Reflections on Intimate Relationships at Midlife
Okay this really scares me. Long lists of qualities for finding a prospective partner at this time in midlife! It left me wondering if I’m on the wrong track.
To be honest, I’m not so sure it’s what you want in a man that’s important, unless he is fully able to reflect the person that you are. Because when you look into his eyes a few years down the track, you need to see someone you love and admire. And if you’re one of the few that does, then that someone is the closest thing to a reflection of you that you are going to find.
So I’m wondering, what about you write a list of your qualities. And if you like that list, then you’ll have a chance of developing that loving, connected relationship.
Forever we have believed that we need to find someone that has a list of qualities that, at the end of the day, we will feel safe and nurtured with. It's easy to look outside of ourselves and see someone treating us poorly and think it's all about what's up with them. I've been doing this for decades. Unfortunately that never helped me one little bit.
My reaction was to run. I've done a lot of running in my life. I've run away from my family home, I've run away from every family home I've created actually. After 2 marriages and 2 other relatively long-term relationships I figured it was time to take a closer look at why my life kept showing up as one train wreck after another.
Eventually when the same behaviours showed up in my own offspring, and trust me, I wanted to run again, I realised that the common variable was me. It was a hard look at myself that enabled me to discover how much of what I was experiencing was actually a part of me. It wasn't that I was scared to look, or that I didn't want to look, I simply didn't know how.
With support and guidance of a truly amazing therapist, I was able to explore deeply into my inner world by observing how things are for me in every common day, the here and now moments that define my life.
It's not literal, always. For example, I looked at my own child for 20 years and wondered who he was and where he came from. I simply didn't recognise his traits and behaviours, and there were many lovely qualities, and some worrying as well. Eventually I realised and could clearly see that he was reflecting everything that I had covered up, buried deep inside me, and learned to cope with, with my creative way of adjusting my life to bury my pain. That realisation was the most liberating time of my life.
The person you next fall in love with is going to be a person that reflects who you are, no matter what. They may reflect obvious character features, or they may reflect those character traits and coping patterns that you’ve forgotten about because you’ve become an expert at hiding them.
If you can’t see that right away, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to you, trust me, it will as you get to know yourself more deeply. And it is in relationships that we have the perfect opportunity to do that. Are you ready for the ride of your life?
I know this. Experience… personal and professional.
Why I'm single in midlife
I’ve been single by choice for 20 years now, with that burning landscape of relationship train wrecks behind me.
Since my last committed relationship then, I have learned quite a lot about love. Don’t worry, I made sure that no innocent people were hurt during this experiment.
12 things I learned about love
I learned that I could only give love if I felt loved. And I realized that I actually didn’t know what that felt like.
What made me feel love quite surprised me. Fascinating fact: when I took care of myself, nurtured myself and made sure that I met my own needs I felt loved. No one else needed to be involved!
It took me a while to recall the small things that made me feel good and do them regularly. Like 3 weeks to write a list of 6 things! And when I started doing those small things every single day, I realized just how much time I had wasted waiting for someone else to offer me things and experiences that would make me feel loved! Slow learner I guess.
I would buy myself those flowers, take myself out for a meal, buy a lovely bottle of wine for dinner, and even treat myself to those heart-shaped chocolate. Suddenly I felt loved. I actually felt like a worthy human being. I didn’t feel as though I was missing out on Valentine’s Day or any other day for that matter. It was very liberating, I must confess! One night I even phoned a bar and told them I was taking myself out on date night alone, and would they look after me in case I felt nervous and stupid…because Saturday night, and I wanted to hear some music and have some fun and I didn’t have a date! They were awesome. Best night ever! I put that on repeat!
When my cup was full, then I had something to give. I learned that when I was feeling empty, unloved and unappreciated, then there was no energy, nor love to give. And I didn’t have to have a partner to test that out on. I could see the results of that right here at home with my family.
In that time I learned how to love myself in a way that showed others how to love me right back. I learned about boundaries, and how to define what’s important to me, and what constitutes a deal breaker.
I discovered the subtle ways that I had learned to keep myself safe, and in the process keep others from coming too close. That explained why they kept running away!
Then I saw that I was defensive and reactive, and I learned how I misinterpreted things by thinking they are a criticism or a judgment when in fact that judgment was coming from within. I could see that those judgments were not about self-love, and I could change them and feel more nurtured.
I learned about how I had adopted a family pattern of defensive behaviours, and how that stopped me from connecting. Defensiveness makes other people feel afraid and/or defensive right back. Yep, there were fireworks all ‘round.
I even learned about ways to connect that I hadn’t ever experienced before. Connection, as it happens, makes people feel safe.
I learned how to keep my centre in conflict, how to reassure my wounded inner being in that heated moment, so that I could step up as an adult and not act out of that wounded place.
I learned to release old stories that were keeping that little being from maturing into an emotionally intelligent adult. Whilst she was still feeling the hurts of her early years, she was still holding onto the loss of trust in love, especially when it came to big scary adults.
Here's what I really learned. The key to achieving harmonious relationships whether they are partners or others, is my own inner harmony.
After 20 years of dedicated self-love and consistent inner work, I can honestly say that I feel more loved, and more worthy than in the 40 years prior. I don’t have nor need “a better half” nor “the other half” to complete me.
That doesn’t mean of course that I would turn away companionship if it came my way. Who knows? I’ll check in again next Valentine’s Day.
In the meantime, chocolates and coffee are my treat today and they are waiting for me!
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