Trying to figure out what the other person is like, how you'll get along, what the potential is, what the other is after, and what they mean by what they say are just a few of the challenges in dating at midlife. In some ways it's easier on the Internet, and it's fast becoming the preferred method of many midlifers.
One thing we certainly look for is someone who is compatible enough. Personally, I prefer the word "complimentary," as I relish those dynamic differences that enrich a relationship, and it gives a nod to the dictum that opposites do attract. A psychologist once told me, as we observed an unlikely pair we both knew who had decided to marry, that "men marry their conflicts." What then is the woman doing? There's a ying and a yang to it all, yes?
"Compatible" is used a lot, however, so let's consider - in what ways do you need to be compatible? Shared values are crucial, and certain goals, such as what sort of financial situation you want. How into traditional roles you are, and how family-oriented you are. For some, sharing the same religion. Certainly a couple should have the same general idea about what a marriage is for, should provide, and can accomplish. These can be conversed about, but to assess the all-important "chemistry," you must meet in person. Do it as soon as you know it's safe, I say. You'll save yourself a lot of time.
"I was totally in love with him in writing," Marsha told me. "We both thought we'd met the person we'd been waiting for for 30 years. When we met at the airport, we both knew there was no way. In person it was too compatible, like brother and sister. It's ironic. Our 3-month online romance remains one of the highlights of my life."
Another thing most of us want it "companionship." I want to caution you that it can mean just about anything. It can mean, when a man says he "wants companionship," that he's no longer interested in, or capable of sex.
Some people mean "recreational companionship", and beware.
It can mean "recreational appendage." I'm thinking of one man I dated who was retired, and it turned out he wanted me to play tennis with him every morning, golf every afternoon, then take walks or go dancing every night, and go hiking on the weekends. A meal might be thrown in when necessary, for fuel, and talking, too, as long as it was factual and related to the task at hand. Oh, and the second morning of tennis (and last), he arrived with a bucket of balls and told me to "stand over there", as he was going to teach me how to serve.
The Italians say, "The first woman a man marries is his wife. The second is for companionship. The third is nonsense."
I want a full relationship, not just a sports buddy, and whether I'm the man's first or second wife, I want to be the last, and a wife, not an object. Yes, I love sports, but I love many things, and most of all, I want to love a MAN. That means I want emotional and intellectual companionship, as well as recreational. If the person's completely polarized and just after a warm body for one specific thing, and you want a full relationship, better to find our sooner rather than later. I've been thrilled when I've found "the perfect tennis partner," but I wouldn't marry for that, would you? He or she might. Beware.
Now let's look at what people have said in actual online profiles. Ladies first:
To be able to discuss something in a loving and understanding manner is a cornerstone of a good relationship!
Sharing events and activities with a special person is very important to a happy life. I enjoy doing a multitude of things and over the years have been active in community events as both organizer and volunteer.
Now from the men:
I want to enjoy life with someone special and share things they like to do and things I like to do.
Dancing is important to me, but it's not that you have to be a pro. Indeed, if you do not dance at all that is probably best. Raw material! I also love to read, go to films, plays, and rarely stay home. So I suppose someone who enjoys that kind of activity.
No couch potatoes please. Someone who likes what I like - biking, hiking, working out, and boating.
The dance partner guy wants a dance partner, not a relationship; "raw material," as he calls it. Reading, plays, and films aren't shared activities. The home he rarely stays in sounds more like a base of operations. Of course I'm guessing. The thing is, read your own profile through the eyes of someone else, or work with a coach so that you say what you mean.
The woman who asks for "a nice companion to share good times with"? Whenever I read or hear this, or it's cousin, "I just want to have fun," I know they aren't talking about marriage. I'd love to share fun and good times with someone, but I'd also like them to stick around if and when it isn't such fun. I want someone who will walk through the fire with me.
That doesn't mean, as one man interpreted it, walk through the fire FOR me. I'm not looking for someone who will fight all my battles for me (though some would be nice). I'm looking for a man who doesn't disappear when one of the grandchildren has a stroke, or shut down after a fight, or refuse to deal with it when one of the kids is in rehab, or disconnect when he gets laid off. Walking THROUGH fire means staying present - physically, and connected - emotionally, when things get rough. When things are going well, it's easy. The test of a person's character and commitment is what happens when it's not fun.
The no-couch-potatoes guy? He'll likely drag you happily around sports courts, but if you want to do something active that he doesn't like, like shopping, I bet he'll redefine "active." But you know that because he ingenuously tells you he means things HE likes to do.
The woman who wants to share activities and then mentions her community involvement? I've seen people marry because they were united around a cause, but generally the cause dies, and there needs to be a lot else there. Check it out.
"We hit it off because we were both animal activists," Cheryl said. "The problem was, I got tired of it after a while, and it turned out it was his entire life. If he'd treated me the way he treated out dog, we'd still be together."
Most people really do reveal a lot in their profiles, if you're willing to take off the blinders and see it. At the same time, you need to create your own profile in a way that doesn't mislead others.
Kudos to those who say, "I doubt I'll remarry," or "I'm looking for someone to sail around the world with me for 3 months," or "I'm looking for the last love of my life." When you know what you want, and speak it clearly, you're more likely to get it. Keep your eyes open, love like you've never been hurt, and know that if it's possible in the universe, it's possible for you. Good luck!