Dating Over 40: Lessons Learned

Last night I was talking to a friend.  She’s been dating a man for about a year and a half now.  She is frustrated.  She called me for help.  Well, to more accurately state it she called for encouragement, support and to have a safe place to rant.

In the last 12 days, they’ve seen each other once.  They live in the same town.

He didn’t spend the 4th of July with her, though he indicated he would and then never called.  She and her two kids spent the 4th with me and my youngest.

He routinely tells her he wants to get together with her then goes silent for days on end.

He was scheduled to move in with her in May.  It is now July and no further progress toward that end has occurred.

She called me wanting to know what she should do.

Like I would know.

In the last two years, I have dated a lot of people.  I have learned a lot.  I guess it shows.  Even though she’s been part of this journey all the way along she called me to hear again the journey and to get her head on straight.  She already knew what I was going to tell her.

I didn’t let her down.  I told her to kick the guy to the curb.

But…before I did that, I told her some other things that were helpful for me as I struggled through exactly the same fears, insecurities, and pain she is now going through.  What follows are some of those thoughts.

1.  First things first.  Figure out what you are all about.  It is imperative that you know what your must haves, and deal breakers are.  If necessary write them down.  Continue to revisit the list.  I know it sounds ooey gooey touchy feely but getting to know yourself and accepting yourself as you are (a work in progress and a mighty fine and unique work at that) is critical to your success not just in dating, but in life.  I personally also think that it is a good idea to know what areas you are not clear about or what areas or behaviors or qualities you are unsure if you can accept or not.  These are what I call gray areas.  For example, I know that I could not handle living with a chain smoker.  But, in the last two years I have dated several men who on occasion had a cigar with scotch outside in the evening or while playing darts out in the garage.  While, I have issues with smoking anything from a health perspective, if I found Mr. Right and he enjoyed a cigar on occasion, I think I could live with that. Cigars were a gray area for me.

I told my friend that before she could really make any decisions she had to decide what she wanted for herself and in relationship.  I also reminded her about the following:  She’s let the guy know that his on again off again behavior is not working for her.  He’s done nothing to change.  News flash for her:  He is not going to change.  She now has a decision to make.  Can she accept this relationship, his treatment of her and all that she is currently experiencing as it is and be content or not?  She can’t make those decisions till she knows what works for her and what doesn’t.  She admitted, that this current situation does not work for her.

2.  Expect to be made a priority.  I’ve said this more times than I care to recall, but when a man is crazy about a woman he goes to the wall for her.  The Taj Mahal was built for a woman.  All sorts of love songs, poems, and efforts are expended on the part of men to woo that one particular lady that captures his imagination and his heart.  She doesn’t have to drop hints, call him, stalk him or do any relational heavy lifting. If he’s broke and he’s into her he’ll do what he can, get a second job if need be to make life happen with her.  While I am currently speaking from experience on this one for myself, I would know this reality were true even if I did not.  How would I know because many, many, many men have personally told me this.  They simply won’t let the phone grow cold, nor will they leave any doubt in her mind (or anyone else’s for that matter) how they feel about her.  They even humiliate themselves by dressing up in silly knight costumes to propose in front of a crowd or they go to insane lengths to skywrite love messages and proposals for all including and especially her to see. 

Message here?  Expect him to expend some significant effort in order to make being with you a priority.  If he’s not doing this it is because he’s just not feeling it.

3.  Expect to be treated with respect and consideration.  This, my friends, goes both ways. Men and women both should have this as a core relational value.  For me, this reigns supreme and is an underpinning for any successful relationship. For my friend last night, thinking about this was the real eye opener.  When a person says they’ll do something and doesn’t come through on their word and especially when there is a consistent pattern of doing this with no real explanation (and sorry, my phone went dead just doesn’t cut it) the person is being disrespectful and inconsiderate.  Does he listen to you?  Does he value your input when making decisions?  Does he make good on his agreements with you? Is he respectful of your life, your activities and your family obligations or do you somehow end up feeling like what matters to you is just somehow not that important to him?  How does he pay attention to you when you are out with a group of people or does he disappear till the end of the evening when it is time to leave?  Does he indicate that he cares about your happiness and well being (however that’s demonstrated)?  Hopefully this is one area that is definitely reciprocal. 

What’s the logic behind this one?  Think about it. Relationships and habits of interacting do not necessarily improve over time, unless two people are working at it and committed to it.  It is generally the case that two people will begin to grow more comfortable with each other, they will tend to assume the feelings are known, and things get more casual and more is taken for granted.  Establishing patterns of interacting respectfully from the get go is critical.  It is much more difficult to insist on this after the relationship is established if it hasn’t been an expectation from the beginning.  If you start out allowing a guy to treat you badly, he’s probably not going to improve much.

4.  Value yourself.  Here’s the deal.  If you don’t think you are worthy of respect, consideration or that you are worth expending some effort on to connect with, no one else is going to think so either.  It will be difficult for you to proactively chart your happiness course if you don’t first see yourself as just as valuable and worthy of good treatment as the next person.  If you come at this relationship thing from the perspective that you can’t do any better, this is better than nothing or that you have to make exceptions due to your age, weight, income or number of children or whatever you will always sell yourself short. 

I can’t tell you how many times men and women alike told me all along this journey that my biggest difficulty in finding a quality person or developing a quality relationship was going to be the fact that I have four children.  While, my children are a huge consideration and something any prospective beau must be willing to accept, I never bought that excuse.  All it meant for mewas that anyone who found the fact that I have four children and two ex’s a problem, wasn’t the guy for me.  After all, I’m not looking for a father replacement for any of them.  I’m not even looking for any parental assistance.  I’m looking for good quality connection and companionship for me.  Yes, he’s got to be an excellent role model, but he would be if I chose him based on his innate character anyway.  I simply refused to allow myself to sink into despair based on what so many other people told me about this one.  I determined that no relationship was better than something that just kinda sorta worked and it was far superior to a bad relationship. And, funny how life is, seems just the person may have wandered in who is a great fit for me and who is confident and competent enough that he’s not in the least intimidated or alarmed by four kids and two ex’s.

I don’t know what decisions my friend will arrive at for herself.  She’s feeling pretty blue about her current relational realities right now and she’s having a tough time facing facts.  I understand her angst.  I’ve been there.  She’s a wonderful person with so much to offer but before she can really offer any of it, she’s got to believe it about herself first.  So do the rest of us. This is all sometimes easier said than done.

2 thoughts on “Dating Over 40: Lessons Learned

  1. My personal opinion is that if a man is truly “into” a woman (to use a phrase with which you’re familiar) he will do all that he can, circumstances permitting, to be with her. It seems the guy in question has ulterior motives for keeping your friend “on the hook”. Either that or he’s a complete coward.

    If more people adopted your expectations for themselves there would be less broken hearted people calling their friends for a shoulder to lean/cry/rely on.

    For someone who has herself struggled with the vagaries of dating and experienced the gut wrenching emotions of failed relationships your optimism is evident. Not only have you emerged intact, you’ve thrived.

    Like

    1. Enigmatik,
      Wow! Long time no hear! Thanks for commenting.
      Thanks for you observations. They tend to be my own. It is just affirming to have a more objective outsider come to the same conclusion.
      Thanks!

      Like

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