Dating at Midlife/Stages


Dr. Belove,

I was just reading your article about stages.  From the passage below I have a question. (posted at the end)

For all stages: A relationship won’t even take root unless the partners are in the same or adjacent stage.

People connect with those who are, at most, in the same or adjacent stage.  Someone in stage four, ready to commit, simply wouldn’t take someone seriously who was in stage one, oblivious, lost and searching.  Someone in stage two, just waking up wouldn’t would be ready to really commit as a stage four person would be.  Sometimes someone in three, just looking around would be pretty tentative with stage four people and would also find stage one people too crazy to deal with.

So, remember, if you are in a stable relationship with some who is, say, still oblivious (stage one) and you think that you are at stage four, ready to make a long term commitment, you are kidding yourself.

Finally, you have to have faith in yourself. If you are in a crisis, then it is a great opportunity for you to create the life you really want. There is always a lot of truth spilling out in a midlife crisis and so it really is all for the best, and everyone who's made it through says so.

* * *

So, if one person is at stage 4 (ready to commit (ie engagement)) and the other person is between stage 3 and 4 (they are not still looking around, but the level of commitment is exclusive, not yet ready for engagement)  how exactly do you back up as you say in an effort not to push for engagement and end up ruining the relationship?

I have been dating a man for 2 years (both of us are in our mid 50s).  We have been exclusive for more than a year and quite honestly I am ready for the next step.  We talk about marriage in the future, but it just seems to be conversation for the future.  He doesn't seem to be in any hurry to move that direction even though we spend every minute together that we are not working.

How do I take a step back from what i want to give him a chance to catch up in the future?  What does taking a step back look like?

Hi. Thanks for that note.
I'm glad you found the article helpful
Good question. I wish I'd added that to the article.

Taking a step back means respecting his stage. It means respecting the fact
that there are real questions and real concerns to feel clearly and think about.

Unless you are an an earlier stage and just fooling yourself.  (some early stage folks are a bit desperate), or at least profoundly
uncomfortable with the ambiguity of stage three, and it's challenges.   So then you force your way through it
to the next stage.

It's a kind of "fake it till you make it" strategy and that will only take you so far.
At some point, if you want to do really good work, you have to stop and ask yourself,
where am I faking it and what do I need to learn. And then you have to patiently learn it.
That's the step back part.

This is true in any art form and it's true in creating a relationship.  

So you say,
Look I'd like to think about the future, too
and I'm trying to see where we need to improve this relationship.

When I think about getting really serious I can see some possible trouble spots.
There are things that give me pause.

And then find a couple of ways to name your misgivings in a way that is generous to him,
accurately descriptive and deeply acknowledging of you and your particular psychology.

Unless your relationship is utterly perfect, you probably see a few things.

If you bring it up on yourself you give him permission to bring stuff up on his side.
In that way you both move into stage four.

I know this is all a bit abstract. Those articles are abstract. Feel free to follow up with
stuff that is more specific.

My experience with folks has been that partners in a mature relationship are much more likely
to be at the same stage of readiness than they realize. They think one is more ready and the other less
but when we get into, we can see how they have equally valid concerns.

Let me know

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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