The Real Reasons Middle-Aged (and older)Women Stay Single

Alecia Kennedy
6 min readApr 16, 2023

Let’s stop assuming the worst

The author hiding from men in a cave at Bryce Canyon

When I was a baby, my grandmother’s sister came to live with her and my grandfather. My great-aunt had married later in life and never had children. When she divorced in her fifties, she opted to live with her sister. While Nannie and Hoo Hoo (her actual name was Hilda) were very different and would sometimes disagree, you could tell they both enjoyed the arrangement. I certainly loved having the equivalent of two grandmothers in the same house. And while I have no idea what my grandfather thought of the situation, I have to assume that he was happy my grandmother had someone to hang out with while he listened to his ballgames on the radio and read his books.

A curious child, I once asked Hoo Hoo about her ex-husband and their divorce. My grandmother was quick to join in the conversation, spitting out the word “Yankee” as though it left a bad taste in her mouth — I guess that was the worst insult she could think of for her New Yorker ex brother-in-law. Hoo Hoo laughed as she told me they got divorced because he went back to his first wife. I didn’t think it was funny. If that happened to me I’d be angry and embarrassed — but there she was laughing about it. Hoo Hoo never talked about dating after her divorce. She never mentioned getting married again. I didn’t question it. Back then, no one expected women to look for love after a certain age.

In my early twenties, I watched my mom’s sister settle into life with her adult daughter after losing her husband in middle age. Like many people, I made all kinds of assumptions about why the women I knew seemed to have no interest in securing new relationships after divorce or the death of their partners. And most of these assumptions were unflattering and unfair.

I assumed they were giving up all kinds of cool things like sex and companionship far too early. I assumed that maybe no one wanted them because they were “too old”. I assumed they had built their lives around their husbands and nothing else could possibly compare to that bliss, so they were destined (or doomed?) to remain single. I assumed they were lonely or sad. Granted, I had no reason to assume any of these things. But to a girl or young woman, the idea of being single forever, by choice, doesn’t make sense. Then…