“I’m 40 and still single. Have I missed the boat?” Proper Advice from a Psychoanalytic Perspective

I’m nearly 40 and not the most confident of people and it just seems to me that what comes easily to others, having partners, babies, money, a good job, etc, doesn’t come easily for me.

Three friends recently announced that they and their partners were expecting babies, and although I’m very happy for them, I am also jealous as I feel it’s never going to happen to me.

If I was younger, it wouldn’t bother me, but my age and the fact that I’ve never had a boyfriend makes me feel that it never will happen. I’ve been in tears ever since I heard their ‘happy news’ and am in tears now writing this.

As I haven’t got much of a social life, it’s probably my fault as well. But in the instances when I do go out, I’m not the one that men are attracted to, which makes me feel even worse.

Plus, my shyness probably makes me look ‘stuck up’ or aloof, when that isn’t the case. I’m on so many dating sites but cannot afford the full membership on them all (or a few) to access all the features.

On the few times that I have had full membership, most of the men who sent me messages weren’t men that I was attracted to. And those who I did like the look of and emailed either ignored me or stopped contacting me after a few messages, which does nothing for my lack of confidence.

I’ve even had men over 50 (one was 65 years old) contacting me. I don’t want someone that old and think them disgusting to even think that I would.

I just wonder what’s wrong with me, and why can’t I find someone to be with and to have a family with, when others seem to manage just fine? An ex-colleague met her fiancé, who was a customer, at work. Do you think it’ll ever happen for me? Have I missed the boat at my age? What am I doing wrong?

This letter appeared first in the Daily Mail.

My answer:

You are depressed. You seem to think that you are so unhappy, in tears writing, because you don’t have the things, so vital to a fulfilling life, that others find relatively easy to achieve. Of course these facts to compound your depression, but it is probable that you have been depressed for a very long time and this is why you feel so paralysed. You have perhaps always felt stuck – I don’t think it is true that you wouldn’t mind if you were younger. I suspect you minded very much.

You say ‘comes easily’, ‘doesn’t come easily,’ ‘hasn’t happened,’ ‘is never going to happen’ as though the world is a magical place where things simply come to pass without your having to participate. You are waiting to be saved but feel incapable of addressing your own despair for fear of it and for fear of what you might uncover. You then blame yourself (‘probably my fault as well’) in a way that feeds your depression and paralyses you further. Every route your thinking takes brings you to the same self-damning conclusion.

You say; ‘I’m not the one men are attracted to.’ This suggests that you stand there waiting for someone to pounce on you on the basis of your looks alone. This is both passive and dangerous. It gives you no choice of your own and allows pretty much anyone to step in should they wish to, regardless of his qualities or lack of them. You project a horribly negative opinion of you into these men, imagining them unsympathetically dismissing you as ‘stuck up’ and ‘aloof.’

You say you cannot afford to access the features of various dating sites, but I think this is a communication about accessing all the features of your mind and you fear the cost would be too great – to open up your depression is simply too terrifyingly costly. I wonder if you are also talking about accessing a distant or depressed mother’s mind – someone in your mind is not fully available, is impossible to access.

I think your disappointment about the people who did or didn’t like you on the dating site is very much linked to the fact that this (ie. dates with strangers) is not, in fact, what you are seeking. You are seeking intimacy but are afraid of it and do not feel you have the tools to achieve it. You don’t mention your parents here but the fact that you are disgusted by the advances of the older men does not suggest a healthy relationship with your father or father figures. Indeed, the extent of your despair and isolation does seem to point to a very difficult early life in which you did not feel embraced or accepted as you are, in which you were held to blame for your perceived deficiencies and perhaps accused of being ‘stuck up’ when you retreated from the attacks. (Pure speculation, obviously).

Your final questions do point to the right answers. You mention that others manage life better than you do, so you have noticed that you have problems other people seem not to have. You ask if love will ever come your way, have you ‘missed the boat’ and, most importantly, you say; ‘What am I doing wrong?’

You sound like an intelligent person who must know that people of 80 and 90 fall in love and that there is no boat to miss. You also know very well that you are doing something wrong, but I think you are hoping these are technical issues of some kind that could be solved with life tips, like; ‘Learn how to flirt,’ or ‘Wear seductive clothes’ or ‘Here’s how to write a good dating profile.’ All plainly absurd. What you are doing wrong is not getting yourself treatment for your very profound depression – pharmaceutical or psychotherapeutic or a combination of the two.

You sound trapped in a dreadfully sad state of loneliness and self-flagellation that you won’t get out of via a handsome prince or with the help of some good advice. You would turn away from the prince in disgust and disbelief (your lack of self worth would not allow you to get close to him anyway) and you will ignore advice, dismissing it (rightly) as not applicable to your chronic situation but only to other people with easy lives. You are going to have to look at what lies behind the envy and misery that are supposed to defend you from your internal reality, face the internal reality and rebuild honestly. Not easy, of course, but a) worth it and b) the only realistic option.

Proper Advice in private via Skype or email: anna@blundy.com

About Anna Blundy

Honorary psychotherapist with a Masters in Psychoanalytic Theory and another in Psychodynamic Clinical Psychotherapy. Novelist - Author of the Faith Zanetti quintet - The Bad News Bible, Faith Without Doubt, Neat Vodka (US - Vodka Neat), Breaking Faith, My Favourite Poison. Also a memoir of my father, Every Time We Say Goodbye and my most recent thriller - The Oligarch's Wife
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3 Responses to “I’m 40 and still single. Have I missed the boat?” Proper Advice from a Psychoanalytic Perspective

  1. Struck very many chords regarding a close friend. Very astute and makes total sense to me. Have forwarded this to her. Thankyou Anna.

  2. Anna Blundy says:

    I’m so glad my answer struck some chords – I do hope it helps your friend. A

  3. leonard says:

    Ms. Blundy – Your essay strikes a number of chords.Great job! I just suppose that it is “easier” (?) for men to throw themselves into some activity that makes us feel important and needed (as no woman EVER did) and we kind of drop out of a “game’ that had no place for solid, good men. We can try to be the “best men we can be”, but we have no idea what it must be like for women.
    Best wishes

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