How Being Happily Single Can Lead to Being Happily Married

Rebecca Traister is writer at large for New York Magazine and a contributing editor at Elle. A National Magazine Award finalist, she has written about women in politics, media and entertainment from a feminist perspective for The New Republic and Salon and has also contributed to The Nation, The New York Observer, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Vogue, Glamour and Marie Claire. Traister's first book, Big Girls Don't Cry, about women and the 2008 election, was a New York Times Notable Book of 2010 and the winner of the Ernesta Drinker Ballard Book Prize. She lives in New York with her family.

Loving Couple Since women now have options for living a fulfilling life without marriage, holding out for the right person has become possible in a way that it wasn’t for earlier generations. I was able to find a partner as a direct result of being able to live my life the way I wanted. Read more about the contemporary lives of women in my book All The Single Ladies.

Back when women needed a man, truly needed one, to earn money, provide social standing and a roof, needed to be married in order to enjoy a socially sanctioned sex life or have children who wouldn’t be shunned, standards could be lower. They were necessarily lower. A potential mate could more easily get away with offering only a pay check, a penis, and a pulse.

Today, women want much more, and holding out for better partners is part of how we’re improving—and thereby saving—marriage.

All the Single Ladies

All the Single Ladies

by Rebecca Traister

  • Get All the Single Ladies
  • Get All the Single Ladies
  • Get All the Single Ladies
  • Get All the Single Ladies
  • Get All the Single Ladies

The lion’s share of finding love is luck, in tandem with privilege, since key to propitious circumstance is opportunity: the opportunities on offer to us when we are born, the resources and options made available to us as we grow.

These were the circumstances by which I wound up married: One night I was headed back to my apartment; I was planning to work late. When I got off the subway, I decided to stop at a favorite neighborhood restaurant, a place I frequented with my girlfriends, to get some takeout pasta. After I ordered, I sat at the bar to drink a glass of water, and noticed a handsome man sitting next to me, eating by himself at the bar. He was reading a magazine and drinking a glass of wine. I watched him in the mirror above the bar and felt, suddenly, that I wanted to know him. Unconsciously, I dropped my glass of water and it broke on the bar. He looked up, and we began a conversation.

I was neither looking nor not looking for love; I was looking for dinner.

There was no strategy. It might just as easily never have happened.

There was nothing special about what I was doing or wearing or how I was acting or my approach to the relationship or whether he called me back. In fact, he was in the late stages of grief and initially hesitant about entering a relationship: If I had listened to the advice from He’s Just Not That Into You I would never have pursued him, never wound up discovering exactly how easily we fell into each other.

The only action I took in my life that had a direct impact on meeting the man I wound up marrying was that I didn’t marry anyone before him. This wasn’t on purpose: I had wished many times that I could will myself into non-excellent relationships, because I had little evidence that better ones existed, and I thought that maybe I just needed to come to grips with the fact that if I really wanted to be in love, it wasn’t going to be perfect.

But, mostly, I didn’t pursue people I wasn’t crazy about because I was busy doing other things that I enjoyed more than I enjoyed being with men I wasn’t crazy about. That abstention meant that, when a good relationship with someone I was crazy about became a possibility, I was free to pursue it.

I wound up happily married because I lived in an era in which I could be happily single.

More Stories >