Regular readers will know that I almost never write about my dating life as it is actually happening – unless they are amusing, or scary or painful stories from the here and now that beg to be told but don’t require much marinating or analysis.
Things get a little tricky when my dating life is actually so good that I want it to stop.
By that I mean, I only want the one guy, I remove myself from all dating apps, and we hide away from the world making love, talking about anything and everything, and whispering little cooing noises to each other in between kissing each others’ lips off. (Note I said ‘making love’ – yes that’s intentional. More on the sex later).
The only way I can write this story is to pretend that the object of my adoration and lust will never read it. So let’s proceed on that basis, as he doesn’t know about the blog yet.
The above scenario is where I’m at and I am so happy to say that.
After three-and-a-half years of obsessively dating, of meeting and talking and fucking; after countless complete breaks and a six-month bout of celibacy; after ending things with my polyamorous tribe of lovers; after so many hours of self analysis and confessional recounting with my dear friends and other bloggers…well, let’s just say that something has changed.
The universe has shifted.
I’ve heard it said before and this fleeting anxiety applies here too – it’s early days and I don’t want to jinx it. But you know that feeling when you just know that things are different? When both the person and the circumstances are so altered from your norm that you’re forced to take notice?
But this tale has a long backstory – that some might say started when I was born, and was certainly solidified when I fell blindly and tragically in love for the first time at 16 years old.
Others might say that we all – particularly women – imbibe both the subtle and overt social and cultural messages that we are not good enough, we’ll never be perfect. Look at what fuels the beauty and wellness industries!
It’s really just a hop, skip and a jump from there to unconsciously believing that you’re essentially unlovable. That you’ll never find anyone to ease your burden or take care of you.
You spend your whole life taking care of others – lovers, family, kids, husbands, friends, colleagues – giving so much of yourself, your energy, your goodwill and your time that sometimes there is precious little left over to fuel the fire within. Or to shore up the gaps against the leaking of your humanity or hope.
It’s not hard to see that over decades I’d set, like the crusted surface of ice on a winter’s pond, a pattern that reinforced behaviours and my unhealthy (but oh so common) belief system.
My belief system, buried beneath layers of experiences, narratives and words, centred around the familiar notion of unworthiness, and the unattainability of a genuine reciprocal, equal and deeply loving romantic relationship.
I couldn’t have expressed this so clearly even a few months ago, for these unhelpful beliefs lurked deep, with a chameleon’s cunning. I’ve always understood that authentic and committed friendships are what matters most, but it was a bittersweet sting that I had not experienced the satisfying feelings of my needs being met, being truly heard, being respected and adored in a romantic relationship.
By that I mean never.
Never is a long time when you’re a midlife woman who’s been intimately involved in a sexual or romantic sense with others for three decades. Never casts a tall shadow over a future where it’s painfully difficult to continue nurturing a sense of hope and positivity for the possibility of that dream’s fruition.
I wrote in this article about some of the self work that started in earnest earlier this year. Of course it really began when I found myself alone, with my two dependent sons, after being one half of couple for my entire adult life.
The journey into sexuality and self began when my marriage ended – not an unusual story these days. When we cast off the shackles of marital ‘ownership’, limiting self-beliefs and stultifying patterns of sexual expression, we often emerge from the chrysalis as a sparkling, raw new being.
It’s been a long period of transformation for me.
Writing the book on which this blog is based was followed with the word-by-word building of this blog that manages to express the tip of my iceberg on midlife female sexuality and this troubling, modern dance of dating and mating.
These have been the tools of my personal growth. Through varied, lived experiences I have in many cases challenged my beliefs, but also attracted the kinds of relationships that helped me to learn. My inner world has transformed in a way that I could never have achieved had I stayed with one man for life. And what a ridiculous notion that is.
Last week I updated my homepage (go check it out if you haven’t seen it for a while) and did some deep thinking (and talking) about the concept of the cougar. You’d know by now that I’ve always used this label with tongue in cheek as a bit of a nose-thumbing to society’s conventions about the proper place for a mature woman (unseen and unimportant).
Thank you to some of my trusted blogger friends for helping me see and express that being a cougar is not just about fancying the pants off younger men. It’s not even about sex. It’s not even about men! At its powerful, goddess heart, it’s about allowing your vibrant female yin energy to flow, in fact to roar! It’s about being unafraid to ask for what you want, to accept that we all have needs and that we are worthy of having them met.
Cougars can be women of any age, but I am still most focused, here in this blog, on women over the magical age of 40, when you realise that you’re probably half way through your precious time on this earth, and you start to feel, sometimes viscerally, that every moment matters. See how I have updated my info page on what I mean by the term ‘cougar’ and see the adorable pic someone snapped of me!
And so how did I attract my heart’s desire?
Like all mysteries, it is complex, deep and shrouded in mist. No one’s journey is as simple as developing a formula and following it. My current state of bliss and steps towards self-acceptance were influenced by many factors.
One friend says I did the self work, another that my time was ripe, and another that I got lucky and it’s all a numbers game.
