by Amy Jones
In dating and in life, the single most important thing I’ve identified is to pay attention to my intuition and the signs.
Signs come in many forms: red flags, pink flags (these are the gentle taps on your shoulder that say “pay attention” prior to the red flags), confirmations, next steps, when to take a pause or a break and even validation of my choices.
When we are single, especially post-divorce, there can be a kind of “lost” feeling. Being part of a couple for so long and then being on our own can feel unnatural and awkward. It’s in the awkward space that we can truly determine what we would like in our next partner: wants and needs, likes and dislikes, must-haves, like-to-haves and deal-breakers.
I spent a tremendous amount of time in that awkward space. Fortunately, the time off from a relationship provided me with some insightful information, points of reference and a great deal of courage. I updated the way I think about relationships; what I wanted to give and receive and how I wanted to operate as I entered a different phase of life with a partner. I also opened myself up to adjusting my list of must-haves, like-to-haves and deal-breakers. Of course, there are going to be some preferences but what if I miss something good because of my preferences?
How could I merge my life with someone else’s in a way that is sustainable, healthy and allow both he and I the space we need both personally and professionally? I anchored myself both internally and externally so that when he comes along, I have the ability to continue to operate in my world while combining our lives. The term “self-management” kept coming to mind. I realized my intuition was giving me a gentle tap on the shoulder to pay attention to this concept.
I had been practicing self-management for a while and my definition is as follows:
to live life in a way that is comfortable, graceful and relaxed recognizing that situations, life and people are fluid while allowing life to take its natural course without control, ego or manipulation.
It was in my practice of self-management that I acknowledged I was truly ready for a partner. I was previously unsuccessful at meeting eligible single men in person and decided to give online dating one last try. I reactivated Bumble and began to swipe. I looked at every potential match with a fresh perspective beginning with the initial conversation via messaging and then over the phone. I gave myself a deadline of one week for this final and last attempt. I was committed to paying attention to the feeling I felt on the first date and keeping the concept of self-management at the top of my mind. There would be no second date if either one was compromised.
Letting go of control
And then it happened. I had a conversation with a man that went very well; not too long with just the right amount of questions. We agreed to meet the next day and the signs began. He chose one of my favorite restaurants in Addison and sent the info via Yelp which showed a photo of my favorite dish. Our conversation was smooth but not too chatty. He did not “sell himself” and allowed the conversation to ebb and flow. There was the right amount of comfortable silence. We agreed to meet again.
The same week, we met for lunch at another restaurant; his choice again after I gave him a few of my favorites. We spoke about being entrepreneurs, life after divorce and eventually the conversation led to travel. I mentioned I was taking a trip to Merida, Mexico to explore moving there in the next couple of years. He did a double take and then pulled out his phone to show me the information he had accumulated on Merida, Mexico. How was this possible? No one I knew ever heard of Merida.
This was only our second date and my intuition went off like a spark! All the signs said, “Pay attention!!! Focus on self-management!!! Allow this to unfold in its own time.” This is where the story gets interesting. Timing is everything. I quickly learned that allowing the relationship to take its own course is the most important and yet hardest, thing to do. So often, we want to control the relationship instead of letting it take its natural direction. Because I was practicing self-management, it was easier for me this time. However I did have to put myself in time-out a few times when I lapsed back into negative self-talk.
A new beginning: love at 50 plus
I promised myself I would begin again; new man, new relationship, new experiences. To me, a relationship is like a three-legged race. You choose a partner (personal or professional) and tether your legs together. You approach the starting line knowing there is a goal in mind: to cross the finish line. Once the race begins, you have to communicate with each other along the way to determine the pace, the flow and the necessary speed it will take in order to finish. You can choose to compete with others, or you can choose to focus on yourself and your partner; being gentle and paying attention to what you need as well as what they need. Do you need to slow down or go faster? Do they want to take a break? For the entirety of the race, you learn about each other through communication, actions and feelings.
Soon after meeting, we agreed to focus on each other. We discussed how it was really soon but the feelings were mutual and it was important to let things happen in their natural course. Over the next few weeks, I consciously stopped old thoughts, repeating patterns and the noise that tends to distract me from being in the moment. I had a trip to Merida planned so it felt natural to ask him to accompany me. I wouldn’t have asked in the past, however all the signs were green and green means go. We went to Merida after dating only two months.
- I gave us a chance for a fresh start. Not bringing my past forward allowed me to begin a completely new and different dating experience with my new guy.
- Self-management is the KEY to a healthy, balanced relationship. My discovery of this concept keeps me on my side of the road – which is the best place for me to be.
- Remember the three-legged race. Communication, pace and flow are imperative while adjusting along the way when either he or I need something different.
- Determine who will fill my wants and needs. It is not realistic for me to expect he will fill all of those for me. Doing this work in advance was an insightful exercise that helped prepare me for a relationship.
- I’m grateful for what he does both in communication and in action. I’ve learned to adjust some outdated ways of thinking which has helped me tremendously.
- We need to be patient and kind. We are merging our lives, and this will take time, space, patience and kindness.
- We agreed to be transparent with each other, which was a little scary for me. I’ve never been able to be completely transparent with anyone and had to trust both myself and him to do so.
- We discussed not taking our problems outside of our relationship. What goes on with us is sacred and will remain that way.
Non-judgemental behavior means comfort
Something else significant about him was his complete lack of judgement. Ultimately, with a new relationship, the question is asked about why I remained single for so long. For the majority of men, this was a negative aspect. When I told them I’d been divorced since 2010, they looked at me like something was wrong with me. Over and over again, I tried unsuccessfully to adequately explain I was unwilling to compromise on my next partner. Have you ever been in a situation where you need something, but aren’t quite sure what? That was me. I was searching for a partner who would have “something”, but I couldn’t put my finger on what that “something” was.
It was this lack of judgement and his kindness that ultimately tipped the love scale for me. I recognize that what I feel when I am with him and in general is not anything I’ve ever felt before. I constantly remind myself to stay in the present. I also work to keep some overwhelming emotions in check because of these deep feelings, which is hard for me. However, it is good for me to remain balanced with myself and our relationship. It still happens but occurs less and less often as I learn more about myself and truly get in touch with my feelings.
The bottom line
I feel an utter sense of comfort, familiarity and home. I’m following my heart and intuition this time. My gut always feels right, and tells me this relationship is one that will support and sustain both of us, what we need and want from each other and from our partnership. I am confident our feelings will continue to grow and flourish as we give each other space, time, patience, kindness and love along the way.
I wish the same for you when you are ready for a relationship. Remember to trust your instincts and watch for the signs. You will know when you meet “the one”. And when you do, take it slow. Try not to judge and be kind, patient and loving. It took 10 years for me to find the relationship I need, want and deserve – and it was well worth the wait.
Amy Jones is a midlife coach, author and international speaker. Everyone has a story to tell and a book inside them. Once we let go of the stories that aren’t true, we feel relieved, empowered, accomplished, unburdened and validated. That’s how Jones’ felt once she told her true story of surviving cancer and overcoming emotional trauma and abuse.
She’s had the highs, the lows, the scars, the bruises, the highlights and the low lights that she can now reflect on this ever-evolving journey of life we are on. Amy’s passion has always been helping people and being of service. Through her personal trials and triumphs, as well as the experiences of her clients, Amy’s goal is to help people build a life just like she’s done; a life they love waking up to every morning feeling anything is possible.