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I’ve been getting a lot of comments lately about the abyss that is dating at middle-age. Several men have been asking why the women they’re meeting are not interested in them. I keep hearing from widows who have given up on men. 

I have a two-part answer. Today’s post deals with the philosophical aspects and my next one will offer a handy checklist for the guys. So let’s start with the over-arcing problem:

Our disillusionment is killing us.

When we’re young, we fall in love and we want to build lives together, to comfort our beloved when they suffer losses and cheer for their accomplishments. Perhaps we feel more than we do at middle age. More attraction, more passion, more lust, but also, over time, more caring, more hope and more attachment.

By the time we’re middle-aged and we’ve suffered through a few failed relationships, we’re numb. We tamp down our expectations. Now we just want someone to have emotionally distant sex with every other Thursday night after our fantasy la crosse team disbands. Tending to our romantic relationships has become our last priority, perhaps something to think about after fixing that long leaking toilet in the guest bathroom.

Having given up on finding love, we middle-aged idiots stop expecting it. We settle for so much less. Our emotional playbook is reduced to fulfilling our bodily needs with people we don’t really care about.

It’s an untenable way to live. Like seeing only grey when the world is saturated with color.

Are you in a Situationship?

Image by Charles Deluvio on Upsplash

I recently learned a depressing new word: situationship. It’s a dating relationship that’s undefined or uncommitted. It’s basically when you and another person are doing coupley things, but you’re not actually a couple. In between a hook-up and a relationship, situationships are that  area where no one really knows what’s going on, and no one talks about commitment.

I think a lot of people are settling for these hybrid catastrophes. But come on, we’re grown ups. We’re supposed to be more articulate.

I’ve met so many divorced guys who feel they gave their all once before–financial support, putting family first, agreeing to their wives’ demands–and look how that worked out. Women my age feel they’ve already raised their kids, why do they want to take on men who act like children?

Most of my dating post-widowhood has been a Power Struggle.

I would tell a man I was dating about my needs, those of a lonely widow with little family and few connections, only to be told they weren’t acceptable. Most of the men I dated wanted me to fit their wish-list. So, no I wasn’t okay with twisting my life to fit some one else’s schedule, driving to see them, but never having them come to me, or being told their dating other people was good for our, uh, situationship. Their convenience was paramount, but they never acted like they cared about me. 

Maybe it’s my super limited experience from spending most of my life with one man, but I don’t get all the hostility. Ostensibly, we’re meeting people to see if we want to be with them, maybe finding love, maybe even for the rest of our lives. Yet we don’t seem to care about them, from showing up to an initial coffee date to seeing if they get home safely to offering kindness instead of caveats.

Let’s Talk about Freeway Merging.

(I’m going somewhere with this). People used to let each other merge onto the freeway. It’s common courtesy. Otherwise, the merging driver is forced to exit instead of entering, or, in the case of those creepy short merges, they have to hit the breaks to avoid slamming into the wall. But I’ve noticed that lately people don’t let each other in. They just accelerate and charge by, with no thought to the other driver.

That’s what dating is like. Except instead of some unknown driver we’re never going to see again, these are the people with whom we might be spending the rest of our lives. 

When a woman is telling you about something that’s really stressing her out, and you’re thinking you’re bored and you just wanted to get laid, you are failing. And when you tell her something honest and true and she isn’t listening, she’s failing you too.

We just don’t care. That cynicism has filtered into dating and that’s why it isn’t working.

It’s Simple: Don’t Date Someone Unless You Care about Them

Perhaps you should invert your thinking: instead of thinking what you want in a romantic relationship, ask yourself what you can offer the other person. 

If it’s that you’re way too busy to see anybody on a regular schedule, be upfront about it and don’t argue when you get turned down. If it’s that you’re still really pissed at your ex and the next lady better not expect too much, see a counselor instead of exposing some innocent woman to your vitriol. 

Coming from a place of resentment doesn’t work. I know. I’ve met far too many of you guys.

But if you want to love someone again, please, tell us. Don’t be embarrassed. Vulnerability is attractive. Acting like we’re the enemy is not.

However, being vulnerable requires self-esteem. And our past relationships may have chipped away at that. Nothing worked in the past so we don’t expect anything to work now. We’re too bruised to open ourselves up again. No one treated us well so we’ve stopped expecting it, and we treat our dates poorly because we expect the same in return. 

As our self-esteem flags, so does the way we regard the people we date. They become suspect, belonging to a club we wouldn’t want to join because it accepts us as a member. So we treat them like they don’t matter and now they’re self-esteem is floundering. We can stop the vicious cycle. But it requires believing we are worthy of love, it is attainable, and treating our dates like prospective life partners instead of bottom feeders.

Can we approach dating with a Sense of Promise?

I’ve met several happy couples who met in middle age. The one thing they have in common is their radiant smiles. I could envision a first meeting where he sees a curvy woman with a kind face who looks happy to meet him. She sees a man with a high forehead and deep blue eyes that look hopeful. They see promise, and therefore beauty, in each other. 

It’s exciting to meet new people. You might find the second love of your life. Or at least have some great times with someone lovable. 

With the pandemic, we’re forced to limit our social interactions. Our first drinks together might be on zoom, our first meal a socially distanced picnic, and our first kiss might take place way later than we thought it would. Let’s use that extra time to take more care with how we treat each other. And to see that connecting with another person is a privilege, not a battle ground. 

I’d like to start a movement called ”The Unfun Daters,” people who are unabashedly looking for life-time partners and who won’t accept less. 

What do we want? Serious Commitment.

When do we want it? Within a prudent timeframe.

Add in the twenty page contract you have to sign wherein you agree to be courteous and accountable to your dates, and you see what I mean. Dating is work. I used to spend a set amount of time each day online checking out new profiles and answering messages. When I agreed to meet, I kept my appointments. But most importantly, I believed I’d find my forever person. It took years, but I did, through perseverance and an almost insane belief in love.

So, if your prospects aren’t interested, it may be because you’re already radiating defeat. We need to see promise instead of futility. And we need to come from a place of compassion instead of disillusion. 

Let’s start by being kinder to each other.