What It’s Like to Date at Midlife
It’s challenging, but isn’t dating challenging for just about everyone at any age nowadays?
Four years ago, I explored dating at midlife, which has proven to be one of my more popular posts. Four years ago — when I was four years younger than I am now, sigh — I noted that a number of my 50-something, empty-nester, divorced female friends had happily found love again. Some cohabited. Some became LATs, lived apart together couples. Some married. Some have happily strengthened their partnership, others have since broken up. While most of the comments on that post were all over the map — from men blaming feminism on women’s “bad” behavior to women who’d been been cheated on to categorizing all men as being suspect — many seemed to indicate that dating at midlife was, well, challenging. Some had decided to give up. So I thought that it might be a good idea to revisit what it’s like to date at midlife.
Has much changed? Is it worth dating at midlife?
Is it worth dating at midlife? Sure. Has it changed? Not much, as far as I can tell. Is it challenging? Yes, but isn’t dating challenging for just about everyone at any age nowadays?
I re-read all the comments on that post. When “RP” wrote that middle-aged women shouldn’t “expect a 50 year old man to get excited over a 50 year old woman” — a typical response for a certain category of men who want younger women (regardless whether they can actually get them or not) — I responded:
We women over 50 aren’t interested in men who want younger women; we women of a certain age are much more interested in the younger men who are actually interested in us (don’t kid yourself that there aren’t) as well as the age-appropriate men who are interested in us. Why? Because these are men who are more self-aware, more interesting, more multifaceted, more experienced and more intriguing. And that’s incredibly sexy.
Well, that still holds true. Older women aren’t interested in men who want younger women. Why should we be; their interests aren’t ours and shared values make for a satisfying relationship. But, hey, more power to you guys. And yes, there always seem to be men — younger, older and similarly aged — who are interested in dating middle-aged women. That’s a message all relationship-minded middle-age women need to know.
Not willing to compromise
But here I am, four years older, which means I have entered another decade — what the hell?!?! And yet, I still feel the same way I felt four years ago: older women desire companionship and sex, but many of us are not willing to compromise on losing our sense of self and freedom to have that. In fact, studies show that many are “willing to be lonely before sacrificing independence,” which is why we are more likely to be looking for a short-term relationship or a companion, not a husband.
But saying we’re “willing to be lonely” seems to indicate the only way women can have companionship is through a romantic partner … but that isn’t true. That’s just one way of many to have companionship. As for sex, well, we don’t necessarily need to have a committed romantic partner for that either. It becomes challenging if the only way you can see having companionship and sex is through a committed romantic partner.
Still, many of us want sex. In fact, recent studies indicate that older women are having pretty robust and satisfying sex lives. It’s true. In the past year, I have had more conversations with men I’ve dated, however briefly, about monogamy and consensual non-monogamy than I’ve ever had in my life. When I was younger, I didn’t realize I had options. Today’s young women have lots of options, as Kelli María Korducki, author of Hard to Do: The Surprising Feminist History of Breaking Up, says:
I really think that my generation is at a crossroads, where we’re beginning to question these understandings that we thought were so hardwired about the nature of gender, the nature of partnership, of employment, and all the things feed into each other. It’s a symbiotic relationship that determining the kinds of family structures that we create for ourselves and in turn the society we want.”
So what does this mean if you’re a young woman trying to sort out her life?
Figuring out what you want
For one, consider whether having an “until death” monogamous relationship is something you truly want and not just something you believe you “should” want. What will you truly gain from it? What will you give up? Could you create a relationship that gives you as much as you may have to give up? Could some of your needs be met by others (or yourself), not necessarily a romantic/sexual partner and, if so, how would that change what you’re looking for in a romantic/sexual partner — and would you even want one, or just one?
If you asked me years ago what I thought my life would look like at my age, I wouldn’t have imagined that I’d still be dating. I only knew one romantic script, one that led to marriage and living together “happily ever after.” Yet, here I am, middle-aged, single, dating and, yes, happy. Once you realize that life and relationships aren’t static, you can tweak the romantic script until it feels right for you.
And know that, when you get to be my age, you’ll be having great sex.
Want to explore consensual non-monogamy? (Of course you do!) Find The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press) at your indie bookstore or on Amazon; follow on Twitter and like on Facebook.
Originally published at omgchronicles.vickilarson.com.