Can you find lifelong love at 35?
July 30, 2009 9:14 AM   Subscribe

LoveFilter: Interested in your stories of finding lifelong love at age 35 or older, gay or straight. I'm a 35-year-old gay man and want to know what my chances are.

I'm a gay man, and there are times when I seriously consider breaking up with my long-term partner of several years. But I definitely want to be coupled with someone, and my fear is that at 35 years old, I'm too old to find a great guy. I worry that all the good ones might already be taken, and that most of those who are left are single because they're either not looking for a serious relationship or are undateable.

I do live in a big city, which probably enhances my prospects, but I know that there are fewer guys out there when you're 35 than when you're 25. On the other hand, I'd be looking for guys within a few years of my age -- I wouldn't be chasing 22-year-olds -- so I probably wouldn't have to worry about much younger guys thinking I was too old. I also feel like I might have an advantage because I have a "resume" -- I've been in a long-term relationship, so I know what it's like and I can prove to prospective partners that I know how to be in one.

Still, I worry about my chances. So it would really help me to hear about your stories of landing in long-term successful relationships at age 35 or older, whether you're gay or straight -- and regardless of whether it's your first love, your second love, or further. Straight people do have a much wider pool to choose from, so it might be easier for them to find love than gay people, but I'm still curious. Thanks!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (35 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I can't speak as to the gay angle, but both my parents remarried in their 40s, and are very clearly in love with their "new" spouses some 20 years later.

I married when I was 33, so I fall just under your age requirement. I met my husband online; that seems to be the way to go these days.
posted by desjardins at 9:18 AM on July 30, 2009

Well, lots of people find their permanent partner when they're over 35. I think you're going to get responses that it's not uncommon at all. I did. People find their great loves at all stages of life.

That's kind of beside the point in a way, though -- it's not kind to stay with someone you supposedly love when you're thinking about leaving them. It's all in or all out.

If you're thinking of leaving him though, make sure it's for good reasons that are going to stand the test of time. Throwing out a good relationship out of momentary boredom, or because you hate your job or whatever, is a recipe for some cold and regretful nights.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 9:19 AM on July 30, 2009

Oh, I'm a hetero woman for whatever it's worth...
posted by A Terrible Llama at 9:21 AM on July 30, 2009

My mom's best friend found her (Hetero) partner in her 50s. They had both been married before. They are definitely in love.
posted by lunasol at 9:23 AM on July 30, 2009

Um, my partner was 58 when we met. I think you're fine.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:25 AM on July 30, 2009

I'm a gay man, and there are times when I seriously consider breaking up with my long-term partner of several years. But I definitely want to be coupled with someone, and my fear is that at 35 years old, I'm too old to find a great guy.

Oh, I missed this part. Fear is a terrible reason to stay with your current partner.
posted by desjardins at 9:29 AM on July 30, 2009 [6 favorites]

I can echo what others said: my husband and I met and married when I was 42 and he was 52. We are so complementary that we often say precisely the same thing at the same time, have a strong relationship, and love each other very much. We had each unfortunately outgrown our first spouses, which is how we ended up single. We had both been divorced at least three years when we met.

The key for us in finding this great relationship, we both readily admit, was in not needing one. We had each come to the conclusion that we would probably be alone for the rest of our lives, and that was okay.

It doesn't sound like you're at that point yet. Rather, you seem still pretty anxious about being lonely and ending up alone. That's a terrible reason for staying in a relationship, and also a lousy reason for entering into a relationship.

As desjardins and ATL said, your decision to stay with or leave your current partner should be based only on the quality of the relationship. It either fulfills and expands you, or it doesn't.

