Relationships at Midlife: The Dating Dead Zone

by Allison Allen, of WomenBloom

My life is pretty good in many ways these days. I’m healthy, holding up pretty well physically in most ways despite creeping middle age and Birthday 51 coming up at the end of the year, I have an active social life, and my professional life with WomenBloom is opening up in some intriguing and satisfying ways.

So, why am I having such a hard time shaking off some deep sadness these days about my love life? Or, lack thereof, I should say. I’m going to sound a little whiny here, just giving you fair warning, but I’m counting on some words of wisdom to help me make sense of this and find a way to deal with it.

It feels like the rules of the game have changed….no, it’s more fair to say it feels like someone changed the game and I didn’t get the memo. Truth is, I have never had a problem getting male attention, which is partly what makes my current situation so puzzling AND distressing. But, now I find that many men on Match.com who are my age are looking for women much younger. That is very frustrating. What is in it for a 37 year old attractive woman to pair up with a 52 year old guy who’s balding and a little paunchy? I don’t get it. A number of men in their 60s seem to be looking for me but I’m not looking for them (weird hang ups stemming from my already having been widowed once).

I’m in the Dead Zone. Is this is the ‘invisible at 50’ thing kicking in? If it is, it sucks.

Since being left on my own at 36, I have been single although I’ve had 3 long term relationships since then. The last one ended 3 years ago and was a hard landing. I really would have liked for that to work, but it was not to be. It took me a year and a half or so to feel healed enough to be ready to try again. So here I am out there once more, but I am having no luck, nada, zero, zip.

You know those people, the ones about whom you always say, “I can’t believe you’re still single.” I’m one of those people. And, I can’t believe it either. Of course, you don’t know that I like to eat chocolate chip cookie dough, that I tend to be a very aggressive driver, that I’m deathly afraid of losing my independence, I have a hard time being ‘comfortable’ and standing still metaphorically and existentially speaking, or that I’m kind of afraid of babies (they are so small, and cry unpredictably).

So, I have my issues, my idiosyncrasies…I don’t pretend I’m everyone’s cup of tea. But on the other hand, I cry at anything poignant and sad at the drop of a hat, I like to be silly every once in while, I’m very kind when people are in a tough spot, I am always willing to look at my shortcomings and do my best to work them out, and I am easy going and considerate to live with day in, day out.

My point being that I have issues, ohhhh yes, I have my issues, but they are balanced out by some good qualities. And, come on! I know people in relationships who have an awful lot of baggage in the form of one or more exes, children from one or more marriages, and financial issues. Those kinds of things do tend to add complications to the picture. Could that be the problem? My relative lack of extraneous complications?

So what gives? Occasionally, I get an interested party, maybe we even meet and we seem to have a great time. They go on about how good a time they had and say they would like to get together again, etc etc. They send a great email follow up going on and on about how good it was, and they’ll be calling, and then…nothing. I’m starting to get a complex. After all, I AM the common thread there. If they just aren’t that into me, why do they go to so much trouble, after the fact even, to make me think they are? That smacks of ‘flaky’ to me, am I wrong here? I’d much rather just have direct or, at the very least, non-committal, then my expectations would be in the right place.

I have a couple of good guy friends (unavailable, sigh) who thankfully tell me I’m ‘hot’ often enough that it keeps me from considering entering a nunnery. They are always trying unsuccessfully to think of who they could set me up with. They sadly say all the guys they know are flakes. Well, my data would certainly seem to support them in that view and that in itself is depressing. If I’m out there (whatever else I may be, I’m not flaky), isn’t it possible there must be a man like me, who falls within acceptable ranges of tolerance for weirdness, baggage, and the rest?

I don’t know the answer to it all, I just know I’m feeling down about it at the moment. The more so because several friends who have been single as long as I’ve known them, have now settled into relationships, a couple of them pretty good ones, yea! for them. It feels as if the music has stopped in the dating game of musical chairs and I’m the one left standing, looking around thinking ‘Wha’ happened?’ My head knows that now isn’t for always, but my heart feels like it’s been at this long enough, thank you.

