Dear Mary Beth,
I’m 58, and I signed up recently for Catholic Match. So far I’ve been very disappointed to see the prospects sent to me. Someone needs to say this—we are not all meant to be married. We are not all equally datable. There is no fairness or equal opportunity in the dating world.
I am a tough sell since most women will not date men over 55. I honestly don’t know why I bothered to join. I knew I was wasting time and money. I also think most computer dating sites should not take anyone over 50. There is just no real dating market for you that late in life.
Here is the stat most folks don’t know—if you are still a single woman at 40, you have only a one percent chance of ever being married, if you are a single man aged 40 you have only a 5 percent chance of ever being married—Census Bureau. God doesn’t owe us a marriage or lover. Sadly many of us will never have either.
Dear Timed Out,
Well, in one sense, I have to agree with you. It is undoubtedly true that there is no fairness or equal opportunity in the dating world. Of course, it is also true that there is no fairness or equal opportunity in most of life. What God calls us to do is to take the hand we have been dealt, and to play it the best we can, in His grace and with His guidance.
It is also true that, statistically, older singles marry at much lower rates than younger singles. There are a lot of reasons for that. First, the older singles figure includes all of the people who for whatever reason don’t want or intend to marry. That’s a higher percentage as we get older.
It also gets more difficult to marry as we get older, because it gets more difficult for older singles to find each other. When you’re young and single, you can’t swing a jumbo sized margarita without it splashing on someone else who’s also young and single. But as we get older, it is harder to find each other. And, if we’re Catholic, it becomes even more difficult to find someone to marry, because so many “singles” our age are actually divorced, and thus not eligible to marry in the Church without an annulment.
That’s why I think sites like Catholic Match are such a gift to older singles. They take a population that is spread out and largely hidden, and they bring us together so that we can find each other. And we, more than younger singles, need that. Where else can we “search” a population to see not only who is single, but who is eligible to marry in the Church?
But this brings us to what I believe is one of the biggest barriers to marriage for older singles. We have lived, and most of us have suffered in one way or another. And that suffering, along with our joys, has shaped us. It is the “baggage” we bring to our relationships. Sometimes suffering makes us stronger, more compassionate, more ready to embrace the joy—and the sorrow—still to come. Other times it makes us angry, or suspicious, or pessimistic.
I abbreviated your letter, as I always do here—not adding or changing any of your words, but condensing it to fit within this format and removing identifying details. And, judging from the parts of your letter I didn’t include here, you have suffered more than most. I am sorry for that. I don’t know you, or how that has shaped you. I also don’t know how I would react if I had walked in your shoes. Odds are good that I would be struggling. And that I might write a letter to a Catholic dating site to vent a little bit.
But here’s what I do know: I know who wants to date men over 55. Women over 55 do. They are searching for men over 55 to date, paying money to be in this site to find men over 55 to date. But they don’t, for the most part, want to date bitter men over 55, or of any age. Just as men don’t want to date women who have become embittered by the suffering in their lives.
Not that I’m saying you’re bitter. I don’t even know you. Just pointing out the danger.
Most of us didn’t plan to still be single, or to be single again, at this point in our lives. But this is the hand we have been dealt. The late, great singer Rich Mullins wrote a song called “Where You Are,” about finding God even when we find our lives are very far from where we expected.
When where you are, ain’t where you wish you could be;
Well your life ain’t easy and the road is rough.
But where you are, is where He promised to be;
From the ends of the world to every point in need.
You can find the whole song here. I turn to this song—and other Rich Mullins songs—when I’m struggling. He “got” us better than most.
The point is that God is with you—in your suffering, in the way your life has turned out, in exactly where you stand on this very day. He meets you right where you are, and offers to fashion what you have into something beautiful. I agree that he doesn’t “owe” us marriage. But He has assured us that “All things work for good for those who love Him, who are called according to His purposes” (Romans 8:28). All things.
I also get that this is easier said than believed, much less done. The last thing I want to do is to be dismissive of your, or anybody’s, profound suffering.
Suffering is an important topic that I will address in another post. So let’s talk about that next time.
In the mean time, know that you are in my prayers.