Dating for (Women Who Are Not) Dummies

BY DR LAURA BERMAN, LCSW, PHD

“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.” ~Rumi

In the last decade, the number of people living alone between the ages of 45 and 64 grew by 23 percent. Gone are the clichés of ‘unmarried spinsters’. In our modern society, it is no longer unusual for a woman who is over 40 to be single.

But I firmly believe that love is not just a young person’s game. In fact, I think that older we get, the better we get at loving. We get better at giving it and we get better at receiving it. We have learned invaluable life lessons from our previous marriages and from being parents. We know that appearances are only skin-deep but we also know that there is no replacing sexual attraction and the passion that exists between two soulmates.

Still, there is no denying that dating is difficult when you are older. Here is what I tell my clients who are struggling with their search for love:

You are the cake, (s)he is the icing.

When it comes to being single, I find that many women approach love with the idea that they aren’t complete until they find their soul-mate. This is a very dangerous idea. Your life can be magical, inspiring, exciting, joyful and rich with meaning even if you are single. In fact, many women find that singlehood gives them the chance to focus on their own needs and desires for the first time in their adult lives.

The truth is that you won’t find the lasting, fulfilling, passionate love we all desire until you are whole and complete, on your own. No one can complete you despite what Jerry McGuire says. In my opinion you shouldn’t even try to date to find a mate until you can truly see yourself as a delicious whole cake, and your future soul mate as the icing.

Get clear on what you want out of love.

Great love is found when it’s an inside out job, not the reverse. So throw away your “must have” list about looks, income and position and start over. Instead, focus on the most important part: How you want to FEEL in love. That’s what it’s all about, right?  We want him to be 6’5,” so we will still feel petite and feminine in heels. We want her to have a great job because we want to feel the peace and freedom that comes with being debt free and having assets to spare. So how do you want to feel day-to-day in love? Choose three to five feelings (what I call your core relationship goals). Maybe you long to feel passionate, protected, adventurous, or cherished.

These core desired feelings are now your litmus test for who you want to date much more than eye color and income. And it’s your most magical tool for calling him or her in as well. We are all made of energy and our feelings dictate the way we move into the world and the energy we put out into it. Every day, everywhere we go, we are sending out invisible messages to the people around us, whether it is the grocery store cashier or our co-workers or our friends. It may be invisible, but it is powerful beyond measure. It sends out messages to the world (“Whew, she looks grouchy, stay out of her way”) and it also attracts people and experiences into our reality. For example, a very warm, confident person might find that she attracts fun, happy people into her inner circle, whereas an insecure or anxious person might find that she constantly attracts people who take advantage of her or manipulate her.

So use those feelings you want to feel in love to create more of them! Look for ways daily to create those feelings for yourself in all sorts of ways. For example, if you want a relationship where you feeling sensual and sexy is on your core-desired list, look for ways to feel that way in your day to day life as much as possible! That could mean taking a burlesque class or updating your wardrobe. Maybe you want to call in a relationship where you feel inspired and challenged … well until Mister or Miss Right shows up, make it a point to seek out exciting challenges for yourself instead. Take that trip to Thailand by yourself like you always wanted. Take a rock-climbing class. Get your scuba-diving certification.

Not only will you meet lots of new likeminded people who might be a soul mate candidate (or know one), but the more you live in the feeling states you most desire on a daily basis, the more experiences show up in your life to create those states.

Get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Your comfort zone is not a place that is conducive for growth. If you keep engaging in the same behavior, you are going to wind up with the same results. In other words, if you keep living by a firm set of rules (“I am never going to make the first move” or “I won’t date someone who isn’t at least 6’ tall” or “I won’t date a man with kids”), you could be not only keeping love out of your life, but you could also be missing the chance to do your ‘soul work.’

What is ‘soul work’? I believe that this is the work we are each called here to do during our time on this earth. No matter what your spiritual beliefs, we can all agree that we are not just here on this planet to simply take up space. We are here to fulfill our purpose, to exercise our heart muscle, to make the world a better place and to learn how to love fully. Yet if we cling to a list of rules and make snap judgments, we could be missing out on our chance to discover depths of passion and love we never knew we had.

Similarly, if you keep making choices that are self-protective and aimed to keep pain and heartache away (“I am giving up on love” or “I will never allow myself to be vulnerable with a man again” or “I don’t believe true love will ever happen for me”), you will stunt your ability to not only find love but also to do your soul-work. The more barriers you have around your heart, the harder it will be for you to live in creative, passionate and fiercely beautiful way.

Note: I am NOT saying that you shouldn’t have expectations and boundaries. You absolutely have the right (and the responsibility) to seek partners who will treat you well as well as partners to whom you feel an attraction. But, just be careful that you aren’t missing the forest for the trees.

Last, remember that love is not something you have to “find.” It’s not a rare, mysterious treasure that can only be discovered by a lucky few. Love is already within you. It is already all around you. Once you start believing that and living in a state which allows you to radiate that belief to the world, you will find that dating is one big messy, funny, exciting, soul-growing adventure … and you will enjoy every moment of it.

Laura Berman, PhD, is a New York Times best-selling author and assistant clinical professor of ob-gyn and psychiatry at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago. She is the host of the radio program “Uncovered with Dr. Laura Berman”. www.drlauraberman.com

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