you thought about asking people if they would keep you in mind if they want to "fix someone up"? The ensuing coffee dates probably wouldn't be great, but your attitude towards yourself and your image with your friends would benefit.

(Known more than one man who said they used to say they weren't interested in kids because they thought eventually a woman would force the issue. Came up in conversations were they wanted me to "want" to be a broodmare. Or maybe they were awkwardly trying to express their desire for fatherhood and I'm still mad and making them look like bad guys instead of well intentioned goofballs. Your "maybe, maybe not, maybe adopt" stance on motherhood seems entirely sane to me.)
posted by Lesser Shrew at 7:20 AM on March 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

scope and strike up, most definitely, and not because you need a husband now, but because someone is waiting to meet you.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:03 AM on March 22, 2014

1) Decide for yourself if you want to have kids before you become involved with anyone because this decision will affect any serious relationship.

2) Flirt, flirt, flirt. Flirting is a bit of a lost art thanks to social media but it's the easiest way to open relationships. Men are always flattered by women who flirt with them, and you never know who'll flirt back unless you start.
posted by Jamesonian at 6:45 AM on March 23, 2014

I know how difficult it is for a lot of women to find spouses after age 40

Are you sure this is a statistical truth? I remember a bunch of panicky articles about this years ago but I'm not sure if they weren't looking at data that actually meant 'fewer women get married after forty because most women get married before forty and some don't get married at all'.

What is a statistical truth is that women outnumber men, and past the age of 40, the disparity increases, so all else being equal, women will find it harder getting partners as they age.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 6:05 PM on March 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

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