A New Mental Health “Diagnosis” Of Self Blame For Single Women


One of the biggest health risks for Always Single Women in their 30s and 40s is ….Self Blame.

Research shows that women are more prone to blaming themselves while men are more likely to project blame onto others.  So, if you are thinking about a relationship, what you have is both the man and the woman blaming the woman!

As a family therapist, university professor, and author of several books on single women, I see the destructive fall-out from women blaming themselves for not being married.

In one of my studies, when the women were asked if they were single by choice, almost exactly half said yes, leaving the other half saying no.  Yet, when asked to explain their response, they all basically said the same thing:  they were single by choice because they did not like their choices in the men they were meeting.

The problem is not just that too many men are not willing to make the commitment to marriage.  It’s too many men are not willing to make the commitment to do what it takes to have a healthy relationship.

And what is that?  It’s two people willing to talk about issues as they come up, together addressing potential problems – before they become big problems.  Anyone can be loving; but learning to deal productively with relationship problems is the most challenging aspect of relationships.  Women have been socialized to be the caretaker of relationships, to be on guard for potential problems and resolve them before they become serious.  They may not do it well, but they make the effort.

Unfortunately, men are socialized with a different mandate, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  So, too few men are skilled or willing to learn how to work through issues that strengthen a relationship.

Thus, there are more single women than men ready for a healthy relationship.  And they are less willing to be with a man who isn’t. Without understand, too many women assume if they are not meeting a man they want to be with, it must be their fault, there must be something wrong with them.

And, the worse thing is that even when women understand that men are not carrying their share of relationships, too many of them still come back to blaming themselves.  As Sara, a woman in my study said, “I’d rather think the problem is me; then I can do something about it.”  I call this the “Fit It” solution; if I can fix something about me, then I will be able to meet a man and get married.  The obvious (or maybe not so obvious) problem with this is that you may still not meet a man you want to marry.

This self blame is what makes the documentary, Seeking Happily Ever After ( so poignant.  Producers Kerry David, of L.A. and Michelle Cover, of Boston, go beneath the bubbly surface of Sex and the City, talking to hundreds of single women.  They are fleshing out a fuller picture of the 30 something single women and asking if women are living their “happily ever after” or someone else’s.

One hopeful benefit to this documentary will be the decrease of the overwhelming mental health diagnosis for so many single women, the diagnosis of …Self Blame.


If you have questions or comments or want more information, contact me at:

Dr. Karen Gail Lewis

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