Mr. Right, if you are out there, would you please identify yourself so we can award you your prize?

  • Lou Bethel

    It’s the same for men at midage, sweetheart………women at midlife have no souls anymore……..it’s all about the dollar…….

  • Lou Bethel

    For the record I don’t even know how I got to this page……

  • Lou Bethel

    Most women these days just seem angry. The most aggressive drivers I encounter on Atlanta roads are ALL women, it seems in my perception. I just let them pass…..no worries. I don’t want to be the angry black male.

  • Lou Bethel

    At this point, I just want to do my college work, play guitar, and lift weights. At a certain point, it seems MOST women are a liability, more than a plus. Because it’s all about what can you DO for them, and there is no US…..anymore. Maybe, it’s better to be alone. We all will die alone anyway. But, I am going to remain positive for myself.
    “Be your own goddamn best friend”
    -Modest Mouse

  • Lou Bethel

    As a 50 year old guy it’s the same thing for me. Women don’t see me, Too young, too old,
    in a relationship already, or just not interested.
    I use my righteous anger to lift more 50 lb weights in the gym out of spite….

  • Zinniaqueen63

    I say, quit looking! Let love find you. Take interest in yourself and your hobbies, try new things and forget about relationships. Be content alone and date yourself. Treat yourself to excellent dinners, movies and whatever else you want and stop worrying about having a man in your life. Reach out to your girlfriends and learn to love your own company. Love will find you if you lose the scent of desperation.

  • Deborah T Wolff

    Hi Karen:

    To tell you the truth, I am in my mid 50′s and I think all the good ones have been taken long ago. I think it is too late in life to meet anybody at this point and that is why I gave up a very very long time ago. I may sound negative, but I am happily single, attractive and successful. Sometimes i think you are better off without the heartaches and dissapointments at this stage of your life.

  • Pingback: MidLifeBloggers » Dating At MidLife

  • http://midlifesatrip.com Karen at Midlife’s A Trip

    Allison–

    I’m writing to you from the middle of the dating dead zone. Thought I was the only one there. Thanks so much for raising this issue with candor and your great sense of humor, although I know you don’t feel much like laughing. Like you, I’m finding it difficult to meet men who fit my basic criteria — kind, honest, reasonably smart, emotionally available, emotionally available — oh did I already say that? Where do others meet men with these qualities? Are they a dying breed or is this a fact of midlife?

    Karen

    • http://www.womenbloom.com/blog Allison

      Karen,

      Clearly there are a LOT of us out there. Sad to say but true. I think Duchess’s thoughts on it all made a TON of sense. Call me delusional but I have to think there are a few good ones out there.

      At least we have each other! While I want a special guy, I am always so grateful for the women in my life. Sometimes I feel sorry for guys that they don’t have the same kind of support in general as we do.

      OK, Universe. Come through for us great single women…help us find those great single guys!

  • http://www.duchessomnium.com Duchess

    Coming to this a little late and still in jet-lagged fog so forgive me if I don’t make much sense.

    Allison, I watched what you said about internet dating on the midlife minute over at WomenBloom.com (great site). I couldn’t believe you were so lovely, still single, and wanted a guy. I thought they would be falling all over you. It ought to have depressed me, I guess, but in a way it gave me hope. Everyone struggles, even smart, beautiful women like you, and there’s a lot of luck involved.

    There are so many single women around 50 looking for a guy, but not a lot of single men — the reason is, I think, that guys usually have someone in place before they jump, and if they are pushed they get someone fast, as soon as they see what’s coming. The ones who have never been married probably have something the matter with them. At our age good guys just don’t stay single more than about 5 minutes, because 50 year old men (except the not the marrying kind) don’t function very well on their own. They are used to the things women give them. They fill the gap quickly and, frankly, I don’t think they are all that fussy.

    We are.

