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Oct 25

It’s not you, it’s me — except when it’s you

Posted on Tuesday, October 25, 2011 in Aging, dating, Divorce, Happiness, Honesty, Kat, Relationships, Self image, Singles

The phone rang ridiculously early on a Saturday morning. It was Sara. I looked over at Sean — snoring happily and oblivious to the drama that was most likely about to unfold — so I answered.

“Did you see that article in the Times?”

“What article?”

“The ‘Modern Love‘ article. She sounds like us.”

“I’ll get back to you,” I said as I hung up the phone and curled back up against Sean, who let out a muffled “Humph.”   

True to my word, I did read the article later that day. And although the author, Sara Eckel, is younger than Sara and me by a few, cough, decades, I totally get what she’s saying:

Being an unattached woman who would rather not be somehow meant you were a nitwit, a bubblehead who had few concerns beyond shopping, pedicures and “Will he call?” My friends and I had no interest in shopping or pedicures, but that didn’t stop us from feeling wildly embarrassed that we longed for love. … Like single women everywhere, I had bought into the idea that the problem must be me, that there was some essential flaw — arrogance, low self-esteem, fear of commitment — that needed to be fixed. I needed to be fixed.

Somehow, if you are a woman admitting that you’d rather not be single — whether you’ve never married or whether you are divorced and looking for love again — people assume there must be something wrong with you if you either make that a priority or if you can’t find someone.

As midlife divorcees, the stereotypes about Sara and me are a little different than those about Eckel and her generation (30-somethings), but they are no less maddening.

Divorcees (of any age) are bitter women who battle their exes and use their children as pawns and their child support payments to become plastic Barbies to keep their fading beauty from fading too quickly, and who got divorced because they knew they’d walk away with the house, the kids and a big, fat alimony check.  Or something like that. It isn’t true for many of us — certainly not Sara and me — but that doesn’t make things better. Perception is reality for too many people.

I hate the perceptions about divorced people — we’re failures, flawed, selfish, and self-absorbed people who don’t understand what commitment and “for better or worse” means, and put our own needs (aka happiness) before our children’s need, blah, blah, blah.

Those perceptions sting.

Like Eckel, we are wrestling with the belief that there’s something inherently wrong with us — we couldn’t make a marriage work, after all. How hard is that?!?! OK, granted — there are some divorced people who are bitter, who are oblivious to what commitment means, who have selfishly put their needs before their kids’. But, please don’t paint all of us with that broad paintbrush.

As for wanting love again at midlife, well, there’s the rub: Most of us assume we won’t find someone because of our wrinkles, sags and “issues.” And, yes — it is a little harder to find people at age 40 and beyond because the pool of eligible men is somewhat smaller and there’s a certain percentage of guys who want to skew younger. Fine — we’re not interested in those types! As Eckel says:

Did we find love because we grew up, got real and worked through our issues? No. We just found the right guys. We found men who love us even though we’re still cranky and neurotic, haven’t got our careers together, and sometimes talk too loudly, drink too much and swear at the television news. We have gray hairs and unfashionable clothes and bad attitudes. They love us, anyway.

Finding the “right guys” (or, in broader terms, the right person) is the take-home message.

Of course, nothing’s wrong with naming and addressing our issues head-on, and working through them as best we can. You can’t be available to fully embrace and love someone else if you can’t fully embrace and love yourself.

But, really, someone who loves us despite the crankiness, neuroses, gray hairs, bad clothes and other “endearing qualities” — isn’t that what we all want?

We just have to be prepared to do the same for someone else.

  • Ever feel that there was something wrong with you because you were seeking love?
  • Ever feel that something was wrong with you because you couldn’t find love?
  • Ever feel that something was wrong with you because you couldn’t hold on to love?
  • What stereotypes as a single or divorced person bother you the most?

 

Photo © Refocus Photography – Fotolia.com

Sep 20

When marriage meets Alzheimer’s

Posted on Tuesday, September 20, 2011 in Aging, Divorce, Happiness, Honesty, Kat, Marriage, Relationships

So last week, I was feeling kind of cynical about marriage, well, at least Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries’. OK, maybe marriage in general. But, maybe we’re going about marriage all wrong; maybe we can tweak marriage so that we’re happier in them so there won’t be as much divorce. Seems easy enough.

