VallartaTribune, Dec 10-16, 2006, issue # 505, pg 25

Last week’s article presented many thoughts and ideas about how and why people choose their partner. I suggested that at different stages of life we make very different decisions and I asked questions I hoped would be thought provoking and assist you in considering meaningful and insightful answers. I proposed that there are lessons in all of our experiences and our job was to discover what they might be and to learn and grow from them.

Many years single and alone

People who have spent many years alone, whether you’ve been married or lived with someone before or not, and get together later in life, go through the shock of all of sudden having someone there, intruding on their space and time, demanding things of them, possibly criticizing them or the way they do things. Their careers may be stable or winding down, they may not have any children or their children may be grown, and so there aren’t the more typical demands nor the distractions found in relationships which form in earlier years. These couples face the challenge of adaptation, flexibility and patience, which may not come as naturally as coupling in their 20’s or 30’s.

Time to reconsider

Those of us who find ourselves a little later in life without a partner or looking for one may find that we are stuck in our old ideas of what we are looking for or what we think would be best for us. Creating a new updated list is probably long overdue. Now that your life is more established and your sense of self is more defined, consider what would compliment your lifestyle, your values and beliefs, and interests. Be careful not to include old desires or things your parents wanted for you or what your friends found in their relationships when they got together 10 or 20 years ago. The more honest and free you are when you make this new list, the more surprised you will be about what has changed and doesn’t matter anymore and how your priorities have changed.

More time alone = more set in your ways

The more time you’ve been alone the more set you are in your ways. Make no mistake about it, being single and being a couple is not the same; things do and must change. The longer you’ve been single the more difficult that may be. There is a certain independence that can no longer exist because now all of your decisions, actions, and behaviors affect another person. The good news and the bad news is that you are no longer alone. Remember, you probably wished to meet someone and now that they are here, how flexible are you willing to be and how much are you willing to adapt???

Conflicting expectations

Don’t set yourself and the relationship up for failure by maintaining conflicting expectations. You cannot continue exactly with the ways things were and be in a new relationship. You may often feel pulled in two opposing directions, which make you feel resentful. It is important to clearly understand your motives and reasons why you want to keep some things the same and why it is okay to let go of others and embrace new ways, as well. Remember you are bringing two lives, two sets of ideas, belief systems, approaches to life, etc together. Eventually, some things have to give and be compromised as your lives combine.

Are you one of the brave ones?

Another reality is that you are not the only one affected by this big change in your life. How have/will your family and friends react now that your time isn’t your own or that you prefer to be with your partner instead? Afterall, you waited many years to find this person and you want to spend time with them; it’s new and exciting.  You may not call or look for them as often and they may feel hurt and left out. Others may be jealous and incapable of being happy for you. Beware of their criticism yet be open to their comments and observations. You do not want to lose yourself, but you also don’t want to cling to the single you.

I would like to say that if you want to be in a relationship and have the courage to accept the challenge of adapting, then I congratulate you. Many people sit around wishing for someone to come into their life and complain about being alone but are unwilling to make the efforts.

On the other hand, being in a relationship is not always the best thing or at least not at this time. It is important at various times in our lives to take time for ourselves, for introspection, self-evaluation, healing, and growth. In some cases, people have been through such hardships and challenges in past relationships that they are glad to finally be free. This is a very valuable insight as well.

Written by: Giselle Belanger, RN, LCSW, CADC