It should be somewhat comforting to know that we all feel as if we’re in the same boat even though we think we’re the only one who really understands the confining nature of our canoe’s dimensions.

When we listen to the under-thirty crowd talk about dating, sex, and relationships, we hear some of the same complaints that those of us over fifty have about dating and relationships. Yet it’s harder to take their complaints as seriously as our own.

“They’re so young. They’ve got so many years ahead of them. Wait till they’ve had the experiences I’ve had.”

So when they complain about their town not being a good place for meeting someone; or their fear about approaching – oh, no — the ripe old age of thirty and desperately needing to meet their soul-mate before they “get old,” those of us who’ve been around the barn want to say, at the least, “puh-leeease.”

I’ve worked in a university town, and those now out of school who live and work there complain that it’s not a good place to meet someone if you’re not a student. Then, again, I live in a medium-sized city, and people of all ages voice the same complaint: “This town is just too small.”

When I worked on a hotline, the number one “hotline” question we received was: “How can I meet someone?” Or its variant: “Where can I meet someone?”

Then as the complaints mature for people in their late thirties and forties we hear: “All of the good ones are taken.” Or sometimes: “I think I’ve dated every eligible character in this town.”

And the complaints about how difficult it is to find a life partner sound the same, if one listens carefully, whether the seeker is straight or gay. It might be easy to hook up once in a while, but a long-term relationship, we hear, is hard to come by.

I suppose, then, it should be somewhat comforting to know that we all feel as if we’re in the same boat even though we think we’re the only one who really understands the confining nature of our canoe’s dimensions. We want to say to the younger crowd: “You don’t know how good you’ve got it at your young age.”

And we’re convinced that it’s easier to meet someone when you’re much younger. Agreed, there seem to be more uncommitted spirits available, but are there really that many more of the uncommitted we’d like to spend the rest of our life with if we knew then what we know now?

By the time we’ve reached a half-a-century or so, there ought to be some differences in our thinking about dating and relationships that make the quest for a life partner more challenging. One hopes that the well-known quip, “Too soon old and too late smart,” is humorous but not true.

With more experience should come, well, … more wisdom. Unfortunately, that’s not always true. Some of us don’t seem to learn a lot from past relationship triumphs and mistakes.

We’re so desperate to not be left alone that we make the same mistakes over and over again. We find ourselves just as unhappy but convinced that more of the same will bring that wedded-type of bliss.

It’s like that old definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. We’ve seen it or done it: fear of being alone causes many to ignore their own experience.

But with a half of a century behind us, we should know quite a bit better than those without that history of relationship experience what type of person makes a better life partner, what qualities we really want in a significant other, what mistakes a human being can make, and what’s important to us in a relationship.

My mom used to say to twenty-something me, “You don’t really know your own mind till you’re in your forties.” Of course, I disagreed then.

Yet, she was really onto something. By now we should also know better who we really are, how our own emotions work, where we’re going in life, what’s really important to us, as well as what we don’t want in our life.

We should be over relationship dramas. And we should have forgiven ourselves for our past mistakes.

All of that, we know, is healthy. We know that taking advantage of such experience is guaranteed to make the relationships we have better and more fulfilling.

But the price of such growth is that, in itself, a healthy wisdom does diminish the options out there. And what is actually a healthier outlook can work against us only if we let it.

Contributed by

Bob Minor

University of Kansas
Emeritus Professor of Religious Studies
A national resource for information on gender issues and gay/straight relationships for organizations, businesses, educational institutions, and media outlets such as NBC and USA Today, Bob Minor, Ph.D. …

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