Like a lot of people, I was floored when uber-Christian Pat Robertson (he of the Christian Broadcasting network) announced that it’s OK to divorce a spouse with Alzheimer’s because the disease is “a kind of death.”

Robertson advised a man whose wife has Alzheimer’s:

“I know it sounds cruel, but if he’s going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again, but make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her.”

Really? Well so much for agreeing to stay together “for better or worse.” “in sickness and in health” and “till death do us part.” Why even vow to do that if we can ignore it when it’s convenient? But, of course, we do ignore our vows in ways just as surprising as what Robertson is proposing:

We cheat because our spouse has a life-threatening illness and we can’t deal.

We cheat because we’re in a sexless marriage.

We cheat because we can.

And, we cheat because we don’t even agree on what cheating is!

But, maybe we’re not allowing for what Robertson addresses; when the marital rules are changed by forces beyond what we can control. Yes, the “for better or worse” part; better or worse for whom? And does that have to be cheating?

Remember a few years ago when retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor announced that her now-deceased husband, John, who was living with Alzheimer’s, had found a new love at the nursing home where he lived? She was happy about it because he was happy; the essence of a good marriage. As we baby boomers age, a lot more of us will be facing something like that.

She was accepting of her husband’s choice — he had Alzeimer’s and therefore “didn’t know better,” and  many thought how sweet and kind that was of her. So, should we be so hard on someone who does “know better” even if his partner doesn’t know?

Isn’t loving someone “for better or worse” supporting each other’s happiness? What if your spouse didn’t have the mental capacity to decide what was “for better or worse”?

We promise to care for each other “for better or worse” and “in sickness and in health” and “till death do us part,” but not many of us mean it. That doesn’t mean the vows are flawed — we are.

Maybe we need to change those vows to something that we’ll actually follow — that we’ll love and care for each other as long our partner is an equal participant in the marriage.

Does having a spouse with Alzheimer’s or dementia — versus something like cancer or multiple sclerosis any other illness in which the mind is still willing but the body is not — change the marital vows?

  • Is Robertson wrong or right?
  • What about O’Connor?
Sep 6

Unemployed and looking for love

Posted on Tuesday, September 6, 2011 in Advice, dating, Divorce, hookups, Kat, Men, Relationships, Singles, Women

I was at a Labor Day barbecue, so of course it made sense to talk about work. But a lot of the conversation was about not working.

Two more friends have lost their jobs — Dan and Michael. I feel really bad for both of them, but I feel a lot worse for Dan. Michael is married, and his wife, Natalie, works; he’s OK for now (although this puts their marriage at a greater risk of divorce). Dan is single and although he’s smart, talented and an all-around great guy who can probably survive for a while on his savings, who wants to date an unemployed man?

No one. At least, that’s what he told me. 

“Dan, you don’t actually tell people you’re unemployed, do you?”

“Yeah, because I am — along with I don’t know how many millions of other people.”

“But, that’s shocking for people to hear, especially women you want to date; you need
to spin it.”

“Like what? That I’m on a sabbatical or I’m an independent consultant? Oh, please!”

“Can’t hurt.”

“It’s not exactly honest, either. Not the best way to start a relationship.”

He has a point.

I’m all for honesty, and if you’re jobless and don’t share that with a new love right from the start, it will be a big ugly mess explaining it later when it eventually gets discovered — and you just know it will! As it must.

That’s a much bigger problem for guys than women, not surprisingly. Unemployed women are still datable and guys are not —  if that isn’t proof about how far we haven’t come as a society, I don’t know what is.

I suppose Dan can give up dating for a while — all that extra time and energy (and cash!) can be spent looking for a new job, volunteering or learning new skills. But, if one part of your life is out of whack — like your health or your job or your love life — it really helps to have the other parts a little more stable. Knowing someone has your back and still finds you lovable makes losing a job somewhat less traumatic — for a while, anyway.

Of course, Dan can continue his dating routine, which is pretty much a lot of hookups and friends with benefits arrangements, like most people date nowadays anyway. As weird as it sounds, it actually seems to be the perfect way to have fun and connect with people given what’s going on; you don’t need to wine and dine anyone! Could it be that our casual sex dating rituals are a byproduct of the recession?

I don’t think our economy is getting back to normal any time soon — if you’re unemployed or underemployed and looking for love, what do you do?

Like this? You might like:

He’s jobless — do you date him?

Photo © Christopher Hall – Fotolia.com