The midlife dating hero(ine)’s journey

Hero’s JourneyLast night I watched the DVD “Joseph Campbell: The Hero’s Journey” because I wanted to know more about his work. In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell codified thousands of years of myths from multiple cultures into what he described as The Hero’s Journey. Star Wars, Matrix and countless other movies and stories follow this outline.

Since my writing is predominately for women, with apologies to Campbell, I’m going to call it The Heroine’s Journey and we’re going to examine how it applies to midlife dating.

heronineWhile the stages of the journey are not always the same, they generally follow this path:

  1. A call to adventure, which the heroine has to accept or decline. In dating, this would be reentering single life, whether it was by your choice or not. (Sometimes in myths the hero/heroine did not choose the adventure.) Just as in myths, the heroine may not consider her new situation an “adventure” at first.
  2. A road of trials, in which the heroine succeeds or fails. We would call these first dates. 🙂 Or perhaps they are relationships gone sour. In order to advance on the path, you must face these trials and develop skills and knowledge as a result.
  3. Achieving the goal or “boon,” which often results in important self-knowledge. While you might naturally think the goal of dating is to find your next mate, it could be better knowledge of yourself and what you want in a mate. The dictionary describes “boon” as “a thing that is helpful or beneficial.” Insight and better self-knowledge are always helpful.
  4. A return to the ordinary world, again as to which the heroine can succeed or fail. The “ordinary world” for us would be, perhaps, entering into an exclusive relationship. And just as in myths, this can succeed or fail. Or the ordinary world could be your being fine with being single and dating — or not dating — as you please.
  5. Application of the boon, in which what the heroine has gained can be used to improve the world. You use your newfound insights, lessons, and skills to better communicate, have more empathy and patience, and make this relationship work. Or you more readily see it’s not working, discuss it and decide whether to stay or move on.

Where do you see yourself in The Dating Heroine’s Journey? I see myself moving through steps 2-5 repeatedly and becoming wiser with each excursion.

* Thanks to Wikipedia for the recap of the basic structure.

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4 responses to “The midlife dating hero(ine)’s journey”

  1. Lulu Avatar

    DG, I like this analogy. I’ve had some painful body blows during my dating adventures, the last leaving me so wounded I didn’t know if I could carry on. I had been dating a man exclusively for 6 months, spending each weekend together, meeting one another’s families and discussing living together. To me it felt like a close and sharing relationship with lots of fun and sharing and intimacy. I trusted him. Then I found that he had not only left his original dating profile active, but had posted another one, with no photo and a different name, on another dating site while we were dating, and updated it regularly. It took a lot of courage to confront him. He was defensive and angry, and showed a very different side to his character. Despite knowing we couldn’t carry on, I have felt very bruised by all this, and have had to take time out of the dating adventure to heal my wounds. What’s the secret to carrying on? How can I re-energise my inner warrior?

  2. Dating Goddess Avatar


    I’m so sorry this happened to you. I’m assuming you had the exclusivity talk and perhaps even the we should both take down our profile discussion.

    Here are a few postings that may be some help to you:

    Managing disappointments
    Get back on the horse that threw you
    When breaking up is a “Get Out of Jail Free” card

  3. Lulu Avatar

    All your postings are full of insight, DG, and the ones suggested above have been particulary relevant to me. Thank you.
    To answer your question, we had the exlusivity talk very early on, and were about to remove our profiles from the site on which we met (he didn’t mention the other one!)
    I’m not utterly jaded, but I am sad that sometimes mature, intelligent and articulate men and women can misread each other completely. Is it possible that internet dating is so tantalising for some people that they can’t help hedging their bets, even when in a committed relationship? Call it an ego trip or whatever, they seem happy with one person, but always furtively keep an eye on the dating sites for someone younger/richer/more attractive. I would love to know what percentage of internet daters end up with their soulmate.

  4. Elena Avatar

    In response to Lulu’s post, the issue she raises is becoming a real serious problem and something, I believe, which threatens the long-term viability of online dating. Increasingly, online dating is becoming a virtual meat market that feels too much like a single’s bar scene with too many players and jerks. So many people have developed a “grass is always greener on the other side” mentality and instead of focusing on a budding, potentially fulfilling relationship, they aren’t in the present moment. They’re too busy thinking about how much more they can get, too focused on “what if…..”. What that does is drain all the energy and momentum away from the budding relationship.

    This is a mentality that didn’t exist as strongly before the growth in internet dating. Think about it. Ten years ago, if you met somebody, –through work, friends or just being out and about like attending an art gallery opening, going to the gym, going to a party, concert, etc. — if there was initial chemistry, you gave it some attention. You didn’t necessarily cut things off, thinking, oh, I’ll just attend another art gallery opening and will find someone new there. No, most people didn’t think that way. Why? Because it was too difficult and there wasn’t any expectation that you could definitely find somebody new at the next event. Why was a show like Sex & The City so popular? Because it made the singles scene and the meeting/ acquiring boyfriends of different backgrounds and then discarding them seem so easy and effortless. It was fantasy. A fantasy that nobody was really experiencing in real life….until internet dating took off.

    When a person’s dating pool is limited and relatively static, (meaning that one can only date people they come into contact with via work, friends, church, activities, etc.) the person tends to be more serious and eager to focus on any decent prospects because they know there’s no guarantee that any more good prospects will be available anytime soon.

    But online dating has created this fallacy that many people, especially men, have bought into, which is that there is a limitless supply of available females who would be a better match for them than the current woman they are dating. While so many are focused on chasing after the next best thing, they lose sight of the current great thing they have sitting right before their eyes. It’s like a quest for the Holy Grail. People, especially men, just need to get real and get serious and stop dicking around so much.