Dating at Midlife/Client/work party


I have been dating my boyfriend for five months.  He has been single for almost a year.  I have issues in the relationship of being clingy/needy.  I am working on them, but they do still arise.  He just told me tonight that he has an annual party on Friday night to go to, at which his company's clients are invited.  He just recently went into sales at this company, so a portion of his income is commission based.  His main contacts for his client will be there.  But, his ex may also be there.  They were together for ten years and have an eight year old daughter together.  They both work for the same company, so he sees her everyday at work.  Long story short, I am not invited to the party.  He indicated that he would need to be networking with his clients, and it would be much easier on him if he didn't have to entertain a date.  What's making this even harder is that a couple of nights ago, he said that he doesn't think he can make me happy.  This is due to my issues of needing a lot of attention.  He feels he isn't affectionate enough and that I "don't get" his sarcastic personality.  I just don't know whether to believe that he truly is just wanting to network, or if it goes deeper and he is questioning our relationship.  I have asked him if he is questioning the relationship, he says he is not, he feels any questioning is on my end since I'm not happy.  I should also add that he has never given me one iota of concern about him and his ex.  There doesn't seem to be any inappropriate contact or anything like that.  I don't want to nag him about the party and seem even more clingy/needy, but I also don't know if it is right that he isn't inviting me to go with.  (It sounds like the option is there for him to invite me if he chose to.) I just don't know what to think.

Dear Joann,

Yes, there are deeper issues to this relationship.

At the same time, it might be a good idea for you to lighten up a bit and send him off to his office party with your best wishes for success in doing what he needs to do and your full support in his career.

That's the thing about those big issues,  you have to pick your time for when you want to deal with them.

A lot of times a guy will say, "that's not my issue, that's your issue."   But it's an "our"  issue.

For example, he might be "sarcastic" and he'll say, "I'm just joking." What that means is, "I'm not really all that sorry that what I said hurt you or scared you."  Sarcasm is one of the great relationship destroyers. It's one of the ways people have of expressing contempt for others without actually coming out and saying, "Boy, that's a really stupid thing you just did."

Often really nice people don't like to admit that they have a mean streak. But, of course, everyone has moments.  

And there is also the matter of his ex. If she is the mother of his child, and they work together, then the healthy thing, and what must happen if your relationship is going to really last forever, is that you and that ex have to have a respectful, friendly working relationship. She might even have a thing or two to tell you about dealing with your boyfriend, or at least what he can be like at his worst. And you, as  his intimate partner, will certainly have to deal with that.

Jealousy, even in a minor sense, like yours, is almost always based on something substantial and is rarely, rarely a total fantasy.  

So your job is to clarify your position, to yourself, figure what you need to really insist on, and then insist on it.  You might want to talk to someone like me for help in that.  A conversation with a calm, insightful third party can help a lot.  

Feel free to follow up.  Feel free to ask for a phone call.

Good luck.

Philip Alan Belove, Ed.D.  

Dating at Midlife

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Philip Belove, Ed.D.


Hi. I`m Philip Belove (that is my name, really). I`m 71 and I`ve been a psychologist all my midlife, the past 35 years. My specialty has been counseling and coaching other midlife adults.  I think we all figure things out as we go along, but even more so at midlife. Being between 40-ish and 60-ish and single is like being a stranger in a strange land. I`ve learned which questions help people find their own way. I created this category, I publish a blog at and I write articles for various web sites. My commitment is to help people 1) understand and improve how they deal with others, 2) understand the forces that rule the relationships they are in, and 3) make the decisions which will shape, or create, or end those relationships  so they achieve the goal of midlife development  to finally live with personal satisfaction. I`ve been divorced twice myself. I`m in a satisfying relationship with a fine person. I`m very interested in learning about your challenges and in offering what I can.


Professionally: Licensed Psychologist. Marriage and Family Therapist. Coach.Author. University Lecturer. Personally: I'm 71. I've probably made all the big mistakes, er, learned the big lessons.I've forgiven myself and made many apologies and I've made it into a good, stable, sweet relationship. I now have a perspective on midlife.

Please check out my book, Rabbis in Love, at Also my blog at The Rabbi book was done as part of a research project. My collaborator, Marilyn Bronstein, and I wanted to interview couples with very successful marriage and also we wanted to talk to people who cared as much about their spirituality as love. Maybe being able to love and be spiritual were one and same, we thought. So we found a rabbi couple and the interview was so astounding that we interviewed nine more rabbi couples. One dropped. They'd revealed too much. It's a fascinating book and, Jewish or not, religious or not, these couples do a lot of things right and there is a lot to learn from them.

Masters in Counseling Psychology, Alfred Adler Institute Doctorate in Consulting Psychology, focus on family therapy, University of Massachusetts at Amherst

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