Advantages to Dating In Your 40s (and Beyond)

dating 40s

One of the myriad side effects of divorce is that you may find yourself thrust back into the daunting world of dating in your 40s or beyond. It’s easy to dismiss dating as a young person’s game and become intimidated at the prospect of putting yourself back out there after life has had years to make its marks upon you.

Love is not, “One strike and you’re out.” You always have another chance.

Perhaps you worry that your body is too saggy or that your emotional baggage is too heavy. The thought of putting your best face forward and making the effort to get to know somebody sounds exhausting. You’re hesitant at the thought of opening up again and you’re increasingly enjoying doing things your way. And through all of these concerns, is the uneasiness that there is nobody out there for you (or the twin fear that nobody will want you).

Yet the urge to connect is still there, persistent in its approach. You may no longer be looking for somebody to start a family with and your white picket fence dreams have faded with the harsh light of day, but even now, you desire to have someone by your side. A partner through life’s second half.

Dating in your 40s is an opportunity to apply what you learned in your 20s and 30s. 

Dating when you’re younger is all about possibility. Excitement. It’s less about what you’ve experienced and more about what you want to accomplish. The youthful veneer of invincibility has yet to wear off and so you may approach relationships with a sense of certainty that if it feels right, it is right.

Dating in your 40s is different. You’ve experienced both love and loss. You’ve had to accept that wanting something to be true doesn’t make it so. And while it’s true that dating in midlife can be more challenging in many ways, there are also many advantages to dating once you have lived a little.

In many ways, it’s easier to determine if someone is the right person for you when you’re dating in your 40s.

Here’s why…

You see who somebody is, not what they promise to become.

When I was dating my first husband, I stated that I would never be a teacher and he promised that he would never turn into his father. We were wrong on both counts.

When you’re dating in your teens and 20s, you are basing decisions about how well you fit with somebody based on their dreams and youthful intentions. And many of those expectations may never materialize.

Once you’ve reached your 40s, those early aspirations have been woven with reality, a tapestry that speaks to the truth of who you are. You no longer have to rely on who somebody says they want to be, you now have evidence to support (or refute) their claims.

You are able to ascertain how they handle transition, disappointment, mistakes and failure. 

I never knew that my first husband was prone to cowardice and deception until he faced some harsh realities associated with his chosen career. If I had known that about him ahead of time, I may have thought twice before deciding to marry.

Few of us reach 40 without dealing with some major blows from life. When you are getting to someone new that has been through life’s tumbler, you have the opportunity to discover how they handle hard times before you make the decision to make them your partner through the good and the bad.

All of this is valuable data to have that is difficult to come by when you’re younger.

The inevitability of mortality often encourages more vulnerability.

There’s a softening that happens to people in their 40s that is unrelated to the effects of gravity and a slowing metabolism. Parents are aging, friends are beginning to be diagnosed with serious illnesses and you begin to experience the inevitability of aging.

As a sense of invincibility is replaced with a respect for mortality, a desire for real connection often follows. When you no longer feel like you have forever, you begin to understand the importance of every moment and every interaction.

Along with this sense of urgency comes a fear of being alone and of missed opportunities to express your feelings. All of this can lead to more openness and less ego.

Your beliefs and values have become your own and you are less concerned about appearances and the views of others.

I love to compare first weddings to subsequent ones. The initial nuptials are often lavish affairs, dictated both by what’s popular and by the expectations of the families. Second weddings are more personalized and less commercial, reflecting more on the couple than on those around them.

Relationships often follow similar patterns. When we’re younger, we’re more likely to structure our lives in a certain way because it’s what’s expected or because we want others to perceive us in a certain way. Once we reach our 40s, there’s a certain confidence and a “Don’t care what others think” attitude that reflects a comfort with your own beliefs and decisions.

Lasting friendships give insight into commitment and loyalty. 

“I promise to never leave you,” my first husband said. And then, over the years, I saw him leave friendships, his parents and eventually, me. In contrast, when I met my second husband’s friends, I was impressed at the longevity of these friendships and his loyalty even through trying times.

