Rapunzel has long hair, turtles will not win an Olympic sprint and divorced women are desperate. What, you don’t believe me? I read it on the interweb’s and so it must be true. Of course, I also heard it from a group of 500 people that participated in a focus group on the matter. The articles and personal insight are all very interesting. Interesting, however, is not the same as true. Regardless, we believe what we believe and I love getting to the bottom of people’s beliefs.
Here are the conclusions I came to after doing extensive research around the question: Why do so many people believe that divorced women are desperate?
People believe that women are more desperate than men, so by extension…: This group of 500 people was asked which gender would be more motivated to find love after divorce and 72% of them said women. This did not surprise me because as a society, we have always seen women, regardless of relationship status, as more romantic, invested and connected to the ideas of love. As well, there is a common perception that men love with their heads and women love with their hearts. Expounding on this, there is a widely held view that men are pragmatic and emotionally unavailable while women fall fast, wear their heart on their sleeve and give more than they get. If we tie these two perceptions, we will draw a straight line between women and the desperate adjective, largely because we simply do not see men in that same regard.
Expression…or lack thereof: For reasons almost entirely attributed to pride and culture, women are more apt to express their feelings of loneliness, pain and disappointment than their XY brethren. When I asked the 500 people why they thought divorced women were desperate, a lot of them talked about the heartache expressed by women. They talked in-depth about divorced women living with regret and carrying a fear that they may be alone for the rest of their lives. I then asked the group why they assumed that divorced men or unmarried women in their 30’s and 40’s did not have the same fear. Their reply was simple. This group had not experienced a lot of divorced men or unmarried women expressing the same concerns expressed by divorced women. It is very easy to make judgments based on what we hear without investigating the things we do not hear.
Experience (without context): In one of the more direct connections, a lot of people base their beliefs and perceptions on experience, with our without context or perspective. For instance, I had a male client once tell me that he refused to date divorced women because they were too clingy and too quick to want a commitment. I asked him what he based his perceptions from and he said his own dating experience. To which I asked, “how many divorced women have you gone on a date with or dated?” His reply was two. In the group of 500 people, I heard several personal experiences that led to broad conclusions.
Projection: Projection is attributing our own repressed thoughts to someone else. Relative to divorced women and desperation, I have heard countless people talk about how being divorced would make them feel. “God, I can’t imagine being divorced and 36. Dating was hard enough in my twenties.” Or, “I’m not even married and I can tell you that there is a shortage of quality single men. Divorced women have already been there once, now they have to do it again!” Translation, if I were divorced I would be desperate so divorced women must be desperate.
These are the reasons, through my research, that so many people associate divorced women with being desperate. In summary, we believe what we see and we believe what we hear in the simplest of ways. This is neither healthy nor productive. For example, some people point to their experiences as the prevailing evidence needed to support their belief but in a lot of cases, they have not thought about the limited scope of the experience. Looking back at the thoughts about expression, there are several questions I would ask someone that based their adjectival views on this, and this alone.
Question 1: Why do we associate an expression of heartache or an openness of loneliness to desperation?
Question 2: Why do we assume that just because divorced women are more expressive that men and unmarried women are not expressive? And, if they are not expressive, why don’t we explore why?
In my professional experience, I do not see divorced men and unmarried women as non-expressive as some have observed but that is a secondary point to this entire discussion. Do we see divorced women as desperate because they are desperate or because the lens by which we look through is as narrow as our mind is on the matter?