What steps can I take towards marriage?

I am a 38 year old young woman who has never been married and does not have any children. I was raised in a Christian home in NC. I’ve obtained a graduate degree and made a good amount of money in previous jobs. However, I can’t help feeling like a failure in the area of marriage and children.

I value marriage and leaving a legacy but it seems the men in my generation don’t appreciate my traditional values. Lots of men are meeting women using online dating and are perfectly content not choosing from the thousands of women available to them via their phone.  In addition, it’s creating more men who don’t know how to have a conversation unless they can “text” you.

I’ve started devaluing my career and education as I get older because a family of my own is what my heart desires. What advice does the Bible have for me and lots of other women in my situation?


Danielle A.

Dear Danielle,

What a painful period in your life this must be. We would like to offer four suggestions that we hope will be helpful, but before we do so we want to make a few comments about your letter.

Like a doctor telling his patient that he has put on too much weight and instructing him to lay off the French fries and ice cream, those able to help us occasionally have to tell us things we may prefer not to hear.  So, know that we write to you only with a deep desire to hear back from you soon with news of your happy marriage.

That said, we noticed that you describe yourself as a 38-year-old young woman.   Now 38 is not by any means old, of course.  But, neither is it young.  We think most 38 year-olds would have written, “I’m a 38 year-old woman”.  Taken together with your description of “the men in my generation…”  Danielle, we worry that you are perhaps ruling out men of a certain age.  You see, men of your generation, men of 38 are just not dating women of 38. They may be dating women of 24.  We feel that you may need to adjust your thinking here a bit.  You are probably looking for a slightly older man than you currently envisage.  He may even have a marriage behind him.  In fact, given a choice between a never-married 47-year-old man and the same man widowed or even divorced, we might even put the never-married at the back of the line.  Please don’t shoot us, Danielle.  We’re just the messengers bringing you accurate information about how the world really works.

Moving on, you wrote that you are devaluing your career and education. If we may say so, that is a mistake. You cannot undo the past years and the choices that you made.  Your accomplishments are what they are and an important positive part of you. If you start resenting them you will only add bitterness and negativity to your personality; something that is highly unattractive.

That doesn’t mean that you made the best choices when you were younger.  It sounds to us like you may have unfortunately prioritized education and career above marriage in your earlier years. All of us, when young, have trouble seeing down the road.

The fact that you are educated and accomplished gives you great credibility when you talk to younger women and share your story. Without preaching, you can provide a counterpoint to the message society gives them that professional achievement should precede marriage and family. Let them know how the same heart that desired certain things at 25 feels very differently at 35 and that opportunities for marriage and family aren’t the same at all ages.  Using your experience to help others is a gift you have to offer.

Now on to some recommendations for you:

  1. Become professional about finding a life partner. Make a comprehensive list of friends and community leaders and speak to them individually. Let them know your dreams and ask them to keep you in mind as they meet potential mates. Treat this with the seriousness that you would if you were searching for a job.
  2. It sounds trite but it is true that if you want something you’ve never had, you will need to do something you’ve never done before.  This may include dressing differently, participating in new groups, and actively expanding your social connectivity.
  3. Go outside your comfort zone. Attend a different church sometimes and make sure to introduce yourself to as many people as possible. Volunteer for a charity—and it won’t hurt if it’s one that attracts Christian men. While we are not big fans of electronic communication in male/female interactions, don’t be dogmatic about what you will and won’t do. Perhaps a Christian dating website might even be a good idea. Think outside your box.
  4. Finally, find another woman in the same situation and pray for each other rather than each of you praying for yourselves. As you pray for the other woman’s pain to be alleviated, in a wondrous way, your own situation can attain a higher status in the Divine scale.

Praying to hear wedding bells ring,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin



31 thoughts on “What steps can I take towards marriage?”

  1. Dear Rabbi and Mrs. Lapin,
    I wanted to add another thought to my previous comment. (In that comment, I mentioned that increasing numbers of men are shunning marriage and children, out of fear of being destroyed in divorce court).
    As I see it, women ruin their chances for happiness by seeking a husband, rather than a man. As many men see it, being a husband is a situation and a job description; being a man is simply being a male human being. Thank you.

    1. Frank, I do see a husband – or a wife- as much more than a man or a woman. It is a description that implies someone making a commitment and entering a covenant. I wasn’t interested in just a male person when I was looking to get married, I did want a husband. Maybe this is semantics?