Maintaining friendships becomes more challenging as we grow older and our lives become increasingly busy. When you’re dating someone in midlife, you have this powerful window into how important maintaining relationships is to them.

You learn about their adaptability. 

Change or become obsolete.

It’s harsh. But you only have to look to the natural world to see its truth.

I’m a firm believer that adaptability is one of the core qualities people need to have for successful relationships.

And by our 40s, life has given us many opportunities to adapt – children come and go, jobs are secured and security is threatened, earlier choices lead to unseen consequences that require difficult choices. And aging will bring even more opportunities for adaptation. Isn’t it nice to have a sense of how somebody will cope?

Dating has its challenges at any life stage.

And it also has its advantages.

Don’t let fear or discouragement hold you back.

There is no age limit to love.

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Three Tricks to NOT Take it Personally

Years ago, I was walking Tiger in the neighborhood when I had a rather unpleasant encounter. A woman was walking her two small dogs on the opposite side of the street. Her dogs, which couldn’t have been more than ten pounds apiece, pulled against their restraints, barking wildly, in a determined attempt to get to my hundred-pound pit bull. My dog, meanwhile, simply kept walking, maintaining his eyes on the street ahead.

“I can’t believe they allow pit bulls in this neighborhood,” the woman hissed towards me.

I was shaken that day. I kept wondering what this woman had against me or my well-behaved dog. I put it aside, but her words continued to resonate whenever I had Tiger out in public (which was often).

Just recently, I was walking Kazh, our new, smaller pit bull who is learning to be as well-behaved, when I again encountered this woman. This time, her small dogs were unleashed in her front yard and one sprinted towards Kazh, barking all the while. “Oh boy,” I thought. “Here we go.” I readied myself for Kazh’s response to the encroaching potential threat and the woman’s response to yet another pit bull allowed in the neighborhood.

Kazh sniffed curiously at the small, loud dog and immediately demonstrated that he simply wanted to continue his walk. I used him to attract the loose dog back to its yard, where the woman was able to scoop him up.

“What a beautiful dog,” she exclaimed, reaching down to pet Kazh.

As we talked, I learned that her adult daughter had once rescued a pit bull that she then surrendered to her parents. They tried, but were unable to train and integrate the dog into their home and finally had to make the difficult decision of finding it a new home.

During that conversation, I realized that when the woman had made the anti-pit bull comment, she was still dealing with the frustration and feelings of failure she experienced with her daughter’s dog.

Her comment had nothing at all to do with me, with Tiger or really even about pit bulls.

Her response was entirely borne from her own pain and defeat.

______

I know better. Yet I do it anyways.

When my husband is short-tempered, my first inclination is that I did something to cause his frustration.

When a student grumbles about something, I examine my lesson for reasons for the poor attitude.

When an internet stranger sends me a message informing me that my message is awful, I begin to question all of the work that I have done.

And when my first husband decided to abandon me in favor of another wife, I fixated on how he could do that to me.

In every case, I’m making the same cognitive error. I’m assigning causation where there is only correlation.

Inevitably, I discover that my husband had a rough day at work. I remember that I teach teenagers and they are contractually obligated not to express pleasure in anything their parents or teachers do for them. I recognize that people who read my writing or watch my videos are usually in great pain and sometimes they lash out at whoever is available. And I remind myself that my ex husband is a scum bucket (and also was experiencing his own crisis).

 

The reality is that somebody’s action or response always says more about them than it does about you.

 

When you take things personally, it muddies the emotional waters, stirring up the intensity of the feelings and making it difficult to proceed calmly and rationally.

The following are three easy tricks to help you remember to not take things personally:

 

1 – If it wasn’t you, would it still have happened anyway?

Maybe you’re struggling trying to come to terms with how your spouse could have cheated on you. Or you’re trying to calm down after a particularly nasty customer or client went off on you. Perhaps your ex flaked on picking up the kids. Again.

Take yourself out of the equation for a bit. If it wasn’t you, would it still have happened anyway?

This is a powerful question that can help you distinguish between those things that you have some agency over and those things that are truly somebody else’s problem.

