“If a man really, really wants to be with you,” said my mother several decades ago, “he will make every effort to communicate and/or be with you. You will be his priority.”
Naturally my eyes probably glazed over with sheer boredom — as they usually did while she was dispensing her pearls of wisdom (many of which proved to be correct, though I’m STILL debating whether the above quote is actually true). Boredom combined with disbelief, because for whatever reason my very young self had an incredibly difficult time imagining that such a male actually existed. Flash forward several years to my so-called middle-aged self and, after many years in the dating pool, I still debate whether such a man lives, in this day and age. I guess I’m just too accustomed to being in what people nowadays are calling “almost relationships” and rationalizing away the poor/neglectful/abusive/or just plain avoidant behavior o the men with whom I became involved.
As a long-time divorced woman I have dated a number of men who weren’t exactly in my ballpark (or anywhere near it, come to think of it). As a result, I have many stories — good, bad and indifferent —written in my book of life on the adventures of Relationship Land. A lot of women, including myself, have “settled” because of the subtle and not-so-subtle pressure to be part of couple, and many of us — particularly us older ones — have pursued and/or stayed with men who weren’t up to par, didn’t treat us right, were abusive or were just commitment-phobics who made us miserable. I’ve known men with whom I could almost literally feel a “wall” between him and me that couldn’t be gotten past, to “capture” his heart. And that’s a frustrating feeling.
Though I don’t have but a few small clues what the dating scene is like now for the younger generations. I’m a young Boomer, born in the last year of the Baby Boom years, and women in our generation — and the ones before us — were pretty much raised with the message — either overtly stated or just implied — that some day we were going to find a man to “take care of us” (think of those animated Prince Charming “happily ever after” movies of the olden days). Well, in the 70s or maybe early 80s there was a big change in society where the supposed “taking care of us” no longer was a given. We’d order our lives around “catching” some man for the “reward” of the implied security of marriage, we’d go though Hell and high water and a certain amount of heartache, just to have a man in our lives …only to find ourselves middle aged and, in a lot of our cases, divorced.
Anyway, that was the experience of many in my age group, although I’m sure there still are young women who feel some pressure to “have a man” because otherwise they aren’t “complete” or some such nonsense. Let me tell you: if you think you’re “incomplete” without a man at your side (or in your bed) you might want to get with a therapist and figure out that you are Ok and whole, “complete,” and good enough just as you are. Luckily, I have met some young women who actually seem to be confident and “whole” unto themselves and perfectly fine with their single-ness … and I think that’s a beautiful thing. We don’t need to be in a couple to be “all that.”
In the interest of showing that I’m an open-minded, all-inclusive kind of “old girl” these pieces of advice can apply to same-sex couples as well as heterosexual couples (even though I did use “men” in my headline). So I’m giving up this list of things I wished I’d known decades ago (or that I wish I’d BELIEVED decades ago, when my mother used to tell me some of the following about relationships and I’d just brush it off as “old fashioned”). These are important nuggets of wisdom that seem to be so obvious but aren’t to someone who is “blinded by love” (hahaha). So, people, you might want to seriously re-think the relationship and the man you’re with ….
- If he’s not calling (or texting, or Skyping, messaging, Facetiming, or whatever form of communication) for days on end, this doesn’t bode well for your “relationship.” Maybe it’s just a booty call purely at his convenience. Some women understandably want a commitment that goes beyond a hook-up, and trust me, you do NOT have a real time-tested commitment if he’s not communicating. Some women aren’t okay with being a “recreational companion” for a man, while others are totally down with it. Hey it’s the 2000s! We have needs too. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking that a “relationship” based on sex is going to lead to “happily ever after” and vows. Good luck with that.
- If he doesn’t make much (if any) effort to be with you, offering excuses like “I’m so busy” (a BIG red flag warning if he says this a lot), then maybe you should reconsider whether you want to prioritize YOUR precious time catering to him (without getting much in return: true relationships are give-and-take, not always equal but not super imbalanced to one side — his — either). I know millions of women throughout the ages have cleared their calendars, or dropped something that needed to be done (housework, anyone?) just so they could run over to some man’s house … because he wasn’t running over to the woman’s place. Ladies, if you feel like you have to chase him, step back and ask why.
- If he seems to have a problem sharing with others that you two are a “couple” and/or he uses a lot of “I” statements instead of “we” statement. I dated a man for a while who, even two years into it, still did this. To explain to those who might wonder what the hell I’m talking about: let’s say he’d be on his phone talking to a friend. He’d tell said friend that “I am going to _____” right in front of me, the very person he planned to do whatever the activity was with (instead of saying “Carlene and I ….” he used the singular “I am ….”). This did not sit well. Still I accepted it as I really enjoyed the man, even though I always “just knew” it wasn’t destined to be “forever” and for the most part I was fine with that. So don’t be like me: don’t feel you have to defend your man or your choice to be with him, as if there’s something wrong with it. If you feel you have to rationalize some things, traits or aspects you really don’t have to put up with, maybe you shouldn’t be putting up with them.
- If he acts like a teenager (either all the time or when he is under the influence of some substance) at the age of 56, you might want to pass on him if you want an actual “partner in life”. More years on a person’s age does not necessarily mean that person is mature. From what I’ve read in various books and articles, a person’s emotional immaturity is a big roadblock to having a nice, future-oriented commitment with someone, in part because emotional immaturity mean that person is still “stuck” in the past in some way. So it’s very hard to get some forward-going movement with these people. Another issue might be the aforementioned “under the influence,” which brings up this important point: drug and/or alcohol use/abuse can be another roadblock to a “healthy” relationship. Instead it can lead to unhealthy co-dependent behaviors and a lot of unneeded drama (if you don’t believe me, let me recommend reading some books on codependency). So if your heart is set on a future of teamwork as a couple (maybe with kids too) then I’d cross “frat/party boy” off the list of possible grooms/significant life partners.
I’m sure many of you probably have, like me, done most or all of the work in a twosome with someone (male or female; I’m an all-inclusive open-minded writer). Calling/texting. Making date night plans. Not doubt in my mind other women have spent way too much mental time making excuses, or rationalizations, for a man and his less-than-healthy relationship behaviors (or his absence from our lives, etc.), that we should not be doing and should NOT feel like we need to be doing. We all need to realize this an change out who we attract, perhaps by making some changes in ourselves; first and foremost, learn to respect ourselves, and our time, better.
I realize that versons of my advice is everywhere out there and I’m just presenting it in my voice with my observations. Hopefully other people who are “stuck” in a “going-nowhere, non-relationship” or a lame “almost relatonship” will see the roadblocks to a fulfilling, happier relationship, remove them and move on down the road of life. I wish you all success in this quest,and remember that although true committed relationships aren’t always easy, nothing worth having — including life itself — ever is. Just words from an “old girl” who has been there, done that, wrote the book.