How does one "date" at 42?
July 25, 2013 12:35 PM   Subscribe

When do you know you're compatible emotionally, intellectually, and sexually? After a post-divorce period of saying "yes" to anyone who asked me out and then saying "yes" again to anyone who was interested in sex, I took a year off. I drank up the solitude, decided what I wanted in a companion, and started dating again recently. The thing is, I may have swung to the opposite end of the fucking readiness spectrum. I feel quite protective of my body and of my heart. I read in a mainstream woman's magazine that it generally takes 3 months before you (both) know if you're a good match for one another. What do you think? (Thank you!)
posted by bakedbeets to Human Relations (17 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
If they show signs of being abusive, disrespecting you, or other red flags before 3 months has passed you don't need to keep the experiment going.
posted by yohko at 12:48 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is absolutely not something that you can do based on averages or general recommendations. You have to feel your way through it. Do what feels right. Don't do something you're not comfortable with. Expect to make mistakes, but don't blame anyone else for them (not that I'm saying you would do this, but for example, just because you regret having sex with someone doesn't mean he manipulated you or is a predator, as much as some magazines would like you to think so).

You are perfect because you are not. What you might see as flaws are what make you unique and wonderful and interesting. Perfect people are all alike. So make mistakes. Flounder. The fun of dating is finding out about the other person and teaching them about you. The point of dating is to see whether or not the two are compatible. So whenever you are tempted to do the done thing or act on the received wisdom, check with yourself and see if it's right for you.

Example: I have had only negative experiences with waiting and becoming friends with someone before having sex with them. The sexual tension of waiting, for me, overrides my ability to determine whether the man is really who I'm looking for. Also, if I'm friends with someone and then I have sex with him and the sex is irredeemably awful (and ugh that is unfortunately the case at times), it is SO much more awkward to jettison the relationship at that point. Much better for me to have sex sooner rather than later. If it's great, yay, I can continue to explore the relationship option. If it sucks, then I can laugh it off, cut off the sex, and continue in friend mode if I want (and if he wants). My boyfriend and I met when I was 48 and he was 54 and happily, he and I feel exactly the same way about this. We've now been together for 5 years. It's been great.

But again, this is the world's best example of YMMV. It's a fact-finding mission out there, one that takes place on a roller coaster while surfing. Cowabunga!
posted by janey47 at 12:50 PM on July 25, 2013 [11 favorites]

You need to trust yourself. You know when you know.

I knew right away that Husbunny was right for me. We dated for a year before getting married.

You also know right away if it just isn't going to work. Trust your gut, know when your brain is just being stupid, enjoy it, but know it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:57 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I read in a mainstream woman's magazine that it generally takes 3 months before you (both) know if you're a good match for one another. What do you think?

I think if its written in a 'mainstream woman's magazine' (I'm assuming something along the lines of Cosmopolitan), its probably written there to sell copies and doesn't really impart any kind of useful knowledge for the human experience (cf. Maxim and FHM advice).

Just do what feels comfortable. Good Luck, dude.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:05 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I read in a mainstream woman's magazine

Yeah you can probably discard anything that comes after these words. Those magazines exis solely to make you insecure so that you continue to buy the magazine, and the products it advertises. They don't really contain anything useful apart from the occasional "huh, that's a nice lipstick."

It takes as long as it takes. Some people know in minutes, some people know in days, some people take years. (I personally am in the middle, it takes me about 7 or 8 months at a minimum to suss out how I feel about someone. It can sometimes take me that long to decide whether I want to even kiss someone.)

Being protective of your heart and body works for you right now. Roll with that until it doesn't work for you anymore; that's all you can do.
posted by like_a_friend at 1:05 PM on July 25, 2013 [7 favorites]

I don't know if 42 matters all that much. I recently ended up unexpectedly in a dating position as a 32-year-old father, and the places I'll meet people aren't the same as when I was 24, but the process of starting a relationship is similar. If anything, it's easier, as I'm much more experienced now with what can and will happen in a relationship. Sex is sex. Have it if you want, abstain if you prefer that. Anyone who's seriously interested in you as a partner can handle that for a reasonable amount of time.

