As a woman in her 40s, the way I envisioned my life turning is not how it looks today. While in many ways I've worked to make my life better than I could have imagined, other things played out that I never saw coming.
When I was young, I always saw myself either married or with a life partner by now. Whether I saw children changed; sometimes I did, sometimes I didn't. But I never imagined I'd be single in my 40s, making my way through the dating scene.
Personally, I don't enjoy dating. I prefer being in a relationship. That said, I do enjoy men. I have a huge appreciation for them and enjoy their company. And I recognize that in order to be in the relationship that I desire, I have to date.
Interestingly, I've found that I enjoy dating in my 40s much more than I did in my 20s and 30s. Perhaps I've grown into myself. Perhaps the men have. Perhaps the following lessons I've learned have made dating far easier for me now.
Here are 6 things I've found to be most valuable to my dating life to date:
1. Live as if
While I'd love to find a person to spend the rest of my life with, there are no guarantees. And whether I'm in a relationship or not, it is no one's responsibility but my own to have me feel filled me up, loving myself and enjoying life.
Being in a relationship should be the icing on the cake, not my everything. It's very possible that I'll live out my life as a single woman, so I'm choosing to live my life as if I will be single. In other words, I won't wait until I'm with someone to feel happy or fulfilled. My mission is to live the best way I know how, and be the best me I can possibly be.
I'm whole with or without a relationship. And I'd much rather be alone for the right reasons, than in a relationship that was not good for me for the wrong ones.
2. Clear out old baggage to make room for the new
Everyone has baggage. Whether we were abused, had a messy divorce, or have done something we are ashamed of, etc., we all have something.
It's not our job to be perfect. It is our job to work on ourselves by becoming aware of what our "stuff" is, and clearing out what we can. When we become aware of our patterns and triggers, we can clear out what we can of them, and make space for the new to appear.
If we do not clear out our "attics," so to speak, it is very likely we'll recreate the same situations over and over again until we really do our work. Once we do, not only do we make room for something new to show up, but we limit how much our old "stuff" will impact what has shown up. Plus, it does, our awareness gives us the skills to name it and clean it up. This means we are infinitely more likely to actually have a successful relationship even with the baggage we have, instead of sabotaging relationships with what we're still carrying around.
3. Tell the truth
While this may seem like common sense, I can't tell you how many times either I or someone I know has been lied to in a relationship.
I'm a firm believer in showing up as who I truly am in relationship. I want the same in a partner. Even when they may have something truly difficult to share, like a secret they're carrying or a mistake they've made, I'd rather hear the truth than not.
Telling the truth can be scary. You could be rejected. You might fear an emotional storm from the person you are sharing with. But it's usually a lot less painful for everyone involved when you're honest.
I've had the honor of hearing and holding sacred the secrets of a number of men I know had a hard time sharing. And you know what? It was in the moments of their vulnerable shares that I felt closest to them. It was the very thing that brought us closer together.
I've also noticed that when a partner shares something "bad," I always handle it better when I'm told what's happening, rather than guessing. I appreciate what it took for that person to tell me, even if it was hard for me to hear.
Most women are like tuning forks. We can feel something is off before it is even shared with us. We may not know exactly what is wrong, but we can sense that there is.
If we inquire about it, my invitation to men is this: Tell us. Consider it an opportunity to get whatever it is off of your chest. Gaslighting or telling us we're wrong when, in fact, there is something to share, is really quite cruel (i.e. "No, everything's fine," when actually, there's something happening).
Trust me: If there is an emotional storm, we will all survive it. If there's something to share and you're not quite ready to discuss it, simply say that: "Yeah, there's something going on, I'm just not ready to talk about it." Letting your partner know this builds trust, and helps him/her feel secure.
Telling the truth gives me choice. When I'm not told, choice is taken from me.
4. I am responsible for my own emotional wellbeing
When my life is going well, like most people, there are times I don't even appreciate that I'm actually happy and everything is going well. I'm too distracted by everyday concerns.
However, when people are feeling angry or sad, I notice that many of us want to find a situation or person to blame. I also see some people take on the feelings of another person when it's not their job to. The fact is, while a situation or person may have been caused someone to not feel good, it is we who are responsible for our own feelings.
A recent example: I went on a great date with a man and when it was over, I felt really sad. He picked up on my sadness and even shared that seeing me sad left him feeling guilty.
The sadness that showed up for me was not his responsibility, nor did he need to feel guilty I was feeling it. He did nothing wrong. It was what showed up and was true for me in that moment. I'm a grown-ass woman and my feelings are my responsibility. Even if his leaving triggered my sadness, he's not responsible for it. It's just what is so.
Another example: I was cheated on once. It hurt. I was both angry and devastated.
And while it was not my actions that caused those feelings, it was my responsibility to feel them, regulate them, and work through them in a healthy manner. Ultimately, it was on me to decide how long I wanted to feel bad over the cheating.
5. People have limiting beliefs
While some see the world from the glass-half-full perspective, many see if from half-empty view. Time and again, I run into people who believe they cannot have a relationship, or don't deserve one.
Others believe they can have one, but only if another condition was met first: they "fixed" themselves first, lived closer, lost weight, made more money, etc.
Wouldn't it be nice if those who wanted to be in a relationship could believe they could have it now, in the spirit of "anything is possible?" Wouldn't it be great if they weren't limited by their own assumptions? And none of those limiting beliefs mattered?
The truth is, most of the time, if people didn't have those limiting believes, they could in fact have the very thing they're wanting.
6. I want an emotionally available man
I'm looking to date an emotionally available man. If someone isn't, I don't think there's anything wrong with him. There are times when all we can focus on is ourselves, our families or our careers. I believe that inward time is important; I've been in that space myself.
When I am, I make sure to be clear about that if I decide to date or keep the company of a man. I want him to be fully aware of where I am at. It's then his choice to decide whether he wants to spend time with me.
My desire is for men who aren't available emotionally to share that with me, as well. If I want a relationship, why would I want to spend time with someone who may only want to have a sexual relationship and that is all they are available for? While I may not be the right woman for them, by sharing the truth, a man can find a woman who is exactly where he is at. It makes things simple. Why waste the time of either party? By sharing where one is at emotionally, it gives their potential partner choice if they would like to stay or go. It is truly a gift to share where one is at. I feel it is selfish to be dishonest about where one is emotionally.
I've had the luxury of dating some truly wonderful men in my 40s. I can even say that about the men who made some pretty big mistakes while we were dating.
While none have been "my man" and not everything went as I'd hoped, I've had the chance to feel like a beautiful, intelligent, kind, sexy and loving woman in some fashion by all of them. It is these same men who've provided me a number of wonderful life lessons that I might not have had without them.
I've learned to own who I am and be proud of it. I've practiced speaking my truth, and holding space in a loving manner no matter what news I'm about to receive. And I've had some really great sex.
For those lessons alone, I am eternally grateful. I equally look forward to what and who will show up next.