Dating at Midlife/next step


QUESTION: Hi Dr. Belove,

Thanks for the chance to ask a question of you.

I am a 53 yo female and have been dating a 60 yo male for 1 1/2 years now.

During this time we have had discussions that have included things like if we felt we were the right match for each other, if we could ever see a future together etc.  During these times both of us have said that we did, we do etc.  When we first started dating we didn't spend the night together. We would always end the night in our separate homes.   After about 11 months we started spending the night together on occasion.  And he made a comment once that he loved our spending the night together, but it wasn't going to become an every night thing.  So, that is how it rolled for awhile.  After a couple of months, now we wake up together every night.

Our routine is basically we get up every morning, I go home to get ready for work, he gets ready for work at his house.  We talk as soon as we get headed to work.   We carry on our day, talking when we can during it, I go home and pick up pajamas for the night, head to his house.  We cook dinner together, spend the evening together and then we go to bed.  Repeat the process.

All of this is great except for after awhile it has gotten old going back and forth between houses.  We play "married couple" for a big part of the day, then I go home for other parts.  And my total time at home is typically just a couple of hours at best each day.   This is the same for the weekends.  With the only difference being that where I go home to get ready during the week for work, on the weekend I go home, shower and dress then usually he picks me up and we have breakfast.  After breakfast we hang out all day..... all night.  With my occasionally going home for a couple of hours if I need to do laundry etc.

Don't get me wrong, I have a wonderful relationship with him.  An amazing life.  I am just not sure how to get this to move to the next step.  Again, we talk about believing we have a future.  We talk about spending our lives together.  So I believe that he feels that way, and is interested in that.  However, I can't help but be a bit concerned about the fact that this could be a great set up for him.  What is the incentive to take the next step?   He has someone in his life to share everything with, I am with him most all the time, and completely integrated into his life.  We have a great sex life, we cook together, we help each other around the house etc., and yet....we have our separate lives at the same time.  Most of a commitment, but not fully.

When we first started dating and we talked about all the topics couples should talk about including if there is ever interest in getting married again.... I told him that I had been in a couple of relationships that went on for years like 6 or more that never moved to the final step for various reasons.  And while each of them are memories I will cherish and relationships I have learned from, the one thing I learned was that I wasn't going to date someone for years and years while they never seem to be ready to move to the step of marrying.  That if/when I get to the point where I a ready for more and they are not, that instead of staying in the relationship indefinitely and resenting it, I will approach the fact that perhaps it is time to start dating others again.  Perhaps allowing myself the opportunity to meet someone that I could have that future with.

Long and the short of it is that he said he understood and didn't expect that we would ever get to that point because he believed we have what it takes to make it.

But, while I know (because it has been mentioned from time to time) that he sees us having a future, we are pretty much playing house for the last year and a half and we remain status quo.  I find myself thinking more and more about how I am tired of going back and forth from my house to his, carrying all my junk back and forth, leaving his house to go home to my house to shower and get ready for work.... etc.   And I find myself thinking of the old saying "why buy the cow when you can drink the milk for free".  He has a perfect "married life" without the marriage.  so why take the next step?

I am trying not to dwell on it because I don't want it to become an elephant in the room, but I can't help but ask the question, what makes a man decide to actually marry the woman he is playing "most time" house with?   I keep telling myself I will allow this to go on until the two year mark and then bring it up for discussion if he hasn't.  I love him and would hate to see the relationship end, however, I let him know in the beginning that I wanted to get married again some day.  And staying in a relationship that isn't going to go there is not the way to do it.  If we don't want the same thing I feel as though I should have the opportunity to meet someone that does.  

So, how do people move relationships to that step when you are perfect together in every way but have set up a relationship where you have all the perks without it?

ANSWER: These matters which you have discussed with me, have you discussed them with him?

Have you said that you want to go up a level?  Have you discussed your discomfort and feeling of stagnation?

What's happened when you have?

Or do you feel that it has to come from him?  

Let me know and perhaps I have something more to tell you...

Philip Alan Belove, Ed.D.

