When I split from my ex-husband and ventured back out into the world of dating, I had three fears:
1) I wouldn’t really remember how to kiss properly
2) My clicking jaw (a family oddity) would mean that I couldn’t go out for a meal with a love interest.
3) Despite being slim, my jelly-belly (a legacy of having been overweight for around three years, plus three cesarean sections) would ‘disappoint’ any man who got near enough to see it.
Fast forward 15 years and my jaw still clicks, I still have a jelly-belly, and my partner of 12 years and I kiss, but no longer tend to really snog (something I actually hadn’t forgotten how to do, as it happens).
Just because we are older, with a ton of experience under our belt, doesn’t mean that the world of dating no longer holds any fear for us… in fact, in some ways, it holds more! However, the capacity to pick ourselves up following a dating disaster or two is generally greater than it was when we were 20… because since then we’ve faced and survived a zillion different setbacks and disappointments… and are still around to tell the tale!
But what are some of the pros and cons of dating in middle age? Let’s start with 5 of the cons:
1) We have established a certain way of living, and are set in our ways… as is the object of our desire. The older we get, the more baggage we have accumulated… and somehow we have to find a way of bringing it all neatly and painlessly together, if our intention is long-term commitment.
2) We often have children who will, regardless of age, have their own feelings and opinions about anyone we date, especially with a view to a serious relationship. And older children can sometimes be less compromising or forgiving than younger ones.
3) We each have our own way of handling finances, and it may be that either we or our love interest has more money than the other, or is in a better position property wise. This does have the capacity to create problems unless handled sensitively and intelligently.
4) Following in a long-term ex’s footsteps can be tricky, especially if underlying attachments or resentments still exist for one or both parties. A friend of mine once dated a man whose home was a shrine to his deceased wife (including keeping pictures of her on his bedside table, even when my friend stayed the night), and who also continued to wear his wedding ring. He eventually dumped her by opening the door to her one Boxing Day and presenting her with a Tesco carrier bag containing her nightie and slippers… and then went on to marry the widow of his best friend. Nothing unhealthy there, then!
5) We might not recognise certain incompatibilities until we have seriously merged lives with the new love of our life, making it very difficult to get out of. I once had a neighbour who met a man she thought was her ‘soulmate’ – until they got married. He immediately settled down into a dull routine, resistant to all of the things she wanted to do, including travel. She cleared off to Australia for a few months and then divorced him. Another woman I met bitterly complained about her new husband; he had been a friend of her deceased husband and had been supportive of both of them. Following her husband’s passing, she quickly wed her ‘rock’, only to discover that he himself had health problems and now expected to be looked after. She wouldn’t leave him because she didn’t want him to get half of her home – and so she continued to live in misery, her only hope being that he would die!
It’s not all bad news… here are 5 of the pros!
1) Although we can appreciate a bit of romance at any age, we are less likely to approach a relationship in a starry-eyed fashion in middle-age! We have raised our children and we have lived and grown through at least 1 major relationship: we have (or should have!) learned something about the art of compromise, and about keeping our sense of humour close to hand!
2) We are more likely to feel that we can be true to ourselves, rather than having to put on airs and graces, or constantly trying to be who we think our love interest believes us to be. In short, we can be more relaxed and less anxious and insecure!
3) We already have an independent life, forged throughout the years, and will not expect our new love to be the centre of our universe. We can share experiences with them and grow together, without the need to completely hand over the reins of our life… or expect them to do the same.
4) We aren’t going to be as self-conscious as we were in our twenties… or at least we should be able to laugh about it more easily now! She might have stretch marks and he might have moobs; she might have a wobbly bum and he might have a beer belly; she might have a wrinkly neck and he might be developing a bald patch (or be completely bald!)… you get the picture. We are more likely to tuck enthusiastically into a plateful of food rather than pretend that we have the delicate appetite of a tiny bird. We might even let the odd fart escape without dying of embarrassment!
5) We won’t need to take sex so seriously or harbour overly idealistic expectations (remember the wonderful bedroom scenes between Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson in Something’s Gotta Give, especially the one in which she hands him a pair of scissors to cut her out of her turtle neck sweater!). Where sex is concerned, we are more likely to be patient (and even a little philosophical), than we were when in our twenties or thirties. After all, been there and done it… probably more times than we can count!
If you are re-entering the world of dating, regardless of age, you might want to check out my ebook, Attraction And Dating – How To Successfully Navigate The Honeytrap: 6 potential pitfalls to be aware of and avoid! If you would like to receive a copy as a pdf, please let me know.
(Published as a blog on leannehalyburton.com: https://leannehalyburton.com/2018/08/06/attraction-and-dating-6-pitfalls-to-be-aware-of-and-avoid/)