Dating at Midlife/Where to from here
QUESTION: Dr. Belove.
I just ran across your website and enjoyed reading the articles posted there. Thanks for the opportunity to ask a question of you,
I am early 60s dating a man of the same age. I have known him for the better part of 15 years, We have been dating for a year now and are together daily. When we first began dating I made it clear to him that I was interested in having a future with someone whether it was him or someone else. And that I didn't want to find myself dating someone and it being years down the road and discovering that I am on a dead end path with them. I know at my age spending the next 5 years with someone only to find out they don't have the same interest in what I want will only cause frustration in the relationship.
So that said, when we first started dating, when we would talk about the future he would talk about things more of an us type discussion. Now when he talks about future things he talks about my own independent future. An example of what I mean, we live in Louisiana and I mentioned wanting to live closer to the beach. His response was that I should look at renting a house closer down that way. (In my mind if he was thinking future for us he wouldn't be wanting me to set up something long term as a change)
I would think the issue is that he just doesn't see ,me as future material, however, if I just come out and ask directly if he could see us together in the future or if he sees our relationship as having what it takes to go to the next step he says absolutely. Followed with that he likes where we are now. And he recently has shared that he is financially still trying to recover from a bad business deal. I took that to be alluding to he doesn't feel financial solid for a marriage. However, that is understandable but that could be an indefinite situation!
He tells me he loves me, I have been introduced to kids, all his immediate family, his friends. And as I said we are together every day. He will only spend the night with me on occasion. Keeps that part independent.
Now what has thrown me for a loop is that I was called by a former boss to come interview for his company. It is 3 hours from home. I told my SO that I was going to the interview and that my decision was based on the fact that in listening to recent conversations I was hearing that I should plan my future based on me. That although he tells me he loves me and I believe that, the rest of his words always talk about my future not our future, He initially got upset saying we need to talk about it. And he told me 3 times in the conversation that he loved me. Only, an entire week went by and we never talked about it. I waited for him to initiate it since he was the one to say it. Nothing. So I drove the 3 hours for the interview yesterday. Prior to my leaving, Knowing I was on my way to the interview, he still didn't mention it. So I left for the interview. I talked to him last night after the interview. He never asked how it went, still never talked to me about it or his feelings about it. Just had normal casual conversation where he ended by saying he loved me!
Now needless to say, what kind of message do you suppose I took from that?
I have always been told to hear what a man says.... Or doesn't say rather than deciding in my own mind what I want him to be meaning. I am hearing him say he sees a future for us but he just can't say when he may be ready for that step (only if I directly ask). And that he loves me, I am seeing him integrating me into the lives of all his family but telling me he likes where we are at in the relationship. I am seeing him spend every day with me after work and weekends, but it is rare that he spends the night as if he fears that is a commitment. And I see a man that while when asked says he can see a future for us let me walk right out the door to interview for a job 3 hours away.
How else do I interpret this other than to say he loves me and is exclusive to me but is truly truly not ready for the next step? Funny thing is, I am not looking for the next step right now, only thing I want to know is that he really wants there to be so I know I am working toward the same thing he is. Not that I am going to get close to 70 and have to start all over again.
I need some guidance here. First how do I handle this? Do I take him at his words of encouraging me to plan life for myself like the house at the beach? Or do I listen to his words when asked of he could see a future for us followed by he likes where we are now?
Do I simply hear his words that he loves me, or do I pay more attention to the fact that he can't hardly even bring himself to spend the night with me?
Do I hear that he sees a future when asked, or pay attention to his letting me go to the job interview without talking to me like he said he wanted to when he had a week to do it and just didn't?
Do I pay attention to his mixed signals or that he has introduced me to all his friends and family?
And since he seems to be so unsure of the future with me do I date him indefinitely or do I set a reasonable time for myself and if nothing happens by then tell him I want to start seeing other men to allow myself the opportunity to find one that wants what I want before it is too late?
Or do I sit back and do nothing and let things unfold as they will with a man that just simply doesn't let me know what this means or where we are headed?
After the job interview as I said, he never mentioned it so I did. I told him it went great and they have invited me back in a couple of weeks for a tour of the facility. All I got was that he knew I would do great no matter what happens. Wth?... Certainly no I don't want you to go. And he is more of the lets don't react until there is a reason to kind of guy. In this case if he waits until I accept the job it will be a bit late!
