Dating at Midlife/Having Trouble Moving On


QUESTION: Dear Philip

Why am I finding it almost impossible to move on with my life ?
Ok, here's the situation, I have been living separately from my husband for 5 months now and a separation was on the cards from 9 months prior to this, it just was not working as a marriage anymore we were just friends co-habiting almost for years.

10 months before my husband and I made the definitive decision to call time on our marriage I got involved texting and chatting on the phone to a guy that lives a couple of hundred miles away.  He seemed very keen on having a relationship with me however I did not want to meet him / get involved with him unless my marriage was definately over.  

Long story short I met this guy once the decision was made that my marriage could not be salvaged.  Here is where things get messy / confused.  We met up 3 times over a couple of months with the last time being over 10 months ago.  He insisted it was just circumstances (his) that were keeping us apart and that I was his girlfriend.  This confused me no end as I was feeling pretty vulnerable at the time what with a 20 year relationship coming to an end and selling up and moving house to live alone for the first time ever.

Anyway my point is we (myself and guy 200 miles away) never got the chance to really find out if we were compatible or not.  The 3 meet-ups were in the middle distance and based around sex, to put it bluntly.  I felt he disrespected me by arriving late (up to 2 hours) a couple of the times and to add insult to injury the last time we met he only had 80mins to spend with me as he had forgotten (he does have memory problems due to an accident apparently) that he had something else on in the evening he needed to go too.

I was pretty nieve having come out of a 20 year relationship where I was treated well by my partner.  Going by this new guys words and saying that we were very close and had loads of time to develop a relationship and I was his girlfriend I decided (deludedly, I now realise) that I should help him out of his financial problems as his girlfriend.  So during our 2 months when we were actually meeting I loaned him nearly 3K, I offered it,to help him out of his stressful hole, thinking it was what any caring / loving girlfriend would do if they could afford too.

Well fast forward and nothing worked out how I hoped it would, all I hoped was that we would get time to spend together to see if we were compatible.  Plus there might be a bit of mutual support as we were both in the process of splitting from long-term relationships.

What actually happened was that we have never been able to see each other again, I could have made the trip several times and even set out to travel the 200miles to his home town once but was put off by him not being able to see me.

He has a 17 year old son who lives with him most of the time now as he has split from sons mother and he is heavily involved in chauffeuring his son around, like a lot of parents of teenagers these days.  I understand that he needs to and wants to support his son.

My issue is that by supporting his son and being short of cash he has managed to put any chance of seeing me this year off completely.  However, worse, I feel than just being upfront and saying I can't meet you, I don't have the time or funds and I am not in a place to give any sort of relationship with you a chance.  He says he will meet me, we come up with a date and then at the last minute something comes up and he can't always be bothered to tell me our meeting is off he just seems to go on, if there is no firm time or place then he just ignores me until he thinks the "heat" will be off and expects me to talk to him normally again.  When I suggest that it is disrespectful of him to leave me dangling and then not be available and that it wastes my time i.e. I assert myself.  He comes out with his explanations as to why he could not manage and how it is somehow my fault that he doesn't like telling me he can't manage as I react badly. Hmmmmmmm.

He was supposed to be seeing me a fortnight ago however a uni open day for his son took precedence and he only managed to tell me the day before when I said could he not have told me sooner he said "he was not going to jump when I asked him too".  My response was well we never see each other so the situation is impossible.  It is common decency to tell someone if you can't manage, you know what it / he is just wrong on so many levels.

To the point, why can't I get him out of my head?  He has treated me appalingly and even as I type this my head is screaming stay away, he is no good for you.  So why am I still trying / hung up on him.  It is insanity on my part or at least it feels like it.

I am still trying to get the money I loaned him back too.  He is as vague on that as his is on meeting up. i.e. many false starts / promises that don't materialise.

I feel like he has hooked me with the "it is my fault / reactions to things / taking things badly " that has put him off treating me well / telling me when he can't make it.  However logically I know it isn't.  I am just having a real problem putting my heart and head together over this and it is tearing me apart, in danger of really messing up my life.

Many thanks for your time and apologies for the long post.

ANSWER: No  apologies necessary but thank you for offering them.

This is a complex situation and that's why, necessarily, the post was long. So let's just accept that.

The challenge for me is how to accept the situation in all its complexity and still  give you some ways
to move forward.  

Maybe it would help to sort out the layers.

There's the straight out practical stuff.  He's too far away, he's not available.
There's your self protective intuition:  Stay away. Back away.

There's the emotional stuff.
I was lonely and longing and really needed this connection.

ANd there's the intuitive judgement on that. More a question than a judgement.
You are asking yourself "Is this my problem or his?

