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Apr 20 2009

Truth, Daring and Dating at Midlife

Published by at 7:08 pm under Advice

Jerry, who is a man I’ve worked with, told me this story. Maybe it was an off night, or maybe it was second or third in a series of off nights, he wasn’t sure, but while he was in bed making love to his sweetheart, whose name was Angel, Jerry found himself thinking about calling his old buddy, Jennifer, for a friendly evening of sex. He caught himself rehearsing what he would say to Jennifer, who was bound to ask him, “Aren’t you involved with this new woman?” He heard himself sorting through possible reasons for not “busy” next Friday, or maybe Sunday night. He watched himself working out his ethical justifications. The only thing that was different from what he had done in the past – could it have been fifty times? More? –  was that he saw himself doing it and got scared.

Jerry was 48 and divorced twice. That in itself was not remarkable. Half of all marriages end in divorce and two-thirds of all second marriages. He’d been single for seven years with two major (two year long) relationships and a handful of minor encounters. You could say he was a veteran of the midlife dating scene. Angel was 45, with similar statistics.

There’s an old Irish joke that goes, “When all else fails, tell the truth,” and next morning, after breakfast, Jerry was scared enough to try it. He said to Angel, “I didn’t very much like our love making last night.” He left out the part about Jennifer.

Angel said, “I wasn’t feeling all that connected to you either but I didn’t want to say anything and after you went to sleep I went into the next room and sat and cried.”

After a while midlife singles usually figure that sex isn’t the same thing as intimacy. Intimacy comes from conversations like this. The conversation went well but even so, it wasn’t until about an hour later, during a quiet pause that Jerry said, “I was actually thinking about calling someone else for sex.  Silence. Angelique said, “I was too.”

Ten thousand moments like this are what it takes to build an intimate relationship at midlife. And these moments have a peculiar emotional tone, a mixture of fear and relief, the footprints of Truth and Daring,

Truth and Daring is what it takes for relationship success at midlife. Being single at midlife isn’t a first choice. For most people, it is Plan B. If you are 20-something and single, you are just single. But if you are forty-something and single, you are single with an explanation. That explanation is the grain of sand you have to turn into a pearl. At first, it’s the reason why you are single. Later it becomes the lesson you’ve learned that makes you a great partner for someone. The transformation process is what dating at midlife is about.

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