The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
So here you are, sixty something, and let’s face it, on the upper end of 60. You are still 20 at heart, and you are still vibrant and not ready to give up what life has to offer. And yet, here you are at the end of a romantic relationship – again – and earing that this is it, this has ended for you, there will be no more romance.
HOWEVER, this can be a good thing. There are steps to be taken, lessons to be learned, especially for me, a woman who grew up in the era of “be nice,” “take care of them not you,” and “they are always right.” Now, along with these mental voices in my head, came the other residuals: they are paying for the date, they are taking care of you, they are the man, let them have their way in all things.
When I found a man that seemed to be a person who would be able to listen to my needs, I felt that euphoria one feels after being in therapy for _____ (endless) years trying to uptake the skills necessary for a HEALTHY happy relationship. He brought me flowers every week. He took me out to eat, we went camping, we traveled, we had FUN, and he paid for everything. Romantically he was oh so patient and adored my reserve: oh, a lady at last he must have thought.
I told him from the start that I wanted a serious relationship with a commitment at the end. I was not into the friends with benefits lifestyle as we did not do that at my age. For a year it was much glitter, some gold, some tin, and then came …the rust. We both had a fear of anger and I knew we needed some help. When I suggested couples counseling he was ecstatic … oh yes let’s do that. Well, inside he did NOT want to do that. We broke up.
Now what? I’m a woman of a certain age, crying like a teenager, unable to get out of bed to walk my dog. And I thought, I wonder if other women my age have been through this and how can I recover a better sense of self after this change in status? How do I recover my dreams and learn from this? How can I et out of bed and limp if not leap back into life as I know it? A good life with limitations?
- Hit the Road Jack
When you realize that YOUR needs cannot be met, do not jump into the I can change my man (or woman) scenario. Be assertive but not aggressive with yourself; if you have tried for a good amount of time, and the other person cannot give you what you need, whether it be emotional support, partnership, sexual pleasure and a healthy relationship, do not become the Diva Devil and demand it. Ask for your needs, and if it is not possible to get them met, realize it and step on out. People do not change.
- Seek counseling for yourself if you need it or support from others
When you have realized that OUT is OUT (and it many take a few sessions of let’s keep trying) you MUST be able to grieve. Grieving means crying, crying and more crying and anger and regret and then sometimes shame. The crying is good, but don’t allow in shame or self-anger. The important issue is to take what you have learned from this. Grieve it but do not turn it inward. What I learned was that my needs were NOT negotiable, that I was an excellent and assertive communicator and that I could not take all the blame for a relationship that did not work. I also started to look at my fear of anger, both in myself and in men in general, and I took that as a starting point in relearning about anger and reframing it into something I could learn about and become an expert on tolerating and expressing in a way that was respectful to myself and others. It has become an exciting project, and I do go to therapy to get some pointers and help. The grief is still huge; I still cry a lot; and I also have a new project to work on as I take good care of me.
And that is number three:
- Take care of you. That is so hard to do when you are in the throes of deep grief and yet it is essential. At the grocery store buy the cherries. Buy the kiwis. Buy the flowers. Give yourself healthy meals and keep to your diet. It is so easy to under or overeat; but don’t allow that to happen. Tell yourself your body is to be loved and adored – by you.
Don’t give in to addictions of overspending or binge eating or over anything. Write about your relationship. Write a good ending, a bad ending, treat it like a lesson plan.
Don’t over indulge in “it was all bad, it was all good.” Remember the good but don’t disallow what made you leave.
DO Make yourself a priority and stick to it. Even just getting a bagel and coffee in the morning is a gift to oneself.
I myself am still on the crying end, but I am busily entering into curiosity about anger and how anger can be met in a manner that is respectful but firm. Keep on trucking and know that life will give us another pass. And it will be better from the lessons!