When midlife dating is like high school

Perhaps you haven’t dated in a while and now you’re beginning to go out. You meet a guy who seems great and he seems to like you too. You have a good time together.

Suddenly you find yourself smitten. If he’s said he’ll call you tomorrow afternoon, you wait around the house all afternoon and evening hoping the phone will ring. If he calls, you’re giddy with delight. If he doesn’t, you worry about what you said or did that turned him off.

Maybe you discuss the budding relationship with your gal pals, asking their advice. If he hasn’t called you when you think he should, you painfully debate whether to call him or not. Or perhaps you purposefully cruise places he frequents (gym, bar). Or maybe you find some lame excuse to drop by his place.

cheerleaderIt feels similarly to how you felt in high school when you had a crush on a guy. Maybe you weren’t even dating him, but some of your feelings and behaviors are the same. In high school, you detoured by his locker between classes, lingered outside the gym after his sports practice, and ate lunch near his usual hangout. You buddied up to his friends to find out more about him and his routines. Maybe you asked him to the Sadie Hawkins dance.

Is this healthy? The butterflies and euphoria of starting a relationship feel wonderful. However, if he isn’t as interested in you as you are in him, those feelings will quickly morph into angst.

When it becomes unhealthy is when you find yourself thinking immature thoughts or behaving in ways that will embarrass later. A while ago I quickly became besotted with a man with whom I had dated only 3 times. I was obsessed with wanting him to call and called him more than I was comfortable. I heard myself thinking of asking him, “How do you want me to behave? What do you want me to change?” I was willing (I thought) to lose myself to be attractive to him. This is unhealthy!

Anytime you do something that you later are not proud of, you know you’ve gone over the deep end. The trick is to realize you’re hypnotized by the fantasy of him before you act. If you find yourself wanting to do things that you know you’ll regret later (e.g., sleeping with him as a way of keeping him), find a confidant to confess your plan and ask her to talk you out of it. If she lives nearby, maybe she’ll come over and confiscate your car keys to make sure you won’t do the stupid thing.

In her 40’s, a friend chased after men with limited or no interest. She left her husband of 20 years and moved 2000 miles to the small town in which she grew up to be near her high school boyfriend. Unfortunately for her, he was happily married and had no intention of leaving his wife. She pined for him for over a year, periodically meeting him for a drink and frequenting his haunts to see him, even if he was with his wife. Eventually, he rebuffed her enough times that she realized her folly and let go of her infatuation.

Another time she met a man who worked on a train. Within weeks of meeting him she moved into his train car that was attached to whatever train he was assigned to. She merrily fixed it up, sewing curtains for the windows and adding her woman’s touch to make it more homey. They traveled wherever the train took them, criss crossing the country. Within a few weeks, when they were many miles from her home town, he broke up with her and she had to find her way back home.

Perceived love can cause us to do really dumb things (in retrospect). Just like in high school. Our neediness, loneliness, or libido cause us to take immature actions. The key is to stop yourself before you do something you’ll regret. Remember, you’re not in high school anymore.

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7 responses to “When midlife dating is like high school”

  1. Bookyone Avatar

    Hi DG,

    I just know you were thinking of me when you wrote this. 🙂 I have done some pretty crazy things for love (or what I thought was love) in the past, actually they come closer to the legal definition of stalking than anything else. Thank goodness I no longer “stalk” anyone. I figure if a guy likes me then he can call me, e mail me, visit me, etc., the ball is in his court; otherwise he’s ‘just not that into me,’ as the book says.

    Best wishes from bookyone 🙂

  2. LadyLD Avatar

    Hi DG,

    I just spent Sunday night outlining my over 40 dating angst which basically posed the question, “why don’t they call when they say they will”! Mixed messages galore!

    Love the article!


  3. Kat Wilder Avatar

    Changing who you are and what you believe in for someone else is not love! It is indicative of a neediness and a severe self-image problem.

    High school crushes were wonderful (and painful) … in high school. I still think it’s beautifully magical to let yourself bask in the amazing oxytocin-fueled high of lustful beginnings …. but you just can’t call it love. Let it grow organically, with trust and honesty, kindness and genuine caring, well, now we’re talkin’!

  4. Gatti Avatar

    That’s very true, Kat. And DG is right, it’s not confined to high school. I tried every possible way to please my ex, tying myself up into knots, denying myself things I liked, and it never worked. I was always wrong, he was always angry.

    Now…I just be me and I’m loved for it. Even the lumpy-bumpy bits. Kindness and genuine caring, how right you are!

  5. wildirishrose Avatar

    been there done that myself but have learned to make my self happy and love myself more and things are better now have finally decided to have a man that is a demander and not a partner is not for me

  6. Mitsy Avatar

    I agree about trying to keep your emotions under control before you do anything rash in regards to a guy. Likewise, I have met more than my share of 40+ year old men who behave very high school or junior high age. It isn’t very appealing and just proves how immature some men still are. The games they play remind me of school days antics.

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