Guest Post: A Recent Break-Up
March 12, 2012 § 78 Comments
Many thanks to failedatforty for this guest post:-
I’m a divorcee in my early forties living in middle America. Two years single. Two grammar school-aged children. I’ve recently enjoyed a lovely six-month relationship, which ended gently and respectfully…and now I’m missing him terribly.
As with so many modern relationships, it began with an online dating site, a bit of back-and-forth chatter, a cup of coffee. I was clear about my situation; he had his own reasons to be patient and understanding. We dispensed with our baggage early on, offering each other an easy out while the stakes were low. We enjoyed each other, it would seem, enough to look beyond those things to substance.
Over the past several months, I’ve reveled in the attention and compliments of a loving man – a man who was truly single, with neither ex wives nor children to detract from his adoration of me: “I value you.” “You are worthy.” These are phrases I had become accustomed to hearing regularly. I felt happy in this relationship, I loved spending time with my beau and I did not want it to end.
Of course that’s not the full story: I liked it that he called me; I loved that he took time to plan our dates; I indulged in his stamina to love and caress me all night, while I was content to offer up the energy and affection I had left after my weeks as a full-time professional and single parent.
Clearly it was an unequal situation, yet I enjoyed the benefits despite eventually coming to understand that I could not fully commit my heart to him. I had to be honest about how I felt. I loved him genuinely, but had no passion for discussing a future together. For all the wonderful things we shared, there were differences, too – differences beyond his distaste for my choice in indie films and mine for his B-list romances. We were missing some critical ingredient: the sort of passion that could get us through the difficult transitions that would certainly come would we have stayed together.
When his heart has healed, he will go back out there and try to find a woman who can feel as crazy about him and fully committed as he can be for her. While others are writing entire books to convince women, presumably plankton like me (us) to settle for good-enough men…well, now what am I to do?
To be clear, I’ve never particularly identified with this notion of being plankton on the sexual food chain. Of course, I’ve never particularly identified with being a failure, either, and yet I chose to name my blog failedatforty.com, a title my friends immediately identified as a tongue-in-cheek poke at my situation.
We forty-something women have come in to our own; we are freer and more self-assured than our younger counterparts. Good men are scarce, to be sure, but wisdom is among the hard-earned advantages of my age and experience, and I wouldn’t trade for younger days or a more slender physique (even though, Lord knows, I’d like one). Desirous of partnership though we may be, we know there is greater loneliness to be found in a poor relationship than in being alone.
So, while I feel acute pangs of loneliness now, and while I miss him terribly and long to feel his embrace, I will go on to the tasks at hand: nursing my lonely heart and trying to fill myself with the loving words that I’ve come to take for granted I’d hear from another. As difficult as these things may be, at least I carry with me reassurance that a man can love me, want me and see my goodness.
I’m not yet ready to get back out there and date, and I’m not willing to predict when I might be or what route I might choose. Rather, I intend to spend the near future continuing to work on me: that is, seeking an ever-elusive balance among the demands of parenting, career, making this house a home and enjoying my other relationships; nurturing myself; and living well regardless of my means. Isn’t that what it’s all about anyway?
And, as I genuinely believe that like attracts like, I’ll re-commit to enjoying life and being a woman equal to the man I hope to one day welcome into my life… knowing there are no guarantees I’ll ever find him.
Thanks failedatforty for sharing this with us. You seem to have thought hard about your decision, but at our age such a decision is made more difficult by the fact that the relationship we consider leaving could well be our last. You have shown real courage by ending this relationship. Many would have stayed with a man who says things like “I value you” and “you are worthy” even though they had no passion for the man.
This man is now free to find somebody who has a passion for him and she could well be 20 years younger than he is. I will be honest, if I had been in failedatforty’s situation I would have stayed with this fine caring man and tried to make it work as passion can grow over time.
No matter who we meet there will be differences in tastes and interests – such diversity can make a relationship interesting. We have to work out what it is we want in a relationship and how much we are willing to compromise. If we would prefer to compromise and stay in a relationship or not compromise and be alone. Everyone is different and nobody should be castigated for their decisions.
