So, when was the last time you were actually dating?
Like really dating, just going out with different people to see if you click, looking for “the one” to build a life with for oh maybe the next fifty years?
I don’t know about you, but I was 25.
I’m not a “math person” but that’s about thirty years ago now…yikes!
This epiphany came to me over the weekend, a weekend when I was getting myself in a tizzy over the guy I’ve been seeing for a few months. This is the milestone time when we should be having “the talk” about our relationship, according to all of the internet dating coaches. But our relationship had been experiencing a some amazing highs and some equally devastating lows lately, a crazy emotional ride from my side of things, which left time for talking a precious commodity…too precious to “ruin” it with such a heavy topic.
Escapism at its finest. I am a pro at this one.
Instead, I was doing my usual: dissecting every word he ever said or texted, and looking at the dates of said exchanges to look for the peaks and valleys to figure out what I did or said, all while watching YouTube videos of how to “make him fall in love with you”, “how to make him commit with a twelve word text”, “the seven mistakes you are making that are driving him away”…
Followed by my all time favorite “why is he pulling away?!”
During all of this online “research”, becoming my own WebMD of relationships, I also made the misguided choice to run things by my friends (both women and men, because I needed to be thorough if my research is to be of any value) to get second, third – even fourth opinions – on what to do or what they thought was going on?
Ugh. Who am I??
I don’t remember it being this challenging or life consuming when I was dating in my twenties. I may have thought about it more than I remember now, but I didn’t obsess over it to this length…did I?
Maybe the internet is to blame?
In the midst of all of this uncertainty, I decided to write a letter to him laying it all out on the line. Telling him how his hot and cold behavior was making me crazy, that I am too old for this high school crap, detailing my expectations of what I want in a relationship at this point in my life, while stating that I am indeed “the full package baby“, etc.
A real Norma Rae of relationship demands and negotiations.
A letter written to him, or for him, but one that I never intended to send. Basically, I just wanted to get it all out of my head and put it into a coherent thought. It was almost two pages long by the time I had finished it, not Rachel writing to Ross length, but I was on a roll. Updating and redrafting throughout the day, proofreading for spelling and grammatical errors…because I’m not an animal.
I finished it and saved it. Then closed my laptop.
I slept soundly that night, had amazingly vivid dreams, and woke up happy and feeling lighter. This is a practice that my therapist has encouraged, almost since day one, as a way to unburden my feelings about my ex. Write the letter to get it out, to put it into words, to breath life into it. Then make the choice. Send it, keep it or burn it.
It doesn’t matter what you do with it, just write the letter.
So, my therapist actually does know what she’s talking about and this isn’t some new age, hippy-dippy shit? Wow, who knew?!
And after that glorious night of sound sleep and exotic dreams, I had an epiphany. It truly came into stark focus for me while I was driving to the grocery store.
I am no longer that 25 year old, so why am I still dating like one??
When we date in our twenties or thirties we have a goal. We may not fully admit it, but we do have a goal. Find “the one”, get married, buy a house, have kids and live a “grown up life” for the next 50 plus years. Maybe not necessarily in that order, but the list is pretty much the same across the board.
Everyone is doing it in some way during that early stage of adult life.
The epiphany is realizing that I have already done my list. I have met and married someone, who was “the one” at the time, had and raised my children, bought and sold many houses, and moved many times. Basically, created a life around building a family unit. It was great at the time, I loved my life and the life we were designing, but I never truly considered that maybe there were other options or other roads I could have travelled and been just as happy. Or possibly more fulfilled.
But now, in my fifties, it’s not about babies and houses and building a life. I built a life – more than once now, thanks to getting divorced – so what’s my goal this time?
What does “the one” look like for me at this stage of life? What are his values, his lifestyle expectations, his goals? Do I want to live with someone again, or would I be better suited to live alone? Maybe I will want to get married again, someday. But I know for certain it’s not right now, or anytime soon.
That’s when it hit me. I needed to take my foot off the relationship pedal and just coast, enjoy the ride. Stop trying to future plan when I’m not even sure I want a future with anyone at this point, or have any idea what I really want it to look like.
Maybe this time I can just embrace the journey? No plan or map in mind.
No promises, no commitments, no expectations. Just be with someone who makes me happy, gives me a reason to smile, makes me laugh. Someone who I can share a part of my life with, make room for, without giving up the life I already have built. Without losing myself completely.
And of course, someone to have amazing sex with would be a bonus.
Sometimes we get so busy doing what we are “supposed” to do, or what we’ve been lead to expect is the “normal” way for things to happen, that we can forget to just stop and appreciate the beauty of what we have in front of us. We get too tied up in worrying that we’re not doing it right, or that we are wasting our time somehow.
But is it really wasted time if we are continuing to learn from the experience?
This is a relatively new class in the school of life, a class filled with more mature students who have no idea what they signed up for or what to expect, and the textbook is pretty much non-existent. But unlike the love/relationship classes we took in our youth, with all of the expectations and rules of engagement pre-determined by the generations before us, this time we have the opportunity to make our own rules and write our own textbook.
To reinvent and reimagine what it can be. Now. In our fifties and beyond.