In any successful corporation, executives anticipate future possibilities and make their plans accordingly. As chairman of the board of your life — not a bad way to see things — you're faced with the same challenge/opportunity. Which means, of course, looking at the numbers dealing with your odds of marrying. Those numbers were so startling when they were first published, they made screaming headlines. But here, in a calm setting, you and I can delve into their meaning minus any emotional charge. Here we go:
The possibilities: You will marry soon. Or you will marry later, probably later than you expected. Or you won't marry at all — or again. Or (and I wish it to you) you will marry and live to your last day with your spouse. Or you will marry but ultimately get divorced.
The odds: When I was doing research for my book "Single File," I found that a never-married woman of 30 has a 20 percent chance of marrying. A never-married woman of 40 has a 1 percent chance. (The odds probably have improved since then.) There are 86.9 single men for every 100 single women, and according to one rough estimate, 44 percent of those men are gay. Twelve in 13 American women who marry will eventually become widows. Women outlive men by an average of eight years. The divorce rate is 50 percent. Seventy-five percent of divorced women remarry; 83 percent of men remarry. There is a burgeoning trend toward lifelong singleness, more prevalent among women.
The probability: Significant periods of singleness in your life.
Action indicated: All but two of the possibilities put you back at square one — living life on your own. Only one of them keeps you partnered for life, and the possibilities of that one are slim. And even the one woman who stays married to her last day needs to cultivate her autonomy. Even she needs to live as if she'll always be single! That's right; even if you knew now you'd be married for life, chances are you'd still recognize the importance of owning your own life, because in the most fundamental way, all of us are responsible for ourselves. In that sense, we're all walking single file.
Don't make your life a waiting game, putting action on hold for some airy-fairy reason. You know in your heart of hearts that life's bounty is only for the doers. Yet some single women sit waiting, praying for Mr. Wonderful to come along and jump-start their "real" life. They don't learn about finances and the stock market, don't even dream about a condo of their own and planning a career, because none of that's possible without a man. Well, he's not here, and it's time to stop waiting for him to present a life to you. You yourself had better start opening the present.
Have a question for Susan? You can reach her directly at [email protected]