Romantic relationships are wonderful. They make us feel alive, dynamic, validated and loved -- when they work. They can also make us feel deficient, undesirable, depleted and broken when they don't.
A key ingredient in successful relationships is the ability and willingness of each partner to be authentic. Authenticity requires transparency, which is pretty easy for most of us when things are going well, but throw in a wrench or two, such as middle age, kids, and a long trail of failed relationships, and for many of us, all transparency flies out the window.
Being transparent means having thoughts, feelings and motives that are easily perceived.
Being transparent requires the ability to trust, to see the goodness in others, and to give others the benefit of the doubt, even if we don't think they always deserve it, and even when it's scary.
Being transparent with friends, family, and even our co-workers can be challenging at times, but many of us can manage this without too much difficulty. Romantic relationships are different though because they often serve as a portal through which we re-experience all of our past hurt, rejection, and trauma -- both from our adult lives, as well as from our childhoods. For those of us who have had a lot of past hurt, rejection and trauma, it's easy to hide and protect ourselves from potential future pain; it's rather automatic in fact. In other words, for many of us, when we feel threatened, all transparency flies out the window.
Dating in our teens and 20s was challenging. Dating in our middle adult years, with significant exes, children, pets, mortgages, careers and a boatload of emotional, physical and perhaps even financial baggage, may seem impossible. I've single parented my son since he was very young, and didn't have much time to date amidst parenting, working, continuing my education, doing dishes, mowing the lawn and attending various kid-related activities. So when my son left for college, I decided that there was no better time to start dating again.
But as often happens when we poke our heads into an activity after a few decades-long hiatus, I realized that everything had changed - and I mean e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Rather than meeting someone at a dance, a bar, or if we go back far enough, a frat party, I soon learned that the majority of dating was occurring online. And rather than having to worry about my first impression when meeting someone, I had to worry about my first online impression.
We now have to worry about leading not with ourselves, but with an image of ourselves. We have to contend with parallel dating, encouraged by the online dating algorithms that push multiple potential partners at us at one time. We have to worry about competition that always seems to be younger, thinner, wealthier and happier. Most of us are battle-weary, still struggling with past hurts and anger, and scared to get hurt again, and now we find ourselves in completely unchartered territory, with very few ‘rules of the road’ to guide us.
A few years ago, when I first poked my head into the world of online dating, I was perplexed by the seemingly global "no drama!" admonition I was seeing on most men's profiles. As someone with a rather animated personality, I was certain that the no-drama-dating-deal-breaker and its no-emotional-baggage cousin were signs of most men's self-centered, commitment-phobic nature. In fact, I was certain of it.
"Why do virtually all men's online dating profiles emphatically disavow drama?" I asked my date one evening. He responded that not all drama was good, and that there were some women out there who were carrying around excess emotional baggage, and what was worse, they were often indiscriminate in their projection of said baggage. "Well, maybe the cumulative effect of years of men's emotional unavailability coupled with their unceremonious departures results in said emotional baggage, which then causes some women to become drama queens. Did you ever think of that?" I responded to this man on our first (and last) date.
Most of the women I know have spent the bulk of their lives in search of some magical relationship formula that promises a lifetime of lasting love. The formula that most women seem to have settled on, and that's supported by about 500 of our favorite romantic comedies, involves the rather traditional notion that men are by nature, hunters, and the nicer a woman is, and the more available, the more bored a man gets in a he's-just-not-that-into-you sort of way.
Welcome to my Blog!
This is a blog for middle-aged women, like me, who want to live a life of increased authenticity, and greater well-being.