In my dual role as both a divorce support coach and a dating coach, I get an interesting perspective. I work with separated/divorcing people who tell me the reasons their long-term relationships ended...as well as with already-divorced folks who tell me of their hopes of finding a better match the second or third time around.
The other day, I had one of each kind of client in the same day. And the contrast between them made me ponder the idea of compatibility. How can it be that the person you were so deeply in love with and compatible with in your 20s turned into such a mismatch for you in your 50s or 60s?
Do people change that much over the years? Or are we so unaware of what we need in terms of partnership when we're young that it's next to impossible to be compatible with that same person 30 or 40 years down the road? In my experience, neither of these things is true. Unless addiction or illness adversely affects us, our essential nature doesn't change much over time. And, of course, we all know couples who are still compatible with and happily married to each other after decades together.
The truth is: we grow and evolve, and the type of mate that seemed right for us in our 20s may not be a good match in middle age. So we re-envision our ideal partner--someone who embodies the traits that we now realize are more in alignment with who we've become.
And so...older divorced people hire me as their dating coach because they still have hope that they can find a more compatible partner. Many of them think they've learned enough about themselves and relationships to now choose more wisely. And many of them are right. That's what happened to me. After two marriages and many dating relationships, I had a much clearer partner vision. I had finally figured out what type of man I get along with best. And, because I worked on my own issues and became more accepting, open-minded, self-loving, and kind, I eventually attracted the right man into my life through an online dating site at age 61.
Yes, I believe older daters ARE usually wiser for 2 reasons:
1) They've learned some valuable lessons from their past mistakes and will consciously avoid choosing the same type of partner again.
2) They've experienced enough personal growth from these life lessons that they're more self-aware, able to admit and accept their own flaws, and thus more tolerant of others' flaws.
Acceptance of your partner warts and all is crucial for relationship success. But, often, as is the case with my divorcing clients, the "warts" you saw early on and thought you could deal with can become harder to tolerate as the years go by.
A trait you didn't think much about or even overlooked in the early years of the marriage becomes a problem later. Things like codependence, judgmental or controlling behaviors, nonconformism, chauvinism, rebelliousness, or selfishness emerge and/or get worse over the years and then drive a wedge between you and your spouse--to the point you no longer feel connected or loving. The two of you gradually disengage and "grow apart"--and don't know how to reconnect so you can feel affectionate and be intimate again.
You might stay together for reasons such as the kids, running a business together, your spouse's health challenges, having bought a property together, money problems, or dozens of other issues that make divorce seem like a difficult proposition. Some couples may even go on like this for years...UNTIL they finally get to the point that they're so miserable (possibly even on the verge of a nervous breakdown) that divorce seems like the only option. I was in that position, and it's a very sad place to be.
This is when having self-awareness and a good sense of self is particularly important. When you have both of these, you can more easily look honestly at yourself and the part you played in the deterioration of your marriage. And you can also define the characteristics most compatible with you in a partner...AND have the confidence and positive attitude needed to begin searching for that person. Thank goodness I had done all those things through years of therapy, self-esteem building, and personal growth.
How about you? Do you think you've grown wiser about dating? Do you have a clear partner vision as well as the strong self-esteem needed to be a good partner yourself? If so, fantastic! You're ready to embark on the journey to find your life partner and a healthy relationship. If not, drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). I'd love to help you prepare!