How does one fall in love in one's late 30's, when one's head is full of mortgage payments, favorite restaurants, and past ex's? What does it mean to fall in love? (A bit complicated)
posted by Melismata to human relations (25 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
Ok, so life hasn't worked out the way I'd hoped, being still single at 38. (Female, in the U.S.) My problem is that I need to readjust my paradigm for what it means to fall in love.
I always thought that falling in love meant something that happened in your early 20s. You're just out of college. You're a blank slate, full of hopes, dreams, ready to discover the world. And your theoretical partner is the one whom you'll share that with; he'll grow with you, learn with you. You don't know yet what your favorite restaurant is, or your favorite New Years' Eve TV show or sexual position, but you and your partner discover these things together and develop something special, something that you do together.
You're also not yet jaded by the human condition, beaten down by office politics or suffering in the world; you're still convinced that you can make the world a better place. (That sounds more negative than I mean it to be. You're by no means a hopeless pessimist; you've just seen more of the world simply by being a little bit older.)
At 38, I know exactly what I like and want, and I'm not sure how one falls in love when one is not a blank slate anymore, when one has already figured out one's identity on one's own. I go out on a date from match.com: what's your favorite restaurant? Oh, I hate that place. Am I going to give up my favorite restaurant for this perfect stranger? No. My best (female) friend and I, who share many interests and in-jokes, are always going to be more "intimate" than any stranger I meet at 38, simply because we've known each other since our early 20s and have "grown up" a little together. Unless I change my paradigm (or whatever else is going on in my head!) for love.
Being older also limits your choices as well. For example: I tried living in the country, didn't like it after 4 years, and moved back to the city. Soon after, I met a potential date who briefly mentioned that he loved going to work on his country house on weekends and wanted to retire there. Since I now know what I want, and I'm not going to compromise on something that took me precious years to figure out, I didn't pursue that potential. But, had I been in my early 20s and didn't yet know what I want, I might have liked him, married him, lived happily ever after, and so in love that I didn't notice the country surroundings...
People have said to me, "well, that early 20s thing is a `starter marriage', which often don't work out as the people grow apart. So, you're lucky to not have gone through that." Probably true, but that's not helpful for the purposes of this question. I may be lucky, but I'm also lonely, so that doesn't help.
COMPLICATION #1: the most recent ex, whom I'm still in love with. How does one fall in love when thinking about all these things AND still in love with someone else? This is probably hindering my ability to meet new people much more than I realize. (It doesn't help that I see him about 3 times a month in a community setting, and that he still drops hints that he would still like to be with me, but that he doesn't want to break up his family. No, I can't leave this community setting, trust me, and besides, I did try leaving it for three months and it didn't really make a difference. May post this issue in a separate question later, as it's a big one.)
COMPLICATION #2: The biological clock is yelling in my ear. Ideally, I'd like to take a few years (5 or so?) to figure out what my new paradigm is and also get over Complication #1, but I don't know if I have that much time.
So here I am, trying to go out on these impersonal computer dates, waiting for that special spark that eventually leads to falling in love. Two strangers sitting across from each other. We talk in a rush, comparing interests, family situations, professional ambitions, and restaurants, and then when all has been discovered after an hour or so, we just stare at each other, waiting to feel that spark which doesn't happen, at least on my part, because I'm thinking about which of my bills are due next, or the fact that this guy didn't get the joke that my best friend would have gotten in a minute, or the ex in Complication #1. None of these things would have been in my head when I was 21, and so there might, just might, have been more room for a spark to actually enter.
(Yes, I'm overthinking this. Most people do on Meta, right?! :) )
In other words, I would like to know what it means to fall in love at this age, so that I can begin the process of trying to fall in love. (Being in love, I must say from experience, is really, really, really, really, really neat.) I know that it won't happen instantly. But I need to start somewhere. I'm guessing that computer dates are not my best medium, since I'm a shy nerdy woman who only opens up after a few dates; I'd welcome any other ideas. Ideas are also welcome for activities to join (Boston) to meet available nerdy men, but know that I already belong to quite a few where the few men that are there are already married, and I won't join an activity that I'm not interested in just to meet men.
(This is harder than you might think in Boston; to the people who say "with all the activities in Boston, you should have no trouble meeting people!", I say, there are actually too many things to do, in my opinion. Everyone is so, so busy all the time, they're always rushing to the next activity and never take the time to notice the people around them.)
Along those same lines, please don't just dismiss my problem with "a shy nerdy woman?! My gosh, there are a zillion shy nerdy men who'd kill to meet you!" That's likely, but it's not the issue, or my question.
Thanks in advance for any insights you may have. I just discovered Meta recently, and love it.