If you do decide to leave your current relationship, be sure to take time to heal yourself and make yourself emotionally self-sufficient. Until you do, you won't find (or be fit for) the kind of relationship you yearn for.
posted by DrGail at 9:44 AM on July 30, 2009 [6 favorites]

I'm a straight man, but one of my gay acquaintances (born 1966), after having been in a loving couple for many years only to see it wither due to That Illness, which destroyed him ; but he then found renewed love later in life (at least 2002, so age 34), and finally married the guy in 2006 (at age 40). They live happily together in their house as I write this.
posted by XiBe at 9:52 AM on July 30, 2009

straight. met young woman (290years younger) when I was over 50. Now married 26 years.
Great thing.
posted by Postroad at 9:58 AM on July 30, 2009

The stroy of a very dear friend of mine: Two years ago, his relationship of 6+ years ended. He was just over 40 and I believe he seriously wondered if he was going to find anyone at his age. He did, a year ago and he and his Mr. Right are very happy.
posted by pointystick at 10:04 AM on July 30, 2009

You're not going to find a great guy if you remain in a relationship you aren't completely happy with. 35 isn't old at all, and the wonderful people you meet will probably be thrilled to find you aren't yet taken (after you've broken up with your partner, which you probably need to do if you if you're only staying in that relationship due to fear of loneliness). You're not too old for the dating pool, you're just in a different (and, in my opinion, far superior) pool.
posted by Polychrome at 10:21 AM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Much like DrGail, my boyfriend (33) and I (one month shy of 35) met after both of us had previously been married. Five years after my divorce, I was still single and believed I would be so for the rest of my life. I planned to invest my emotional energy in my friends, family, and in caring for my patients. I'd made my peace with the idea of finding emotional fulfillment in ways other than a lifelong romantic relationship. I think it would have worked out just fine for me, too; I was very happy with my life and my sense of who I was, and I rarely felt lonely. I felt no particular urge to find a serious partner (though I dated casually when the situation presented itself, and enjoyed myself just fine, I made sure to explain that my priorities were career and family/friends, not finding another husband).

Part of the sheer, punch-drunk joy I feel when I think about my committed relationship now is how unexpected it was when it started, how thoroughly it upended my ideas about my life, and how much like a wonderful gift it continues to feel. I'm winning the lottery every day. So yes, it is absolutely possible to find deep, abiding, make-your-friends-roll-their-eyes-and-tell-you-to-get-a-room-already love no matter what your age.

That said...

I've been in a long-term relationship, so I know what it's like and I can prove to prospective partners that I know how to be in one

Except that instead of ending a relationship with which you seem to be unsatisfied, you stay in it for fear that you won't be able to find another one. That's deeply unfair to your partner *and* to yourself, and doesn't, I think, provide the kind of proof you're looking for that you know how to be in a relationship.
posted by jesourie at 10:21 AM on July 30, 2009 [3 favorites]

Not gay, FWIW, but I doubt that matters. I was married for the first time at 27. Divorced 7 years later. Re-married at 42, to a woman with whom I fathered my only child. We divorced after 14 years. That was three years ago. Do the math.

I am now living with the 100% most perfect match of my life. We have similar values, similar views on the male/female dynamic, we both love cooking and gardening, we both despise television, and we have sold several works of co-authored fiction with lots more projects in the hopper.

The short answer: You cannot see what is coming. Try to know who you are. Great, unexpected joy can come to you at any moment. (On preview, what DrGail said.)
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 10:24 AM on July 30, 2009 [4 favorites]

Wanting to be partnered is nice and all, but statistics put us at about half the population being single later in life. You would be wise, especially if your current relationship is failing, to spend some time becoming comfortable with yourself before you try to land yourself a permanent relationship. Not that wanting a partnership is wrong or bad or undesirable, but without becoming comfortable on your own first, you may ultimately be doing yourself and your next relationship a disservice.

You've not provided a lot of details about why your relationship is failing, and so it is hard for us to gauge what your potential success will be in finding a new partner. That said, I do truly believe that we each have a lot of options out there, and it is just a matter of connecting with one (or more, as the case may be!) of them at the right time.

What qualities are you looking for in a partner? So far, it sounds like you just want a warm body. But I doubt that is the case. Your silence on this subject and your current failing relationship may underscore the fact that you might not yet know what you want - only some things you don't want. I encourage you to identify both of those things: things you do want, and things you do not want.