If you realize that it would have happened in the same way without you, then it’s really not about you at all and it gives you permission to let it go. If you discover that you have a role in the situation, then you also have some power over changing it.

 

2 – Why else could they have been motivated to undertake this action?

Part of the reason that we have a tendency to take things personally is that it’s an easy conclusion to reach. It’s neat. It’s tidy. It’s direct.

And yet that doesn’t make it true.

It’s amazing how much of our responses are tied to assumptions born of past experiences rather than the present reality. Before you conclude that this was because of you, examine some other potential causes for the action or reaction.

Remember too that life is rarely black or white, either or. Just because a part of this may be yours to own, it doesn’t mean that you’re responsible for the entire package.

 

3 – Can you avoid receiving negative responses?

Take a moment and think of someone you greatly admire or a book or movie or restaurant that you absolutely love. Then, go to an online review site and look to see how many one-star reviews this person, production or place has received.

I bet there is no shortage.

It’s a potent reminder that nobody and nothing is right for everyone and that even the best are sometimes told that they’re awful. And that everybody is always viewing the world through their own lens, clouded by their own experiences and beliefs.

 

Taking things too personally is both a selfish and a self-sacrificing act. It implies that you’re the center of the action and also makes you responsible for the well-being of those around you. It leads to unnecessary pain and frustration and distracts from root causes and possible solutions.

It’s important to remember that you’re not always the intended target. Sometimes you’re just collateral damage.

 

Related: Just Because it Happened to You, Does Not Mean it Happened Because of You

 

 

I Am…

I Am…

Before you read any further, please pause for just a moment and allow your mind to complete that thought. Make a note of the word that rises to the surface.

_________________________________________

 

In a recent yoga class, the instructor asked for us to silently completely the sentence, “I am…”

The first word to come to my mind was,

 

I Am Capable

 

Quickly followed by the more critical thought, “Great, so I’m the Toyota Camry of people – dependable, responsible and dull.” And then I remembered that the Camry has been on the most-stolen lists for many years. So apparently there’s at least something desirable about them:)

As the class progressed, people were asked to share their words:

 

I Am Strong

I Am Present

I Am Beautiful

I Am a Child of God

I Am a Mother

I Am Powerful

I Am Sweaty

 

I wondered if those were the first words to come to their minds, or the ones they settled on when they realized that they would be asked to share. I know for me, there are days when my impulse would be to fill in the blank with –

 

tired

lonely

overwhelmed

sad

frustrated

 

I then thought of the power that whatever follows those two little words holds. Saying “I AM strong” is much more potent than uttering “I feel strong.” Stating “I AM sad” is so much more intense and influential than “I feel sad.”

I AM speaks to the soul of you. It says that whatever follows is so important, so vital to who you are, that it cannot be separated from you.

 

Be mindful with the words you choose to follow “I AM…”

 

Are these words kind or critical?

Do they describe a permanent part of your character or do they reflect something that is temporary?

Do they illustrate something that you believe about yourself or are they repeated the words that others have said about you?

Let the best of you, the heart of you, follow “I AM.”

Say it.

Share it.

Believe it.

I AM…

 

 

 

 

 

The Pathology Behind the Lie

I don’t get spooked easily.

But I’m spooked right now.

Not because of anything imminent.

But because I’m really starting to understand what kind of danger I may have been in.

When the police first told me how lucky I was to make it out of my first marriage alive, I brushed off their concern. After all, they were talking about the man who had cared for me when I was sick and would gently slide my glasses off my sleeping face each night. How could he have tried to kill me?

Yet even though it seemed unfathomable and he had made no direct threats, I found that I was frightened of him. The reports from his other wife that she found evidence that he was planning her death didn’t help to calm my nerves. And the police took his actions and my fears seriously, setting up nightly patrols during those first few uncertain weeks.

Even then, I didn’t really take it seriously.

But now I do.

And my change in perspective came from the most unlikely of places – a podcast about Casey Anthony, the Florida woman who was accused of killing her young daughter in 2008.

