Romantic Relationships in Midlife, Simplified

You see, you don’t need a Ph.D. in love. You just have to be a learner in how to love. That’s what openness is. You’re opening yourself up to new ideas and concepts and experiences. Instead of being an expert, you are keeping a beginner’s mindset.

Love is complex, especially as you age.

But I’m not talking about prom here, with corsages and rental tuxes, or going out to the bars with your friends trying to meet strangers in your twenties as you shouted into each other’s ears over the thumping beats. No.

I’m talking about midlife romance.

And, let’s be honest, it’s riddled with landmines. Married or not, it’s not easy to navigate love as you get older. Sometimes it almost feels like you need a Ph.D. in relationships before you can really do this successfully.

You might be single again or never married, and you’re trying to figure out online dating. And then you find someone interesting and you go out. Quickly, you discover that you’re not just dealing with the person you’re going out with; there are also their kids. And now you’re not just dating that person, you’re attempting to woo to their children, too.

And then there’s the fact that the longer you live, the more scars you accumulate and carry within you. Those breakups and hurtful words and rejections don’t just disappear. We carry them around still, even though no one can see them easily. Those invisible wounds are often the hardest ones to mend.

For me, I’m married, and we’ve, my wife and I, done our fair share of wounding each other. When we started, we were adversaries. We fought all of the time. We didn’t understand each other, and it was almost like we spoke different languages even though we both spoke English. When we argued, what we said to each other didn’t make any sense to the other person. We often acted like saying our words louder or at the top of our lungs would help the other person understand us. But it didn’t work.

But in the midst of all of that difficulty and challenge and pain, something was happening to us. We started to grow. We were able to see the issues in ourselves and why our partner was so upset. And we began to change and mature. That’s the beauty of relationships, from marriage to just meeting someone for the first time, it calls you into something better.

It’s an opportunity for you to transform as a person. That terrible date, awful breakup, and the heartbreaking fight is an invitation to learn something about yourself, how you think, what you’re afraid of, your past wounds, weaknesses, and strengths.

And just because you’ve experienced a lot of “failures” in your past doesn’t mean you can’t succeed in your present and future. You can.

But to do that you should practice this: being open.

Being open is one of the most critical parts of having a successful romance, falling in and staying in love in midlife. “Being open” means having an open mind, maintaining a willingness to try new things, seeing that you might be wrong, or that another person might be right.

Doing that cuts through the complexity of dating a person with kids, especially if you like that person. Being open helps you stay married and even grow closer to your spouse after years of fighting. It can even help you get to a place where you can begin to speak the same language without raising the volume.

You see, you don’t need a Ph.D. in love. You just have to be a learner in how to love. That’s what openness is. You’re opening yourself up to new ideas and concepts and experiences. Instead of being an expert, you are keeping a beginner’s mindset.

Often, as we get older, we can believe we’ve got it all figured out, and we lose our ability to change. That’s not a good place to be. And I’m not talking about forgetting all of the hard-earned lessons about yourself and others. Our experience is valuable. But there are times to unlearn certain learnings and begin to see life afresh.

And when you do that, you will evolve and so will your relationship. I’ve seen it in my marriage. It can happen to you.

Being open opens opportunities for you and your partner to become better people and partners.

Because, you see, just because you age doesn’t mean you can’t be renewed.

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