Why aren’t you being pursued by the men you feel you deserve?

dating mate value personality status womenover50 Jun 10, 2021

I meet so many women in midlife who are completely sorted. They’re gorgeous, they’re fit and healthy, they’ve got successful careers, they’re independent and know how to do all the things.

But they can’t find a man – at least not one that meets their standards. And their standards tend to be high – after all – given they have all these things going for them, they should expect to be with a guy at the same level, yes? Isn’t that what they deserve?


For older men it’s a different story. The ones who are highly attractive, who’ve got their shit together, the ones with high status positions and great careers – they have no trouble at all finding a partner. In fact they have women practically queuing round the block to go out with them – and not just older women – they’re attractive to younger women too.


Not fair! What the hell’s going on?


Well, do you want the good news or the bad news?


I’ll give you the bad news first to get it out of the way…


The issue we women have in finding a man that meets our standards is to do with mate value – our mate value compared to that of the men we’re after.


Mate value is a measure of your appeal as a potential partner, and the higher your score, the bigger the number of options you have available out in the dating pool.


But mate value depends on different qualities in men and women.


The men who have high mate value are the ones with high status, guys who are intelligent, ambitious, with good incomes. These kind of men, even when they’re older can be very attractive to a lot of women.


For women the biggest thing contributing to our mate value is physical attractiveness. Yes, lots of other things count big time, like intelligence, great personality and all the rest, but these things are mainly attractive for specific men. In terms of general attractiveness it’s the physical stuff that’s important for women’s mate value.


Being good looking is important for men’s value too but not so much.


So because men’s and women’s mate value relies on different qualities we get a reversal of the relative mate value of men and women in later life.


I call this the Mate Value Flip.


I want you to imagine a man and a woman…


The woman is a beautiful, willowy, 25 year-old. The man is 50-something, he’s pretty fit and good looking for his age and he runs a successful business.


I think you’ll agree that both of these people have pretty high mate value – that is in terms of the number of people out there who find them attractive prospects.


Now imagine if you swapped their ages, so now the woman is 50-something and the guy is 25. Now how much mate value do they have?


For both of them their mate value would likely take a nose dive. The guy at 25 might be a gawky awkward bloke who couldn’t get a girlfriend, and the woman aged 50 something… well we know what happens to our general attractiveness don’t we, and it doesn’t really make any difference if she’s built a really successful career.


So this is the Mate Value Flip.


When we women are young, nubile teenagers or 20-somethings, we have all the balls in our court and it’s the guys who have to do the running. Young men don’t have the experience, status and wealth of older men, and so they’re at a disadvantage.


But men generally become more attractive as they get a bit older (assuming of course that they’re rising in status and are looking after themselves physically – not all men do), but we women start becoming less desirable in the general scheme of things, simply because our mate value depends on the thing that tends to be higher in younger women – physical attractiveness.


Hard to say when I first felt the flip – I suppose when I didn’t get wolf-whistled at any more. I think it was sometime in my 30s. Now I’m in my fifties I’ve probably become invisible to a good proportion of the male population!


The bottom line here is that attractive older men tend to have higher market value than attractive older women and so this can explain why you might not get the attention you want from these guys.


So… that’s the bad news.


Now I guess you want the good news!


The good news is it’s perfectly possible to find a great guy who is on a level with you mate-value-wise AND who will make you happy in a great relationship.


And the other good news is you probably don’t want the high mate value men in the long run anyway.


The thing is, a guy who’s good looking, wealthy, etc.; he’ll have lots of options but it doesn’t mean he’ll make those options happy. Having high mate value is not the same as having high value as a partner, paradoxically.


If a guy has high mate value he might not appreciate you and treat you the way you want – and there is actually research evidence showing that guys who are good looking basically aren’t so nice, and the same goes for wealthy men. They don’t have to try that hard.


These guys probably won’t make you happy.


But I’m not suggesting you settle for someone of lesser quality. It’s not about settling – it’s about reprioritising what you’re looking for. It’s about refocusing on the qualities that actually matter!


What are the really important things for a good relationship?


Well it’s stuff like is he kind? Honest? Does he care about your wellbeing? Does he try to improve your world? Do his values and dreams for the future align with yours? These are the things that are important for long term relationship happiness.


Really, he doesn’t have to be 6’5”, or have a full head of hair, or earn a six figure salary to be a great partner.


If he doesn’t have a ton of money – so what? That doesn’t make him a loser, he just might have different priorities, and often that will mean having a personality that’s better suited to a good long term partnership than someone who’s dominant and competitive.


And also it makes sense to go for a guy who values your unique qualities. Some men are really into confident, ambitious, driven women, for example, even if these things don’t give you a stellar mate value generally.


So that means you will have high value for the right guys for you.




The takeaway here is that holding out for prince charming is not a good strategy for happiness.


Yes, it might be tempting to go for the best looking, most charismatic, wealthy bloke you can find – and you’ll be the envy of all the women you know.


But that’s exactly the problem – if he’s such hot stuff he’s going to know that and he’ll be looking over your shoulder to see what else is on offer. Do you really want to get into a relationship where you constantly have to worry that other women are after your man?


To have a happy healthy relationship, you really want to find someone of roughly equal mate value to yourself.


Having a partner who’s higher in mate value than you sets up an unhealthy relationship dynamic. You’re going to be feeling a constant pressure to demonstrate your worth, and to give more than you take. 


On the other hand, if you feel you’ve “settled” and gone for someone that doesn’t match you in terms of mate value then you are the one who’s going to feel dissatisfied. You’ll be far less tolerant of small annoyances and imperfections, most likely wondering if you could do better. 


But if you have the idea that you have a quality guy that you’re unlikely to be able to match by looking elsewhere, then you’re going to be keen to put a lot of effort into your relationship, you’ll work hard at making it work – and so will he if he perceives the same. 


And that is the recipe for a great relationship.


The next step then is to decide on the personality traits that you need in a guy that will make you happy, and you need to think about your deeply held values that you need him to share.


These qualities are so much more important for the success of any relationship you have than whether he’s got a yacht, or a fancy car or has a hot shot career.


So have a think about the traits that are really important, and I’ll talk more about these issues in posts coming soon.

Mairi Macleod PhD