So... Help! I do love this man. And I am interested in a future with him. And I am willing to wait awhile, but not indefinitely. And in the meantime I would just like to know I am not waiting in vain. His mixed messages are frustrating me, as is his lack of response when I tell him how I feel. (Which I believe is not knowing what to say and not liking confrontation)
He really is a good guy. I just need to know how to handle if we are simply in a different place.
After his response to the interview there are times I feel like telling him I love him and while not being ready for marriage I had hoped he would at least give me a reason to hod onto the thought we do have a future when the time is right. But, since he hasn't I will just plan to date him without intention and when the time comes where I need more than he has given, I will move on. However, I know I could say that and he would simply listen. And his lack of comment would frustrate me more.
ANSWER: Ronda, Hi.
It's hard to know what to say.
My gut on this one is that it is the money thing.
It's a guy thing and it goes really deep.
It's so much a part of what it means to be a man.
There are so many ways that this is the Measure of a Man.
Men judge other men by it. With a bit of cruelty, too.
Women judge men by it. Maybe not you, but I've
heard it a lot. "I need him to be a 'gentleman'. That means
he's supposed to pay for meals out.
It's the equivalent of the way older women
get cosmetic surgery and die their hair.
And in addition to all that, there are the legitimate
fears about growing older, being less able to earn money
and having not enough to retire on.
And the dangers of medical bills.
So all that.
I would suspect that the gravitational field of this
very dark star is effecting things.
And it's one of those things that men really don't talk about.
I've seen men in therapy groups yell at each other about how they
didn't want to discuss this stuff.
They'll talk about failing erections before talking about bank accounts.
"Okay doc, I told you about my sexual difficulties but now you ask me
about my financial worries and I think that's getting a bit too personal."
So I don't know how searching the conversations have been with him on this one
but it's big and getting married means being a "provider" etc.
So my first hunch is that you guys have tiptoed around that issue.
Everything else sounds pretty good.
I do know that often people over 60 start to want their separate spaces.
I see that more in women than in men. BUt that might be another issue.
Follow up with me on this and let me know if what I say seems on the money.
Philip Belove, Ed.D.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Yes, I believe you are dead on the mark. And the financial piece is what I have believed was the issue. Because everything else between us is beyond fantastc.
And, I feel that the spend the night thing is part of that as well. That he needs to keep just enough distance between us so that I don't have expectations for the next step being marriage any time soon. I feel that he uses the spending the night as a barrier to keep things slowed down.
Especially because I come from a financial situaiton where I own my own home outright, I have some land that I own outright as well as other money. I am not rolling in the dough, but I am not doing bad either. I have a good job making a fairly high salary and I, unlike him, have zero debt other than a car payment.
When we do things together, I try to share in the expenses. Sometimes I let him pay for everything, but since we are not casually dating and eat together every night, I try to help pay for groceries (by stopping by and picking up what we are going to cook) or taking a turn paying for dinner if we go out to a resturant. Maybe that is not what I should do, but when you are together more often than casually I feel I should.
So.... all that said. What you didn't tell me was how to handle it? His financial situation is not something I can change. So, if it disn't changing for him and he won't take the next step with me due to it, what do I do?
Also, from the stand point of all other things... if the relaitonship can't move forward due to this one area, do I just continue to date him exclusively? Spending every waking minute with him acting like a married couple when we are not? And, do I continue to have sex with him and be sent home after or have him get up and leave?
What do I do when I want the next step at some point, but believe due to this issue it may or may not ever come and it isn't something he seems to want to talk about?
Well, it might be that you'll have to force the issue.
You want to do this in a way that allows for some constructive resolution.
That being said, there remains the question of how to initiate and sustain
a conversation on a very delicate matter.
That's a more complicated task.
I'd be happy to work with you on it. We'd need an actual consultation.
Or you could perhaps find someone local to work with.
With me, we'd either talk on the phone or on skype.
Let me know.
You can write me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also check out two articles. One is the one on the Searching and Fearless conversation.
another is on "the road to hell and sometimes back." There might be some advice there
for you. (On the latter article you are in stage one verging toward stage two, I believe.)
Let me know, please.
Philip Alan Belove, Ed.D.