Remember your first love? You know, the guy made you swoon at the thought of him. The one who made your legs like jelly as his lips touched yours. That man you told anyone and everyone who would listen to you would marry and bear his children. The hot, sexy guy who made the sun, the moon, and stars rise above the bed where your nightly dreams were about him, your destined one.
I remember my first true love as if it was yesterday. We met in high school and started dating after graduation. His name was Zach. My undying love for Zach made me so stupid (I can say that now without hesitation); I could not have felt my way out of a wet paper bag. I was seventeen and had zero skills in the love department. However, no one could tell me that, and if they did, I would not have heard a word of it.
Once sex became a part of our coupling, I knew everything about life. My attitude created a wedge between my mother and me. I was a real woman with my own man. I no longer needed her advice about life because I now knew it all. I knew my relationship with Zach was perfect until it was not.
When we broke up, I was devastated. My world ended—no more sun, moon, or stars rising. My life was over. I cried and pined for the lost perfection of my first relationship with a man.
My father tried to comfort me; however, there was nothing he could say to lift my spirits. I knew my devastation was a life sentence. How could I go on without Zach? Yes, yes, yes, he was my soul mate. I felt destined to live in the abyss of love’s torment. So distraught about my lost love, I moved to Memphis and stayed with my sister for several months.
When I returned to Connecticut, I met Darrell, whom I eventually married. Once again, I let immature thinking convince me this relationship was the real deal of love. I started getting high with marijuana and cocaine under the guise of love. Seven years later, I divorced him. Again, love failed me.
Before the ink was dry on the divorce papers, I met Willis—another drug situation. However, I was so in love with him that I had to marry him. My continued immaturity, drugs, and the problems in my parent’s marriage did nothing to prepare my sisters or me for a relationship. I began to question what real love was about. So, as a sober person, I continued to get into unhealthy relationships.
When I married Rodney, I was sure my life skills would finally allow me to have the healthy relationship I desperately craved. Unfortunately, Rodney was now the immature one without fundamental relationship skills. Once I realized he relapsed and started drugs, he had to go. And quickly. I released him to figure out his life without me.
As I began to round the corner of turning fifty-five, I understood that I no longer had to have a man in my life to have a life. I wanted a man; I did not need a man. Once I no longer need you, it would be easy to disregard you like yesterday’s newspaper and move on. If I want you, I will work hard to make the relationship work. I began to focus on my actual needs for the life I wanted to live.
Then along came Mark. We met on the senior dating site just before my fifty-fifth birthday. He read my bio and messaged me for a date to celebrate my birthday. I accepted and met him at The Office, a small casual bar, where he was the singer that night.
When he walked in, I recognized him right away. He was as handsome as he was sexy. He was well groomed, with a great smile. Did I say very sexy? Mark spotted me at the bar and came over to introduce himself. Then the show started. I was excited about this man.
During the break, he joined me for more conversation. He told me that he had been married and divorced. His adult son lived with him and was about to finish college. So far, I had not heard anything to make me pick up my purse and run. However, I needed to remind myself to take it slow.
Once Mark’s show ended, we talked for a while, then he walked me to my car. He then asked what would he have to do to keep seeing me. My now mature response was, “Treat me with respect.” Then everything else would follow. My now almost fifty-five-year-old brain told me I am ready for this if it heads in the right direction. A few days later, he called me for another date.
As I stated at the beginning of this article, our relationship is not perfect. Nothing ever is. However, when two people work together, perfection is not essential. That is about anything. We are attracted to each other both mentally and physically. By the way, the chemistry is SPICEY!!
Mark and I have been a couple for almost ten years. Again, it has not always been perfect; however, it is as perfect as possible. After all, no one is perfect. When we say, I love you, neither of us needs to question the validity of what we said. Whenever I need him to do something for me, he will do it whenever possible. That also works when he needs something.
When we are together, we can still enjoy each other’s company. Although we don’t always agree on everything, we continue to have meaningful conversations. We have evolved enough to understand that we each have our own opinions. If we disagree, I do not hold on to grudges or anger. While Mark tends to hang on to his feelings for a bit, I like to move on quickly. Eventually, we agree to disagree.
