Dating in your mid-30s is a mixed bag at best and a minefield at worst.
People who are single and unmarried at this age tend to either be a) going through a divorce, b) in a state of perpetual childhood, or c) hung up on an ex. Often they are all three at once.
I wrote recently about a promising guy (let’s call him J) I had begun to date. He was cute, charming, older, 4 years divorced and very, very past that relationship. He’d had one other long term relationship in the past 4 years but that too was very over, according to him. We were attracted and had a blast every time we were together, which was quite frequently over the course of several weeks. We talked everyday and texted sweet, flirty messages non-stop. It was fun and romantic and butterflies, all the beginning good things to a relationship.
After three weeks of dating, J asked me to ‘go steady’ and date exclusively. He called me his girlfriend and while I wondered if we might be moving too fast, I was open and willing to keep exploring what we had with this level of commitment and intention. We’re both older so why not date seriously? See where this thing could go?
Then a couple of weeks later … a bomb went off. His ex showed up. The ex-girlfriend, not ex-wife. Apparently she had sensed that he was dating someone and wound up on his doorstep, begging him for another chance. Which left J with a decision … continue to take a risk with an unknown (me) or go back to what he had previously known and had loved very much at one time (her).
He opted for the latter. And while it hurt when he told me, I understood and was grateful he ended things with me swiftly and honestly. We’d only been together a short amount of time and he had a longer history with this woman… albeit a very toxic and co-dependent one (according to him). However, if someone isn’t over their past, there is no way they can ever be ready for a new future. No matter how hopeful and promising that future might look.
I was hurt and a little upset, mostly at how he had rushed things emotionally while he clearly still had lingering feelings for someone else. But then I realized … how could I be angry at him when I had been there too, the year and a half after I had my heart broken?
I have written about this many times but after I endured a painful breakup with the man I was wildly and deeply in love with, I was an absolute wreck. And I dated a lot of men.
I tried so hard to move past that breakup, but I did it in all the wrong ways. I wanted to leap into something new, with everything I had, so I could distract myself from thoughts of the relationship – and the man – that crushed my heart. It was completely unfair to anyone I dated that year. I should’ve sat with my grief for longer, I should’ve stayed single and alone until my heart had healed, and I definitely shouldn’t have dated … but I did. And because I wasn’t healed from my past, I was an emotional wrecking ball, just crashing my way through the men I attempted to build a connection with during that year.
Luckily, the men were savvy enough to see my wounds clearly for what they were. And they were gentle with me, even while I was combusting on a semi-regular basis.
I thought of this when J told me about his desire to get back with his ex. He too had done what I had done. He was rushing things with me in order to forget the pain of his previous relationship ending. He had laid it on thick with me … talking about future plans, promising things he shouldn’t or couldn’t promise … because if he’d been truly honest with himself and with me, he would’ve admitted he wasn’t over his ex.
And there it is … that elusive ticking time bomb. The ex factor.