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Dating Maze #337: Laid-back and Single

July 5, 2011 | by Rosie Einhorn, L.C.S.W. and Sherry Zimmerman, J.D., M.Sc.

I'm a good-looking guy. Why can’t I get any serious dates?

Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I'm a 36-year-old man who's been dating for several years. I would really like to settle down and get married. But it's been very hard for me to find women to go out with.

A bit about myself: I'm 5-foot-10, average build, and considered better-than-average looking. I have a good personality, am well-rounded, with a BA in environmental studies, and a neat, "clean cut" appearance. I enjoy writing music, traveling, reading the news, and hanging out with my roommates. I have supported myself over the years with a variety of part-time jobs that do not encroach on my laid-back lifestyle.

I want to get married and have a bunch of kids. You'd think with all the women complaining that “there’s not being enough marriage-minded men," this wouldn't be a problem for me. But most women either don't want to go out with me at all, or say they're not interested after a couple of dates.

I can’t figure out what the problem is. Any ideas?


Dear Alex,

You sound like someone who has a lot going for him, and who has been able to embrace and enjoy life. That's a quality many people wish they had. At the same time, we noticed something missing from your description of yourself. You make no mention of any long-term goals in life, other than wanting to find the right woman to marry. We think that this may be the heart of the problem you're encountering.

You describe yourself as someone who works just enough to meet your basic needs, so that you have the freedom of taking life easily and pursuing your interests. That sounds like a great lifestyle for a young adult whose primary focus is on "finding himself" before he enters the next stage of adulthood; or a man who doesn't want to give up his modest, fun-focused life and assume responsibilities to other people; or even of a retiree who feels it's time to slow down and smell the roses after years of hard work. But this is not optimal for a 30-something man looking for the right woman to build a life with.

A decade ago, you may have looked appealing.

Perhaps this is why women are not so eager to date you. They see someone who's content with his bachelor life, and doesn't have any plans to change it. This isn't what they feel they need in a marriage partner. When they were 20-something, a good-looking, personable, college graduate who was taking it slow for a couple of years might have looked appealing. But as these women get older they begin to think in terms of putting down roots, becoming part of a community, advancing professionally, owning a home, and above all, having and providing for a family. They look for a marriage partner who has similar goals and a realistic idea of how to accomplish them.

A 30-something man who is content with his 20-something lifestyle, and appears to have no desire for anything more, doesn't strike them as husband material.

Lately, many women have expressed frustration that they keep meeting “Peter Pan”-like men who seem content to forever cover their monthly rent and utilities by splitting expenses between four roommates – without thinking to save money for future goals such as home ownership and retirement.

"I don't want to be the major breadwinner while my husband sits around playing guitar half the day," more than one woman has told us. "I don't want to be the only one who feels responsible to meet our bills. And I need to know that when we have children, two parents will be doing their best to provide for our family."

You are living too much in the moment.

When you say you want to get married, you're actually saying that you want to build a future with another person. But we see you as living very much in the moment. And because you don't seem focused on a lifestyle that provides a more concrete future for a family, you don't appeal to the many women who are thinking of those realities.

On the flip side, we often hear complaints from men that the women they date are "too materialistic." This is a valid concern, but that is not the issue here. We are speaking about women who are content with a modest lifestyle – but require the security of a man who is willing to at least share the role as the leader and provider.

The music, travel and friends are great aspects of your personality, and we are not suggesting that you give those up. Rather that needs to be balanced with a more realistic sense of what it means to be the head of a family.

Getting Practical

So what’s our advice to you? We suggest that you take some time to formulate short- and long-term career goals, and then embark on a path to achieve them. Think in terms of the next six months, one year, and five years. Speak with people you know in different career fields, and see if you'll need more training or education. Write down these possible goals, and the various ways you can achieve them. Then choose one to follow and take the plunge.

Another suggestion to help strengthen your “marriagability quotient” is to find a way to give of yourself, by regularly volunteering for a community service program. This will get you feeling a sense of responsibility for others, and is a concrete way to demonstrate that to the women you want to date.

We also encourage you to think about other long-range goals for your life. In five or ten years, what would you like to see yourself doing in terms of lifestyle, community, relationships, and spiritual growth? The women you date want to be able to relate to your dreams and overall expectations for the future. While there are a number of benefits to a laid-back approach, for some people it’s a way to avoid the emotional and physical work that goes into setting objectives, trying to implement them, and dealing with life's challenges.

If you find it hard to make long-term goals or have difficulty following through with your plans, a therapist may be able to help you overcome this challenge.

If you're willing to make the transition from a “laid-back, post-adolescent” to being a capable, focused man who is a responsible partner in marriage, your dating situation will unquestionably change for the better. And then you’re on track to meeting the right woman with whom to build a family and future.

Rosie & Sherry

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