give me your happy stories
July 1, 2011 11:29 AM   Subscribe

does it really get better? i'm a 40 year old single woman. i have just gotten out of the arguably the worst relationship of my life (with some equivalent badness from my late teenage years, but isn't that the point of late teenage years). you can see my posts here and here. I clearly have some issues to sort out and need to spend some time recovering from the chaos and i'm working on that in all the various ways (meditation, exercise, long walks, trying to eat right, time with loved ones, etc.) so hive mind, what i really need right now is some hope. please tell me your tales of 40+ happiness- romantic and otherwise. thanks!
posted by memi to Human Relations (37 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
How about this -- the whole "you're more likely to get killed by a terrorist than get married when you're over 40" is a myth.

And this -- good for you for getting out of a bad relationship! Better to be single at 40 than in a terrible marriage at 40.

And finally -- I bet you anything that many, many married 40 year old women struggling with kids and a job would change positions with you in a second. I don't usually find this kind of reasoning persuasive, but I do think it's important to revel in the freedom you have.
posted by yarly at 11:43 AM on July 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

You know, sometimes it doesn't get better, if by better what you mean is closer to the statistical median. My sister got tired of waiting for Mr or Ms Right and today celebrates her 40th birthday with her 17 week old infant in tow, conceived artificially. If there's something you want to do besides find a partner, go do it - buy the house or have the baby or move to Nepal or whatever will make you happy. There are so many dismally married people who can't go follow their joy and that is not something you want.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:47 AM on July 1, 2011 [21 favorites]

If it's any consolation, what you are feeling is completely normal, especially at the end of a relationship. When I start to feel gloomy about my future, I think of the following two people, who are both far older than you:

1. My aunt was over 80 when her husband died. She met someone new about 6 months after he died and has been seeing him for several years at this point.

2. The husband of a family friend died and left her a widow at 58. She recently met someone and has been seeing him for almost 6 months now.
posted by parakeetdog at 11:55 AM on July 1, 2011

I'm an occasional wedding DJ. Three of the last five weddings I've worked were 40+ couples who, it's worth mentioning, all met via some form of online dating service.

Good luck.
posted by philip-random at 11:55 AM on July 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

It's already better - you're free of a relationship that caused you all sorts of stress!

I'm 39 and in my first good romantic relationship, having gotten here only recently. Therapy and focusing on myself for awhile really did help!
posted by ldthomps at 12:00 PM on July 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

I met my honey about 3 years ago on I'm 46, overweight, plain, and shy. I put my profile up, a couple of days later he signed up and got his first e-mail from the site with potential "matches," including me. He e-mailed me and I was hooked; a few days later, after hours and hours on the phone, we met in person and have been together ever since. I have been in relationships with some losers, I can tell you, but I got the right one this time. He is wonderful, warm, caring, brilliant, and handsome!

There really are some good ones out there, but they're really good at hiding. ; )
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 12:04 PM on July 1, 2011 [6 favorites]

A.... few... years ago, back when I was in my 30s, I was on my road bike, breathing hard, fighting a 20 something for the top of the hill. Somewhere in my mirror, back in the pack behind me, a 70 year old guy decided he wanted to take us. He dropped the back, and, while we were both gasping at our aerobic limits, muscles screaming, closed the gap between us, passed us, and reached the summit first.

Similarly, the author of the book Born To Run reports in one of his chapters that someone who's studied runners notes that speeds in the Boston Marathon peak at 28 or so, but don't drop down to the level of the 20 year old runner 'til the runners are 60.

So whatever your relationship status or desires, it ain't just "downhill from here". You've got years of doing cool stuff, exploring the world, achieving. Find what you love doing, do it, and the who you do it with will work itself out.
posted by straw at 12:08 PM on July 1, 2011 [11 favorites]

I'm 39 and hope that's close enough to count. I'm getting married this fall, so there's nothing totally crazy about what's happening with you. Your relationship issues with your ex boyfriend sounded legitimate and you're not crazy or unreasonable at all. If anything, your ability to forgive what I think were pretty major transgressions bode well for a relationship with someone who has more respect for you and who shares a similar interest in commitment or marriage (if that's what you want).

I think it will be key for you to do those personal things in life that make you happy, become happy, and then share your happiness with someone special. Don't make someone else responsible for your happiness--that never works out. In the meantime, enjoy the freedom to go out, eat the foods you want to eat, etc.
posted by Hylas at 12:09 PM on July 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

you are speaking like 40 is oooollllldddd, it's really not. And besides, judging from most people I know there are LOTS of people in their 40s who are just now getting out of relationships and entering into a new phase of life so, you are not alone
posted by Frosted Cactus at 12:11 PM on July 1, 2011

My mom fell deeply in love and got married in her mid forties after being divorced from my dad for about 10 years. She turns sixty this year and is still happily married. My dad got married in his fifties to a woman he adores completely and he's in his mid sixties.