    I can’t agree with Liz, though. I’m 54 and I have NO intention of giving up sex any time soon (and no, I am not taking hormones, though I might if it seemed like I was losing too much of what made me me by not taking them). I don’t at ALL think it is a matter of weaning — as if you are growing up by giving up sex — or a matter of being further down the road as if it were progress.

    I want a companion other than my dog (he can’t hold his liquor). I want someone active (hiking, biking, walking, I’m not fussed, as the Brits say). I’ll understand if he prefers Cohen Bros to romantic comedies, but yes, I want a lover too.

    And no, I haven’t done very well on the internet either.

    Now… back to unpacking my suitcase. Right after I jump start my very dead car. Or maybe a glass of wine, bath, and worry about it tomorrow instead.

    • http://www.womenbloom.com/blog Allison

      Duchess,

      Wow, what you say really resonates. I have observed that in comparing men and women who are widowed at least at a later time in life. The women rarely want to get into a relationship, a lot (not all) seem to almost enjoy being independent again even if they had a really good relationship with their husband. The men on the other hand, seem to fall over themselves to find a woman again. And, I often thought it was because they had no idea how to make life comfortable for themselves.

      I always thought those things about folks in their late 60s and up though. Never thought about it from that perspective for 50. I guess I assume there are still lots of guys like me and you, wanting to be active, hike, still having a lot of excitement about life etc.

      And, I agree on the sex thing. I’m not ready to give that up. Maybe it takes on a different character in our 50s, don’t know about you, but give me finesse over stamina these days :)

      Anyway, that was really helpful, still a bit depressing but at least it makes some sense.

  • http://www.owlinmaine.blogspot.com Sharon

    I am commenting as a woman who just celebrated her 31st wedding anniversary, so take what I say with a grain of salt. When my husband and I first dated/were married, we couldn’t talk to each other enough and we shared everything. Maybe it’s that we’ve been together a long time, or that we know each other so well that we talk in shorthand, but now that it’s mostly just the two of us again, we don’t talk about everything or do everything together. I wonder if relationships with men in their 50′s are different than with men in their 20′s and 30′s. That would make getting to know an older man more difficult if I expected the same passion and interest of 30 years ago. Maybe pick a man who has one or two attributes about him that you like and then hope to build a relationship over time. If you want a relationship, I would say “keep trying.” Allison, you have had 3 long-term relationships so there isn’t any reason to think it won’t happen again. Good luck.

    • http://www.womenbloom.com/blog Allison

      Sharon,

      Hmm, you bring up an interesting point. I have often thought that I need to revise my expectations. Not lower standards, but my head I think is still thinking as a 30 something would be thinking about how a relationship looks and how it unfolds. Clearly, my life just isn’t at that stage anymore, no matter how 30 something I FEEL :)

      I keep hoping but the whole thing is a puzzling and somehow not what I thought this time in my life would be.

      Allison

  • http://www.womenbloom.com/blog Allison

    Laura,

    Yep, I know what you mean. It’s funny, I’ve always been so independent and still am in many ways, but the thought of being alone as I get older is just so NOT what I want. I want be home in the evening with a partner and talking about how our days went. The ‘settling’ question is a whole other topic, what is settling and what is not?

    I find myself rethinking what is most important in a relationship. And, I think it’s different than it was even a few years ago. What with all the online dating, I think we’ve come to seeing it as putting in our order…if he doesn’t like romantic movies and hiking, off with his head and on to the next (and I’m saying this as much to myself as anyone). Ya know, are those the things that are fundamental to a good relationship? It sets expectations maybe in the wrong place?

    I think there is someone out there too, I’m likeing the public transportation bit…I think I’ll bump into him just going about my life, not online.

    Sending positive man vibes your way :)

  • http://www.womenbloom.com/blog Allison

    Laura, I agree with your sentiments on that, exACTly. As I mentioned, I have a very fulfilling life in many ways, but I don’t have children. I had a good marriage and that did set the bar high, I admit. It’s really just having someone to share with, to provide mutual support to and I feel I have a lot of love to give to someone. My dog benefits quite a bit from this :) but it’s hard to have a great conversation with Cooper over a glass of wine :)

    Ms Meta and Ellen, ya’ll are sweet and supportive, that is balm for my ache. It’s my impression too that there are some great women of a certain age out there. And that there aren’t many men you could say the same about. Why do you think that is? Why that gap?? That’s what I don’t get. Last time I checked the split between number of men and women it wasn’t THAT wide.

