When it comes to falling in love at a mature age, what’s hidden beyond our emotional walls and psychological defenses?
If you could get beyond your defenses, would there be a wonderful, fun, love-filled and romantic relationship awaiting you? What if we’re not brave enough to come out from behind our walls to even find out? Is it realistic to think that if we keep hiding behind our walls, our Prince or Princess Charming will go out of their way to climb over these walls to retrieve us? Or must we break down our walls on our own and joyfully see what’s on the other side? Read on to see if you have walls up OR you’re ready to fall in love.
What’s the Difference Between Healthy Boundaries and a Total Wall in Later Life Romance?
A wall is an emotional barrier that blocks us from loving fully and freely or even meeting someone with whom we could give love a chance. But first let me state: there is a difference between having a wall up and practicing having healthy proper boundaries. Reasonable boundaries keep the baddies out and let the good people into our experience, in a discerning sort of way.
One analogy is to think of ourself as a posh nightclub. Such a great party going on inside our beautiful club! And you want just the right crowd in your club. Your “inner bouncer” uses the velvet rope, a security scan device and his/her keen judgment to keep the “undesirables” out so the club stays safe.
Unlike having healthy boundaries, those who have their romantic walls up don’t let anyone in at all. Does that make for a fun club?
Can Senior Citizens and Mature Adults Still Fall In Love?
Of course! “Falling in Love” in later life may not feel exactly the same as when we were very young. We may feel so much less oceanic, less on a roller coaster of emotions as when we fell “head over heels” with someone (possibly someone we barely knew) in our teens and twenties. In fact, I dare say, falling in love may never feel like that EVER again for those who’ve passed the 50-something marker.
The absence of a feeling of ecstasy and elation doesn’t mean “falling” is not happening when you meet and bond with the right person! And it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy an interesting new and more subtle blend of feelings (like that new blended coffee drink you’ve been meaning to try). It’s still possible to savor some emotional inebriation and a sense of celebration and excitement when you really, really like someone (and they like you back AND you’re getting together ASAP!). Love and romance always find a way to affect us in new and different ways, in different stages of our lives.
Falling In Love as a Senior is Different Now (and Maybe Better)
In later life, rather than feeling drugged by pleasure chemicals, falling in love may feel like more of a “pleasurable process”—sometimes a slow and arduous one. Less of a falling into, and more of a progression of steps into a relationship, i.e. more carefully-made moves into deeper and deeper stages of intimacy. That sounds a bit boring, doesn’t it? A bit careful and calculated, no? Not exactly the stuff Hollywood romance movies are made of. Or porn.
But a slow-glowing, slow-growing romance (think hot charcoals vs. a blow torch) might be much more “our pace” now that we’re older and wiser and have possibly experienced the hurts and inconveniences of falling madly (unadvisedly) in love with the wrong person (and then staying with them a little too long, as some people do: in a decades-long unhappy marriage).
Even when we fell in love in the “middle years” of our 30’s and 40’s (or fell in love again as it can/does strike several times in our lifetime) perhaps it felt just a little or a LOT less intoxicating compared to our “first young loves.” Was this because there were now more immediate, practical lifestyle considerations to make when committing to exclusivity and a shared life with one person?
In the middle years, for some people, that mystical feeling of new love a bit tempered by (in some cases) the pressures of things like getting pregnant as soon as possible, leaving spouses, going through divorces, blending families, assets, managing around careers, moving across countries or continents, or whatever the major considerations would be in mid-life relationships. Falling in love in our 30’s, 40’s, maybe 50’s connotes more lifestyle stressors and complications with regard to becoming a couple. But wasn’t it usually worth the price of admission?
The Walls of Older Age—Are They Built Higher?
Now, in the much later stages of life, with a lot of the midlife dramas behind us, we may be more “established” in our ways, as they say. And this can act as another, insidious kind of wall that acts as a block to falling in love. We may be so “set” in our routines, and so “set” with a certain “set” of friends, that we can barely envision room in our “stage set” for an amazing new person to step foot into our routines and social life, possibly upsetting our rote routines. And this clinging to “what is” can be another kind of block to falling in love because our world and heart aren’t open to new activities, new places and activities, and new people (one of whom may be the next great love of one’s life!).
Layers of Loss and Baggage When Falling in Love as a Senior
In our mature years, the other wall we can put up against falling in love again is one made of what I would term, “sandbags wet with tears.” For most of us humans who’ve allowed ourselves to love (and lose), there is also now more “baggage” to either carry with us or unburden ourselves of (through therapy, mindfulness, even micro-dosing therpies, and so on…). How do we expand our hearts and lives and set another place at the table for someone we haven’t even met yet?
In our later years, it’s often harder for us to be “swept off our feet” into a new love relationship when our psyches are heavily layered with a lifetime of accumulated traumas (think: numerous losses of partners and loved ones, health challenges, accidents, troubling children, lawsuits). Maybe there were resentments and disappointments in love or business, even life-altering tragedies that dragged us into the depths of grief, depression and inertia. After such experiences, it’s conceivable that the notion of falling in love (again) can seem frivolous and low-priority in comparison…but it’s not.