At the time of the trial, I remained largely ignorant of the intense publicity. I knew only the basic outline – she accused the babysitter of kidnapping her child and the child’s body was found some time later.

But listening to the podcast?

In many ways, I felt like I knew her.

Because even though she was a twenty-something mother accused of murder and my ex-husband was a thirty-two-year-old man who committed bigamy and fraud, they were operating out of the same playbook.

And the more I heard about her lies and realized the parallels with my ex’s, the more spooked I became. A feeling of looking down and suddenly realizing that you’re precariously perched high above the security of the ground.

(A quick note here before I delve into the details: As stated, I never followed this case while it was active. Even now, I have not referenced any sources apart from this podcast. There may be information that was discussed in the show that is incorrect or incomplete. Frankly, I’m spooked enough from these details; I have no interest in digging any deeper. Also, I have my gut feelings about Casey’s involvement in Caylee’s death, but I’m not going to speculate about that here. I’m more interested in her multiple lies and her reactions (or non-reactions) to her daughter’s disappearance and then confirmed death.)

In many ways, I’m still too close to my ex’s lies to be able to see them all clearly. They are so interwoven with my own memories of what I believed at the time, that it is difficult for me to be objective. In listening to the description of Casey Anthony, I was able to see these behaviors in a more impersonal and detached manner.

And realizing these similarities makes me truly wonder what my ex was (is?) capable of.

 

Everything’s Fine

Casey Anthony’s daughter was missing for 39 days. For most of that, Casey kept insisting that everything was fine. Whenever her mother asked about Caylee, she was told that she was an amusement park or with the nanny. Any concern was brushed off with an, “How can you be so ignorant as to think that?” attitude.

My ex had been living a double life for years at the time he left and the financial deceptions that he carried out were beginning to reach critical mass. It got to a point where he was no longer able to shield me from everything (although he gave it a damn good try, including cutting the phone line so that I couldn’t receive calls from creditors). Whenever I would see something that would give me pause, his reaction would always be, “How could you be so ignorant or distrustful to question that?”

 

Real-Life People Becoming Fictitious Characters

When Casey could no longer deny that her daughter was missing, she then claimed that she was kidnapped by the babysitter. She described to the police how she met this woman through a mutual acquaintance and that she used to babysit his child. This man was real, but he not only didn’t know this babysitter. He had no children.

My ex used a friend in a similar manner. He claimed (to both his other wife and the police) that he co-owned this friend’s business and had a great deal of money coming to him as part of the agreement. This friend (although I’m not sure that’s the correct term) was real. The business was real. But everything else my ex claimed was simply fabricated to connect the dots of lies he had spread.

If They Don’t Exist, Create Them

Sometimes the character needed for the story you’re telling doesn’t exist. When that happened to Casey Anthony, she simply invented the person. For the month that her daughter was missing, she consistently made the claim that her child was with the babysitter. But there was no babysitter. After she accused the nanny of stealing her daughter, she was forced to bring more detail to this imagined character. And she did, even describing the details of the woman’s apartment (which was a merely a vacant unit when the police investigated).

When my ex met his soon-to-be other wife, he told her he was divorced and that his ex-wife was remarried. This fabricated “second husband” of mine remained a mere sketch until he tried using the same story with the police. And they pushed for details. So my “husband” and I had been married a year, were on friendly terms with my ex (in fact, apparently he even attended our imaginary wedding), lived in Snellville and had three dogs. Oh, and my husband apparently worked as a chiropractor. Strangely, I appreciate the fact that if my ex was going to invent a life for me, at least it seems he made up a good one.

 

Names of Fictitious People Pulled From the Environment

Of course, the nanny that Casey Anthony invented needed a name. She was given the made-up moniker Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzalez, which was later found to be cobbled together from the names of Casey’s boyfriend’s neighbors. Unfortunately, there did happen to be a real Zenaida Fernandez in the Orlando area at the time. I can only imagine the trauma this poor woman faced as she was questioned by the police and hounded by the media.

My ex was also forced to come up with a name for my fabricated husband. He settled on Mark (Marc?) Mercer. When I learned about this pretend husband’s name from the arresting officer, my mind immediately remembered a prominently-placed billboard for Mercer University. The location? Snellville.

