10/8/2000 Advice Column
I'm 41, divorced amicably for 8 years after 12 years of marriage (no kids.) We got married too young, and mistakenly decided to try and tough it out instead of throwing in the towel after a few years & admitting that we had made a mistake. But now that I'm ready to try again, I've found that things have changed a lot, and I'm trying to decide how to overcome this.
I live in a very conservative area where most women get married straight out of high school or while in college, and stay that way. By the age of 30 or so, most of the remaining available women fall into two groups: 1) those who are single because they have no interest in a relationship, and 2) those who are single because they have SERIOUS problems of one sort or another. The very few who don't fit into either category generally are so swamped with offers of dates that I need to take a number just to be able to call them. This even includes the ones who are divorced with small kids (I'm interested in having a family, eventually, but NOT an instant one.)
After several years of trying, I've discovered that about the only hope I have to find someone who is interested in the same goals as I am (marriage & family) and who is not yet taken, is to confine my search to women in the 20's & below. Fortunately, most people agree that I look about 10 years younger than I am.
I've tried dating services, personal ads, singles groups, volunteer activities, political campaigns, recreational classes, dancing lessons, and so on and so on. I've mananged to come in contact with quite a few women who fit my (not very strict, really) criteria. I have no trouble making friends, and I've even gotten a few dates, but sooner or later the age issue has come up and I've had to tell them that I'm at least 10 years older than they thought I was. This sometimes came as a real surprise, because my lifestyle, attitude, clothes and appearance all strike people as much younger, and most of my friends are in the 20's bracket, too.
The problem is that I don't know how to overcome these women's resistance to dating an "older man". They admit that there's nothing wrong with me, and they even say I'd be perfect for them - if only I were younger. So what I'm interested in is how to get around this bit of age-stereotyping.
Please don't tell me to look for women my age. There just aren't any to speak of. Not that are available, want to be married and still interested in (and capable of) starting a family another 5 years down the road. Most of my male relatives tend to live very long, productive lives, highly active into their 80's & beyond, so I have no fears about being able to keep up with a "younger" woman. (I was born when my father was 48.) The problem is that THEY don't seem able to believe that, or else they just are so prejudiced about anyone more than a year or two older that they can't get over it.
That's the whole thing; I'm not "trying to hard" or jumping the gun, or pressing for commitment, or anything like that. I'm just dating, and having a good time, and hoping that the right woman will come along. But I've had several abruptly stop answering the phone when they found out I wasn't 29 or whatever they were thinking. (I didn't lie or anything, that was just their assumption.)
I'm tired of getting dumped over something I can't change. Any suggestions about what I can do to change their minds?
Sincerely, Not Too Old
You haven't noticed? The older men who wind up with much younger women are very rich and very powerful. With regular guys like you, it's a fantasy. Why do you think you're having so much trouble finding a woman? Get a grip. Wise up.
Stop setting yourself up to fail. Many men will say, "Only someone 20 years younger turns me on or fits my requirements," and so they doom themselves to be alone. They complain because the much younger person keeps leaving them for another young person. You and a 20-year-old have different interests, different life experiences. You're even from a different generation. Finding someone to love is hard enough. Finding someone from a different generation is almost impossible, as you've found out.
So instead of pursuing younger women in your town, open yourself up to other experiences. Think about a divorced woman with a child. Or consider a woman who lives somewhere else. The world is available to you, not just the women in your conservative town. Why not look on the Internet for someone to love?
As for your belief that only a woman in her 20's can wait five years to have children, that's hogwash. Women successfully have children in their 40's and even 50's. The real question is what woman in her 20's would want to wait five years to have a child with an aging father of 46 when she could have a child with a young and vigorous man in his 20's. After all, having a child with you would mean that when the kid was a teenager, you'd be 60, and she'd be 40. She'd be at her sexual peak and you'd be at major decline.
Women, even young women, are smart enough to do the math. In the future, don't hide your age. Tell women, even young ones, how old you are up front. What's the point in dating or making friends with a much younger woman who's going to dump you the minute she finds out how old you are? You must realize, though, that men your age who only want to date much younger women are suspect. Women think you want a younger woman so you can dominate them and be their boss, as opposed to being their equal.
Examine your real motives here. Don't keep telling yourself that only a much younger woman will satisfy you, or you may be looking forever. Since you can't change their minds and you can't change your age, I suggest you change your mind and get real about finding someone who will want you.
The problem that I'm having now is that we are engaged to be married in a couple of months, but he seems to avoid involvement with wedding arrangements. He asked ME to marry him, yet he has a difficult time "talking" marriage. I really believe that his mother has affected him in a way that makes him terrified of marriage. I know he doesn't want to lose me, but I am feeling leary about making these plans with- out his input. I have asked him several times to do certain things pertaining to the wedding, like asking his friends whom he wants in the wedding, talking to his dad about the rehearsal dinner, and he says that he'll do it, yet he hasn't done it as of yet. He has expressed to me in the past that once he gets married, it will be for life. He would never want to follow in his parents footsteps. I have told him that I blame his mother for never really teaching him how to have a good relationship or how to treat a lady, and I feel like he agrees. I just don't want to be left at the altar.
Any advice? I beleive his intentions are good, but his lack of interest is wearing me thin.
Very few men are great wedding planners. The whole idea of walking down the aisle makes them all a little queasy and scared. And even if they're not really reluctant, that's the role they've been told is theirs, so they play it to the hilt. That's why women make the wedding plans and just tell the groom what to wear and when to show up.
Make the plans without his input if he's not forthcoming with it. Pick the invitations, make the guest lists, plan the party. Show him what you've chosen as you go along, but don't expect his enthusiastic participation. Then if he complains afterward, tell him he had his chance to speak up and since he didn't, too bad.
Instead of giving him assignments, give him choices. Ask him if he wants chocolate of vanilla cake, black and white tux or colored tux, a disc jockey or live music. Show him a list of friends you think he'll want, and who you want in the wedding. Let him say yes or no. Look on the bright side. At least you won't' have to put up with his drunken college buddy as best man if you give him a choice of his sober brother or his nice uncle.
Men don't plan weddings. Perhaps that's because everyone knows it's the bride's day. Besides, you've waited nine years, you deserve to have everything exactly the way you want it and all he should be saying now is "Yes, dear." Stop trying to get him to "talk" marriage. Be happy he asked you and do the rest. You do want to be married to him, don't you?
Stop dwelling on the negatives from his past, on his mother and father and their problems, and get on with the wedding.
I feel like I'm in the fast lane and no one will let me over!
You must tell your friend no. You don't want a relationship with him. You're not ready for an openly gay lifestyle. You aren't ready to come out as a gay man. Don't tell him that you may be ready later. Don't tell him you really like him, but can't decide. Don't keep him on the hook. Let him go find someone who can commit to him, since that's what he wants.
Your sexual ambivalence will eventually settle down and you will probably choose either a straight or gay life. Many who experiment with same-sex activities when they're young eventually decide they're really straight. Others decide they're really gay. When you decide what sex you want really, that will be the time to get into a relationship, not before.
Either way, straight or gay, know that you're okay. Remember, what's really important about a person is who they are and how they behave toward those they love, not whether they love someone of the same or a different sex.
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