And then there is the whole difficulty you are having with setting limits on this relationship, the way
you keep asking yourself, "is there something wrong with me and if so, what?"

I'm trying to do justice to what you've presented and I think even this summary is a bit inadequate.
But at least I wanted you to have some idea of how I see this as I offer advice.

So now, what to advise you?  

I think you have a lot to sort through and maybe its time to get into therapy.  

Let me offer you my first theory about what's going on here.

If I were to look at what you created with this man as if it were an intuitive decision,
not rationally thought out, I think I'd see a lot in it that worked for you.
A divorce from a 20 year marriage is a very complex and emotionally demanding act and you took some very
complex steps to help you though it and to easy your pain.
He was distant, not a serious possibility, yet also needy and emotionally present, a little taste
of something you were very hungry for, and yet not available enough to be a serious possibility
(because you're not ready for a serious possibility).  

So He was a relationship you could leave. A transitional relationship.  But at the same time, you are a caring
and considerate person and you got hooked in more deeply than you intended.

So that's a crude guess.

Here's what I'd advise.

1. Get a relationship with a therapist. It's possible you're feeling a bit unanchored these days
and just knowing someone is on your side, understanding you, helping you get perspective and slow down, and
the relationship is clean and clear ....  that can make a big difference. A therapist is also a transitional relationship,
one to help you through a transition.

2.  Set some limits with this guy.  Set more realistic expectations. He may be a basically decent guy, but
he doesn't have more to give, and besides (back to my guess ) you really don't want more from him.  
There will come a time when you want a lot more.

Your challenge is in how to back away and feel good about yourself.   Make that be your other next step.

I hope this helps.  Please send a follow up.  If you want a conversation with me, write me directly at and


Philip Alan Belove, Ed.D.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Dear Philip

I am seeing a therapist.  So I am doing number one of your suggestions.

Number two of your suggestions which I really respect and badly wanted to do, I did not manage quite so well with.

The challenge of how to back away and feel good about myself, I have failed in part.  
I went down to see him a week ago to try to resolve things, I only got to see him for half an hour, failed to resolve anything whilst there.  Then on my return I repeatedly failed to resolve anything with regards to him.  So I "lost the plot" briefly and asked his family, whom he works for and his ex if I could enlist their help to get my money back, by e-mail.  It is all very complicated and I do not wish to go into the full details on a public board.

If he was telling me the truth about his position, this should not be a problem although it obviously will not endear me to him as I have exposed his position to his family and ex in order to try and recover my money.

However his response was that "I had really done it now and his family won't help him owing to the fact I have involved his ex and his family knowing that might have stopped his family from helping him now" What ??? Obviously this is not a discussion I can make sense of unless he has been lying to both his family, his ex and me in tandem.

However I don't feel particularly great about having taken that route to try to get my money back and some resolution for myself however it should at least stop him pretending to care about me as his actions indicate someone that wants to "keep me sweet" so don't hassle him re loan as oppossed to someone that has any care or regard for me.

I just kept on insisting on seeing the best in him, despite loads of eveidence to the contrary and him repeated showing that I always fell of his list of priorities and accepting the odd crumb of a realtionship as I did not want to face up to the fact that a sparrow could not survive on the crumbs I was getting.

Best Regards

ANSWER: If he is as dysfunctional as you suspect, then he will yelp and  protest and so on.
It will seem like a temper tantrum, which it is.
handle it accordingly: this is as distasteful to me as it is to you but ...
Just repeat your insistence that he devise a workable trackable plan to return the money.
Let him know that you will continue to insist.
Keep track of all correspondence.
Stay calm.
Stay steady.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Dear Philip

This is more a statement than a question, although if you wish to add your opinion then feel free.....  You give very valuable opinions.

Unfortunately he admitted owing the money to me by phone conversation therefore it is anyone's guess really what he is telling his family and ex.

He said to me that if his work i.e. family recieves any more e-mails they are going to the police, what I failed to ask in the heat of the moment and bearing in mind I cared for this guy was............."Are they going to the police about your behaviour or mine ?"  Anyway in case it is mine and bearing in mind I could not keep his admission of a loan, I will err on the safe side and make it clear to him only, that I want my money back.

For the record, I have called his work once in July and spoken to his sister and I e-mailed his work and ex, once each.  I have no idea whether this could be viewed as harrassment however seriously doubt it.  Anyway will stick to proper dialogue with him in the future and try to get him onto the traceable type.

Thankyou very much again.

You have to look at the worst case scenario.

In the U.S., if someone asks for  retraining order there is a hearing.  The judge decides.  
I don't know what happens in the U.K.

If there is a hearing, then you present your side.
He may not want that.
So the question to him is:
Do you seriously want to discuss this in an open court?
Maybe it's a good idea.

so find that out.

He may be bluffing.


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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