 

Just Write it Yourself

Casey Anthony apparently created several email addresses to send messages as other people. She apparently didn’t know enough about IP addresses to not be fingered as the origination point of these emails.

My ex got into my email account and sent a “Merry Christmas” email from me to him that incorporated the fake fact that we were divorced. The only problem? This email was dated in July because he either neglected to alter the date or didn’t know how.

 

Fake the 9 to 5

For months, Casey Anthony told he friends and family that she had a well-paying job as an event planner at Universal Studios. She would get up, get dressed, and go…well, anywhere but Universal Studios, as they had no record of her ever being an employee. My favorite detail – when the police asked her to take them to where she worked (after they learned that Universal didn’t know her), she walked them into one the buildings, up an elevator and down a hall. She didn’t admit the truth until her back was literally against the wall.

I’ve had to try to fill in the gas about my ex’s fake employment, as he took all of the related documentation when he left, but from what I uncovered, he pretended to have clients in his freelance business for quite some time. He made up assignments, pretended to work on them when I went downstairs to his basement office and funneled money from credit cards when he needed to get paid from his invented clients.

 

If You’re Backed Into a Corner, Just Change Direction

When police discovered that the nanny’s supposed apartment was vacant (and had been for quite some time), Casey Anthony then came up with a new story about the nanny’s location.

When asked by the police why he was recently in Brazil, my ex first denied ever being there. Then, when confronted with the evidence of the trip from passport records, he then claimed that it was a work trip (this was the story that I had been told along with details that even included pictures of the trade show he supposedly was working). The police then proved this claim false with a short phone call to his boss. Although he was no longer freelancing at this point, he then asserted that he was doing a side job for somebody. His other wife soon dismissed this fiction as well.

 

Financial Lies and Bad Checks

Casey Anthony had a problem. She told everyone she had a job that paid well, yet she often had no real source of income. While her parents bought her gas and often provided her with a roof over head, she faked the rest with a series of bad checks.

I don’t have much detail about most of my ex’s financial deceptions because the evidence went with him (but suffice to say, he made many purchases with money that he didn’t have). But I did get to see a series of emails between the band that played at his illegal wedding and he and the other wife. He continually assured them that “the check is in the mail.” I’m sure. He also strung his attorney out who made the comment to me after the divorce hearing, “Not until I get paid first.” At that one, I just had to giggle. And then there’s the one that gave me my only sense of justice in this whole mess. He lied on the taxes and, as a result, I was granted innocent spouse relief. Thank you, IRS, for seeing him for what he is.

 

Garnering Sympathy and Flirting With the Professionals

Casey Anthony would flip between continuing to live her life that nothing had happened and playing the victim. After her case was over and she was found not guilty of the murder charges, she started a relationship with one of the investigators from her case.

My ex (and by extension, his attorney), kept whining that I was “vindictive” because I alerted law enforcement about his bigamous marriage. I know, poor baby. In an email to his other wife and my mother, he then went on to describe me as “impossible to live with.” Of course, the letter then went on to accuse me of doing exactly what he was guilty of. Nice try. His smarmy behavior continued when he went to my attorney’s office to pick up some keys. The paralegal called me after he left and said it was disgusting how he was flirting with her and trying to win her over. Maybe he was looking for wife number three?

 

I know that the possible murder of a child and the deceptions involved in fraud and bigamy are worlds apart. I’m not trying to equate those two situations. Yet, if Casey Anthony did intentionally kill her daughter, it doesn’t seem to be an act driven by malice or even momentary rage. Instead, it would have been an act by somebody who is willing to take extreme actions to get what they want without concern for the consequences.

And by seeing those parallels between her undertakings and my ex’s, I now am starting to believe that he really was capable of taking extreme actions. Maybe even extending to murder.

And that is spooky.

 

Important Factors to Consider Before Relocating for a Relationship

Have you ever relocated for a relationship?

I have.

Twice.