  2. Dear Rabbi and Mrs. Lapin,
    I’m late to the party, but better late than never. There is another issue here that needs to be raised: increasing numbers of men are shunning marriage and children, out of fear of being destroyed in divorce court. As we all know, the divorce rate is 50%, and women initiate divorce 70% of the time. Sociologist Augustine Kposawa found that the post-divorce suicide risk increased EIGHT times for men, but remained unchanged for women. Even aside from the suicide risk, men face financial devastation, as well. This is not a good situation, and is why I have myself shunned marriage and children. I realize that this is not good news, but it needs to be stated. Thank you.

  3. Dear Danielle,
    in addition to all that has already been said…
    I believe in the existence of a genuine match between a man and a woman. At the same time, I believe in the existence of a genuine war between the two aforementioned parties whenever there exists refusal to acknowledge their equal contribution to one another’s survival and to the well-being of their community. In a war between genuine (but not willing to acknowledge it) ”spouses” everything intended to sustain existence becomes a weapon of (self) destruction which eventually leads to a polarized self (and a polarized community). If you uphold a view of a polarized world, it is very likely that your true match is both your epiphany and your nemesis in one person. However, this needs to be verified by your reality in one way or another in order to be true.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Neri,
      We appreciate your thoughtful response to Danielle and we’re sure she is also grateful. These pages, as you know, are dedicated to teaching and discussing how the world REALLY works so every now and again, we have to correct something that a writer like you asserts. Know that we do so with love and with the conviction that in correcting you, we are anticipating your own unquenchable yearning for truth.
      Twice you wrote of things you believe. One was you believe in a unique match between a specific man and specific woman, if we have this right. Then you spoke of your belief in a war between them.
      When someone introduces a proposition with the words “I believe” they are telling you much about themselves but nothing about the veracity of the proposition.
      Ancient Jewish wisdom rejects the romantic Hollywood notion of one special person destined for you from the beginning of time. This destructive mindset makes men waste years searching for “Miss Right”. Most of the time they themselves are not yet Mr. Right. No, the truth is that there are many matches with whom anyone can build a wonderful life.
      With respect to your second belief about being at war, that would require more space than we have available here to adequately answer.
      In other words, though we love you reading our teachings, and we appreciate you taking the time and trouble to respond with such open sincerity we don’t agree with you.
      But then you don’t come here to be massaged with warm butter, do you? And that’s why we respect you.

  4. Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin,
    Thank you for such an encouraging and wise response. My husband and I have been married for almost 14 years and we met on Eharmony and got married in our mid-thirties. We are grateful. I’m writing to ask how your answer to the question would have differed had the person asking the question been a single man. I’d appreciate your thoughts on this. I’ve been blessed by your teaching and writing. Thank you for your ministry. -Mona

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Thanks for writing Mona–
      So lovely to hear a happy ending story. Had the Ask the Rabbi questioner been a single man, it would have been a very different response. You see, for reasons we make clear elsewhere, a marriage proposal usually has to come from the man. Thus, it is much easier for a man to be proactive. We are often tougher on guys than on girls for that reason.

  5. Nicole Proffitt

    I very much can empathize with Danielle. At the age of 39, I still had never married and so wanted to be married and have a family. Someone loaned me a book titled Fascinating Womanhood. After reading it and no longer wanting to be a wife because of my reluctance to perform all the duties explained in the book, I decided I was so much better off single, that I never wanted to be married. Thereafter I almost immediately met my husband of 30 years and we have a 29 year old son. Previous to my reading the book, I just scared men away.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Nicole-
      Both men and women can choose to see their lives in terms of either the duties and obligations of being a husband, wife, and parent or alternatively in terms of the immeasurable privileges of those roles. You are among the fortunate few who learned the truth in time. Thank you for sharing your story.

  6. I was 28 and had received my college degree and got the career job but was still single and searching. My sister in law suggested online dating which I was at first very much against as it was outside my comfort zone. But I tried it and that’s how I met my husband. He was actually 2 years younger than me but thankfully it worked for us. And now almost 10 years later I just turned 39 and our marriage is strong and happy and we have been blessed with 4 beautiful girls. Sweet lady, don’t give up. The Rabbi’s advice is so great. I especially liked praying for a friend in the same situation. God sees you and hears your prayers. I hope this encourages you. Be blessed.

    1. Laura, thank you for sharing your story. We hope it will be an incentive to Danielle to try something new.

  7. Thank you Rabbi ~
    Your replies are always first compassion and then the truth. It brings healing and wisdom to our souls.

  8. I have been in the same position. I had a good career but could not find a husband. Several years ago I decided that I could still feed into young women’s lives even if I wasn’t married.

