Dating at Midlife/Distress

Advertisement


Question
Dr. Belove,

I am a 60 yo female, dating a 63 yo male.  We have been together for about 2 years now.  We have talked about the future and when we have those conversations he says he sees us with a long term future (meaning marriage).   Says he is content right now with the relationship we have, that he thinks we are in a good place.

I live with him in all respects except that I keep a separate house.  My clothes, toiletry items, everything remain at my house and I take what I need every night to his house.  Only I find that I am getting passive aggressive about this.  I am getting tired of carrying things between houses every day.   When I mention that, or get fussy about it, he says "we can spend the night at your house some times if it is easier".    It is actually easier to stay at his house because he has cats and dogs to tend to and when he is at my house they don't get to eat on the schedule they are accustomed to.  So every time he offers I find myself saying "no that is ok we will go to your house".   

He is very active in his church.  When the conversation comes up about my moving in, his concern goes back to the church.  People finding out that we are "officially" living together.  So, instead we continue to just live together every night and day but as long as my stuff is at my house..... we are not living together.

However, I find myself becoming passive aggressive about it.  I am ok hauling my stuff back and forth for awhile, then I hit a wall and I just get frustrated and angry.  Then I behave like I have a chip on my shoulder about it and then with time I even out again and rock along for awhile.

I have made it clear to him that at some point I will want more from this relationship if we continue as is.  He says he understands and feels that we are headed in that direction, but he can't tell me if it will be in 6 months, 6 weeks or a year.  But he believes we have what it takes to make it work.   

After two years, I get to the point where I am just not sure what to do when I get there before he does.  What if I get to the point where I want marriage before he does?   How do I back off and wait until he is ready too?

And in the meantime how do I keep the level of frustration down with hauling my stuff back and forth every day?   He wants me there with him and by his side every night, but he is happy as a lark at my just going between houses.   And some days, I am just not.

Answer
Dear Breanna,

I will say that I  have been interviewing successful couples for the last five years or so and with a collaborator, we'll have a book out at the end of the year about how people create new and enduring relationships when they are in late middle age.

One of the surprises of our research was how often couples keep separate houses. One couple got together in their sixties and when he had to go through cancer treatment she moved in with him until he was okay and then she moved out again. Oh, but when he was okay, they got married and then she moved out again.  And just in the last four years (she is now 82 and he is 76) she allowed.... yes, allowed him to buy a condo in the same building as hers. She's on 12 and he's on 9.  But we heard many versions of this dynamic.

So you are in good company and I could into the reasons for it, but they varied.  A lot of times folks need that combination of intense togetherness and then real separateness.  

The problem for you seems to be the convenience of hauling your stuff.

One solution is that for the next step up in intimacy, you have some of your stuff at his place, maybe in your own closet. It's probably important that the space your stuff occupies is like a an embassy in a foreign country. For example, the American embassy in the Canada capital city is, technically, American soil  So technically, the closet in his house is "your property." and then do the reverse for him.

It's an interesting little ritual and it has some symbolic meaning. The symbolic meaning is important. It says that you do,  in effect, occupy a corner of each other's mind and that the roots there are somewhat permanent.

I also suggest that you are not with at his side every night. That too is a symbolic gesture and a witness to the state of your relationship.  

And then you let things go like that for a few months and see how it shifts your thinking.

As to the church community, it is perhaps as important if not more important than the question of stuff that you find a way which is mutually acceptable for referring to your relationship in that context. My guess is that that will be a more significant challenge.

If you wish to discuss this further, please contact me at drbelove@drbelove.com

Let me know how you receive these suggestions. Thank you.

Good luck to both of you

Philip Alan Belove, Ed.D.  

Dating at Midlife

All Answers


Answers by Expert:


Ask Experts

Volunteer


Philip Belove, Ed.D.

Expertise

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

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.