DATING LATER – A MIXED BAG
I find that dating later in my life means meeting men who have shared most of the important things in their life with another woman – their career boosts, having and raising children, their first everything it seems! Is it possible to be special to someone when your relationship begins later in their life and yours? - CONCERNED ROMANTIC
Well, from one hopeless romantic to another, YES! And let me tell you why! What you haven’t mentioned is whether or not you’ve been married or have children of your own; although the implication is no, that may not be true. You might simply have not met the love of your life or feel that you have yet to experience those peak romantic moments for any number of reasons.
The wonderful aspect of life cycles is that our needs change in each of them, and that what we need from a life partner can change considerably, too. Even in the realm of international folklore, it is clear that men and women experience a significant change in their priorities and focus in mid-life. I always thought MIDLIFE meant 50s for some reason, but according to the psych literature, it’s actually as early as 37! It is at that time that men BEGIN to become more emotional creatures, and women often become more independent. Yes, we know that God has a sense of humor, right? Are men and women ever on the same page? WELL, WE HOPE SO – at least in their most intimate moments, right?!
So what a man needs from you, depending on his age and stage, not only will be different but will have profound importance because it will also be a culmination of lifelong, unmet needs starving for attention. Your challenge will be to figure out which ones he’s still seeking, and not the ones you think he needs – a curse of females, it seems. Sometimes, it’s best just to introduce him to the concept – to get him to articulate what he feels he has missed out on in his life that he still wants to experience – the emotional; or romantic "bucket list" so to speak – not that you can refer to it that way and expect any kind of direct response! Every man is different. Try to find out as much as you can about his family experiences as a child as well as what was missing for him in his most intense relationships. What he needs is a combination of BOTH.
My girlfriend seems to need me all the time, and I am just not wired for that kind of closeness, let alone commitment. I try to be attentive and generous when I am with her, and to call in-between when I can, but it seems like she is never happy. Is it her or me? - MOTIVATED MAN
Here again, there is so much I’d like to know to best answer your question, but let me see if I can offer some cogent direction. One possibility is that the things she needs to show her that you care are things that she has not expressed and are not part of your normal repertoire of conversation or behavior. Is she perhaps not feeling special because you are not the “HONEY-BABY-SWEETHEART” type talker? Or is it because it is obvious that, while she’s important to you, you’d rather be playing golf or writing music or watching sports, and your available time for her is when none of those things is going on? OR, is it possible that it is not like you to make plans in advance or talk about plans in the future so that she has something to look forward to – plans, not marriage!
Or, is it that she has nothing going on in her life but you? Men seem to be better at hobbies than women and are often better at entertaining themselves with or without a companion, for whatever reason. Does she spend time with her family and friends? Does she have a pet? Does she have some outside interests besides you and work? Some women are fine going to the movies or theater alone while others literally will not be caught dead doing that. It seems to be the same with eating out for both men and women – some can, some just can’t, do it alone.
Whether she is in her 30s or 60s, since I don’t know your age group, it is important for all of us to have a full spectrum of places to get our needs met. There are no stable two-legged tables! We need to make sure that we get our needs met from at least four different sources, including work, romance, family, personal projects, and any other outlets of leisure so that, at any point, our personal table has enough legs to stand on if one of them fails.
Jessica Barrett is a licensed psychotherapist who has worked as a family therapist and with people from 5 to 85 years old. Before entering private practice, Jessica worked with MA students at Phillips Graduate Institute supervising and teaching workshops on working with adolescents, couples therapy, and structured separation counselling. Featured in Who's Who, she has done radio interviews and consulted with EAP programs at NBC, Texaco, and Lockheed.