There is a long list of positives about finding love later in life. We know ourselves well and have clarity about what we want and don't want. We have greater perspective, communication skills that far surpass those of our youth, and we have little need to settle, all of which allows us to wait for the relationship that is just right.
There is one thing, though, that can make looking for love at this time of life challenging for many: a hardened heart.
One thing I know for sure: no one aspires to be bitter and emotionally hardened. As a Dating and Relationship Coach for Women over 40, I'm distressed to say that I see many women who, though they claim they are looking for love, show an unappealing hard edge that is clearly noted by the men they meet. This may not be you, but I invite you to be open to this discussion. This kind of thing creeps up on us.
Looking back as a gal who became a first-time bride at age 47, I can see that by my middle 40s I was scaring off men right and left. I was cynical and fiercely demanded respect. When I met men, I distrusted and tested them; expecting them to perform in a way that proved they were different than the rest. I built what I call my "wall of I dare you."
My life experience had hardened me. I was always more secure in my intelligence than in my ability to attract love. I bought into the myth that men didn't want a woman like me. After a couple bad love affairs with bad men, I developed the "I don't need a man" mantra early on. And that's exactly what I got: no man, no relationship, nada...for a very long time.
But here's the good news: I turned it around and am now living my happiest years with the man I love. And I'm helping other women do the same.
I see how this happens. It's not just the harsh rejections or the relationships we get stuck in that are at best unfulfilling, and at worse suck the life out of us. We also have had to compete mightily with men throughout our careers. We want and deserve our piece of the pie, and often have to fight to the finish to claim our place. And good for us when we succeed! The problem comes when that institutionalized competition and distrust continues into our intimate relationships.
Now that we have our hard-earned independence, we can honestly say we don't need a man. (I used to wear that as a badge of honor.) Remember the saying: Women need men like fish need bicycles? Clever, indeed, but not an attitude that brings love into your life.
"I am woman hear me roar" has it's place, but I know from experience that leading with that does little in helping you connect with a kind and loving man. Here is what I finally learned: Like women, men want to feel needed. And needing a man doesn't make a woman weak or unwhole. It just means she could be even happier with love in the great life she's created.
Smart and caring men who are looking for a mate want a few basics things from women: they want to feel admired and important; they want our loving, heart-centered arms wrapped around them, and they want to be accepted. Just like women, men want to feel understood and appreciated; just the way they are.
You can see why starting off by asking a man to climb your wall of I dare you isn't his idea of a turn on or time well spent.
Admitting that you want a man in your life doesn't take away one iota of your strength and independence. If you can declare to the world that you want that vice president position or that new client, and you can go after it with everything you have…why not do the same about finding a loving man and relationship?
A grownup woman accepts that life does not always go her way. Whether you were passed over for promotions, had a crappy childhood, or had a man do you wrong, by this time in your life you've taken a fair share of hits. But marinating in victimhood and masking your fear with distrust of others isn't the way to get what you want in your life.
When I was 45, after dating unsuccessfully for 30 years, I finally admitted to myself that I wanted a loving, committed relationship. I worked at both letting go of my resentments and embracing my femininity. I learned to leave my competition with men at the office. I learned that it was okay to start with an open heart and only withdraw if a man proved unworthy.
Two years later I met and married my fabulous husband. He fell instantly; apparently delighted to meet a woman who was smart, confident, and fearless in the way she loved. Thank goodness I had finally learned how to be that woman.
Thankfully, the vast majority of you rockin' ladies take your lumps in life graciously. You've had your share of disappointments and hurt with men, but you don't hang on. You know it's okay to get pissed off at "all men," vent for a while, and then move on.
It's not the easiest thing to do but it is so important for your well-being to eventually carry on with hope, determination, and an open heart. That is the way to find meaningful and lasting love – and peace of mind.
Letting go of your disappointments and embracing your soft side will lead you to be your best, womanly self without taking a thing away from your strength and intelligence. Admitting and even embracing the fact that you want a loving relationship with a man is okay, in fact, it's the first step. When you start feeling good about making men feel good, you will be on your way to attracting a helluva man…and finding grownup love.
Dating tips for the 50+ brought to you by Crest & Oral-B ProHealth For Life.