Personalities change over time. I know mine has. At 16 I wanted a white picket fence and a husband and two children and a Subaru and a membership in a nice synagogue in the suburbs. Today I'm an agnostic anti-monogamist who wants no children and who is pretty sure that whatever relationship he falls into wont be able to be described as "settling down." And that is all over the course of the last decade since I came out in high school. I'll have another decade under my belt before I am in your age range, and who knows how I'll feel then. But it is important to gauge what you are looking for in a partner against the age range you are looking at.
posted by greekphilosophy at 10:25 AM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I also feel like I might have an advantage because I have a "resume" -- I've been in a long-term relationship, so I know what it's like and I can prove to prospective partners that I know how to be in one.

I'd like to point out that your "resume" should reflect the fact that you got bored with your previous LTR.
posted by General Tonic at 10:32 AM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

All of my partners have been over 35. Always. I look for a man who knows how to act and behave, and now to treat me well. I'm not looking for drama, fighting and dealing with someone else's issues, thank you very much. (I'm not saying that younger people have more issues, just that younger people are less "settled", in my experience. YMMV, etc.)

I worry that all the good ones might already be taken, and that most of those who are left are single because they're either not looking for a serious relationship or are undateable.

Are you not a good one? Are you not looking for a serious relationship? Are you undateable? Chances are, there are a lot of guys out there who are looking for someone, but who aren't even bothering to try because they feel the same way you do, as highlighted above. If you put yourself out there, and try, you might get lucky.

Age isn't a barrier to finding love. Attitude is.
posted by Solomon at 10:50 AM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Had 6-year rel with someone, was afraid to leave for your reasons. Finally left. Found love of life at 35.
posted by pipti at 10:52 AM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

My mom and her college sweetheart broke up over a misunderstanding, went off and had separate lives with spouses and children and careers and widowhood and widowerhood, got back in touch after close to 50 years, fell in love, got married, and seem very, very happy together.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:53 AM on July 30, 2009

p.s. I found said love of life just a couple of months after breaking up with the six-year LTR. I think the relief made me giddy and fun to be around. Don't underestimate how weighted and miserable an unsatisfying relationship can make you feel.
posted by pipti at 10:57 AM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Right, I'm done being flip with some of the other answers...

Here's the parts of your response that gave me some warning bells.

I definitely want to be coupled with someone, and my fear is that at 35 years old, I'm too old to find a great guy. I worry that all the good ones might already be taken, and that most of those who are left are single because they're either not looking for a serious relationship or are undateable.

[...]I also feel like I might have an advantage because I have a "resume" -- I've been in a long-term relationship, so I know what it's like and I can prove to prospective partners that I know how to be in one.

With all due respect, I'm not so sure it's that you "know how to be in a relationship" so much that you "know how to avoid the discomfort of being single." To my mind, the kind of relationship you're looking for isn't just something you stay with for its own sake; it sounds like you're looking for a relationship where you both WANT to be there with THAT SPECIFIC PERSON for the long haul. You're not looking for "well, I don't want to be single, and this is the relationship I've got available to me now, so here I am."

To be fair, you haven't said how long you've been contemplating ending things, or that you HAVEN'T felt "omigod this is THE ONE and I am CONVINCED of it" before this. But it may be worth your considering how much of your relationship has been about the relationship itself, and that one specific person, and how much has been about "I just want to be with someone, and you're the person who happens to be here." Hell, you very well may find that you've only felt "I just want to be with someone" for the past few months (at which point I freely invite you to think all sorts of nasty thoughts about me).

But, if you find that most of your motivation for staying in a relationship has been that you were just trying to avoid being single, I'd advise you that that's something you would want to fix BEFORE trying to find someone else. Because while you're looking for someone who would be a good partner to you, YOU would also have to be a good partner to THEM, and being a good partner to someone is more of an active "I choose you" thing rather than "well, I don't want to be single, and you're around, so there you go."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:00 AM on July 30, 2009 [4 favorites]

What General Tonic said! In general, I find people who are fresh out of long-term relationships are clueless about dating. I once had a man ask me, "Have you ever lived with someone? Been engaged?", and when I said, "No" to both questions, he said, "So what's wrong with you?"