A New Kind of Love High in Later Life
Apart from maintaining one’s physical health, nothing is more important to well-being than finding a special someone (or two, if need be!) who makes your heart “sing” again. Notice I didn’t mention anything about seeking out that long-ago butterflies-in-the-tummy feeling. I didn’t mention looking for a partner whose presence gives you that light-headed, delirious, dizzy, or near-faint feeling. Nor did I mention pursuing that “crush-y” feeling– a longing and lust for someone you’ve built up and put on a high pedestal in your imagination, imbuing them with qualities that may not actually exist.
That’s kid stuff. I’m talking about a deliberately seeking to round out your life with the subtle enjoyment of a special person or people you look forward to meeting with, talking with (in person or otherwise), and engaging with on several (if not all) levels: emotional, physical (this doesn’t have to mean sex per se, but some level of chemistry, connection and touch should be present), mental/intellectual compatibility, and lifestyle/logistical matching (i.e. shared interests, hobbies, travel, etc.).
Better But Different Vibes in The Mature Years
Does pursuing a relationship grounded solidly in compatibility on several levels sound like less of a passionate romance and more of a companionship or a companionate relationship? For some: maybe. Does it mean that all that companionship is going to be boring and “not fire-y”? No way; I’m not proposing settling for boring and “not fire-y” if heat and sizzling chemistry and sensuality is a high priority to you! It will be important to find a partner for whom spice, sexuality and physicality is still an active interest. You should be able to know right away (well, days or weeks) if you and your date share the same interests in being lovers.
But at a certain age, I wouldn’t advise looking for that “high” feeling from romantic relationships anymore. I’m not 100% sure it’s in our brains to feel that way so extremely (as we did in our teens and 20’s) again. For some, losing an expectation of blissful love feelings may come as a great relief. What about embracing a slow, loving lead-up to consistent good vibes with your special someone? Feeling a smile on your face whenever you think of your new best friend/lover? Is this a better way? Only you can say.
We can feel pretty good and nearly high just by getting to know someone who accepts us for who we are, who treats us with care and respect, and who shows up for us with their attention, presence and by planning things with us (and visa versa; we can get just as much enjoyment by giving these things to our partners as well). Having something and someone to look forward to is a huge motivator in life–even if it’s just going out for a quick but yummy lunch with someone you sincerely enjoy being with.
Here’s Why The Walls Should Come Down: The Pros of Love and Romance in Later Life
- Love can provide companionship and support. It can help us to feel less alone and more connected to the world. Studies have shown that social connections prolong our good health and enhance longevity.
- Love can help us to stay active and engaged. It can give us a reason to get out of the house and meet new people.
- Love can help us to feel happier and more fulfilled. It can give us a sense of purpose and direction in our lives.
- Love is excellent for our long-term health and longevity. Again, many studies show that having close friends, love partners and social connections and outings make all the difference, particularly for senior citizens.
Here Are The Cons of Love and Romance in Later Life (But Not Reasons To Keep Walls Up)
- Love can be complicated. It can bring up old emotions and unresolved issues. This is why going to therapy or communicating with your partner is important when the issues arise or “buttons” are pushed.
- Love can be expensive. It can require time, money, and energy. But what is there better to spend it on? Going on great dates and sharing a life with your special someone may be the greatest investment in yourself you’ll ever make.
- Love can be risky. It can lead to heartbreak and disappointment. But you already know that. So what more do you have to lose? It can take time and investment in meeting new people. But you can win big because you’ve got the experience and discernment of a mature person and can probably bear the risks and know when to get out (if need be).
Tips for Dismantling The Walls to Falling in Love as a Senior
- If upon some self-reflection, your “emotional body” feels heavy (like a wall) with regrets, traumas, insecurities, and disappointments carried over from past experiences and previous relationships, talk it out. Talk therapy (even just a few sessions!) can help set you right again, or right enough to start tearing the walls down.
- Be open to meeting (and smiling at) new people. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Don’t be embarrassed to let others know you’re seeking a new friend and to discuss exactly who you’re looking for.
- Join clubs or groups that interest you. This is a great way to meet people who share your interests. Do not underestimate the power of in-person classes, seminars, groups, clubs and fitness/sports to bring you into contact with your next great love.
- Be yourself. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. The right person will love you for who you are. Be authentically you (even if it means being painfully honest sometimes). Just be you from the beginning so there’s no “mask” that must come down. And try to see and get beyond the masks that others put up.
- Be patient. Finding love and a worthy partner takes time. Don’t give up. Don’t lower your priorities and standards yet be open to a “wild card” person who may not fit into your external mold (i.e. appearance). When you give a potential partner (the one with an amazing character and personality) a chance to shine conversationally and to treat you well…you may completely forget that he/she is “too short,” or “too bald,” (or whatever).
Love and companionship is such a gift to our lives when it happens, at any age. Are your walls up or are they coming down?
One of my favorite quotes that fits so nicely with this discussion is from Rumi: “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
I invite you to come out of hiding in time to find your Prince or Princess Charming waiting patiently for you behind your wall.