I'll give you the same advice I give people of any age who are struggling with relationships -- you need to focus on you and decide and really believe that being alone is better than being in a bad relationship.

If you enter into a relationship as someone who really knows herself and doesn't need to be in a relationship, you will be able to maintain your boundaries and what is important to you. People like this also tend to attract healthy people who also want to be in a relationship because it enriches their life, not because they feel like their life is missing something without it. It really doesn't matter how old you are--what matters is where your head is at and how you approach relationships.

I think it will be key for you to do those personal things in life that make you happy, become happy, and then share your happiness with someone special. Don't make someone else responsible for your happiness--that never works out.

This, this, this.
posted by Kimberly at 12:13 PM on July 1, 2011 [12 favorites]

46 and in the best relationship of my life. We dated in high school & again after college, but married other people. We reconnected after we both ended up in the same state after our marriages ended. At our age we have enough self-awareness and maturity to admit that our own issues played a damaging role in previous relationships, and enough aches and pains and memory lapses to know we likely don't have enough time left to waste it on relationship drama.

Here's the thing though: neither one of us were looking for a relationship. We were friends, had always been friends, and would both have been happy to just rekindle the friendship. We are in the same field, we share the same worldview, we have a tremendous amount of respect and affection for each other. The love part is great, but it really is secondary to the friendship. That's what made it "get better" for me -- finding a really good, true, honest, fun-to-be-with friend when I didn't expect to.
posted by headnsouth at 12:14 PM on July 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

Oh hi. If you had posted this a few months ago I would have thought you were a specific one of my friends because the similarities are uncanny. I know you aren't her because she's happy in a relationship right now.
posted by fuq at 12:20 PM on July 1, 2011

Which is to say that yes it gets better I saw it happen.
posted by fuq at 12:21 PM on July 1, 2011

My mom is in her 50's and recently reconnected with an old high school friend. They're together now and she is really, really happy. She divorced my stepfather something like 20 years ago and did not remarry, although she did date off and on. This is the happiest I've seen her in a relationship in - no exaggeration - all my life.

My mom, however, is very good at being single. She has grown to love her own space and her independence, and I think that's an important trait to develop. She tends to maintain those boundaries when she is seeing someone, and if that person can't adjust, then she stops seeing them. It seems to me like the guy she is with now is the first one who is comfortable with that, which makes for a healthier dynamic.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 12:50 PM on July 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm 42 and getting married (for the first time) this fall. She's 36. We both had basically given up and figured we'd be alone for the rest of our lives. Not in a defeated kind of way either, but more like, well, let me learn to be comfortable and content, so that I'll always have that no matter what happens in the future. Then, five years ago, we unexpectedly met online, talked for hours, and then talked nearly every day for the next three years. We have lived together for two years now and they've been the best years of my life.
posted by kindall at 12:53 PM on July 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm young, so do feel free to ignore me if you like.

My parents got divorced in their mid 40s. My mom spent a few years being totally miserable, but she's found someone now and they are deliriously happy. She's doing stuff that I never would have imagined her doing before (flyfishing! horse camping! raising chickens!), and it's clear that she really believes in herself now, which she never did when married to my dad. It has been SO empowering for me as a young woman to see my mom choose her own happiness and build a life for herself from the ruins of what was a brutal marriage and even more brutal divorce. "If I had known how happy I could be," she told me a few weeks ago, "I never would have stayed with your dad as long as I did." Her happiness now really dulls the sting of all those difficult years.

I don't really speak to my dad, but for what it's worth, he got together with someone before the divorce and they're married and happy as far as I know.

Finally, a close friend of mine divorced in her late 40s. She's been in relationships since then, but you wouldn't believe all of the awesome stuff she's done on her own. She moved to a cabin in the mountains, travels when she wants to wherever she wants, and basically has an awesome life. She taught me that you don't have to be in a relationship with someone to be happy and satisfied, and she often reminds me to love myself instead of looking to others to fulfill me.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 1:12 PM on July 1, 2011 [8 favorites]

I have been in that dark place myself. Keep faith that it will pass.

Here's my answer to a previous similar question.

Update from that answer: I have been married to that wonderful woman for 3 months now. I just turned 50 this week and I am happier than I ever imagined was possible.
posted by The Deej at 2:29 PM on July 1, 2011

Put simply: divorced after a marriage of over 20 years. Re-married 5 years later, when I was over 50. Have now been married 28 years and every day is Great.
posted by Postroad at 2:53 PM on July 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Relationships come, relationships go and age has little to do with it all. I'm in my mid 40's and have had some really great relationships these past few years (and some incredibly horrible ones). I'll probably not marry again, and i'm okay with that. I'm having fun (mostly) exploring the possibilities.