It may not have been the most obnoxious thing anyone's ever said to me, but it was up there. I hope you will break up with your current partner, because as other people have said, it is not a good idea to stay in a relationship out of fear that you'll wind up alone. Once you do leave, though, assume there will be a learning curve when you do start dating and don't preen yourself on having been in a mostly good long-term relationship or assume it's going to impress those who haven't been in one. You're in exactly the same boat as the other single people you'll meet: none of you have found something that worked out. Maybe people you meet have been alone for as long as they have, not because they didn't get opportunities or lacked social skills, but because they had more foresight than you and knew better than to get into relationships that weren't going to work out.
posted by orange swan at 11:07 AM on July 30, 2009 [4 favorites]

Another older straight couple story: my Dad's father got re-married in his 50s to a lady of a similar age. They were together until my grandfather passed, after some 20 years of marriage, and were clearly in love when together.

Anecdote from the (relative) youth: I had no long history of relationships, with one serious girlfriend in my mid-20s. I liked the idea of having someone, but I wasn't in search for my true love. Two years ago, I got married to a lovely lady I had known for over a year. We're still new at this, but neither of us were looking for completion, and I think we're better for it. Get to know yourself, and feel like a whole person on your own. Then whoever you find won't just be a patch on your emptiness or wanting, but someone who will match you.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:01 PM on July 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

Well, I guess you could always find a new relationship and then break this one off.

Or look into having multiple partners if you want something you current partner can't give you, but have a healthy relationship with your current partner.

My mother and father both found new people to marry at 40 and 43. It can happen.
posted by kathrineg at 12:11 PM on July 30, 2009

Straight man - I met my girl when I was 34 (she was 30). We're still together and doing very well.

Listen, staying with your guy because you're afraid of being alone is a blatant dick-move (sorry to be so rude, but it's true). No relationship stays 'fresh' forever, but if you really don't love this person and are only with him because of your own insecurities the whole thing's going to go south anyway. Own up to your own emotions, either way. It's only fair to both of you.
posted by Pecinpah at 12:21 PM on July 30, 2009

Yeesh. Your problem isn't whether you'll find love again. It's that you want out of your relationship. How about taking care of that slightly more major issue first?
posted by Miko at 12:22 PM on July 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm sure this is way longer than you'd like to wait, but my grandmother met the love of her life when she was 63, and had never had a better or more fulfilling relationship. So it's possible to fall in love and find a happy, stable relationship at most any age it seems.
posted by Amaranta at 12:28 PM on July 30, 2009

I was in a long-term relationship (11 years) that ended far later than it should have. Reconnected with someone I had been friends with for 15 years or so. Promptly fell in love. In short order, married. I was 36, she was 39. We've been together for a little over two years and are almost to our first wedding anniversary.

Oh, and we are both women.
posted by duckus at 12:50 PM on July 30, 2009

Age, in and of itself, isn't going to be the deciding factor here. Think about why you might be breaking up with your partner, and what you might expect to be looking for if or when you move on. Not knowing your possible motivation for ending it, maybe I shouldn't speculate. But I don't think it makes sense to stay in a bad relationship out of fear that you'd be in a worse situation alone, or unable to find someone else. By the same token, I don't think it makes sense to end a relationship that might be worth saving if you're thinking "There must be a better man than this one for me." If you end it, do it for yourself.

My story: My ex-partner fell in love with someone else when I was 38 and he was 49. It was "complicated," since we was also sort-of kind-of still in love with me, but chose to spend more of his time with the other guy. He wasn't there when I needed him, eventually he moved out, so on, so forth. It was dysfunctional, long, long story...

