Dating at Midlife/No Love

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Question
Hello,

I am in my late 50s.  I am, and have been in love with a former boyfriend.  This is actually a relatively recent revelation.  I have never married.  One day (which actually lasted over several days of introspection, journaling and tears) I asked myself a number of questions and had one of those light bulb moments.  I wondered why I never seemed to care about any guy that I dated more than just a bit.  I would date or live with guys, but never really invested emotionally.  I didn’t want to have kids unless it was for someone I truly loved.  I wondered why I always judged everyone by his standard.  No one ever came close.

At the end of my self-examination, soul-searching and reflection, I finally came to the conclusion that I had never gotten over him and I was still in love with him.  It was a painful and embarrassing conclusion to come to.  I had somehow blocked or buried this feeling for an incredible number of years.

I guess I was able to do this because at the height of my dilemma, I left town, over 3000 miles, and never returned for over 12 years.  What I ran away from was the fact that a best friend of mine who I had confided in about my feelings towards him, told his best friend how I felt.  I felt betrayed (a relationship that never recovered from that betrayal), but in any event, he was supposed to get in touch with me about it, but he worked internationally, and email and all the wonderful technology that we have now, was at its infancy at that time (and was not our primary or normal means of communication).

I did not hear from him within a time frame that I felt was appropriate (if I remember correctly, it was about three weeks).  So I left town to start a new life.  I was not feeling very good about a number of my friends, so in fact, I left town, with no word and no forwarding address.  I forgot about him, buried my feelings, and dated various men, which at the time was easy to do.  I started a new life.

Many years later (during my introspection period) I asked myself what was wrong with me.  It was during this perhaps three days of crying and writing and thinking and trying to remember the past, that I realized that I had blocked my past so successfully, I had forgotten why I was even so far away from home to begin with.  I finally made the commitment to “tell myself” the truth, no matter how much it hurt, and I finally remembered the series of events that had led me to that day.

After 12 years I finally got in touch with him.  It was a fun conversation that lasted for hours.  He asked why I left and said that everyone had been looking for me, but had no idea where I was.  As you can imagine, he is married now.  But in fact he did not get married all that long ago.

So, here I am.  I tried eHarmony a few years ago, and despite an unending supply of prospects, I closed the account.  I realized that I am not interested in meeting anyone.  I have never been married.  No kids.  I still love him, but respect him and his marriage.  Older now, I don’t see myself ever finding anyone new, or even wanting to, for that matter.  It feels odd not to look forward to a future with anyone.  But I can’t even visualize my life with anyone.  At times I think it would really be nice to have a companion, but it seems to be more of a thought, than something I actually want to do something about.

I guess if someone said, here is a man I think you would like, he likes to travel and would like a companion, and I in fact did like him, that would be great, but otherwise, I can't imagine myself going out with anyone.

What’s wrong with me?  How do I get out of this impossible situation?  I feel like my name should be Lemony Snicket, author of A Series of Unfortunate Events.

Answer
Hi.

Well, first of all I loved the Lemony Snicket reference. I heard him interviewed by either Terry Gross or Gian Gomeshi and he was quite funny and brilliant and charming.

Second, in general I loved your question and the sort of wisdom and maturity I found in it.

Third, I"m not sure what to make of all you've said. It's deep and complex and you've seen a lot in the mirror, it seems.

This sentence leapt out at me: " I was not feeling very good about a number of my friends, so in fact, I left town, with no word and no forwarding address.  I forgot about him, buried my feeling" It does all sounds a lot like a very very old pattern.

It's the sort of thing people do when they have a life long history of never really being able to make emotional connections with others. That kind of stuff often starts quite early in one's family of origin, and is often passed on from generation to generation. We have parents who "do the right thing" and who care and make sacrifices, but who can't make emotional connections. We learn to live this way.

And, if you are one of those folks, everyone once in awhile someone will break through all those defenses you've constructed and actually touch your heart and it's extraordinarily wonderful and a great relief and, sadly, often not recognized until it's over.  "I didn't know what I had until I'd lost it," is what more than one person has said to me as we discussed it all.

And such folks do develop a profoundly resilient autonomy. They are successful in many ways.  But they are also isolated in many subtle ways.

I don't know if you fit that profile.  

I'd be curious to know what started you  on your soul search. It is often a kind of epiphany for those folks.

Also it's possible, even probably that you are one of us quiet sensitive folks and for us the chatter that extraverts enjoy is exhausting.  There's been a lot written about our type. Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking, is pretty good and a breath of fresh air. The author, whose name escapes me at the moment has a couple of TED talks if you want to do the research.

I'm not sure the situation is all that "impossible," just difficult. And I do think there is a bit mourning that is necessary at some point in life. It does make us compassionate and wise and we have to be careful not to get stuck in it.

Well, all this is rather general and I hope you find it helpful.  

If you want, I'd be happy to chat with you a bit about all this  Maybe you want a bit of guidance in your inner search. Sometimes it helps to have a conversation about these things to make them more real.

I have a Joseph Campbell quote that's been important to me.
Here's the quote:
…We have not even to risk the adventure alone; for the heroes of all time have gone before us; the labyrinth is thoroughly known; we have only to follow the thread of the hero-path. And where we had thought to find an abomination we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.

Hero with a thousand faces, page 25

Here is how I paraphrased it once for someone else:  

You don’t even have to risk this work alone. There  is a reason this work is called The Hero Path. Untold numbers of men and women have gone before you and the way is thoroughly known. You just have to follow the yellow brick road.  Where you thought to find a wizard, you’ll find your own good sense; where you thought you’d find freaks with missing parts, you’ll find parts of yourself, alive and well.  Where you thought to slay a monster, you will slay your own pride and conquer your own fears and where you thought the answer was out there, you’ll find it inside. Where you thought your were alone, you will find fellowship with the world.

So I do think it's important to talk over your discoveries with someone who could understand and appreciate what you are doing. Certainly that's been important for me.

It's also a lot of what I do for others. If you'd like a conversation about this, do let me know. You can reach me at drbelove@drbelove.com

And my website is drbelove.com

Thanks again

Philip Alan Belove, Ed.D.  

Dating at Midlife

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Philip Belove, Ed.D.

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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 www.drbelove.com 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.

Experience

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.

Publications
Please check out my book, Rabbis in Love, at www.rabbis-in-love.com Also my blog at www.drbelove.com 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.

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

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