You know how some men complain about how difficult it is to find the right girl? They complain that all of the girls are spending their time going after “alpha males” or “outlaw bikers” or the like? Here’s what really happens:

The guy went through grade and middle schools in the lower social classes. They may have had friends, but they were mostly fellow outcasts or, at the least, were mostly devoid of popular people. This is important because it meant that that they lacked female friends. The upper castes tend to either have co-ed tribes or otherwise have corresponding pools of guys and girls similar to that of a fraternity and its sister sorority. This is important because it means that they had somewhat limited exposure to women. That girl who sits next to them who borrows pencils from him or even that girl that smiles back in the hall when he smiles at her doesn’t count. Nor does it count just because he got a girl to sign his yearbook. She probably just wrote “have a great summer” or “thanks for the pencil” or maybe “stay sweet” for lack of anything better to say.

What happened in late junior high or maybe high school is that he started asking girls out. He didn’t do a very good job of this. He asked out girls that were way out of his league. Girls that lead him on by smiling back at him in the halls, borrowing a pencil, or signing his yearbook. After failing at this, he may have asked out girls that were a lot less attractive than the ones that he asked out before. The problem is that he never really went to the trouble of getting to know these girls, getting them to sign his yearbook, or much of anything else. Why waste the effort? Just take shots in the dark. Suddenly, they’re hurt, too.

The exacts vary from individual to individual, but the important part of this is that it all put him on the wrong track. He fell further and further behind in his ability to deal with female-types. When he later made real live female friends, this was quite an advance and he figured that he was finally out of it all. So he started trying to inch up closer to them. Some were girls that tolerated him at best. Others may have said yes, but somewhere along the line he heard that it’s good to make friends with girls first and then ask him out and he mistook unloading his problems on her as friendship and the problems that he unloaded made him less attractive because nobody likes being around a whiner. In fact, he probably considers the fact that he listens to her whines as a debt accrued on her part to be repaid by later romance.

Again, the details vary somewhat, but the refrain is all the same. Over and over again, he puts himself in situations where he is not an attractive partner. When these situations blow up, he gets increasingly embittered. This results in his becoming less attractive because nobody wants to be with a downer. As he gets more desperate he may be willing to if it means being with somewhat that he is otherwise attracted to, but he comes up with the expectation that a woman should be willing to do the same for a man that she is not particularly attracted to.

Things descend further when he finds out that because someone else is down does not mean that they believe that being with another downer, or something that they are not attracted to, will alleviate their predicament. Some guys might take this as a sign that they should improve themselves to the point that they are not a downer or that they should be valuable in more respects than merely being a consolator. Some have amazing minds that help them figure this out. Some stumble on the answer. Others, though, do neither.

Instead, they come to the conclusion that the problem is that the girl that signed his yearbook doesn’t realize that her broken heart at the hands of somebody else means that she needs to find someone that would never break her heart. Not coincidentally, he means himself. So really, it’s their fault for not wanting to be with him. They’re the problem and he is not.

The embitterment becomes more entrenched in his psyche and the cycle perpetuates. He becomes increasingly misogynistic and his misogynism makes finding romance increasingly less likely, which makes him more misogynistic and so on. More and more of his interactions with women become about partnering up. Girls become ever more uncomfortable around him. The witches. And before they know it, they’re in their thirties, mostly devoid of serious relationships (except with people roughly as angry and generally screwed up as they are… I don’t need to tell you how successful those relationships are) and he ends up in the dark world of his own anger and proclaimed blamelessness.

And that is why so many men have trouble finding women.

It’s kind of a neat and tidy story, isn’t it? You see, it’s really the guys fault that he never found love. In fact, any guy that doesn’t find love is to blame becuase he spent all of his time pursuing the wrong women! If he stopped aiming too high and stopped being so mean, everything would work out. But he didn’t so they didn’t. Unfortunately, a whole bunch of nice girls out there end up without guys because so many guys are inflicted with this bitterness.

The problem is that the above strictly applies to relatively few men. A lot end up without partners for entirely different reasons. They reasonably chose women that they seemed well-suited for and things did not work out because of her own dark world of anger. Or he simply had an unconventional personality that made it difficult to find women that would appreciate it.

This is the problem I have with the whole meme that women end up alone because they are hung up with getting “alpha males” or because they are fixated with jerks. There are women to whom this applies, just as their are men to whom the above applies, but it’s dismissive of a lot of people’s loneliness on the basis of the worst archetypes. It assumes that people of the other that are in pain deserve it while your own comrades are victims.