I was depressed. A few months later, now at age 39, friends decided to draw me out of myself and take me out to the Sunday beer-busts at a local gay bar. One Sunday, after they left, I turned around and found an adorable man staring at me. I said something clever on the lines of "Where did you come from...?" We've been together ever since, almost nine years, and we expect to be together for a long time.

I'll add that I'm not particular a "bar" sort of person, it was just more on the line of taking in the energy of people having fun and enjoying life. I'd decided that it was time for me to enjoy life, too, regardless of whether I was single, partnered, or what. I wasn't looking for anyone, neither was he. It was more that lightning-bolt-out-of-the-blue type of thing.
posted by Robert Angelo at 2:00 PM on July 30, 2009

...we was he was also kind-of still in love with me...
posted by Robert Angelo at 2:02 PM on July 30, 2009

I don't want to project here but I'm sort of in your partner's position.

It really sucks.

I was "married" to my accomplice* for over ten years (that's the diamond anniversary in straight years). It was never perfect all the time, but we worked it out.

It's been an open relationship from day one and I told him from the start that I wanted the best for him, even if it wasn't me. Last year he met someone that he completely fell for. We talked lots of times about next steps, what would happen, where I would go, etc. A lot of things came out during those talks, such as he felt we were stagnating, that maybe we weren't a great match after all, etc. It was pretty much a done deal.

I was literally looking for an apartment when this other person unexpectedly died.

After the shock wore off, he sort of changed his mind, this other person wasn't actually all that great, I really am the one that he wants, he didn't really mean it, etc etc. It was all actually pretty clear that what he was really saying was that he was terrified of living by himself, because nobody wants to be seen with someone as old as 33! He's much too old to be single and trying to find someone!

This was all a year ago. Since then things have calmed down somewhat. He's still affectionate, hand holding and all that stuff but it's not quite the same anymore. I know inside that he would rather be with someone else. I can't leave him (very short story: I'm basically his sole financial and emotional support), but every night I share a bed with someone that I know doesn't want me anymore, but won't let me go so that I can recover from the last decade and maybe find someone that does want me.

It never gets easier. It hurts. Every. Single. Night.

Let him go. Please.

*since same-sex relationships are illegal here, by living as a married couple we must be committing a crime. Therefore I don't have a "husband" or "partner", I have an accomplice.
posted by geckoinpdx at 2:34 PM on July 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best friend. 49 years old, gay, sober 8 years, was a big party hag smoker, drinker, tweaker when I met him and since has had lots of hospitalizations for HIV related infections. Hadn't had a steady boyfriend in the 18 years I've known him. Met a lovely guy 2 1/2 years ago and they are totally in love and treating each other with kindness and respect.

Honey, it's more than possible. You and your current partner deserve to be with someone you love and want to go home to every night.

Good luck.
posted by Sophie1 at 4:36 PM on July 30, 2009

Met the love of my life when I was 38 and my (now wife) was 35. We both had no expectation that we'd find someone so great for each other. So, yep. It can happen and I have no reason to believe it couldn't have happened for us if we had just met now, 6 years later. For us, it was learning what mattered in a relationship and using that to avoid falling into familiar traps that kept us from getting to the good stuff.
posted by qwip at 5:41 PM on July 30, 2009 [3 favorites]

(i have nothing much to add other than that you can tell within about one minute that qwip & mrs qwip have that kind of gelling bond)
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:06 AM on July 31, 2009

I (straight woman) met my boyfriend when I was 34 and he was 42. We've been together just over a year, are now living together and are very happy.

And I wasn't looking for a serious relationship at all when we met.

So yes, it can happen!
posted by SisterHavana at 7:23 PM on August 1, 2009

I (bi female) met the mister (straight male) when I was 33 and he was 49. This was after a five month online relationship (we met in a chat-room). We married a year later and are still ridiculously happy with each other almost ten years from our first meeting.

You mentioned being interested in men around your own age. Don't let age scare you away - your new love may be quite a bit younger or older than you.

Also, don't stay with your current mate out of fear. You both deserve better than that.
posted by deborah at 12:59 PM on August 4, 2009

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