The first time, I followed my future-ex-husband from San Antonio to Atlanta. I left behind family, friends and school to move to unseen apartment in a city that I had never even visited. Even with all of the sacrifice, I never considered not making the move. At that point, being with my fiance was more important than anything else.

What can I say, you live and you learn.

The next time was slightly different. After the divorce, I was ready to launch myself out of Atlanta like a pilot jettisoning from a crashing plane. I had my sights and my intention focused on Seattle. And then I met my future husband (and later his dog, Tiger) and made the decision to stay put in the area for at least a year.

But I still had to move, even though it was only towards the western end of town instead of the west coast. This time, I was able to become comfortable with my new surroundings, pick out my own apartment and find a job in the area all before I took the plunge.

Yet even with all of that preparation, it was still sometimes a struggle. Because when you relocate for a relationship, you inevitably are making some trade-offs. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide if the exchanges are worth it (and many time they are). But make sure you carefully consider these factors before you take the plunge:

 

Is this a location where you would choose to live in spite of your partner?

The place where you live has an enormous impact on your overall well-being and happiness. No matter how in love you are, if you hate your city every day, you’ll become miserable. If the draw of the relationship is too great to ignore, can you find a way to make the location more palatable? Maybe a certain neighborhood is more pleasing or the perfect home outweighs the negatives of the rest of the environment. My mom ended up in landlocked San Antonio and she cursed the lack of water until she installed a small backyard pool.

 

If you and your partner break up, will (or even can you) stay in this location?

At one point, my now-ex and I were looking into the possibility of relocating to California. I remember feeling a strangle little pull in the pit of my stomach when I realized that there was no chance of being able to ever afford to live there on my own salary (and this was when I thought the marriage was healthy). It’s good to have the outline of a “what if” plan sketched out before you invest the time and money into moving.

 

Do you have your own social group in the location? If not, what will you do to build your own connections?

When one half of a couple relocates for the other, it can easily create a situation where the newly-moved is completely dependent upon the other for their social and emotional needs. If you don’t already have friends or family in the location, what can you put in place immediately to start to grow new friendships. Also, how will you keep in touch with established friends as you nurture these new relationships? Try to have more than one possible source for friendships at the ready in case one proves to be a bust.

 

Are you giving up status at work or credits at school in order to move? How will that impact you down the road?

When I moved to Atlanta, I basically lost over two years of college credits. Then, when my ex lost his job, I was forced to make some difficult decisions about my planned degree. At the time, I was okay with the decision, yet I’m not sure that I would make the same one again. Be very careful about your professional or earning potential losses with a relocation. The impact of those can be quite large and irreversible. It may make sense to delay to move for a time or to work to find a creative solution.

 

What will your living situation be like? Are you starting fresh together or moving into their established space?

Moving into someone else’s space is difficult. Even once all of your clothes are in the closet and your pictures are on the wall, you can still feel more like a guest than a permanent resident. Beyond that, how will your space differ from that which you’re accustomed to? Are you moving from the suburbs to a small city apartment or having to deal with the lack of public transit for the first time? Do your research, ask questions and read this for more advice on how to move in together.

 

Do you have children? How will they be impacted by the move? How will their relationship with their other parent be affected?

Will your kids have to change schools? Will this be easy or hard for them based upon their ages and temperaments? Will they have to share a bedroom for the first time or adjust to a change in available activities? What can you put in place ahead of time to create a niche for them to slide into? If you’re moving away from their other parent (and this parent is involved), plan ahead for ways that your kids can maintain contact. Adult friendships can be sustained with minimal and/or infrequent meaningful contact. Kids’ relationships with their parents cannot.

 

Does your partner frequently expect you to be the one who makes sacrifices or is this generally an equitable relationship?

This is a biggie. Maybe in this case, it makes sense for you to be the one uprooted. But if the tables were turned, would your partner relocate for you? Outside of the move, is your partner willing to compromise their own desires sometimes for the betterment of the relationship? I know that I would never move for somebody that wouldn’t also move for me.

 

So how about you?

Have you moved for love (or for what you thought was love at the time)?

Any regrets?

Any triumphs?

Any lessons?