You've created a good life for yourself. You have a satisfying career, many interests, and good relationships. You have great accomplishments in your wake. But what about your romantic life? Does it follow the success you've had in the rest of your life? Are you managing it with the same confidence and grace?
It's not all that uncommon for men and women—even into their 60s and 70s—to feel like they are still caught in a high school drama when it comes to dating, relationships, and sex.
I confess that I held on to my 18-year-old self long after it served me. Dating for me rendered horrible results until I was well into midlife. I picked noncommittal men. I didn't know how to fix anything that seemed even a little broken, so potential relationships ended abruptly. I had no idea how to even be happy with men. I was nervous, insecure, and always waiting for the inevitable end. Essentially it was just like it was in high school.
Now, as a dating and relationship coach who specializes in working with women over 40, I realize that I wasn't the only one living like an 18 year old in this area of my life.
Something about the concept of dealing with the opposite sex can trigger that 18 year old in us. I liken it to when we spend time with our siblings. We have tendencies to fall back into roles that we thought were long gone. Why? Because it's part of us. We grew up with beliefs that support it. It's our truth and we know no different.
Once I realized this, my life changed forever. I became a first-time bride at age 47.
Like me, many midlifes have never updated their approach to courtship and connection with the opposite sex, which is why struggle and frustration are still part of the equation.
HERE IS WHAT AN 18 YEAR OLD DATER LOOKS LIKE
Though she is dating way past 50, the 18 year old lives in confusion and uncertainty when it comes to relating to the opposite sex. She doesn't have the knowledge of herself or the opposite sex to make good decisions, nor the skills to communicate in an adult manner. Like most 18 year olds, she acts and reacts almost solely based on emotion and ego.
The 18 year old has lots of first dates. She picks partners that are fun and gives her butterflies. She makes judgments based on chemistry and single conversations. Her choices are not based on the same decisionmaking abilities she uses in the rest of her life; but rather in-the-moment feelings and comparisons to prior experiences. She often decides who to date solely on who picks her.
When the 18 year old enters a relationship, there is always difficulty and drama. At the first sign of trouble she often retreats or overreacts, thus ending it and starting the cycle again.
The 18 year old dater can't get a grip as to what is going wrong. She has the same experiences over and over, and marvels at getting the same result. She holds on to her very old definition of herself and, not knowing any other way, often blames the opposite sex for her romantic failure. Like my story, she is either waiting for the inevitable end or staying in an unfulfilling relationship as a default; figuring it's her lot in life.
AND HERE IS WHAT A GROWNUP DATER DOES
The adult dater learns and makes shifts in all aspects of her life as she ages. She knows what she needs to be happy at this stage of her life (as opposed to 30 years ago) and she feels deserving. She is not just looking for a good date; she is looking for a good mate.
When she has decisions to make about whether to choose someone—either to date or with whom to enjoy a relationship—she has the self-awareness, confidence, and the learned skills to make conscious decisions that are good for her. She knows how to attract the right type of people.
Eventually the adult dater finds a fabulous partner. Along the way she learns from every experience and therefore can enjoy the dating process.
The grownup dater knows that the ability to recognize, love, and admire someone doesn't come from her 18-year-old self. Rather, it comes from the grownup part of her who realizes that just having fun and being with a nice looking date is not what a lifetime partnership is all about.
WHY IT WORKED FOR ME
I had more than my share of bad boys and dead-end relationships for about 30 years. Getting out of that cycle took a good amount of honest introspection and new information. I had to grow up and realize that it couldn't be that all men were jerks; it had to be about me.
I appreciate my husband every single day. But I also honor myself for becoming the woman who attracted him and who keeps him happy.
Perhaps it's time you dump your outdated approach to dating and start judging your dates on the real life, grownup stuff that matters for the long haul and truly makes you happy. Life and love with a real person is so much better than chasing after an outdated fantasy.
Dating tips for the 50+ brought to you by Crest & Oral-B ProHealth For Life.