As a woman living in New York City there is no better TV representation of life than Sex and the City…at least for my generation. I faithfully watched every Sunday, first run and repeats. In the years since it’s gone off the air I’ve watched every episode at least twice more. SATC was my series, my story, my ups and downs even if my life wasn’t EXACTLY like those four glamorous gals, there was a little of each of them in me.
When the SATC movie came out I had just had my son. I was single, no man in sight and I’d just given birth on my own, was holding it down and was all right even if my 40s were on the horizon. I had it going on! Then I went to the movies with my 3 closest girls (of course) and watched the scenes where Carrie’s Vogue editor went on about how no woman gets married in her 40s and how any woman who did was so rare. She would be in today’s terms…a unicorn. I sat in the movie theater and thought, “oh shit, it’s over for me” even though I’d made very definitive choices about my personal life and career that put a relationship low on the list of priorities it still hit me…40 was coming and I had no significant other. Not only that, I had no prospects and a new man in my life who was so delightful but oh, so demanding. AND by the way, society rules out the notion that a never before married woman can even find a man in her 40s. But that is not the case. I have my own story and the story of several friends to prove it.
My therapist for sure would say that Michael came into my life when I was ready for him and I do believe that to be true. I started dating again when Jack was about a year old and it was a mix of men who told me they “didn’t mind that I had a son” (thanks!) and ones who wanted to meet him after the first date (no thanks!). In short, no one for me. So I essentially ruled out the idea of finding someone. It was just me and my boy and frankly, that was good enough. It was pretty great actually!
Then, the unexpected happened. I was in a meeting at work, a place where in 10 years I’d never met ANYONE, that I first met Michael. He was super put together, nicely dressed, really handsome, successful. Of course I immediately thought he was gay or some NYC jerk who only wanted to date 25 year-olds. But lucky for me (really for him!) I was wrong. It took a few twists and turns and we eventually had our first date and were married one year later.
I’ll get into the details of our courtship for a future post. I want this one to focus more on what it’s like to find love later in life…not that 40 is really that late! It’s for the time when you think “it’s over” and life hands you a surprise. With our 5th wedding anniversary upon us I’ve been very reflective about meeting Michael and if we could have made our relationship work if we had met sooner. It’s impossible to know, but we both get the sense that we met at exactly the right time and anything sooner would not have brought us to where we are today.
As an “older” couple we quickly learned how to cope with many of the growing pains our younger counterparts have to deal with. First, we have to take our individual selves into account with everything. For us, there is a very distinct, but manageable, separation of “things” – friends, finances, hobbies, preferences, interests. We didn’t grow up together by sharing our 20s and 30s. We developed independent adult lives and came together when those lives were in full swing. This forces us to focus on giving our individual “things” the time and attention they deserve while making sure we have time for us as a couple. This is not easy. It requires mutual respect of each other’s interests, the letting go of ego and a genuine desire to support your partner in maintaining his individual self.
Our perspective on marriage in general is also different. We didn’t enter marriage with any expectations that a formal ceremony would validate our relationship or make it more real/permanent. We didn’t have any external forces or nosy relatives pushing us toward marriage. We were two grown people planning a life event for the sake of ourselves. We called the shots completely and didn’t have to worry about consulting our parents, pleasing a bridal party or navigating around anyone else’s “big day” mainly because all of our people were already married, never wanting to get married or just getting out of being married.
We have a built in appreciation for each other’s need for alone time. If Michael needs time to himself or vice versa it’s understood that this is a necessity for us. It doesn’t make us go “hmm”. We’ve had to make sure we don’t fault each other for opting in or out of doing something with one another. We were each on our own before we met so we both find respite in a state of solitude. We remember that wanting to be alone doesn’t mean we don’t want to be with each other. It just means we need to refuel and check in with our selves. This is something in particular I didn’t understand when I was younger. I figured couples should always do things together. Now when I have an hour to myself I’m positively giddy about the prospect of doing exactly what I want or absolutely nothing.
I’m not saying that these points make for a better relationship or that we’ve found the magic formula. Any relationship, romantic or otherwise, has its challenges especially when emotions are involved. I’m saying that for me, the life I lived prepared me to be a better partner and friend now than I ever could have been in my 20s and 30s. I think that when you know yourself it’s easier for you to know someone else and it took me until my mid-to-late 30’s to REALLY understand who I was and what I was all about. Bringing that into a relationship is a rare gift that for me came only with age.