I've been dating someone I met basically by accident for the last two months. Things are going great so far. I wouldn't have expected that to happen, really. I thought I'd want more time, but things don't always go how you envision.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 1:12 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Don't over think it and just have fun. If there's red flags, leave. If they're fun but they're not grabbing your heart, then be honest about it. Don't seriously commit if they're not grabbing your heart but otherwise have fun. Like the bunny said, you'll know when you know.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:37 PM on July 25, 2013

I knew in six weeks (probably less, in fact) that Dr. Tully Monster was my future. I was 19 at the time and had never had a long-term relationship before. But I knew, and I know now that I was not mistaken. It's hard to describe. There's this sense of familiarity, as if you've known someone all your life, and that you just can't live without them, and that they're part of you. When you lean in close to them, their arm around you just feels natural, as does the touch of their skin and their scent--something familiar and comforting, no matter how different they may be from you in other ways. And you find you have extraordinary amounts in common, even if you come from different backgrounds or work in different fields. God, it really is hard to describe.

Some people might chalk that feeling up to infatuation, but it's kind of like the difference between eating a candy bar and eating a good steak--the candy bar leaves you with a sugar rush that fades quickly, but the steak (the eating of which can be just as euphoric an experience) provides nourishment for the long term and is something you remember for far longer. That's not a great analogy, but it's the best I can come up with.

That said, I think three months is probably a sensible duration for a "reality check" -- you might know this is the guy you want to marry or be with long-term, but it doesn't hurt to give it a little time to confirm that this is true. In fact, Dr. TM proposed to me formally (sort of) about three months after we started going out--we were in college at the time, so we put off marriage for another two and a half years, but that was more for economic and situational reasons (we wanted to finish school, and then he wanted to adjust to grad school before adding me into the mix, which was probably a smart idea in retrospect). We've been married for almost 22 years now and expect to grow old together.

This can come at any age. My brother, who just got married at the end of June at the age of 34, has described the same kind of experience to me, and there is no doubt in my mind after observing them together on numerous occasions that he and his new bride fit together beautifully and will be together for a long, long time.
posted by tully_monster at 1:37 PM on July 25, 2013 [5 favorites]

I think it's great that you're giving yourself a chance to think and to really evaluate people, not as bed partners, but as life partners, before your relationship becomes more serious and more intimate. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Take 6 months if you want. Take a year. If you're dating someone and they get fed up with waiting for sex, they'll let you know, and then you can talk about it in the context of them and your specific relationship. If they're an asshole about it, count yourself lucky they showed that to you before you got more serious with them.

When you say "Drank in the solitude," that shows that you have developed a good relationship with yourself. You know that a relationship is not a necessity for happiness, and I bet you're reluctant to compromise significant things in your life and your self, just for companionship. And you really don't have to do that. Take your time, do what seems right. There's no great hurry to make decisions. There is no hard and fast rule about this.
posted by Miko at 1:39 PM on July 25, 2013

I think you need to have some idea of what you want and need in a relationship. After a failed marriage, you may not really know what works for you. My first relationship during my divorce was with someone very opposite my spouse in some ways. It was initially nice to get a lot of the emotional stuff I had not gotten in my marriage but it quickly became overkill. I thereafter avoided men who were too much like that particular guy and found some sort of middle ground between "opposite my ex" and "just like my ex."

My point: Bouncing from one extreme to the other can be part of the process of figuring out what does work for you.

FWIW: I am 48 and divorced. I do not "date." I have a specific definition in my mind of "dating" and it is something I swore off in my teens (which boils down to men trying to buy their way into my bed via paying for dinner, etc). I have had post-divorce relationships. I have not resumed dating. I don't expect to. I am currently in a new relationship, no dating required.
posted by Michele in California at 1:47 PM on July 25, 2013

One thought worth adding to the good advice already here: maybe you can have different levels of sexual intimacy with people without going whatever feels like "all the way" to you. For me, having some kind of sexual relations is part of how I figure out if the person is right for me (besides those who are automatic weed-outs). So I would need some kind of making out/messing around within a month or so I guess to have a sense if I should continue. But that wouldn't necessarily mean any specific sexual act.
posted by latkes at 1:49 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

As much as mainstream women's magazines generally suck, I received this exact advice from my father years ago, and it's really been true for me. Looking back on past relationships, the 3 month mark (or earlier) was when I usually realized that there was something not great about the relationship. Even when I tried to stick with the relationship due to fear of being alone, they all failed, and I generally saw it coming after around 3 months.

