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Do you wonder if you can still have new romantic relationships over 50? What about building better relationships over 50?
The truth is, there’s no age that’s a “cut-off” for dating, relationship building, or romance. Whether you’re starting to get back on the dating scene after a divorce or the death of a spouse, are in a committed relationship, or have been married for 30 years, everyone wants a fun, romantic relationship.
Yet often, as our relationships go on, we might worry that we’re losing the spark or that we’re starting to feel less excited by our partner (or by the prospect of romance in general). Here’s how to keep the thrill going for fun, romantic relationships even after 50.
As human beings, we’re hardwired to seek novelty. When we’re young children, every experience is new, fresh, and exciting. We’re constantly making memories, processing new information, and learning about the world around us.
As we get older, that novelty and accompanying curiosity slow down—sometimes to what feels like a crawl. We might feel like life has become largely routine. We get home from work; we eat dinner, watch TV, go to bed. It’s hard to feel like our relationships (or anything in our lives) bring us excitement or thrills when we’re stuck in a rut.
In the book The Heart of the Fight, we explore the Rules of Engagement—or the tips for having more productive fights that move us toward closer relationships (rather than tearing us apart). One of the essential rules of engagement is that we are each 100% responsible for our own happiness. Similarly, no one gets more than 50% of the blame in any situation.
When we think of those two points, we may realize that some of the issues we see in our relationship may be coming from within ourselves rather than from the partner. When we withdraw, disengage, or choose passive-aggressive behaviors, we can become distant from our partners, friends, and other loved ones.
So how do we get back that spark? How do we combat feelings of boredom, blah, or distance?
One caveat to remember is that “over 50” really has nothing to do with our feelings about our relationships. We can become bored, disengaged, and distant in relationships in our 20s, 30s, or 40s. Similarly, we can enjoy stimulating, romantic, fun relationships into our 80s or 90s (or beyond).
But in our 50s, many of us have fallen into a pretty set pattern. Our careers might be humming along; children might be heading out of the house and off to college. We may even have a grandchild or two. At the same time, many of us reach middle age and think, “Is this it?”
By almost any standard these days, 50 is still very young and vibrant. Most of us are full of energy and in no way feel “our age.” Often when we hit this point in our lives, we start to seek novelty. It can be the classic “midlife crisis” situation, or we may feel a sense of urgency to do more.
Our 50s are a great time to work on strengthening our romantic relationships. It’s a great time to connect with a partner and to start creating the life we want. Here’s how to keep that spark in relationships over 50.
When we get a bad signal on our phone, we might restart it, check the bars, move around to see why we’re having connectivity problems. We try to do something about it. We don’t just yell at our phone or ignore it and wish it would “fix itself.”
If we’re experiencing a disconnect with our relationship, we need to start figuring out the cause. Commit to reengage and work FOR the relationship rather than working against it.
We might think the secret to a long and happy relationship is to avoid conflict. In reality, this is another way we disengage and settle for less. Conflict helps us grow. Any relationship that’s evolving and growing is going to face conflict.
Rather than looking at conflict as a negative sign for our relationships, we can realize that conflict is how we get what we want. We often use conflict as an opportunity to express our needs—our yearnings. Getting these essential longings of the heart met helps us move ahead in a fulfilling relationship.
The perfect relationship doesn’t exist. Fairy tale romances aren’t real, and Prince or Princess Charming isn’t going to ride in on a horse and sweep us off our feet. We might feel like our relationship doesn’t measure up to some ideal we’ve seen in movies or on TV, but these relationships aren’t a reflection of what a real connection should be.
It isn’t that romance doesn’t exist or that we can’t find a great partner, but we must shift our thinking to reflect on a relationship as a partnership—working together towards the goal of a fulfilling connection. When we expect our partner to “make” us happy, we’re setting ourselves up for sure disappointment. Remember, each person is 100% responsible for their own happiness.
How many times do we think, “I don’t deserve a happy relationship,” or, “It’s too late to really get what I want out of my marriage?” These limiting beliefs may arise consciously or unconsciously. They cause us to engage in unnecessary drama.
We get stuck in a self-fulfilling prophecy—believing we aren’t getting what we need from our partner. We act out to get their attention, and they react negatively. This pattern only reinforces the idea that our relationship isn’t working or isn’t giving us what we deserve. So we sulk, we give them the cold shoulder, with pull away….and the pattern continues.
We all bring different things with us into a relationship. This “stuff” is often referred to as our emotional baggage. It may include our relationships with parents, different experiences, friendships, and other early factors contributing to forming our belief system.
Many of us may shrug this off as “It’s just how I am,” but if we really want to work on our relationship, we need to start working on ourselves. What are we avoiding? Why do we hold onto certain beliefs and expectations about relationships? Where do our feelings originate? Some of us may believe our parents were perfect (and no one else can live up to that), others may have grown up thinking they were unworthy of love. These feelings stay with us and affect our future relationships (yes, even our relationships over 50).
If we want to get what we want out of our relationship, we need to speak up! That means asking our partner for what we want and what we need. If we need extra affection today, say so! If we don’t like something that our partner does, let them know!
When we hold back our wants, we may start to resent others for not “reading our mind.” Guess what—they aren’t psychic! Holding back from expressing desires can lead to disappointment and resentment that our partner didn’t get the message. It can feel a little strange at first, but with practice, it quickly because easier for us to request what we desire.
We can only control our own actions. As much as many of us would like to “get” our partner to do what we want, part of their draw is who they are as an individual. We wouldn’t want someone who did exactly what we wanted, when we wanted it, every time.
Similarly, we shouldn’t hold our partners responsible for mistakes they don’t even realize because we have the responsibility of ourselves. We can only control our own actions and reactions. We can express our feelings clearly and honestly. We can work on ourselves, and the relationship will be stronger for it.
Instead of feeling our partner is out to get us, what if we believed our partner wanted the relationship to work as much as we did? In most cases, this is true, yet, many couples distrust their partner or play out their response before they even have a chance to succeed.
When we find ourselves using phrases like, “You never,” or “You always,” we might be focusing on the negative rather than accentuating the positive. Instead, what if we noticed the positive things our partner does and complimented them on that instead? What if we reinforced the good actions with positive reinforcement?
When we get “bogged down” with the idea of learning and growing, we forget that the most significant growth comes from novelty and play! Yes, as adults, we can still have fun and enjoy new, exciting experiences. What if we really try to mindfully be in the moment and enjoy new experiences with our partner?
Instead of zoning out on a Netflix binge, what if we choose an activity that we enjoy together? What if we get out in nature, take a walk together, listen to a lecture or take a class together, or attend an art experience that speaks to our soul? There are plenty of ways to connect to others, and one of them is to have fun! Do activities that both parties enjoy and be in the moment together.
Intimacy comes from building an honest, authentic connection. The more open, engaged, and self-aware we become, the more our relationship will benefit too. We’ll become more intimately connected to our partners because we’re our true selves. We know that they love us for who we are, and we love them for exactly who they are too. We allow ourselves to be vulnerable, messy, real, and human. When we let down our guard, we can start to really connect with someone else.
For more ways to build loving, lasting relationships, visit our courses on Wright Now. We offer resources for personal growth, career building, and to help you strengthen your relationships! Get the connections you want today.