Dating at Midlife/Perplexed
I have been dating a man now for two years. We are 53 and 60. He says he loves me and we spend the night together every night. We behave as though we are a married couple in pretty much all sense of the word, however, I keep no clothes at his house, (so I haul a bag of stuff back and forth every night), get up every morning and go home to shower for work, and then spend every minute of the weekend together only to repeat the process. (I live 10 minutes from him)
Quite frankly I have hit the wall on living out of a suitcase every day. During this two years, if I specifically ask him if he sees a future for us he will say yes that he does. That he likes where we are right now, can see a future some day but he can't say when. Fair enough. However, on a daily basis, when we talk about things, life, houses etc he always talks of us as separate entities. You, your, his, mine etc. he doesn't talk about our, we etc. if he says something in that tense and I mention it to him, I get the same answer, that he thinks we are great together, sees us as having a future but can't put a time to it,
I have made it clear that I don't want to live hauling my things back and forth forever, and I don't want to just date someone for many years. That I do want to remarry some day and am not sure I want to spend the next 5 years with someone waiting to see if the time is ever right only to find out it doesn't change. He says he understands, believes we have a future, but can't out a time in it. Same ole answer.
So we continue to rock on and life is good, but nothing changes. I haul my stuff back and forth, hear he lives me and sees a future, but doesn't know when.
I finally told him while I believed he loved me, and I think a future with him would be great, the fact that he still talks in the tense of me, mine, you, yours tells me that maybe it just isn't enough. That even though we live together without actually living together, and he still talks of future things as our own separate things says a lot to me. I have always heard that you should hear what they are saying, rather than trying to twist their words in your mind to fit what you want it to mean. So rather than want to hear what I want to heart, I am really trying to listen to his actual words. The fact that he talks about us as separate entities and only talks of our having a future if I point blank ask a question about it and even up then it is still a maybe someday, tells me he is still so on the fence no matter how much I like it, or not.
Now there....enter a new twist. I got a job offer 3 hours away. He has been telling me for months that he doesn't want me to move away. Doesn't want me to take the job. However, when I talk to him about there not being a reason not to take it if he and I are just going to date and this relationship not move forward, I hear.....I believe we have a future, I think we are in a good place, I believe we have a future, but it don't know when that might be.
So, I have put the job offer off for as long as I can. I have to give them an answer. We had another discussion today about the future. We were talking about my son and his long time girlfriend. I asked him what makes a man decide when he is ready to take the next step. The long and the short of it was that at the end of the conversation left me feeling that for as long as I will allow, this will be my life. That as long as I will play wife without the obligation for him, this is how it will continue. With me carrying my clothes back and forth, staying with him every day acting married, but not ever moving in, or being married. And why not, he has literally all the benefits of marriage without the obligations.
So, I called the company that offered me the job and said I would come in and talk to them. I sent him a text telling him I decided to go talk to them in September. Gave him the date. I went over to his house after for .... Yes, the night and he never, ever, mentioned the text. Ever. now I lay here in the dark while he sleeps like a baby beside me with this nagging feeling that while he says he loves me and sees a future with me, he will also let me walk away no matter how good our relationship is. Again, I feel this says a lot that I need to listen to.
So, how do you determine when it is time to accept that maybe he will never be ready for more no matter how much he says he loves you? Do I just take care of me as though there is no future even though when pushed into a conversation he says there is? Or do I pay attention to his daily words,of you, your, me, mine instead? How long do I play wife while hauling my stuff back and forth because although he wants me with home very minute we can be, he doesn't seem to want the full obligation of taking the next step to commitment?
Thanks for writing. Good , very good question. Nice archetypal situation.
I can't tell you what to decide but I think I can help you find ways to think about what's going on. I think I can help you put the current challenge in perspective.
There are thousands of people, mainly women, who can relate. It's a common situation among midlife dating. Two adults, two separate and independent lives and then how to blend them? Add to this the fact that you can make the decision any way you want?
But let's get more specific.
The move toward marriage (or its equivalent) is the move toward making the relationship itself a sacred object. So in addition to (and not instead of ) your two separate individual lives, there is this idea of a shared life. There is a "WE" that you both honor and protect and also this WE makes your individual lives better.
So you have to design the WE thoughtfully. It's like designing a house. Someone once said to me that the experience of planning a wedding is the closest he and his wife came, in those early days, to understanding what married life would be. Yes, there was this great love and heavenly contentment they had when they sheltered away all weekend long and just loved each other and enjoyed each other, but then there was this whole practical world they had to deal with. Decisions had to be made. Practical arrangements were necessary. Money had to be spent.
In almost every couple one of the two will be a bit better at the practical stuff and the other a bit better at the emotional stuff. In our book Rabbis In Love (there's a link on my website, drbelove.com) the first couple it was the woman who was far more practical. (Actually in most of the couples it was the woman who was more practical and the man who was more romantic. ) Anyway, they had to find ways to work this out.
In one of the couples, the woman said, "I had to learn to make demands. Not "demands", "requests," but I found that it helped him love me more."
Well, there are ten thousand ways to work that out, but someone has to get practical in an adult relationship. And you are now at that place.
All those questions you are asking yourself are very very good questions and you do have to trust that you are coming from a good place and that you, far earlier than he, have seen that, if the relationship is to get grounded and become a practical reality, things have to change...
and beyond that, you've probably already waited too long.
That might be your lesson in all this. At some point, you needed to refuse to accept his wish to stay in the poetic realm. Life in the clouds is a pleasant luxury and every relationship should set aside a time to visit it regularly, but if it's to be a real relationship and not only an escape from everyday reality -- something that can function in both realms, then it was you who saw the situation first and it was (and will be) you who have make the demand (request) for a change.
Every relationship ends up clarifying some of your values. IN any meaningful relationship, you find yourself asking yourself, "Okay, what's more important here?"
There's an old Yiddish expression my grandmother used. It meant, loosely translated, "Ass on the table." It meant, time to make some hard choices.
If you let this job offer pass, will you end up being so frustrated with him that the relationship will be damaged for you , and maybe for him as well? How bad and how frustrated do you have to get before you take your stand?
I suspect there is a deep personal lesson in this for you and if we ever do some coaching/therapy work, I'd want to explore that with you. I'm struck by the fact that after all this time, he couldn't find space for you to keep your clothes at his house. This is an old sore and a very small change is required to fix it. I wondered how the two of you colluded to not make that small and significant shift and what that tells you about the larger shift you are asking for now? Why did you let it go so long? Why did he resist so long when it would have so lightened your load? What was going on?
Well now you have to deal with the same issue but the costs and consequences are much bigger.
In the Rabbi example, the woman we working a full time job, had six kids and was still coming home on Friday night and cooking a huge meal for her family and maybe 20 guests. Then, she had a wake up moment and demanded a radical change in their marriage. He said, "Okay, sure." She was shocked it was so easy.
But in other cases, and I've seen this too, the woman had already decided that she would leave unless there was a radical change and she said it to her guy in a rather quiet voice. "You know, if this doesn't change, we're finished." Something in the quiet way she said it make her comment utterly convincing.
Other times, I've seen people yell and in their yelling you could hear a plea, "Please don't make me have to leave." That was a weakness their partner exploited, not purposefully, but effectively, none the less.
Does this help?
If you wish to work with me on this, write me to arrange for a consultation: firstname.lastname@example.org
Philip Alan Belove, Ed.D.