Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I am a 31-year-old woman who is in graduate school pursuing my MSW. Recently, I was introduced to a 47-year-old Jewish man through a mutual friend. We spent much time getting to know each other on the phone, had one date (which we both agreed was a wonderful time), and continued over the next few weeks getting to know each other via the phone (he lives 200 miles away from me). During this time, we discussed many important topics such as marriage, children, future goals, etc.

Just the other day, he made it clear to me that the "age" difference was a problem for him. He is in a rush to get married and have a family -- and I am not. I explained that these were things that I did want, but that my first priority was to finish my education.

He didn't agree with this, and ended our courtship.

I feel that because he is 47 years old, there might be some desperation on his part to "rush" and have a family. Do you think I was being unreasonable?

Michelle

Dear Michelle,

We are not sure if the man you describe was pressured or rushed, but in answering your question, we'd like to take a step back and try to help you see the bigger picture.

Every week, we receive letters from women in their mid-30s who are desperately searching for a future spouse. Virtually all of these women sound wonderful; they have great jobs, are active in their communities, are emotionally "together," physically fit and economically well off. The problem is that they all have found that the longer a woman stays in the "mid-30s (and up)" age group, the more likely it is that she will not get married.

There are several reasons why this is so. First, many men in their "mid-30s and up" want to have children, and they understand that women in their same age group often have fertility problems. So they look for women who are a number of years younger than themselves.

Next, there are many more marriageable women in this age group than there are marriageable men. For every attractive, interesting, "together" woman who would like to get married, there are several men who can't commit, aren't emotionally mature enough to marry, are dysfunctional, have decided that they want to wait a few more years before settling down, or who need to do some serious work on themselves before being capable of marriage.

We guarantee that if you were to ask each of these women who write us what they would do if they could go back to being age 31, every single one of them would answer that they would try as hard as they could to find a good marriage partner and marry him.

This is why we hope that you will take some time to reconsider the future you have mapped out for yourself. If you had the choice of getting your degree -- and possibly forgoing the opportunity to marry, have a life partner and raise a family because you waited too long, or of building a good relationship, marrying earlier than you expected and working harder to combine your studies with married life and a career, what would you choose?

In reality, getting married before you finish your master's degree is not as difficult as it might sound. Both of us went to graduate school, and obtained our degrees, while we were married. Sherry even had a child while she was in law school, and Rosie had two children while she was accumulating enough experience to obtain her clinical certification.

Almost any married woman who is determined to obtain her degree, and has the emotional support of her husband, can achieve her goal.

Of course, there are many many factors that come into play, and we are not looking to condemn you to a life of loneliness! But we do worry about what will happen to your goals if you delay thoughts of marriage a few more years. As far as we're concerned, if you are fortunate enough to meet someone with whom to work on a courtship that will lead to marriage, it would be a big mistake to forgo what may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Please spend some time re-thinking your short-term and long-term priorities and goals.

We hope this has been helpful, and wish you the best of success,

Rosie & Sherry