I’m almost positive that I have finally figured out something. Something about me – about dating – about middle-aged men.
It’s about time, actually. I have been hammering at this dating scene, and it has been hammering at me, for several years now. I am about as bruised as I want to get.
It’s definitely time to identify it, heal, and breathe.
Let me set the stage by listing some characteristics of what we face when dating in middle age:
- All of us have been through at least one, if not multiple, long term committed relationships.
- Many of us have children from those previous relationships.
- We are set in our ways.
- With luck, we know a lot more about ourselves and people in general.
- Many of us are looking to find that safe place that we once inhabited when we were happily connected to a significant other.
- We all have fear.
With that in mind, many of us trudge on through the dating scene, carrying the baggage and trying to find happiness with someone else. To that end, we tolerate, and even accept, rudeness, lewdness, assholes, and players. If we are lucky, we will encounter a true gentleman at some point. That is what we are seeking, right? A man who is better than the one before and who will treat us the way we deserve. We seek a gentleman who will hold the door, whether it is the car door or the restaurant door, be satisfied with holding hands, laughing, and sharing. Unfortunately, Hollywood has set that gold standard, and it is one that we can never achieve. But, that is a topic for another post.
Back to reality.
Chances are that all of the above qualities of the gentleman we seek are likely a façade to some degree – enacted and polished in order to navigate the dating scene successfully, just like we women do.
Remember: façades fade or crumble, and ultimately reveal the truth underneath. It’s only a matter of time.
So we wait, and hope. And we continue to put up with the bullshit, while carrying our baggage.
If you are one of the lucky ones, the façade will not be too far different from the underlying base of the man. It is much easier to make a decision on how to move forward when you know the reality for what it is.
One of the pitfalls – one that I just recently realized, despite how many times it has confronted me – is that in the effort to get to what is underneath the façade, we wander too far into the false security of a shared connection, and all the illusions that accompany that. A symptom of this is that you risk losing yourself as you prematurely entwine yourself with a man whom you really don’t know well.
Think of it like a manicured garden, with paths and picnic benches and fountains. On the edge of this manicured garden is a luscious forest. One day, after having enjoyed the precision and expected joys of the garden, you find yourselves wandering down a path from the open, manicured garden into the forest. It’s not that the forest is bad or that the garden was not enjoyable. I love forests – waterfalls, trees, bird calls, solitude – and gardens.
Let’s face the reality though: gardens can get boring and forests can get deep, dark, and scary.
This is where you can lose yourself. Boredom and fear have a way of stripping away strengths that we have spent a lifetime to forge. As our strengths retreat, we can tend to cling to something that is not really there, or to someone who is not as strong as we first thought him to be.
Before you know it, not only have you lost touch with yourself, but the man who you thought was “the next one” has silently slipped away because he succumbed to fear.
Or, he decided that it was time to look for the next target.
Either way, if you are not careful, you will not only be alone – again – but you will have to find your way out of the forest and back to the garden. And, many times, that can be a long, painful journey that depends on how deep into that forest you ventured and how quickly you can retrieve yourself.
The moral to this story: stay in the manicured garden as long as you can. Not only will it give you a chance to learn how to maintain your strengths and your soul while standing alongside your companion, but it will give you the space and time to identify the issues that could cause your companion to abandon you at the worst possible moment, like when you are in the middle of the forest, the dark has descended, and the path is nowhere to be found.
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