"I was ready to break up with [my ex-boyfriend] about four years ago -- and I stayed two years too long -- and part of the reason I stayed was what so many women are thinking: Do I want to go through it all again? Do I really want to date again? The whole mess of it, the uncertainty of it," said Carolyn, 36. "So you rationalize in your mind that you can stay, that you should keep doing this because it's your only shot."
Carolyn blames herself for the failure of the relationship. In the past few years, she founded her own advertising company and devoted a lot of time to building her client base. "Creating my business was my priority, so it probably overwhelmed my personal life," she said. Based on the many articles she has read about successful women destroying their relationships, men can't handle smart women. So part of her believes that her relationship failed because it was her fault: She is too bright.
Even though the aggregate data show that success doesn't hurt SWANS in the dating game, the suggestion alone makes many of these women angry. "Even if it's just the perception, it puts no pressure on men and lots of pressure on women. That pisses me off. It's unfair," said Laura, a strikingly beautiful lobbyist in Washington, DC. "The pressure makes otherwise totally cool women seem anxious, desperate, and 'crazy' to find a man. These women aren't crazy, but they are in their early to mid-30s and haven't found someone, and because they want kids, they do things perceived as desperate." Laura ended a one-year relationship a few months earlier and said she hasn't given herself time to heal because all this panic in the air is making her nervous. "I have to get back in the zone and date guys before it's too late."
John, 29, a professor at a prominent business school, noted that this effect is obvious on the male side of the market as well. "In recent years it feels like the balance of power in dating has totally shifted. It used to be women who were totally in control. Now it seems like the men hold all the cards. Women just seem really anxious to partner up and seem to put up with an astonishing amount of messing about from men. It's got to the point where I have started to look for the rare women who simply won't put up with my crap," he said.
But SWANS should relax and be themselves: Again, there is good news in newly released 2005 Current Population Survey data. Successful women in their 30s have options -- and SWANS in their late 30s are significantly more likely to walk down the aisle than their less accomplished sisters. For 35-year-old women with graduate degrees, their chances of marrying by age 40 are 25 percent higher than for their sisters without the advanced degrees. Less educated women marry earlier; those brides gliding down the aisle in their 30s are more likely to be SWANS.
SWANS Have More Fun