When you are a “senior” canvassing the available dating pool with an eye toward, at best, a somewhat limited future with a companion, compatibility and companionship seems to make the most sense. When you are young with lots of years ahead of you, falling in love or lust for someone who is basically the opposite of you could be a good idea in that the contrast in styles, skills, maturity, philosophies and preferences certainly gives you lots of fodder for growth… provided you are willing to grow and see the other’s point of view.
However, by your 5th and 6th decade, the days of trouble, trouble, toil and struggle are behind you (or should be)… been there, done that. “Now all I want is peace, harmony and intimacy, the kind you can only find when most of the big stuff is pretty similar: politics, religion, and overall attitude toward life.”
This was the recent reflection a 67 year-old gentleman of my acquaintance. I thought he made great sense and yet he was caught in the web of an old “imprint” from his childhood-a cold, verbally abusive mother now replaced by a similarly sharp-tongued companion. The pattern for this gentle and generous man was to give and give until the petty tyrant was mollified; then he accepted tokens of love (sex and hot meals) as if they were the real thing. These old patterns in our lives are so powerful and familiar, we hardly see them even if obvious to those around us.
But how does one learn to choose a partner with one’s head, one’s common sense, and one’s intelligence even when one is a senior? If there isn’t at least a little “spark” of chemistry, how will you get past those irritating behaviors that are apart of every person? If there isn’t a least a little “spark” of chemistry, how will you make it to the bedroom with any sincerity? After all chemistry can give you rose-colored glasses when you most need them. This conundrum of course, is the very essence of arranged marriages which were rarely about love and chemistry and usually about “intelligent,” meaning financially and socially advantageous, pairings. I wonder if this is in part why we in the 21st century are still so attracted to the Jane Austin and the Bronté novels: will love win out over traditional ways of selecting one’s mate, which was for life in those days, divorce being a ruinous scandal.
When I was writing a newspaper column in the 1980’s I visited this subject more than once, for it is a timeless one and perhaps one without an answer, at least a definitive one. If Love is so Great, What is Going Wrong, and If He is Mr. Right, Where are the Bells, were two such columns. You would think as we age, we would get smarter, for by the time you are in your 6th decade things are pretty well set. Our lifestyle preferences are not going to change radically nor will our bodies improve much. We are who we are, so choosing with one’s head makes much more sense than it did when we were younger. The answer is obvious enough: awareness, emotional courage and a willingness to learn from the past. We know what to do, so why don’t we do it?