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

QUESTION: Dr. Belove, since I wrote this email to you everything has remained the same.  We have talked "somewhat" about it, but still don't seem to get very far with it.  One day when we were together he started talking about stuff that should be done in the future but his words were "I", "you" etc.  Not we.  I got quite and when he asked what was the matter I told him that after all of this time he still speaks of our futures separately, not as a "we".  I told him that I was beginning to feel as if I needed to accept the fact that he doesn't have thoughts about our ever being anything more than we are now.  Simply dating.   He asked why I said that and when I told him that he still continues to talk about the future as separates, All he said was "that is your perception".  I told him that it wasn't a perception... he actually continues to refer to us as separates for future issues.

He pretty much wouldn't engage in any more conversation about it.  Just continued to act as though nothing was wrong.  So, I let it go for a bit.  Several weeks went by and I got a job offer a few hours from where we live.  I told him about it and I told him I was considering the job.  He asked me why I would do that.  I told him that I had told him in the beginning of our dating that if I got to a point where I felt we were on different pages regarding what we want for our futures that I would move on.  His response was that he never told me that we didn't have a future, that it was my perception.  I told him he also hasn't given me reason to believe we do.  Again, his reply was cryptic.  All he said was "don't do anything rash.  Just stay in the saddle and stay focused".   I asked him what the hell that meant and I told him that he apparently doesn't think about us in terms of a future together.  His response was "yes I do think about it.  All the time".   Then he repeated the "stay focused" part.  In my mind yet again...he really didn't commit to anything.  He is always as cryptic and non commital as he can be.  And he knows it frustrates me.

So, I let it go again for a bit and today I just simply got frustrated.  I am tired of hauling my stuff back and forth every day.  I made a comment about it at dinner tonight and all his response was, was that we didn't have to stay at his house every night.  That some nights he could come stay at mine.  At that point I lost it and told him that I really may as well just take the job and go.  He just shot me a look that indicated he didn't agree, but he said nothing.

So, tonight I told him I just wanted to stay home.  So, I came home.  The only reason he didn't balk about it was because he has to get up at 430 in the morning to help with a breakfast event so he thought it would be a good idea so he didn't wake me up in the morning.  BUT he made it clear he was looking forward to my being back at his house on Sunday night.

As I said before, he wants me at his house and with him absolutely every minute when we are not at work.  And I do mean, every minute. If I linger at my house after work and don't go to his house pretty quickly, he will call to see when I am coming over.  We literally play house as a married couple in all ways except that every morning I get up and go to my own house to shower and begin my day so it ends back at his house playing house.  

So to your questions:  Does he know I want more.  Yep.  What happens?  I get cryptic, non committal but somewhat affirming replies.  

Do I feel that it has to come from him?  He is very clear on the fact that I want more at some point.  But I do prefer that the next step does come from him rather than his doing it because he feels he has to.  

So, what do you do when you are frustrated with hauling your stuff back and forth every day (but enjoy every minute you are with him);  want some sort of comfirmation that you are both on the same page about what you want in the future (but every time you bring it up you just get cryptic affirmations); and you feel like you are playing married couple (but yet without the commitment)

"Cow...milk for free" was a rather harsh framing.  Do you really feel you are being exploited?  If that is so, then it's worth taking a good look at that intuition to see how it stands up.  Clearly something is really off for you and, mainly, it sounds like this sense that you could do this relationship indefinitely until ... until what?  

It does sound like you feel you've over invested in this relationship and you are starting to resent it.

And you've done the right thing.  You've started taking your resentments seriously.  

That's step one.

And you've spoken of it. Step two.

The problem is, what's step three? What can you do?

One rules of how things work is this: you can change a relationship, but you can't change the pace of change.  You can't really make it change more quickly. So this is a relationship that has moved slowly and incrementally.  
I don't think you can move from where you are to marriage in one quick step.

My question to you is

What would be the smallest real change in the right direction?

What would make you feel less exploited, more like you're on the right track?

What would you have to see from him?

then maybe we can figure out what you'd need to do.

Let me know.

Philip Alan Belove, Ed.D.
(and don't forget to check out the web site.
and, by the way, i like your sensitivity to the difference between "I" and "We.  Did
I mention that to you or did you figure that out yourself? )  

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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