I fell in love for the first time at 22. I remember how it felt. It was exciting. It was new. It was a little scary. I fell in love with him because he was cute, smart, funny, and had a good job. He also drove a pretty decent car, and he didn’t live at home with his parents. For someone residing in Los Angeles, this was a rarity. Because the cost of living was so high, many people in their 20s and even 30s still lived at home. I lived on my own, so it was a huge draw for me if the guy had his own place, too.
When you’re 22, you start thinking about things like marriage. But for me, marriage would be years down the road. First I wanted to make sure I was financially stable before considering getting married and possibly having children. As for children, I was open to it, but I never longed to become a parent. If I had kids, that was fine. But it wasn’t a requirement for me. I did, however, have requirements for my future spouse. He had to be smart. He must be college educated with a job. He had to like going to the movies, reading, good conversation, the outdoors. He had to respect my independence.
So at 22 I fell in love. At 23, I realized he wasn’t the one. I remember feeling disappointed that he wasn’t everything I thought he was even though he checked off everything on my list. He was critical of my independent nature. He wasn’t particularly serious about a future with me, and he wasn’t as mature as I was. We had a good time together, but I could see it wasn’t going anywhere. I didn’t want to get married this young, but I really wanted to be in a healthy relationship. It just wouldn’t be with him.
I dated a lot in my 20s. By my early 30s, my list matured as I matured. Now I needed someone who was career-minded, someone who was as independent, someone who was mature enough for a relationship. Even with this new list, I put up with more disappointing behavior in guys than I would later on in life. Cheating was always a deal-breaker. But if things weren’t quite right with that person in the beginning, I let the relationship continue. I guess I hoped things would change. Somehow I convinced myself everything would magically work out if I just waited.
My 30s were also the time I compromised more than I should have. Compromising isn’t a bad thing. I know any good relationship requires give and take on both sides. But during this time, I compromised on characteristics integral to who I was as a person. I didn’t necessarily hide my intelligence, but I certainly didn’t let it be known that I was really smart. The highly intelligent guys picked up on it anyway, and for the most part, they were attracted to it. The guys who were fairly smart got a little intimidated. How I stuck with these men is beyond me. I don’t even remember what they had going for them that I would make myself into someone I wasn’t. But I did. I carefully crafted a young woman who was less intelligent, less accomplished and less mature. And every time, it resulted in a failed relationship and me feeling as if I’m wasting my time.
As far as kids, I knew for sure I didn’t want to have children with someone who wasn’t dedicated to becoming a great father. My own father wasn’t a good parent, and I certainly didn’t want to have my children exposed to a man who wasn’t cut out for the job. In my 20s, I had a rule the guy couldn’t have any children. As I got older, I gave it a little more wiggle room. He could have one child. That was that.
However, as the years passed, that rule didn’t work so well. Naturally more people were married as I grew older. So with marriage came children. I got married for the first and only time at 40, and we divorced with no children. My ex-husband was smart, financially stable and independent. However, I overlooked all the glaring red flags. He was also immature, selfish and callous. This was one of the reasons why I chose not to have children with him. It’s not like the world’s population required I produced a child. And by the time I got married, I also realized I didn’t want to be a mother at 40. I know a lot of people do it, but it wasn’t for me. I wanted the freedom to travel or be spontaneous at that age, and children would hinder my freedom. So I passed.
We divorced when I was 48. I’m now 51. Now that I’m a middle-aged woman, the rules had to change. I love that men have children since I have none of my own. So if it gets serious and we marry, I can be a stepmom. I refuse to change some of my other rules, however. The man still must have a career. He must be financially stable. At this age, I don’t have time for someone struggling to the point where I can’t see us building a life together.
And other things come into play now that I’m in my 50s. For example, if I’m in a relationship with a man and it’s getting serious, I want to know how financially stable they are. Are they good with managing money? If they’re in a lot of debt, that certainly isn’t going to change at this age. That’a a stressor I’m unwilling to take on. If a man can’t manage money, he probably can’t manage the rest of his life either.
Then there are the ex-wives. Of course, if he has children, he typically has an ex-wife or ex-girlfriend. If he has a couple of ex-girlfriends with children and he didn’t marry them, that’s a no for me. It means he can’t commit and he’s irresponsible. If he doesn’t see his children and blames it on his ex-wife or girlfriend? That’s another red flag. There’s no excuse good enough to not see your children. If you want to see them, you will find a way. It’s a cop-out to say it’s because your ex-wife/girlfriend won’t let you.
I’m in love with a divorced 52-year-old man who has two grown daughters. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it, and I’m happy. We’re similar people in how we view relationships, family and finances. We understand that relationships succeed when we listen to each other, build trust, and compromise. We both are close to our families. That’s important because we spend time with them. As for finances, we agree to save money but also have fun. It’s a combination of constant communication and not taking everything so seriously.
But the most important thing is realizing we have something special, and we’re dedicated to making it work.