I’ve just had this big revelation. I mean huge. We’re talking the kind of monumental epiphany that could go down in the history books as life-altering, glacier-moving, cosmos-shifting BIG.
Dating is hard. Especially when you’re old.
I know my friends will yell at me now for labelling myself as “old” and I don’t feel old and I think I look okay (for an old broad) and I sure as heck don’t act old but the bottom line is I’m over 50 and I’m pretty sure we over 50 chicks weren’t exactly designed to be dating. I’m not quite ready for grandchildren yet (hell, my one and only son is only 19) but oh, how I would love to be contentedly partnered at this stage of my life.
But dating is hard. And finding that one special guy with whom to contentedly partner is a big, fat challenge. Because with old age comes a certain modicum of wisdom, usually born of heart-wrenching experience and then some. And my heart has been wrenched too many times.
I think when we’re young (like say, back in our 40s), we don’t really know what we want. So we allow chemistry to rule and libidos to lead. I’ll admit that even now my libido often lobbies for front rank but I’ve now established a few other non-negotiables that I try to check in with regularly.
– Emotional intimacy. I need to know that we can talk. About everything/anything. I need to see your heart and show mine freely with an absence of fear.
– Connectedness. No matter where we are or what we’re doing I need to know that I still figure prominently in your life. A quick phone call, a few texts, the odd email – I need to stay connected.
– Emotional maturity. Yes I am a free spirit and yes I’m a bit of a gypsy and yes I could pack up and move every year and yes I’d be happy vagabonding the world but … I am a grownup. I pay my bills on time, keep my home reasonably clean, try not to speed too often and live within my means. I am responsible. Enough.
– Spark. It has to be there or all the “on paper” qualities don’t add up to a hill of baked beans.
– Intellectual compatibility. You need to be able to teach me some stuff. Stuff I actually want to learn. And I you. The role of full-time teacher doesn’t appeal to me at all, nor does that of full-time student. And I don’t want to be your mama. I already have a kid, thank you very much.
I know – none of these is big news. It’s probably pretty much stuff we all want, when we stop to think about it.
The BIG one is this – my perfect guy has to be a “We” guy. Not an “I” guy.
And I’ll tell you, the older you get, the more you realize that the “We” guys are all taken, because as it turns out they want to be contentedly partnered (and thus part of a “We”) and so are. Done deal.
It’s the “I” guys who are still on the market. My guess is because most “I” guys either A) don’t want to compromise, evolve or commit to a “We” relationship or B) they just don’t know how. They haven’t learned the tools, they haven’t had enough practice and now all they feel comfortable with is tending to the “I”. Factoring in another “I” and therefore creating a “We” is foreign territory, uncomfortable and terrifying. Not to mention work. You never have to work on being an “I” because guess what – you already are. Being a “We” takes work. Conscious effort. Desire. And then more work.
So what exactly differentiates a “We” guy from an “I” guy?
A “We” guy has your back. Your emotional back. He pays attention to the signals, is available when you need to talk, not only offers to listen but really listens and then offers sensitive, supportive advice. It’s even okay if having your back is a tad inconvenient for him. Your back is important to him and he shows it.
An “I” guy has your back (or so he thinks). But his idea of having your back is being there to chop down a tree or two, put gas in your lawn mower or fix your computer. As long as he can be manly, show off a bit and hopefully operate a power tool or two, he’s definitely got your back, baby.
A “We” guy understands that you are an emotional girl and sometimes just need to cry. He acknowledges that it doesn’t always make sense. Maybe it’s just a buildup of saltwater? Maybe you’re a certifiable nut? He doesn’t care. He holds you, offers tissues, tells you you’re beautiful even with mascara streaming down your cheeks and just lets you cry.
An “I” guy freaks out. He assumes it’s all about him (because everything is), goes on the defensive, reminds you that he did nothing wrong and turns away when you blow your nose because he can’t stand the thought of snot escaping from your chapped nostrils.
A “We” guy acknowledges that the sum of the relationship’s parts is more important than individual desires. The goal is to be together. To be contentedly partnered. To have each other’s backs for all time. From this he extrapolates that compromise is always required. So nothing – ever – is cast in stone. Everything is up for discussion and negotiable (except the non-negotiables, of course) because his eye is always on the prize. And the prize is partnership.
An “I” guy wants what he wants when he wants it, how he wants it, where he wants it, and if you can support all his wants and then somehow fit your ass into his scenario, he’s okay with having you around. But if you question his wants, if you question how his wants and yours might ultimately mesh, if you question the fact that his wants always take precedence over yours, the “I” guy will run for the hills. And then blame you for chasing him away and/or the demise of the relationship. Because hell, girl, you were too needy!
The “We” guy stays connected. Because you are the most important person in his life and he wants you to know it. He genuinely cares about your day, your work, your passions, your life. And so he checks in regularly from wherever he is in the world. He feeds your partnership with words and questions and caring and presence. He is present in your relationship even when he is a million miles away.
An “I” guy is busy. Busy doing his thing, his work, his hobbies, his life. So sometimes (too many times) he forgets to check in. Mostly because when he isn’t with you, guess what? He isn’t with you. And you are not with him. Don’t worry, he’ll get back to you when he needs another fix of you, but he is a lone wolf, this “I” guy. He runs in a pack of one. And when he catches any kind of scent that gets his tail a-wagging, you no longer exist. Until he’s back in his lair, cold and lonely. Then he will connect with you. Because when his solo-adventure is over, then he needs you. He needs you to fulfill his needs.
And finally, the “We” guy will watch a chick-flick with you and he won’t roll his eyes, complain or martyr himself. He will simply do it quietly and happily because it makes you happy. Period.
The “I” guy will … oh fuck, I’m pretty sure you already know exactly what the “I” guy does. I don’t need to remind you.
So there it is my friends … and here am I. Dating, hoping, sometimes praying and always believing that there is one more amazing “We” guy out there somewhere, also dating, hoping, sometimes praying and believing.
The good news is I now know. And I’ve added one more thing to my list. I need a “We” guy.
And ya know what?
It’s a non-negotiable.