    • http://www.rebelliousthoughtsofawoman.com Laura

      Allison, I spend my day with 14-year-olds or talking about 14-year-olds. But you know, I find that I am venting sometimes to the wrong people–I need not to be telling people at work about some of the things I do (and generally those are work-related things). Maybe Craig’s List could add a category for “Venting Partner.” Regarding finding a man, I do believe that there are good men out there, but I just haven’t found mine. I vacillate between not putting myself up to disappointment and then hoping that this time will be different. I met the ex on a bus, so maybe I need to start taking public transportation.

  • http://www.girlsgardenofmenopause.com/ Ellen

    Allison, I admire you for staying positive and continuing to do everything you can to keep your life open to possibilities. I’ve often thought that if my marriage were to end, I simply would not pursue another relationship. The statistics are simply too daunting, the chances too slim. And yet. Every once in a while, I see an adorable salt-and-pepper couple featured in the Vows section of the NY Times…

    What breaks my heart on behalf of my single friends is that, in this day and age, being solo STILL makes women feel less-than, status-wise. It seems less about how society views unattached women–and more about how those women feel judged and/or pitied, deep in their bones, despite logic, despite having ample fulfillment elsewhere.

    Which is certainly not to say that all unattached women in our generation feel this way. It’s just that I wish NONE of them did

    • http://www.rebelliousthoughtsofawoman.com Laura

      Ellen,
      As one of those single women, I don’t think that I am lacking in fulfillment, afterall, I had a marriage and far too much fulfillment there, but it’s just feeling as though I wish I had someone with whom to go through this journey. For me, my children are getting older and don’t need me too much (except my money). The other day I hurt my ankle, and realizing that there was no one who would pamper me was tough to take. It made me feel alone–not that I am any less a strong woman, but that I would like to lean into someone when need be, and have someone lean into me when need be.

      • http://www.girlsgardenofmenopause.com/ Ellen

        You misunderstood me. I never said–I’d never say–that anyone was unfulfilled.

  • http://metafootnotes.wordpress.com msmeta

    My observation, for what it’s worth, is that there are a lot of lovely single women-of-a-certain-age out there (yourself included) and not very many good men. In fact, there are a lot of BAD men out there. Do not get discouraged, but also do not settle for anyone who doesn’t deserve you, Allison. You’re too good for that.

  • http://www.womenbloom.com/blog Allison

    Ah, Laura. I guess I’m not quite so far down that path as you are, but I must say appearances are not promising. I do think there must be a few good men out there who are available. It’s just the needle in the haystack thing. I read your interesting blog post about looking for love on Craig’s list and loved what you said about two people who are probably actually interesting but just don’t ‘click’ together as a pair for whatever reason.

    But, it does raise the question of at what point do you just live your life and let it happen if it’s going to rather than making yourself crazy with the online dating thing? On the other hand, if you believe you have to take action to manifest what you want, which I do, that would seem to say the opposite.

    I’d be interested in others’ experiences with that.

    Thanks Laura for your insight!

  • http://www.rebelliousthoughtsofawoman.com Laura

    At 47, I, too, am faced with men who, SORRY guys, are old and look old and who do not inspire me, even in pictures, to think that I might want to touch them. But I have decided that this is good. This lack of interest or click with any of my few online dates has led me to become pretty uninterested in a sexual relationship. This is what is called midlife weaning: you are ultimately weaned of your desire for a boy-girl relationship, and instead opt to volunteer or garden.

    Mr. Right? I think that he’s already taken or so disillusioned that he wouldn’t even recognize the potential in my asexual me if he stumbled upon me picking out a flowering bush.

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