Dating over 40 :: Understanding the dating difference between ‘girl’ and ‘grownup’
My friend Jen told me the other day about how she ran into her high school boyfriend while back home from visiting her Dad. The guy had dumped her right before Prom. She said when she saw him she felt butterflies in her stomach and was truly tongue-tied. She said she giggled. Jennifer is 48 years old and happily married. But you understand, right? It can be so easy to slip right into our 18-year-old selves when it comes to a man we’re hot for.
I was married for the first time when I was 47, and I started my “involvement” with boys pretty early in my life. (If I said exactly what age, my 80-year-old dad would have a heart attack. I’ll just say that I hope your daughters and nieces are waiting longer than I did.) Let’s round it out and say that I dated for about 30 years. Holy crap.
Ahhh, the memories. They go something like this:
• I really like this guy; maybe he’s the one!
• He ignores me or treats me like crap.
• I just know he will eventually change.
• I stick around and wait and hope…because I know he’s the one.
• He doesn’t change.
• I finally get that he has no interest or he overtly dumps me like a hot potato.
Then – and this my favorite part – after I got rejected or finally realized it was officially over,I got to experience the self-loathing and embarrassment because I fell for the guy in the first place. I finally realize that he probably never had any real interest in me, and he was a jerk anyway. Nice. I love being a girl.
Maybe you can relate? Have you had a period in your life when you were consistently hurt and disappointed? Whether you’re 20 or 40 or 60, whether it was 20 years ago or 20 days ago, can you claim being part of the “Men Suck and Woe Is Me” club? Do you have guys who did you wrong, took advantage of you, played you, disrespected you, didn’t appreciate you, wouldn’t accept the love you had to give, lied, cheated, or otherwise made you feel horrible about yourself?
This may be a little overly dramatic. This may not have happened to you for quite some time. But really, can you tell me that you haven’t at some point in your life been the needy, please-love-me, my-worth-depends-on-you-wanting-me gal?
Well, it sucks being in that place. But I’m just going to say this straight out: It is all our fault. (Now hear me out, because this ends really nicely and complimentary.)
Be honest with yourself. I know you know this. Yeah, maybe some guys are mean, selfish, arrogant, horndog, and users. But girlfriend, you didn’t have to pick ‘em, and you certainly didn’t have to stick around. But you did. We did. We do.
I can’t help but think that this scenario, especially when it starts early in our lives, is what holds us back from dating and earnestly opening ourselves up to love, even many years later. I think it’s a trust issue. But contrary to what we may say, when it holds us back later in our lives, this not about mistrust of men. It’s about mistrust of ourselves.
We may be saying “there aren’t any good men out there” and decide to stop looking and/or stop expecting to find love. But ask yourself this: How much of your resistance to dating and falling in love is about mistrust of yourself? How afraid are you that you’ll repeat the bad choices you’ve made and feel the awful feelings and disappointments you’ve experienced in the past?
Here’s the good news: If it’s your fault, that means it’s all under your control to change it. Excellent.
You are not, I repeat not, 18 anymore. You’ve been playing the same record for so long that you may not have stepped back and been honest with yourself. First, there are many fine men out there waiting to meet someone just like you. Second, you need to take a few moments right now to give yourself a good look-over and allow yourself to acknowledge how truly strong and smart you are.
For geez sake, look where you are in your life! Your successes are not from an insecure, unintelligent, or impulsive woman. Sure, you’ve had moments of these. We all do. But overall, in the scheme of things, you’re a responsible adult who takes care of yourself and those you love quite nicely.
There is no reason you can’t be this way when you date and as you search for love. Don’t be put off by an expectation of drama or the esteem crushing experiences you’ve had in the past. This is now. You know who you are and what you want, and you are in charge. You don’t have to settle with a man who isn’t worthy of your affection or attention. You don’t need him unless he’s adding to your already-lovely life.
Here’s are my little secrets for Happy Dating over 40 and what I want you to do:
- • Think of dating like you think of choosing friends or choosing a job. (Well, how you used to choose a job before everything went to hell.) Make well-informed decisions that are best for you.
- • Say “yes” to the men who are great companions and good for you and “no” to those who are not.
- • Stay conscious in the process. Stay grounded in how fabulous you are and always be focused on taking care of yourself.
- • Let the people you love support you — including me. Keep reading my articles, read my book, invest in coaching.
- • Think of dating and finding love as one more thing you’re doing to make yourself happy and better yourself, like taking an anthropology class, going to the spa, or planning a trip to Paris. I’m serious. This doesn’t have to take over your entire being.
- •While you look for Mr. I Love You, just continue to enjoy your already-full life.
Will you feel bad at times? Will the insecure 18 year old rear her ugly head? You betcha. But the good news is that you don’t have to give it an audience. Seriously, you’ve survived far worse things in your life than a man saying no to you. And you’ll find that when you Date Like a Grownup™, those “nos” seldom seem to happen…at least from men you actually care about.
Have fun, keep giggling, and get out there and start meeting and dating with confidence. You are in charge.
(BTW: If you want to learn more about how to take charge, fall in love with yourself, and make good choices, you may want to check out my 6-Step coaching programs.)