Q: What are the ways that midlife singles may stumble at the start of a new relationship? And how can they avoid doing so?
A: First, they take themselves and the process way too seriously. Second, instead of proceeding slowly, they jump headfirst into a new relationship too quickly. Third, many jump into a new relationship to replace an old one, which can be a recipe for disaster.
Q: OK, let’s slow it down and tackle the first issue — how can midlife singles avoid making the mistake of taking the process too seriously?
A: Approach dating differently. Everyone you meet does not have to be a potential mate. Try going into dating with the goal of just making some great new friends. Take a deep breath and have fun, people! Getting to meet new people, stepping outside of your comfort zone, circulating in new circles and experiencing new things not only broadens you as a person, but adds a whole new dimension to your life. If you go into dating with this attitude, once a relationship comes about, you’ll have entered into it with realistic expectations and will be pleasantly surprised when it becomes something wonderful, as opposed to it never meeting your unrealistically high standards.
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Q: Next, what’s wrong with being spontaneous and diving in? What’s wrong with jumping into a new relationship quickly at midlife?
A: Someone who is over 50 has lived a lot, and there’s a lot to know; it is important to take the time to learn about this person who has attracted your interest. Get to know his or her habits, friends, family dynamics and personal history. Like I always say, dating is not for mating, it is for collecting data to see if the person qualifies for courtship. As you continue to date, continue to learn about each other.
Q: So what about the mistake of seeking a new relationship to replace an old one?
A: For midlife singles, this one can often be an issue, especially when you’ve endured a tough divorce. Using a new love as a Band-Aid never allows you to resolve your past love issues. Additionally, it’s a terrible way of living in denial until the things you won’t face catch up with you — and, trust me, they will. What you won’t deal with today, you will deal with tomorrow, and those issues will be magnified and far more difficult to resolve. Take the time to heal from your last relationship before torturing yourself (and someone new) with old baggage. It’s much easier to maintain a relationship that comes from a real desire to be with another specific person, as opposed to one that comes from wanting to be with anyone other than your ex!
Q: How can midlife singles send their baggage packing?
A: I recommend spending less time blaming the other person for the end of the relationship and more time reflecting on your part of its demise. Forgive, but don’t forget the lessons learned. Release that old person and resist the urge to nurse and rehearse whatever the drama was over and over again, especially with a new potential love. Most of all, free yourself to live and love again. Remember: no risk, no glory.
Q: In your book you say that it’s important to “know yourself” before love. Why is this especially true when you’re over 50? And how does it lend itself to maintaining a new relationship?
A: At any age, the best way to know if someone is the right person for you is to know what you want. What do you have to have? What can you live without? What is a deal-breaker for you? When you know the answers to these questions, you will be in a much better position to not waste your time — which becomes more valuable as time goes on, doesn’t it? Nor will you waste anyone else’s.
Knowing what you want is what makes you a healthy and attractive person to anyone you meet, and it will help you hold onto that person because he or she will be attracted to this self-awareness. Simply be yourself, and know that if someone else doesn’t see your value, his or her lack of appreciation does not decrease your worth or appeal. The person just wasn’t right for you and that’s OK... next!
When DC-based journalist Chelsea Kaplan isn’t helping you solve your relationship problems, she’s making jewelry. Check it out atwww.chelseabellejewelry.com.