Driving home I finished a podcast episode where the guest was talking about her dating life and experiences with online dating. She shared that by age 29 she had never had a serious relationship. Then, by age 34, her longest relationships only lasted about 6 months. Because so many of her friends and her siblings were all married or in long term relationships she felt there must be something wrong with her; that she had to be the common thread. Plus, society has conditioned us to believe something is wrong with us if we haven’t had multiple long term relationships even if they have all failed.

She shared that when she goes on dates, she never asks the men about their dating histories because she is terrified they will ask about hers and she will have to reveal she hasn’t had long term relationships as though all her actual “experiences” don’t count. She talked about one date where the question did come up and when she answered, his response was “Oh my God, what is wrong with you? That really concerns me.” She left that date broken and cried in her car.

She decided to seek therapy. She also chose a male therapist. She had very strong female relationships in her life and figured they either wouldn’t tell her the real truth about what was wrong with her or they would go to the extreme and tell her she was too picky. She thought a male therapist could give her an honest, unbiased perspective from the challenging gender. He could tell her if it was that she wasn’t pretty enough or wasn’t sexy or being too picky.

He confirmed it was none of those things and that she had high standards which was ok. When he heard her “list” he felt the expectations were reasonable and not so out of whack no one could meet enough of them-only that not settling does make it harder to meet people with long term potential. He didn’t feel she had any demands that were inflexible or compromises she couldn’t make if the most important boxes were checked. In fact, her experience is actually becoming more and more common amongst millennials and generation Z. It’s just harder these days to make that connection.

I too have a male therapist. He was one of few who specialize in PTSD treatment which is what prompted me to begin seeing him. But we cover everything from childhood traumas all the way up to work issues and dating. I have asked him many times what is wrong with me. He says there is absolutely nothing wrong with me. I got a later start because of unresolved issues from childhood and my early 20s. But my experiences are valid and my list of needs is healthy. It’s just harder for people like me who don’t settle. That a lot of people enter marriages, co-habitation and child rearing knowing something is more deficient than it should be and hope that taking the “leap” will solve it or at least water it down. In essence, he feels I am actually happier and healthier than they are and that it’s not a good comparison. We are coming from completely different evolutions and I just managed to get to a higher plane. They could have too under different circumstances. But these are my circumstances and I need to accept them and understand they are the total opposite of failure.

I have only had 3 serious relationships and I was done with them by around age 25. The first one was incredibly loving and healthy. We just grew apart with our age difference and life goals. The other 2 were very unhealthy and riddled with dishonesty, insecurity and violence in one. I went into them a broken person with lots of unresolved issues I had been carrying since childhood. I was really fat and took what behavior I got, especially with the third one because he was good looking, had the attention of other women and for some reason chose me so I didn’t ever push back on things which didn’t feel right to me. The second one resulted in restraining orders and court. Anything after that was an upgrade.

I was so fractured and completely dissembled by experience number 3, I just couldn’t get involved with anyone for a very long time. I didn’t trust guys who told friends they were interested in me because I was fat, there was no valid reason for them to be interested and I usually convinced myself it was some kind of prank or bet they made with friends. I underwent years of therapy to break apart all the obstacles which kept me from being able to trust and while I have made a world of progress, it was always be a lingering problem.

I too don’t ask about previous relationships when dating because I don’t want to answer that question and have to field that look of fear on their faces. Like I can’t be capable of having healthy long term relationship because I don’t have a lengthy history of failed ones. Think about that for a minute. Does that really make sense? I won’t be able to navigate sharing a bathroom and household responsibilities in a good relationship because I have never done it in a bad one? I can’t navigate emotional conversations, disagreements, boundaries because I haven’t had failed ones? What about the plethora of highly successful adult friendships and decades of leadership experience over other adults that are hugely fulfilling and successful? My work experience alone better qualifies me for marriage than any previous male companion.