I think the 3 month mark is relevant for relationships on an average sort of time-line... college or post-college, you see each other pretty frequently during the week (it would be different for long distance). I think the 3 month mark is where people start to let down their guards and best behavior and begin to show you who they really are (for better or worse).

The other piece of advice from my dad was: the person whose quirks and annoying behaviors bother you the least, and who you still really like on their worst days, that's probably the person worth sticking around with. The point is that in a long-term relationship, you'll start to get accustomed to the *best* parts, so it's important to make sure that the *worst* parts are not too terribly annoying (because all people have their bad days and annoying quirks). He's been married for ~30 years, so it worked out for him.
posted by permiechickie at 3:53 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

The thing is, I may have swung to the opposite end of the fucking readiness spectrum.

(Divorced at 34 remarried at 42.)

This is one of the few advantages of post 40 dating. Seriously. It is the only real "dating" - as in getting to know someone over dinner, drinks, movies - that I ever experienced. You don't date when all you want to do is get laid.

Enjoy it.
posted by three blind mice at 4:16 PM on July 25, 2013

I am not a dating person. I am protective of my body and heart and also of my time and energy. I don't tend to feel turned on by people, no matter how objectively good-looking, until there's an emotional connection already. I have never understood how it's possible to have a coffee and a couple dinners with some stranger and end up at a point where you are ready to sleep with them. I'm not saying that's evil; I just don't work that way myself.

Instead, all my relationships have come out of friendships. By the time Mr Shattersock and I kissed, we'd known each other for something like four years already and been good friends for about one and a half. Our sex life was exciting, fun to explore, free of artificial waiting periods, but also founded in strong trust and intimacy.

I guess I have two points. One, people vary a great deal on the how-long-to-wait question and the average mefite's or women's magazine answer is not nearly as important as your own personal answer. Trust yourself. Two, you do not have to do the standard dating routine in order to find someone. It's also valid to concentrate on living a life that brings you a steady stream of new friends, and see what happens from there. Also then also you have all these awesome friends, which is good too.
posted by shattersock at 2:31 AM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

I had been married for 4.5 years and then dated someone else for a year. Both were emotionally exhausting, so I was NOT planning on getting together with someone. But when I sat down next to my now-husband, something told me I needed to know more about him.

He said, "Yeah, I've been in therapy after my divorce..." and I thought, "Self-awareness! LET'S DATE!"

On the phone, two weeks later, I thought we wouldn't have much to talk about. We talked for eight hours, literally until the sun came up.

Screw expectations. You can be careful and tentative and still fall head over heels... if you let yourself feel it.
posted by Madamina at 5:40 AM on July 26, 2013

Care for your heart. So I'm a man if that makes a difference. Divorced after 14 years. I had a lot of sex for a while and it was nice! Then it really wasn't! After which I dated on okcupid for 9 months. 14 first dates and I refused all the second dates with an ever-increasing sense of dread and so i stopped dating and went into analysis. Which has been great! Absolutely the best decision I've ever made. Figured out a lot of things, did a lot of Work. I decided to sit my ass on a cushion for 20 in the morning and meditate. Forgave myself for a lot of things that were not my fault and some that were. I took a a year and a half off from dating as I found myself with a tender heart. I signed up for a fiction class and threw myself into it. Writing is amazing.

Then I found someone in my writing class. Also with a tender heart, also confused by dating and sex. Also doing her Work. We're in love and I've never felt so close to another person. She cares so much for me and I for her. Sex is sacramental. Hot. Real.
posted by n9 at 4:15 PM on July 26, 2013 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: My thanks to everyone who responded. AskMeFi is such a powerful resource and I truly appreciated your comments. As I’m bumbling through the dating process, it helps immensely to read your opinions, experiences and encouragement. So grateful to this community of great folks – and superb writers, too! (Thanks, latkes, for introducing me to MetaFilter.)
posted by bakedbeets at 10:59 PM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

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