Later Relationships – Psychology Today


MaxPixels, CC0

Source: MaxPixels, CC0

You want a relationship but, bearing scars from previous ones, you’re reluctant to sally forth yet again. One or more of the following ideas may help.

First things first, what do you really want? Short-term sex? Mainly friendship? Long-term relationship? Children?

Getting more granular: How important are each of these to you: physical attractiveness, playfulness vs seriousness, intellectuality, a liberal or conservative world view, financial security, absence of a serious mental or physical problem, and my faves: kindness and a person who makes me feel good about myself.

Stop grieving already! Conventional wisdom is that you must take the time to grieve a lost relationship. At least in this untherapist’s experience with his many clients, the longer your grieve, the more likely those sad or angry thoughts are to remain top-of-mind, which mitigate against your moving forward. Most of my clients do better by immediately thinking, “It’s for the best. I’ll find someone better!” and taking first steps toward making that happen. Sure, despite your best efforts, you may feel sad about the lost love but it’s wiser to do that while looking for someone better.

An advantage of having been around a while is that you have a database of experience. What’s worked for you in finding a good relationship? What hasn’t? And, lest you be chained to your past, what’s something new worth trying: A different kind of person? A different approach to finding Mr/Ms Right? That could be, for example, trying online dating, or a different approach to online dating, perhaps a more candid profile that better differentiates you from the horde and makes clearer what you really need in your next romantic partner. I know someone who met her husband by inviting an interesting colleague plus a dozen of her friends to a party so she could get to spend some time with the guy. At the end of the party, she asked him if he’d stay to help clean up. Okay, that’s how my wife and I started dating.

Lessons learned can be practical, such as the above or psychological. For example, have you made the mistake of going after Bad Boys/Girls because you’re attracted to the short-term adventure or because you don’t feel you deserve a nice person? Of course, dating Bad Boys/Girls usually makes you pay a big price. Have you been too aggressive or too passive because of your insecurity? Dressing too sexily or insufficiently so because you dislike your looks or sexuality? What should you do similarly and different from what you’ve done previously?

Speaking of sexuality, any lessons there? Have you been too giving at your own expense? Not giving enough? Have you proceeded at a pace that the Wise One Within You feels right? Have you conveyed, if only non-verbally, what you like and don’t like?

Outside the bedroom, have you been too self-absorbed? Too giving? Let substance abuse impede things? Have you been unreasonably jealous and monopolizing of the person’s time? I’ve always liked Fritz Perls’ advice: “I do my thing and you do your thing. I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, And you are not in this world to live up to mine. You are you, and I am I, and if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful. If not, it can’t be helped.”

The biggest mistake my relationship-seeking clients make is to not cut losses quickly enough. Often, within the first few minutes, you sense whether that person has relationship potential: kind-seeming, sexually attractive, intelligent enough. Of course, you could guess wrong but your chances improve by making those judgments quickly—Your relationship-finding time will likely yield fruit faster.  Sure, if you’re unsure, give it a little more time but as soon as your gut says “probably not,” suppress thoughts of fixing the person and move on. As my mother used to say, there are lots of fish in the sea.

Okay, so you got hurt yet again.  It’s wise to quickly decide if there are lessons to be learned and then take the next steps forward to find someone even better. I’m betting you will.

I read this aloud on YouTube.

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