The solution, to the extent that there is one, is to try to modify one’s own behavior. This is much more difficult than blaming the other gender, but in the end it’s what is most likely to produce results. I’m not huge into kharma, but it is my experience that what you bring into the dating market is what you get out of it. I don’t mean this strictly in the sense of bitterness but also in terms of how serious you are about finding a partner. I’ve found that people that are looking for serious relationships figure out what to look for and find, if not serious relationships, people that are looking for them (which greatly increases their likelihood of finding it). People that look for relationships for the sake of alleviating pain tend to find other people looking to alleviate pain. That rarely makes for good relationships or, for that matter, relationships at all.

My glasses are not so rose-colored as to suggest that happiness is purely an inside job. My wife’s presence in my life has made me happier in very real ways. Had I not found her, and had certain other prospects not worked out, it’s quite possible that I would be unhappy right now. The same goes for my wife. Where we succeeded and others failed, besides in simply finding the right person, was that we were both, when we met, prepared to be happy. We weren’t just hoping for it or pleading for it. We were ready for it. We knew it when we saw it. We were ready to work to preserve it when we found it.

They say that luck is merely preparation meeting opportunity. A lot of people spend all their time seeking out opportunity which usually leads to tragedy. Some people find preparation but never opportunity and that is inherently tragic. I wish I had more advice on the opportunity front but that was the part that I was always bad at. Fortunately, before I got really lucky with that, I avoided the above cycle and got a handle on the preparation part.

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21 Responses to Why Men End Up Alone

  1. Linus says:

    Awesome post. So much so, in fact, that I (uncharacteristically) have nothing to add or change.

  2. logtar says:

    I do have something to change… I think chemistry has a lot more to do with this process that the above mentions. Chemistry can at times nullify some social standards if it is strong enough…

  3. Peter says:

    All this sort of bears out Siggy’s “tracks” theory. Get off on the wrong track, whether in terms of college attended or interactions with women, and it’s very very hard to recover no matter how much you may want to change. Just as it’s nearly impossible to change careers into i-banking if you’re 30 years old, so it is difficult to find a woman if you are 30 or 35 years old when you finally come to the realization that you have a misogynistic attitude. In both cases the opportunity has passed you by.

  4. Barry says:

    I tried to read through this carefully and see if any of it was similar to my situation growing up, and where it diverged (I was married at 26 and remain happily so after being essentially dateless and girfriend-less for 22 years).

    The main difference in my life, and in my junior and senior high experiences was that the classes of students were a lot more mixed and less simplistic than Will uses. I wasn’t popular to anyone in an attractive sense, but I had plenty of friends. I was in the arts circles (band, chorus, drama) and also in the AP circles (advanced English, math). In my schools these circles intertwined a good deal, and also with other circles. There were jocks and cheerleaders in the drama classes, and a really good football player played bass drum in the concert band. Geeky tech guys were good at math, and interacted with the brainy English girls who also played clarinet.

    So while I would never consider myself one of the guys that girls seemed to (eventually) gravitate to, I was around the ones who did get girls. The girls I wanted, incidentally. And while they may have been slightly better looking than me, or at least more self-conscious about their looks and dress, personality-wise we were all fairly equal. I was friends with them, laughed, joked, teamed up for projects, ate lunch, marched with, acted with, the lot of them. But still – no girls ever expressed an interest. There were several I expressed interest in, but finding nothing romantic in return I backed off.

    The pattern continued in college, although the circles got more numerous and I traveled from one to another. Lots of friends, lots of female friends in fact – but little romantic interest. I was average to slightly below average in looks but so were other guys I hung out with who had girls or varying looks. My personality was strong, moreso than some of theirs. The girls I did date on occasion never lasted more than a week. One relationship that started very promisingly during a Madrigal choir experience – very romantic, in costume at Christmas – ended a scant week later when she apparently got tired of me.

    Thank goodness I met my wife my senior year in college, fell in love and eventually got married.

    But all these years later, I still wonder…why? Or rather, why not? And I read Will’s treatise and try to match it to find some answers, but they’re not really there.

  5. trumwill says:


    Chemistry can at times, I think, but I think that’s more the exception rather than the rule. Chemistry as is most commonly defines seem to react most around the already beautiful and attractive.