My mother - 19 years older than me - married about a year and a half ago to someone she met only playing Scrabble. She'd been divorced from my abusive step father for about ten years.

My grandmother - 17 years older than my mother -- married in the same year to a man she met in her home town. As far as I know, they're both very happy. She had been widowed from her husband of 30-some-odd years for about 5 years.
posted by patheral at 2:54 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've been single almost 20 years, almost all of "middle age." And it still keeps getting better. It started getting seriously better when I stopped looking or waiting for another "relationship." Relationships can be great, sure, but they can also be all kinds of misery, and everything in between. I think it's awfully hard to be happy with a relationship unless you know your own self well enough to be happy without one. Even if none of the visible circumstances of your life are changing, things get better: every day you learn to know yourself a little better, and have the opportunity to find and explore a slightly bigger patch of peacefulness. Every day you have a chance to learn a little more how to be happy in your life, no matter what your external circumstances.
posted by Corvid at 3:56 PM on July 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

I've told this story here before. I got married for the first time at 44. He is not at all the type of guy I thought I'd end up with. We were colleagues, then friends, and then I started lusting after him. But that didn't happen for awhile. He's quiet, and it took time to get to know him.

I'd given up more or less on dating by then. I'd been really busy with a big career and I figured that my chance for marriage and a family had passed. But I was wrong.

This happened because I slowly came to realize that most people are really doing the best they can. I started looking for the good in people, instead of allowing myself to be annoyed by the less important stuff. Instead of "looking for love" and waiting for someone that I felt that initial attraction for, I fell hard for someone because he's decent, honest, kind, funny, smart and creative. We didn't have that chemistry thing at all at the beginning. But we sure do now.

We also have a beautiful 5 year old boy, conceived the old fashioned way. Anything can happen.
posted by Kangaroo at 4:24 PM on July 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

The only thing age has to do with it is it makes everything better. You are smarter, wiser, respect yourself more, and absolutely free to create yourself however you please. When I turned 40, I felt like someone gave me the E ticket (all ride pass back in the day at disneyland).

I also became more tolerant of other people's imperfections and they of mine (not the red flag imperfections, mind you) and everything just got easier. You can be, just be, without the drama.

So yes, it absolutely gets better. In fact it gets the best!

(also, if you want to get empowered and happy about men in general at this age, I would recommend Alison Armstrong's Celebrating Men seminar. It's a fun, happy way to get into a positive headspace about men again.)
posted by Vaike at 4:35 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm almost 50. I date. I have fun. Thanks to online dating and social opportunities (volunteering, meet-ups) the "man shortage" is largely a myth unless you are super-picky.

A dear friend recently acquired a (very cool) stepmom - a lady who is in her late 50's. This is stepmom's first marriage. Friend's dad is handsome and successful. His grown kids like her a lot.

Anecdotally, I remember reading about a lady who lived to be 105 or some such great age. She married for the first time in her 60's. They spent their entire married life traveling and golfing until he died in his 80's.

It can be harder to meet people simply because it's harder to meet anyone when you're all older and have busy lives. But the naysayers who complain about man-droughts are usually complain-y Debbie Downers in general. Ignore them and live your life. Consider that most women live to be in their 80's these days - you have a whole half a lifetime waiting for you. Go and have fun!
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 5:54 PM on July 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

Well, shoot, my grandmother hooked up with my great uncle when they were in their late 60s, after their respective spouses died within a few years of each other. Both grandma and my uncle had dealt with some pretty major difficulties in their marriages, so to find someone's company that was simply fun, uncomplicated (and non-threatening) was pretty sweet for both of them, even if it was late in the game.
posted by medeine at 5:58 PM on July 1, 2011

Look at the divorce rates for women who marry for the first time age 35-39: 5.1%

If you go to the cite page, you'll see it roughly drops by 50 percent every 5 years after age 25. You should THANK GOD you didn't marry some jackhole in your 20s.

My father swore off marriage after my mother and he divorced. But at 41, he married my stepmother and I acquired two amazing stepsisters. In a few months, they're celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary. He's so much happier now than he ever was young, in a painful relationship with my mother.

I am 39 and married in November, so I'm on the cusp too. And I've never been in a "normal" relationship before, and I was honestly totally not expecting to meet or date my husband when it happened. We knew we'd get married after a year of dating and I've never been happier.

