That's a good way of putting it. I think the afraid of being alone factor has a lot to do with the bad relationship. People will put up with a lot from another person rather than being alone.
I can't speak for dating our 40's, but some women I know in their 20's settled for the bottom of the barrel. These were the women who feared being alone as the worst possible thing...I can see how being at an age where there are fewer available partners can heighten the sense that somebody has to hang on to what they have (or think they have).
I totally agree. As someone on the other side of 45, and single, and has been that way since I turned 30, I am thankful that I don't fall into this category. I d@ted one guy for most of my 20's after graduating college, and am thankful today that we broke it off, and kick myself for not doing it sooner! Hindsight is everything!
Now, I'm generally happy with my solitary life, most of the time. I will never, ever settle, and if I never meet someone and get married, so be it. If I do, great, but it will defitneily have to be "the" one. In all respects.
I have any number of friends who simply cannot bear the thought of being alone, so they'll d@te or settle for anyone, even if they aren't right for them. I have a CW who's my age, twice divorced, with two kids. She's currently seeing someone she met on a religious d@ting site, but a. she's an oversharer so I know that she's not happy with certain aspects, including the scrabble aspect, and b. he's had very little d@ting experience since his divorce about 4-5 years ago. Knowing her, and having met him, and hearing about him from her, I just don't get how they can be compatible, and I honestly think they are together rather than each being alone. Which is sad, since if it goes to the next level, it will be settling.