Midlife is a much maligned phase of life. Mid life crisis, midlife unhappiness, midlife plateau, midlife baggage and so on. Finding love in men is supposed to be hard. Even your business is supposed to have a midlife crisis. Finding love in midlife is supposed to be so hard that it is thought to be soul-destroying. Even my favorite author Anne Lamott laments in her experiment with online dating. But as my readers know, I like midlife. So I want to offer what I think are the unique advantages of finding love in midlife.
- Freedom from biological clock. I see a lot of women (and some men) in their reproductive years in a rush and desperate to get married or coupled in some form so they can have a family. Nothing wrong with that. It is totally understandable. Having my son was absolutely the very best decision I have made in my entire life. It made me a better person all around in every way imaginable and my irrational love for him opened my heart and mind to the world very differently and in a much deeper way. But, now that you are done with having babies, my advice to fellow middle aged men and women is that instead of being worried about loss of youth etc. enjoy the freedom. You can now wait for that deep connection. And enjoy the ones in between. What’s the rush? Date widely, enjoy getting to know another human being/s without the pressure of getting to the goal post. Especially if you married young and didn’t date much in your younger years. Now finding love is its own end and means. How cool is that! This applies not only to love, but to every other passion and dream you may have. Every one of my middle-aged friends is pursuing their dreams – career, love, art, music, etc. freely without the pressure of the biological clock. Even the married ones!
- You are more self-aware. You know yourself better as you age. Especially if you have used midlife as a trigger for reflection and personal growth. When you know yourself better, you also know what you want in a partner better. I got married when I was twenty one, I really had no idea about what kind of a partner would be a good fit for me. We marry what we tend to know. Whereas, in my forties, my radar is much better honed and I found someone who is far better suited to me than my first husband was even though he was a very good man. So midlife love is aware love. Self-aware love. Maybe the first time, you picked someone based on a script you learned as a child and not as a conscious choice. This time around, because you know yourself better, so you could engage in conscious coupling.
- You have better life skills. With age, most of us have better life skills because we have gone through different types of situations and come out the other end reasonably intact (hopefully). Life experience and life skills translate into better relationship skills. We are more patient, tolerant, and accepting of our self and others. Especially if we learn from our elders who are all happier because they are more tolerant and accepting of themselves and others. We understand that a love relationship is interpersonal and not merely institutional. We also probably fight better and more fairly. My biggest problem was that I didn’t like to fight. Instead I liked to leave them. That was not conducive for any relationship, let alone romantic ones. In the years since, I am learning to fight without burning bridges. Which is very important and helps me in my romantic relationship too.
- Relationship for love and companionship and not financial stability or convenience: By this time, we are financially established either through career or divorce as the case may be. So now you can enter into relationships for love and enjoyment than picking partners based on their ability to provide for you. Love is sweet. It is nice to experience. As one of my friends used to say, “my Dean can be nice and supportive. I can be well-published and successful but all that is not sweet like romantic love can be.” It may come across as harsh but it is true that most middle-aged men don’t want to support a woman, especially if they have already paid off their dues such as alimony etc. If at this stage, you are not financially stable, then there is more to worry than finding love. So unless you look twenty years younger and can find a man forty years older, get your act together about money.
- Go beyond convention. In our younger years, we are conditioned to look for relationships for co-parenting. Those conventional role-led relationships work really well for that stage of life but may not necessarily be fulfilling after the children grow up and the nests are empty. No wonder the divorce rate is highest among midlifers. This time around, you can craft your romantic/love relationship the way it suits you rather than the way you thought it should work. You don’t have to live together if you don’t want to. You don’t have to get married if you don’t want to. You don’t have to pick up after him if you don’t want to. You don’t have to support her financially if you don’t want to. Most middle-aged divorced women do not want to get remarried anyways. Marriage improves life expectancy and quality of life for men. But most middle-aged men do not want to financially support a woman. By this age, you know that you can take care of yourself. By this time, you also know that love connection doesn’t have to be a lifetime commitment. You can enjoy companionship based relationships as long as they are comfortable and work well for the both of you. Counter-intuitively, because your relationships are for companionship and love than convenience or parenting, you can derive deeper enjoyment and connection and probably work harder to make it that way. Because you choose to say yes everyday you stay in it, you are probably more likely more committed than even in a marriage.
PS1: If you are still married, don’t despair! You can create an intimate, wonderful relationship in your empty nest home! Do fun stuff with your spouse. Go on planned and spontaneous dates; run marathons together (then you will train together for weeks or months); make travel plans, play word games, be vulnerable and open. Maybe you will create an unusual living arrangement like another of my favorite authors Robert Parker with his wife in the later part of their marriage.
Do you have a take on this topic? I would love to hear from you.