In my early forties I came to the realization that my marriage wasn’t going to last. After several years of child bearing and rearing, my desire for intimacy was raging but my husband wasn’t up for it. I oscillated between advocating for myself and taking solace in food and alcohol. We were in therapy but I knew the conclusion would be that we would divorce. I just couldn’t stand the idea of not being intimate anymore. I needed it and I recall saying once that “I deserve more.” We were trying to do right by our kids and stay together, but because we weren’t really doing the necessary work outside of therapy, it felt like a waste of time. This story is about giving myself permission and how I began to accept my path of aging audaciously.
There was a moment when it looked like we were about to separate. Then our son broke his femur, and the global financial crisis arrived at our doorstep. These crises delayed our separation for almost two years. At one point, I felt a little glimmer of hope of salvaging the marriage because we banded together to tackle the financial crisis. But once we got those challenges under control, my hopes were dashed. Towards the end I was really hungry for sex but I wasn’t the kind of person to stray. Sometimes I wonder why I didn’t give myself permission to do that. Although I had been advocating for myself in my marriage, I wasn’t able to give myself permission to get my needs met outside of it. Ultimately I’m glad I didn’t but I know I wouldn’t take the same approach now.
I wanted sex badly, but after our separation, the responsibility of coordinating schedules with the kids and managing the household on my own prevented me from actively pursuing new dating opportunities for a while. It wasn’t until the kids were on vacation with their dad for 3 weeks, that I decided that my focus was going to be online dating. Wow, what an eye opener those first months were!
One of the first guys wasn’t real. I was suspicious of that pretty quickly because he was just too good looking. You know, the kind where it looks like you picked the photo from a GQ magazine. I can see how nefarious people can easily lure you in. You’re vulnerable, lonely and wanting connection so badly that it’s often hard to see clearly. I spent a lot of time during those 3 weeks combing through profiles and chatting with people. It wasn’t fruitful in terms of landing good dates but it was part of a learning process for me.
I could see how people were presenting themselves and clearly lying about their age. It appeared that so many men my age were only seeking younger women. I saw time and time again how the words “fitness, diet, healthy and active lifestyle” were used to signal. I’m not going to lie, it was demoralizing and I started telling myself stories. Stories that I wasn’t good enough to date, I needed to lose weight, I needed to fix myself first. Maybe I needed to hide my age? The doubts were creeping in. I began wondering if I should even be online looking for dates. Maybe I wasn’t going to be able to do this.
But my desire to connect propelled me forward. Soon I had a date with a guy. I wasn’t immediately attracted to him but he seemed kind. We met for lunch near me. We were having a good time and I decided I was going to make my move. After lunch, we drove to the store together and bought condoms! I remember that he kept his white socks on and it just makes me laugh now. I think back to that date and realize that it was the beginning of me giving myself permission to get what I wanted. It was the first big step post-marriage of starting to live the life I wanted to live.
Aging Audaciously: Giving Myself Permission
Since then I’ve done many things that I never thought I would do. When I got married I thought it was forever. I imagined us raising our family together and being hand-in-hand on our journey. Once I saw that it wasn’t going to be that way, I knew I couldn’t keep living in a state of disconnection and resentment. I didn’t want to model a relationship for my kids that appeared outwardly kind and cordial but felt inwardly empty and disconnected. I had to give myself permission to accept that and move forward. Deep down I found my own self-worth and ability to do that for me. I’m proud of myself for giving myself permission.
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