  6. trumwill says:


    Tracks are exceptionally important. My previous post didn’t get into the whole bitterness thing, but it’s a factor as well. Particularly since bitter people (male and female) are always so adept at finding justification for their bitterness, either imagining offense when none is given or because it’s angry people that are typically the first to respond to angry people in a discussion.

  7. trumwill says:


    Like I said, my initial description (and even variations of it) are not universal. Some guys really do have often luck. Or they have something off-putting that they just don’t realize. Or their temperaments are better suited for more (or less) mature potential mates than that surround them.

    Interestingly, a lot of what else you say ties into a post I’ve been mulling over. We’ll see if I ever get around to writing it, but I will say now that it makes you something of an odd case.

  8. Kirk says:

    I’m starting to be okay with the idea of being single for the rest of my life. And I guess that’s good, as I honestly believe it’s out of my control.

    As for all the theories as to why some girls and guys never do manage to meet anyone, they’re just that: theories. If there were a real body of research that could help single people find love, it would be relatively easy to apply that research and cure the problem. There isn’t one, so the problem goes uncured.

    On a related note, there’s a girl in my class who doesn’t shave her legs. She was wearing jeans, with sandals, and I could see her leg hair running down to her ankles. Judging from the length of the visible hairs, she has as much leg hair as I have.

    Okay, so that’s one person we could help!

  9. a_c says:

    Considering that one’s dating life revolves around comparatively few encounters (on average, in the low double digits) it is believable that extreme bad luck can account for quite a few of the bitter people. With the tracks theory, in which the first, say, three encounters have a transformative effect on your future interactions, the role of luck is even greater.

  10. Peter says:

    On a related note, there’s a girl in my class who doesn’t shave her legs. She was wearing jeans, with sandals, and I could see her leg hair running down to her ankles.

    Hmmm. If she doesn’t shave her legs, it’s a safe bet that she doesn’t … oh, never mind.

  11. trumwill says:


    Wouldn’t the number of encounters be variable? Some guys are too sheepish to ask anybody out and some are a little more aggressive about it. Then, of course, there are people like me who did ask girls out but went about it all wrong.
    people necessarily. Now if you’re limiting “encounters” to people that we ask out, that’s fair enough. There could be a lesson out here about making sure that the first people that you ask out are the best of the most likely to say yes, though it’s hard to tell that sort of thing at 14 or 15 and for a lot of kids (including younger me) it didn’t really matter who we asked out because we were so inept at everything that comes before that. –>

  12. a_c says:


    I’d define “encounter,” rather circularly, as anyone who significantly changed your opinion of your skill in dealing with the opposite sex. For shy people that might include someone you barely spoke to; for more outgoing ones brief flings may not count. There is thus less variability than if we were to use a benchmark based on how far a relationship progressed.

    This view is obviously limited; it excludes all the previous nonromantic social-circle building that comes before, and some people may be more persistent than others. But it does show that luck with those first encounters can plausibly be a major factor in your overall level of success; *some* losers may simply be born from bad luck.

  13. Barry says:

    Interestingly, a lot of what else you say ties into a post I’ve been mulling over. We’ll see if I ever get around to writing it, but I will say now that it makes you something of an odd case.

    I’d be very interested in reading what you have to say. And I find pride, in some ways, of being an odd case 🙂

  14. Barry says:

    For shy people that might include someone you barely spoke to; for more outgoing ones brief flings may not count.

    That’s a good point, a_c. If we define the range of “encounters” on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 between a brief glance from a girl in the hallway to 10 being…well, pick the wildest thing imaginable two people could do together. If a person is only likely to rate, say, a 2-3 in encounters with the opposite sex an encounter of 3-4 would be incredibly encouraging. If you’re used to encounters all the way up to the 5-6 range, then a 3-4 wouldn’t mean much and might even be discouraging.

    And what you’re saying, Will, is it would behoove us as parents to instill in our just-about-to-start-dating kids to not be discouraged if you don’t hook up (in that platonic middle-school or high-school sense) right away, but find someone who will at least share a soda with you, so to speak. If that person continues to enjoy your company, progress upward. If they don’t, don’t expect your next encounter to have to be at that next level – stay where you are and continue to seek out soda-sharers.

    That was my problem – I was a 1-2 encounter person in junior high and high school. I had plenty of friendly encounters with girls, but I wanted something quickly in the 4-5 range – I wanted to “go” with a girl, to walk around holding her hand, to share the frequent snog (anything higher than 6, ie beginning sexual encounters, was out of my expectations due to religious reasons and general moral stance – I would have been happy to get up to 5 and stay there). I would’ve been an entirely non-threatening boyfriend. But I didn’t have any idea how to pass through that 3-4 range on the way to 4-5. Maybe I never asked, maybe my parents never thought to give me advice, but that was probably what held me back.

