I work with and personally know so many people who are desperately looking to meet someone; to find their “soulmates”, and who feel a sense of emptiness and loneliness because they are not part of a couple.
Generally, finding love later in life can be difficult. As we age, we have to assume that each of us is “fully baked” when you meet. Trying to mold and shape someone who has already lived a life time, often is an exercise in futility and frustration.
For later in life relationships, there is an implicit need to accept. To accept your romantic partner for who they are, without the struggle to try and change them. Yet, this leads to inevitable conflicts, and can make it very easy to fall into the trap of “the grass is greener on the other side”. Often, because of this, second marriages have a higher divorce rate than first, and one hears constant narratives of how “tough it is out there”.
I had dinner the other night with a friend whom I have admired and known for many years. She is divorced, with a boyfriend for the last 10 years or so, and is quite content in her life. She shocked me when we were discussing relationships after divorce. She said that for many years she felt empty without a serious relationship with a man in her life, and because of this, ended up in a series of bad relationships in order to “fill up the space” in her otherwise full life. She described all of the choices that she made that did not take care of her, but took care of filling the man void in her life. At this stage, she has made peace with her choices, but would also welcome the opportunity NOT to be with a man as the center of her world if her circumstances should change.
Here’s a question. What if we reframed our need to be part of a couple? Many of us, in our middle years, have been a part of a couple in some form or another. It is familiar, and it is comfortable to think in terms of we, instead of I. But, what if I really am enough – not a means to an end. What if I am a gift to be nurtured and cared for instead of waiting for the We to appear. Let’s reframe some common obstacles that I hear all the time from men and women who have gone through the loss of a long-term partner and are desperately wanting to meet someone.
*First, you have someone. It’s YOU. This is the time for you to get to know who you really are. What have you always wanted to learn? Go do it. What lifestyle do you like to live? Go live it. Foods, restaurants and movies and travel that another partner may not have liked-now is your opportunity to indulge in exactly what feeds your soul-literally and figuratively.
*Next, remember. You are not alone. If you haven’t done so already, take inventory of the people in your life that bring you joy. Not everyone will bring the same things to the table. Spend time developing a network of close friends, and good acquaintances that share your sense of passion, fun, and values around friendship and intimacy when applicable.
*Stop searching for the We and get comfortable with the I. The more you radiate confidence, and are engaged with the world, the more people are attracted to you. As long as you are paying attention to your NOW, instead of daydreaming about some imagined future, the chances are big that you will attract new people to you.
*Lastly, but certainly not finally, spend some time with yourself. Write in a journal. Connect with nature. Find a good therapist to talk to. Open up to your close friends. Learn about the patterns that you have lived with for a life time that reinforced the message that you are not enough and then begin to replace all those autopilot feelings with the proof and certainty that you are most certainly enough-just you. Toss the Prince/Princess Charming fantasies in the trash and become your own royalty- crown yourself King/Queen of your world. The throne is only built for one. Sit in it proudly.
Debra Alper is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in private practice in Chicago, specializing in relational therapy and divorce recovery. She has worked extensively since 1999 with individual clients striving to experience deeper, more meaningful relationships, couples in the midst of marital crisis around infidelity and unhappy, lonely relationships, and clients struggling to get through the emotional, and life changing hurdles of pre and post divorce. Debra received her undergraduate degree from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and her Masters in Social Work from Loyola University, Chicago. Debra can be reached through her website at www.lifetransitionschicago.com or at email@example.com. This post was originally published on Debra’s blog.
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