I lost count of the number of times I thought I was in love, but it still took a while before I acknowledged the reasons for so many failures. Most of my relationships were what I call, unconscious entanglements; two dysfunctional people meeting and partnering quickly because of a shared need to be in relationship; or put another way, two people with overwhelming neuroses skimming the emotional surface and unconsciously partnering. I finally realized that becoming a viable partner would always elude me until I did the requisite emotional homework. I'd grown weary of short-term relationships and was eager to experience the real deal.
Help From Friends
I worked through most of my dysfunctional relationship issues with men friends I've known more than 30 years, all of whom were in successful long-term relationships. I had to face deeply embedded trust issues from a troubled childhood. I had to learn to trust and be vulnerable, which wasn't a small feat. I managed to embrace the notion of unconditional trust, although I admit it felt like staring into the abyss.
Sarah and I met online three years ago. We'd both dated on and off for a decade and been in a myriad of short-term relationships. There was chemistry when we met but it was more than physical attraction. We liked each other from the moment we sat down to dinner at a restaurant on our first date. We laughed and told stories until the waiter informed us the restaurant was closing. We quickly became best friends, a special quality neither of us had experienced in a relationship before. This was an especially good sign since we were both aware that successful relationships are also best friendships.
In order to create something unique together we had to first unload our accumulated relationship baggage, and we found a savvy couples counselor who put us on a healthy path. We continue doing the work to stay on it. We shared an issue; we'd both learned to be reactive rather than responsive, and a quick temper isn't conducive to a long-term relationship.
There Are No Rules
Our partnership has blossomed for many reasons, not the least of which is that we're okay with gently reminding each other when we notice the reactivity demon rear its ugly head. Alternatively, learning to be more responsive has helped create a trusting relationship. The fear of a reactivity bomb going off has diminished substantially. We're planning a future that includes living together in Sarah's larger home, but I'll keep my small cottage for writing and voiceover work. It's on San Francisco Bay and since we both enjoy spending time near the water, two homes work. I need a place to work, and we can both have some space when necessary.
Neither of us believe there are any rules regarding what an older boomer relationship has to look like, and that whatever works is perfect. Most of our friends are in long-term marriages, and none has expressed any judgment about our living arrangement plans other than to congratulate us. Sarah and I have created our own template for our relationship. Boomers contemplating living together or marriage might consider their relationship unique in terms of creating a template that addresses their specific needs.
The notion that boomers are too old to fall in love is utter nonsense. Aging actually helps a good number of boomers focus on what's required to create a successful relationship. Understandably, some single boomers who have lived alone for a while may be concerned about their ability to co-create a functional relationship. Sure, some amount of concerted effort is required to blend two lives into a relationship, but boomers shouldn't be overly fearful since most issues are resolvable. The wisdom, kindness, and compassion the majority of boomers have gleaned from our character building life struggles have imparted valuable skills. Granted, a successful new boomer relationship isn't low-hanging fruit, but with a modicum of effort, courage, love, and kindness, it's definitely doable.
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