    In college, I progressed up somewhat into the 3-4 with the occasionaly visit to 5-6 (I actually had some dates) and I was a grown-up, but I still wanted that good, solid dating life. And until I met my wife-to-be, never bridged that gap.

  15. Kirk says:

    Frankly, this conversation is starting to depress me. I think it’s because everyone else here has solved their relationship problems, while I haven’t. I ask myself: “What the hell is wrong with me?”

    Regardless, this was a pretty good post. I’ve always disliked the snarky, condemning cliches people spout about why men/women are single. Though the anti-male ones have stung me, I suppose the anti-female ones are just as bad, only I don’t notice them as they’re not aimed at me.

  16. trumwill says:


    If Uncle Rupert can get married, anybody can.

    I plan to write a post on this at some point, but since this subject has you blue, I’ll give you at least one aspect of the post now:

    From what I know of you, you seem to be a guy that spends a lot of time alone except when going to work or college. My advice would be to try to meet people and make local friends that you can see and spend time with on a regular basis. If you’re a believer (or can pretend to be one), go to church and participate in activities there. Maybe watch a Your University or Your NFL Team game at a sports bar next season (learn enough beforehand to hold a conversation — I don’t know how big a football fan you are) and try to make friends there. If you have a pet, go to pet shows! The mistake that a whole lot of people make (including the one that I made and that Uncle Rupert may have) is giving in to their introversion. Don’t do things solely to meet women (you won’t at sports bars, probably) but to meet people cause it seems that most guys most successfully meet women through other men and through female friends. By far the biggest mistake that I made when I was single was not being generally social enough and focusing my social activities on meeting women.

    If this doesn’t describe you at all and if you have all sorts of friends and whatnot, I apologize for getting it wrong. I probably don’t know you well enough to give you any advice, but this is the Internet where we don’t have to concern ourselves with such petty things as qualifications.

  17. a_c says:

    Also Kirk, beware the fundamental attribution bias: we think others do things because it’s in their nature, rather than because of chance. Put more broadly, we have a tendency to think others know what they’re doing, even when they’re not.

  18. Becky says:

    Interesting post and commentary. With some of my guy friends, I can quite frankly see what they do to drive women away or creep them out, but I don’t have the heart to be that blunt. How do you tell a friend that a girl is way out of his league or the fact that he has horrible breath will drive most away?

    I would also agree with you on your recommendation to Kirk. I met Ted through a social group that I discovered online. People planned outings/events (it wasn’t meant to be a singles thing) and you just showed up and met people. It was pretty difficult for me to attend my first few by myself, but eveyrone was really nice. I met Ted through a friend that I met through this organization. But, it was up to ME to get out and try something new and expand my social circle. I did it to just meet friends in a new city and wound up with something much better 🙂

  19. Peter says:

    Don’t do things solely to meet women (you won’t at sports bars, probably) but to meet people cause it seems that most guys most successfully meet women through other men and through female friends.

    That’s right, another thing is that women may be more likely to agree to see men whom they know have a variety of friends. Loners are often thought to be creeps or weirdos even if they’re not that way at all.

  20. SFG says:

    Interesting. Ironically in my case it may have been extreme pickiness that was the initial problem; the first time I ever asked out a girl she said yes and I never called her…

    You’re right, though in my case it was less bitterness and more social introversion; I just figured, well, if women don’t like guys like me, I can just do without women… though given the auxiliary positive effects women have on social skills it would have been good to date a little more. I think I may be the only guy who wants women so he can get more money (by improving social skills at work), instead of the other way around!

  21. Kirk says:

    “From what I know of you, you seem to be a guy that spends a lot of time alone except when going to work or college.”

    You’re pretty much correct. Even at work I’m generally alone. And I’ve never found college to be the socialization smorgasbord that so many others find it to be; I suppose that’s for the younger students.

    As for college, I should graduate in May. I’m hoping I can give my social life some tweaks after then, and maybe even eventually change jobs so I can work during the day. However, I haven’t been on a date since ’94, so you can imagine how clueless I am about socializing.

    Still though, I suppose I should look upon this as an opportunity. Unlike many other people on the dating circuit, I no kids, no debt, and no exes. Of course, I also have less hair than I used to have, but you can’t win them all!

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