    I started hosting international exchange students. What a wonderful opportunity. No, I still don’t have a husband, but I have been able to be a temporary mother to 10 young women. I have celebrated birthdays, prom, graduation, and the angst of young women trying to fit into a new community.

    I guess my point is that just because you don’t have the full experience (marriage, a supporting spouse, and children) you have the option to make a great experience for another person and open up opportunities for yourself.

    I have been able to move from feeling like I have wasted my life to recognizing that I can still make a positive difference as a single woman.

    1. Anita, you are making such an important point about making the most of whatever situation we are in. While Danielle can still hope to be married and have a family, she also should work on creating other relationships and sharing her talents, warmth and love with others who need her.

  9. I was 19 and foolishly thought the guy I met at a Christian college was everything God had for me. We were married and separated within 2 months, later divorced. I did a lot of dating after that, often thinking I’d found “the one.” I was used to dating older men, all but ruling out anyone else. Long story short, I was a 34-year-old pastor when I met my future husband. We worked in the church together for 2 years as “friends” before we realized that God had something more for us. At ages 36 (me) and 26 (him) we were married. This year we celebrate our 25th anniversary. My point? Sometimes we’re so busy looking for what we want that we can’t see what God has already provided. Danielle, don’t give up on a husband and family. Likewise, don’t give up on yourself, your career, your gifts. At the right time, God will bring the right person into your life. And even if you never marry, know that He blesses you and makes you a blessing just as you are.

    1. Sonia, what a great story! We always have to remember that we are each unique human beings and sometimes what is the norm is not our own answer.

  10. Dear Rabbi,

    King David stated in Psalms 119:105, “thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Though David’s analogy seem redundant, I know there’s some ancient wisdom in this double declaration. Will you please clarify?

    Thank you!

    1. Bryan, the best way to answer a question like this is to submit is as an Ask the Rabbi question rather than as a comment. We tend not to elaborate on Scriptural verses in this format, but sometimes a question like that turns into a Thought Tool.

  11. The grass always look greener on the other side. I know many people who have family and when they got older they wished for career and education. Christ, what a world!

    1. Hope, that is very true. We need to spend much time developing gratitude for what we have.

  12. She should be encouraged by your advice . I never was a professional , but enjoy physical work , and so was always moving around working different shifts for better pay , and of course “shop” work is often 6 days a week and 10 or more hours a day . At 35 I was tired of kissing”toads ” that never materialized into marriage material , and stepped out of my comfort zone , the way I dressed , and joined a Christian dating group ,became more social than I cared for , and even went on “blind” dates..This is how I met my husband of 25 years this May ! I had our daughters at the age of 37 and almost 40 .He was shorter and 7 years younger ( but looks older than me ! ) ,someone I never would have looked at twice , but has been an excellent husband ,father , and provider too . We have made a very good marriage and family . I hope she follows your advice.

    1. Karen, I know that it will give Danielle hope to read how the story played out for others. You truly were able to expand your vision and in the process you build a lovely marriage and family.

  13. Congratulations on developing yourself and a career. At 38, you are in a great position to find a mate. You will probably need to change up your game though. The things it takes to be a successful professional are a little different than in the relationship world. You will need to turn down the competent professional vibe and turn up your receptive feminine side. There’s lots of info in the web about that. The best advice I have heard is to get out and have a fun, interesting life that you enjoy. In the process, you find someone who matches that. I’m excited for you.

    1. Janet, you’re making a wonderful point. Turning up the feminine side does not mean pretending you are less intelligent or accomplished. It does mean allowing a certain vulnerability that the professional world disdains. Great advice.

  14. Excellent advice. I am a Christian woman and had almost given up hope when I walked down the aisle at age forty. Surprisingly, my husband is only three years older than me, which I didn’t expect as men my age were not usually interested in me nor was I interested in them.

    My husband was divorced when we met, and while divorce is not God’s ideal, some people do learn and grow from their mistakes. I am blessed to have such a wonderful man as my husband. We’ve been married eight and a half years, and we met through an online dating site. However, it was not a Christian dating site; neither of us had had any luck on such sites. The Lord works in mysterious ways.

    Online dating can be very tricky and you do have to screen candidates carefully, but that’s generally the case no matter how you meet someone new these days. Yet, it is a good option for those who have a small social circle or are shy about meeting new people.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Well, Dawn,
      We were certainly hoping that a woman of Danielle’s approximate age would write in with encouraging words and you answered our prayers! What a wonderful account and one certain to fill Danielle with hope.

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