We both had surgery during our time together and nursed each other not because we had to but because we wanted to. It is never hard to be kind to someone who is kind to you. Love and respect, among other things, have become essential values to us. That is something I did not have in my other relationships. If it was there, it did not last long. Unfortunately, my previous relationships, I was unaware they needed to be.
None of the men I married or dated before Mark ever cared enough about me as a woman, their woman. At least, that is how I see it. I allowed that in those relationships. I never demanded to be treated better because I did not know how. I did not know what that looked like. My mother never demanded it from my father, and my grandmother did not require it from my grandfather. I grew up understanding that women took whatever men gave them whenever they wanted to give it to them.
After multiple failed and wasted time relationships and a few positive but ineffective relationships, I am glad I did not become jaded about love. I believe I was not of sound mind and body to make serious commitments when I was much younger. A polluted and immature mind does not produce well-balanced decisions.
After emerging from under the clouds of low self-esteem, unworthiness, and self-doubt, I learned I could not find real love without self-love. When I reflect on who I fell in and out of love with, no one was worthy of the changes I had to go through in my older life when I was young. If I continued to live in my sea of disrespect, I would always be open to receiving disrespect.
Rolling into my fifties and now about to turn 65, my perspective on love has completely changed. Finding the best person for me went from just physical attraction to who the man was on the inside. The physical attraction is merely a bonus.
Maturing love is a more relaxed love. I no longer spend a minute thinking about who Mark is with, what he is doing, and why he has not called me. We both have been married and divorced.
Once I became more confident in myself, I had cleared the way for my mind to distinctly have a better sense of what kind of man I wanted in my life as the Ying to my Yang. I can express what I want and do not want in a relationship.
I understand that life, at any age, can be gone in a minute. I do not have the luxury of wasting time on long-term anger and silliness.
I love the idea that we both can have different goals, even in our sixties, while having united goals. When I was in my younger years of dating, if my boyfriend and I were not talking on the phone for hours, I felt we had to be in each other’s presence every minute. I knew my life only existed because he, whoever he was now, breathed life into my soul. What a silly Sally I was.
Although Mark and I frequently text or talk on the phone, we still have a life of our own, and our lives can get busy. So, not talking or texting for a day or two is not stressful to my emotions. We manage to survive. Unlike my younger version, not talking to a guy I thought completed me would have created a meltdown in the universe. “How can I go on without talking to him”?
When I was in the “STUPID” age of dating, it was unthinkable that I had my own opinion about anything. However, although Mark and I do not always share the same opinion about specific topics, Mark jokingly calls mine “Women’s Propaganda.” I can tell him I will wait until he becomes enlightened, and we laugh and move on to our following conversation. There are no fights due to the right to have different opinions.
So, how is falling in love differently in my senior years versus when I was in my twenties, thirties, and forties? I know who I am today. It took me to become a senior citizen to understand this.
When I was much younger, sex equated to love in my underdeveloped mind. I thought this well into adulthood. I was willing to follow the pied piper at any moment to be loved and wanted. In the end, I got nothing. There was no man to make me feel special. I was short-tempered and easy to plot revenge, and I did if things did not go my way. I had to learn how to handle rejection without understanding couple relationships.
As I continued my life journey, I learned to embrace the gift of age, accompanied by knowledge, temperance, patience, acceptance, and love. Love for self. I know maturity comes with the understanding of deal breakers.
Let me say this. It is easier to love someone and be in a relationship after hard lessons learned with age. Once we peel the layers of immaturity off, it is a whole new world. It is easier to love and respect someone once you love and respect yourself and know how you want your partner to treat you, except nothing less.
Mark and I did something my exes did not do with me; we got to know each other. We took time to understand what matters to one another. We did not hold each other to the sins of our past. We learned to appreciate and value ourselves as individuals and as a team. We relaxed and had fun. And equally as important is when we say I love you, we do not just say it; we show it.
My walk-through love and relationships is not meant for everyone. Many fell in love as youngsters and married until death separated them. That was the life of my parents. So, I put no one down for this. I can only speak about my journey.
I have freed myself from believing that six-pack abs are a must. It is no longer critical for a man to have a fancy car. I do not think telling me you love me proves you love me, as you cheat on me and do not respect me. I am not that woman anymore. Learning to self-love, receive love, and then cultivate it into a great relationship can be the cherry on top. And I love cherries.
Halleluiah, I am no longer a relationship idiot.