In fact, I have had a lot of experiences the long terms have not. I have had friends with benefits, the long goodbye sex, one night stands, Vegas stands, revenge sex, rebound dates, short term boyfriends, cheating boyfriends, sexual assault, work trysts, an affair, married men flirtations and very close male friends going on 2 decades. I don’t believe these are inconsequential. In terms of bathrooms and chores…we get a house with 2 bathrooms, we hire a house cleaner, we order meal kits, we hire a CPA/financial advisor, keep separate bank accounts and both get comfortable picking up dog poop. What is it I am not qualified to do here just because I haven’t failed it before?

My problem is I am Gen X and we believe everyone is supposed to be coupled up, yet prepared for divorce or spousal unemployment. We have been taught to be able to provide for ourselves in the event one loses a job or “she” ends up divorced with the kids. But we are expected to at least have one marriage under the belt or we are not valid. There is something wrong with us. I would challenge that I think it’s quite an accomplishment for me, or anyone, to be able to provide solely for myself with no midnight confidant and having spared child dependents from the financial and opportunity dearth which can come from a single parent home.

Because I got a later start, my dating experience is more aligned with the millennials. I have to know what ghosting, cuffing season, polyamory and sapiosexual mean. I can never assume the guy I am seeing and sleeping with isn’t doing the same with someone else and I can’t even be just a little bit bothered by it when I find out because it’s what “everyone else is doing.” I know the nuances which set Tinder apart from Match, OkCupid from Bumble, Hinge from Happn.” I am watching the disintegration of marriage and monogamy based on the married men, open relationship, poly, non-monogamy approaches I get. Basically, gals, “he’s just not that into you” but he likes your house, double income, child care, car choices too much to free you up for something better.

I began my millennial dating around age 36 when I lost weight and became an average , size 10 fat girl. I was conveniently aged around the failing first marriages and less fat than the ex wife who bore the kids. I was confident because I hadn’t spent decades being beaten down in sad relationships. I still liked sex. Novelties for the age 40 male and over. So I have had lots and lots of experiences. I have traveled. I have been educated. I have a lot of well informed opinions on the world in general. I read a lot. I have a lot to talk about on dates without ever having to “mention my ex.” And, unlike millennials, I have my shit together, am financially solvent, don’t live with my parents and can drive in the snow. Also, my college debt is long paid off. I can go on yearly vacations and save for retirement. I have no college tuitions to prepare for and don’t have to buy new shoes every six months because the munchkin keeps growing out of them. I can just buy shoes for myself every six months because I like them and they go well with an outfit. I don’t have children, nor do I want them. No pressure. I’m fine if he has them already. It’s just not something he ever has to worry he will hear ticking in the background of a nice dinner. About the only ” clock” I have is do I have to buy a plus one concert ticket for him six months out? Because the shows I go to are cheap, I never have to tell if I did or not. He only has to know if we get about a week out from it.

I find it comforting to hear another woman talking about her experiences just as I do. It doesn’t matter she is a decade younger. She expected to be married with kids by now and it hasn’t happened so she is now accepting she is just on a different path. Plus, she froze her eggs which is an option now. That allows her to let out a big sigh and enjoy a steak dinner on her dates without fear of male reproach that she is “stifling” him simply by stating she would like to have kids someday. And why is he so arrogant as to assume she means she wants to have his kids. Do we think so little of women as to assume they have no discernment or taste of their own in the plan and design of their offspring. It’s her general goal for sometime in the future just as it is for most men. She doesn’t mean you right now, today. Settle down on the ego and jumpy sperm. If you are single and she is single, you aren’t a bigger prize than she is.

Women, you don’t need therapy to find out what’s wrong with you because you haven’t yet had a chance to kick someone out, contemplate divorce, have to hide his cheating, tolerate his sloth or hide your shopping bags. Male or female therapist. Have a therapist because it’s good for emotional health just the way you see your PCP for physical health. It’s great to have one when you are navigating a new relationship because he/she can help you through your silent freak outs and “is this normal” questioning. But by no means are you less of a person, less capable of a good relationship and invalidated in any way simply because a man hasn’t let you down in a way that causes you financial harm or home displacement. Those are tragedies. They are not skill builders.