Most of us, most of the time, are so grown up. Throughout our lives, both our triumphs and defeats have taught us the importance of good communication. We can share our strengths as well as our needs to our boss or clients calmly, directly, and without getting flustered. We can voice both our approval and disapproval to our employees and kids in a way that motivates and gets positive results.
These are all learned skills that we have likely worked on for a lifetime. Why? Because we know that good communication leads to enjoyable and fulfilling relationships and win-win outcomes. So, even though it can be difficult, we continue to build these skills to achieve positive results.
What is it about dating and courtship that turns us into tongue-tied and insecure teenagers? Even in our 50s and 60s the idea of "having a talk" with our date or mate triggers our inner 18 year old. Old beliefs and insecurities get dredged up, along with not so encouraging memories of failed attempts at communication with the opposite sex.
As The Dating and Relationship Coach for Women over 40, I often see potential good relationships end abruptly when the two people don't try to work out the small problems. (As my 75 year old Dad reminded me when I became a first-time bride at age 47, most problems are small.) This is a shame, because as mature adults we have the communication and life skills to create spectacular partnerships. We just need some reminders to bring those skills into our courtships.
For women, communicating our needs is the area that can use the most work. "Expecting us to read your mind" is always among the top complaints from men about women.
My client Diane is a good example. Diane and David were dating for about a month. They were both in their late fifties, both divorced with grown kids. They saw each other one evening a week and talked on the phone almost every day. After about a month or so of this dating pattern, Diane wanted to see David more. She liked him a lot, and thought he had good potential for a long-term relationship.
So what did she do? She silently stewed. She worried that he would be turned off by her "neediness." She began to withdraw and take the most innocuous remarks personally. She was in self-destruct mode because of her fear of confrontation.
I counseled her to stay centered in her "adulthood" and ignore her 18-year old belief that if you express a need, men will run for the hills. (Boys run; men are grateful.) This wasn't confrontation: it was communication.
Diane needed only to ask for what she wanted in a direct, open and non-demanding manner, just like she would in any other part of her life. Here are the guidelines she followed:
- Start with the good stuff and positives. David, I enjoy spending time with you and look forward to getting to know you better.
- Tell him what you want directly, and without qualifiers or blame. Be precise; no stories. It would make me really happy if we could see each other one additional time during the week.
- Check in with him – is he game? If so, offer to help solve the problem. Would this work for you? What can I do to help make that work or Can we talk about this and figure out a way to make it work?
What happened when she had this talk she so dreaded? He was flattered, appreciated her straightforward request, and felt like superman when he could say yes. She gave him a direct roadmap to pleasing her. He wanted to. They both came out of this feeling closer to one another and better prepared for future communications. (Even if he said it wasn't what he wanted, Diane would have come out ahead by knowing the truth.)
Mature communication in the dating world honors the other's integrity and creates trust and intimacy. No matter if the other person ultimately gives you what you want or not, confronting matters like a grownup will elevate your relationships and your self-respect.
When it comes to love and dating, tamp down your inner 18 year old, channel your grownup, and see what happens. You may likely get what you want without drama or a midlife crisis, and a good partnership will become even better.
Dating tips for the 50+ brought to you by Crest & Oral-B ProHealth For Life.