Love 2.0: Who Knew It Could Be This Great?
Now that I’m in my 50s and have entered a new chapter, I’m reflecting on the profound changes I’ve experienced in my love life.
And it’s not an overstatement to say that being in love in my 50s is a radically different experience than it was in my 20s. And I’m happy to report that, in my experience, it’s all for the better.
There’s a calm and confidence that set in when I turned 50, and it has affected every part of my life. Even when going through some stormy life changes – including becoming an empty nester, divorce, and the death of my mother – I felt stable and rooted and assured of my ability to withstand it all. And I was.
That calm couldn’t help but affect me when I re-entered the dating world. I had heard stories about mid-life dating nightmares, so I was pleasantly surprised when someone walked into my life who has simultaneously filled it with both joy and peace.
And although he is undeniably much of the reason the relationship is a good one, I have to admit that I’m a very different person to be in a relationship with than I was the last time I went down this path. A lifetime of lessons learned, wisdom and maturity have all made me more generous and open-hearted – which is a nice surprise, because I had worried that I would be just the opposite after the firestorms of recent years.
Mature Love: No Less Exhilarating
I know I’m not the only one to have this experience, though. I’ve lost count of the number of 50+ romantics I’ve heard and read about who found that falling in love at this age is a smoother, calmer, but no less exhilarating, experience.
So if you’re in your 20s/30s and worried your 50s will be awful, or if you’re in your 40s/50s/60s and worried that you’ll only find loneliness if you re-enter the dating world, here are some reasons that “mature love” is worth the wait:
You’re not afraid to be you anymore. When you’re young and going on a first date, you spend so much time being anxious over what to wear, what to say, what not to say, how your hair is, etc. That’s partly because you’re still figuring out who you are. But once you’re 50, you realize that you’re pretty much who you’re going to be, and the world can take it or leave it. There’s comfort in that, and it shows.
There’s no more tick-tock. The biological clock puts so much pressure on young people, especially women, that they sometimes make choices they wouldn’t have made otherwise because they don’t want to miss out on the chance to have a family. By the time you’re 50, you’ve either had your children or accepted that they are no longer an option. So you’re liberated from the ticking.
No more carpools or pediatrician visits. The pressure of raising kids can be extreme, regardless of your work situation. But once your kids have moved out – or, at least, once they’re far more independent than they were when you were in your 30s and 40s – you’re more physically and emotionally free to do what you want.
Marriage? Maybe, maybe not. There’s so much pressure to get married when you’re young. Your own parents want grandchildren. Society wants you to settle down, buy a house and help drive the economy. Your friends are doing it. But at this age, people very rarely say “So, when are you kids gonna get married?” You get married if you feel like it and you don’t if you don’t. But the pressure from those around you – and from within – is next to nothing.
“The list” isn’t so important. We all have our lists. He has to be Catholic, or he can’t be Republican. Or “I can only love a man who appreciates Wes Anderson movies.” But, over the years, we realize that just because someone ticks off an item on our checklist doesn’t make him kind or faithful or fun to be with. Conversely, just because a man is a Steelers fan – and you’re a Cowboys fan who knows how to hold on to a grudge – doesn’t mean he isn’t worth your time. At this age, we may still have a list, but it’s a lot shorter and it’s just the important stuff.
No time for games. Everybody hates the games people play in relationships. The waiting x-number of days before calling or the “no accepting a Saturday night date after Wednesday.” The list of unofficial and confounding (and so, so sexist) dating rules was never-ending. And the king of them all was to play your cards close to the vest. Don’t let a guy know if you like him because you don’t want to scare him. But when you’re in your 50s, those rules seem to be off. If you like someone, you let him know. If he doesn’t like you back, he’ll let you know. Or, if he hasn’t learned to communicate, we have very cleverly learned to interpret his silence as “he’s just not that into us” (thank you, Sex and the City) and move on. It’s not complicated.