Also, my maternal grandmother outlived TWO husbands and didn't meet and marry the second husband until after age 55, and jeez, that was in the 1980s. They didn't even have online dating then... so cheer up, buttercup! The best is yet to come.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 6:01 PM on July 1, 2011 [6 favorites]

Granted, it was at 30+, but I have never felt better, or like I had more horizon within my grasp, than when I was single and not looking. By simply accepting that no one was going to be doing stuff with me, I was infinitely more open to the possibilities. And honestly, I was also more able to pursue the personal interests I chose to cultivate because there was no second person to veto, drag their feet, or otherwise shoot down the excitement of trying something out of the rut. Go follow those long forgotten dreams! Take ice skating with the toddlers, join a square dancing club, fill your weekend with excursion-tours, turn that old room into a painting studio...replace that vacancy in your heart with something totally & unabashedly you. This time alone is a gift, and if you use it as such you will miss it when it's gone.
posted by Ys at 7:17 PM on July 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have a cat. Granted, it's not s sexual relationship, and her conversational skills are rudimentary, but we have fun.
posted by orthogonality at 7:54 PM on July 1, 2011 [6 favorites]

I met my boyfriend via when I was 34 and he was 42. Neither of us was looking for a serious relationship at the time. We've now been together for three years and have lived together for two.
posted by SisterHavana at 9:50 PM on July 1, 2011

My dad met his sweetie when I was in high school. They started dating when I was a freshman in college. They've been together almost twenty years now. She is the best thing that ever happened to him.
posted by bananafish at 9:57 PM on July 1, 2011

I ended my nine-year marriage and really began to blossom. Lost 50 pounds, bought my own house and made it cozy, deepened my existing friendships, honed my avocation/hobby/passion. Unfortunately that made me suddenly attractive to a longtime friend, and I spent my 40th birthday entering into a brief and extremely ill-advised affair filled with wretched amounts of drama.

But! Not long after that, I met the most wonderful man online. I've won the man lottery, I'm telling you. He's my best friend, and I also lust after him. We got married in December. Tomorrow we fly to Venice on our belated honeymoon. I'll be 42 in a few weeks. And he's the sexiest, never-married, no kids, ex punk rock guitarist/philosophy nerd who ever reached the age of 44.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 12:32 AM on July 2, 2011 [5 favorites]

...and yes, I am posting in the middle of the night because I'm too excited to sleep.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 12:38 AM on July 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

There's some very interesting discussion in this old AskMeFi thread about online dating, as well. Too many people (especially women, it seems) who say they "can't find anyone" put far too much emphasis on finding someone who is just like them and shares all their interests.

Realistically, you're unlikely to be two peas in a pod with someone. If he likes motorcycles and you like yoga, that's perfectly OK (and more normal than a huge overlap of shared interests).

The upside about dating after 40 is that most people have outgrown the BS that plagues twentysomething dating. Sure, there are immature people out there but the proportion of mnd-gaming yoinked from the latest self-help book/Judd Apatow movie goes way down after a certain age.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:55 AM on July 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh yes! You are no longer with Mr. "In It To Win It?" That is great!

My tale is that my parents divorced and at age 60 have found new partners who seem better suited to them.
posted by salvia at 8:22 AM on July 2, 2011

It took me until age 40 to seek therapy, and begin solving some of my biggest problems... including why I only fell in love with women who were abusive a/o manipulative.

Therefore, I have barely dated nice women before age 40.

Therefore, whenever I cry about how old I am (47), and still single, I have to reflect, "Of course, I've only been dating marriageable people for 7 years...", and 5 of the 6 girlfriends I've dated in those years been pretty nice people, if not necessarily right for me.

So, yeah: it's getting BETTER!
posted by IAmBroom at 5:26 PM on July 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm 43 in 2 weeks. Since I've turned 40 I've started the best romantic relationship of my life with my best friend. Married him and moved to another country to start a new life, which I love (well aside from missing family back home). If you'd asked me at 39 where I saw my life going, I would have told you I was going to spend the rest of my life along, happy being an Aunt and doing my volunteer work, living the rest of my life out in a small country town. Then BAM, true love, happy ending (well so far anyway) and the realization that the best thing in my life had been right in front of my nose all along.
posted by wwax at 8:38 PM on July 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Two dear friends. Both women recently married for the first time; one at 40, the other at 50.
posted by Prairie at 6:06 AM on July 4, 2011

I'm not 40, but I'm 38. I've never been married, and for the most part never really wanted to. Now I am in a relationship (a little over a year) and it's the greatest thing ever. I am so so so glad I was in a place to be in a relationship - comfortable being single though definitely midway between jaded and cynical about relationships - when I started dating my SO. We fucking crack each other up and I think he's so cute I just stare at him sometimes. I love hanging out with him. He's 47, btw, so yes, it is possible. Likely, even.
posted by 8dot3 at 6:41 AM on July 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

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