These are the two factors that I know beyond a shadow of doubt shaped the outcome, and some might say that I manifested my current reality. (Fingers firmly crossed as I write this)
Firstly, I found myself immersed in pondering all things spiritual for the first time in decades. Not since the 90s had I thought, on a daily basis, about concepts such as universal laws, karma, life lessons and the possibility that we humans are at least co-creators of our own fates. This ruminating was the direct result of being interviewed for a podcast about my experiences in and beliefs around new relationship models. Listen here if that topic interests you.
Combined with daily podcasts that I listened to on my commute to and from work an hour away, I had four long sessions with an incredible woman who practises holistic counseling using a toolbox of methods including NLP and guided meditation. Meeting her solidified my belief in myself, the purpose of my journey, and my profound sense of hope for my future.
These two experiences (spiritual and psychological) melded together when I developed my own very clear mantra. I also made a simple text-based vision board (as I mentioned here), but what worked for me was repeating in my head, many times a day, a phrase that distinctly spelled out what I want – my needs:
Committed Intimate Romantic Relationships.
Occasionally I threw in some extras for flavour, and to make it abundantly clear that I also needed these things – sexually satisfying, reciprocal, intense, abundant.
The first thing I noticed was the difference in the types of men I was attracting on Plenty of Fish, where I unveiled my profile for a week at a time. I rewrote my profile text a couple of times, trying to pin down the essence of my mantra in a way that was palatable to the online dating game.
This difference in fishing haul is for twofold reasons. Firstly, I’d been emotionally committed to an older man for the past nine months and so my eyes were opened to the possibility of being physically and psychologically attracted to this demographic.
Secondly, I changed my POF age filters so that I was visible to and seeing men up to my ex-lover’s age. Previously I’d have cut the dating age limit at around 40, because I’ve always had trouble finding men I’m attracted to in this age bracket.
If you’re a midlife guy, hear me out. I’ve written several times about the pitfalls of dating men over 35. If you want to re-live some of my experiences have a scroll down the sidebar, but this story really does illustrate well why midlife women often have a hard time finding worthy peers. And this one illustrates what women can be up against as our sexuality flourishes after aged 40.
But more importantly, my own personal circumstances that saw me married to my second love at 21 after meeting him at 17, were fundamental in my midlife dating journey. It took me a few years of single life to fully understand that younger men were something I’d needed to get out of my system. Like a travel bug, or a teen boy playing the field.
I’d spent my twenties and early thirties with both a dog and a husband, as well as the responsibilities of a mortgage for our first home together. It was pretty obvious, in hindsight, that my brain defaulted to its comfort zone – youthful-looking men.
I was thankful that in our current era, the glorification of the cougar and the attention paid to midlife female sexuality meant that young men were eager and available. Just think for a moment how impossible this match would have been even two or three decades ago, especially before dating apps and the maze of the online world!
After several dozen experiences and a whole lot of personal growth via heartache, irritation and disappointment, I turned my gaze to men of my own generation. Meeting and falling for E was a bold first step, and experiences of lesser impact that resulted from this broadening of my filters all helped me to move towards age-appropriate opportunities.
The other factor I noticed after doing the intense mantra work was that the quality of men on POF had really changed. I was seeing several men’s profiles who might appeal, and I was giving them a chance rather than superficially writing them off based on a photo or two. Call me superficial but this is how the dating world works, unlike Real Life.
After just a few short weeks, my mantra manifested right before my eyes.
I had two prime candidates who were seemingly offering me every element – romance, commitment and intimacy. After texting for a while, I met each of them for a first coffee shop date in the same week. Before that then, I’d already met several other promising candidates who I felt had significant potential as friendships, but not as lovers or romantic partners. That was just fine with me, because I was already beginning to feel the strain of ‘abundance’!
Since then each of these two prime relationships has unfolded at its own pace. I have learned and practised restraint and patience (probably for the first time in my life!) and I have let each man determine the nature of our relationship and how it proceeded.
Rather than charge like a bull at a gate into sexuality and intimacy, I have held back using self-control and wisdom. This is purely because it felt right, and because of my unwavering confidence in my ability to achieve change in my life, manifested as A Good Man.
For various reasons, one of the two men has fallen behind. While I am sad about that and I still want him in my life, I accept that it may not be possible.
This is also partly because, for the first time in the five years since my marriage ended, I want to be monogamous again. Who’d have thought?! This committed poly-solo woman needs to go old-school, for a while at least! And taking that into account, with respect and honesty, I ended the nine-month journey I’ve shared with E.
And finally, to the sex.
Yes, I know you all want to know how fabulous the sex is with my new man! Sex is a manifestation of so much yearning for intimacy between humans. As mammals there is nothing more satisfying, if we are truly open and connected to our desires and sensuality, of being skin to skin and heart to heart with a beloved.
Over the years, I’ve found that connection with lovers and with my young children, but now I feel it at a whole new level. The Good Man who has entered my life, who has swept me off my feet and made me feel seen, heard, respected and adored wraps me with his warm and enfolding physical embrace while also accepting me as I am. Even better, he desires me for the long term.
He is the most sensual man I have ever encountered. He gives me the deepest and most profound orgasms of my life. He kisses me as if our lives depend on the sharing of our tongues and lips’ caresses. I feel his precious energy and I want it – and only it – to enrich my present and my future.
To be continued….