Excellent points Elle, I do think compromise is inevitable in a relationship between two people, and it comes down to whether you think the person you are compromising for is worth it. Evidently failedatforty thought her man was not enough of a reward for her to compromise for.
I confess I am like you and were I lucky enough to have a fine caring man like that I would have been focussing on the love I had, and not wishing for passion at all. I am sure there are a lot of relationships that are without passion but are full of happiness and love none the less.
Perhaps visiting my beginning of a response to some of this commentary over on http://www.failedatforty.com will help some understand. I’m not seeking some perfect, unrealistic ideal. I didn’t just throw a man back out into the pool. I was honest; he made choices.
Great post, and I think your magnanimous and positive attitude to your situation is terrific. Best of luck with the next stage.
Again, I find it so sad that a person gives his/her heart to another who possibly through no fault of his/her own rejects h/h in the search for an imaginary “Perfection” .
To me , it’s like not eating unless all your food is prepared and recommended by a Michelin 5 star chef. The last person i know of who ate like that was Louis xxiv ,
It’s strange that people demand a realisation of a fantasy to enable them to be satisfied.
My uniformed guess is, they will never be in a relationship, because they are obsessed by a fantasy in which they are perfect , and the object of their desire is also perfect . A lose/lose situation .
You gotta give a little , but not write down what you gave as if it were a gift instead of a pleasure .
My Wifes’ greatest gift is her smile, I will give everything to receive it , my heart sings when it appears ….no price is too high for me , and I don’t make notes about it .
No wonder you don’t particularly identify “with this notion of being plankton”, you are not one, a true plankton cannot afford to throw a perfectly good fish back into the sea. But it was the right thing to do if you are not interested in compromising for a relationship with a real life non-perfect person, let someone else who will treasure this man have him. Indeed go ahead and hold out for Mr Perfect as long as you are also willing to accept that you could well go to your grave without ever meeting him, particularly when it is highly likely that he does not in fact exist. In the end there is no such thing as right or wrong, only consequences.
Hear hear Miss M”
Fail has apparently assesed the situation, weighed the pros and cons, factored in the variables, and is prepared to accept the consequences. Fine. But this is confusing: “I loved him genuinely, but had no passion for discussing a future together.” Must be a gal thing (she’s an American so the Anglo/Yank bridge isn’t there). I must confess my first thought after reading this is not whether her Mr. Perfect exists, but whether she does. This sounds like the rhapsody of a 16 year old, not a professional 40 something with 2 grade school age children in Middle America (a phrase Americans recognize refers to much more than geography).
@tv. Hope you’re doing well
That’s very mananimous of you Fi, I’m sure the feeling isn’t mutual. Give him half a chance and he will be spewing foul green stuff while his head is spinning like that kid in the Exorcist!
Just what is it about the two comments left by “TVMunson” today to which you take exception?
Did you not say in the past few days that he had a serious health problem? Are you taking the Michael about someone’s health?
@Tlover. Its all in here, towards the end
Here I sit at my desk. Bottom jaw is on the floor. Catching flies with my mouth. I missed all that excitement.
I am gob smacked by the kindness shown to Mr Munson by some of the correspondents on the 6th of February. And that after what had gone on before – terrific magnanimity.
I then fell on a passage suggesting secondary liver cancer and another saying he had had a procedure the day before, the day before he managed to find the strength to write that lot.
Well I never.
@Tlover. I’m afraid they weren’t all nice.
Sorry, I didn’t realise that tvmumsen was ill as I didn’t read Plankton’s blog that week. I wish him the best with his health and hope that he is not coping with his troubles alone.
Elle – you made a joke about him which was funny and not cruel. I think that’s ok. He’s ill, but he’s not turned into a saint! He’s still TV. Nobody should be revelling in his illness as some of the earlier posters were, but at the same time I think its ok to crack a joke at his expense sometimes. God knows Zoe and I have done it with Scott and his porn habit.
@Scott. That’s porn habit with a 😀
It doesn’t seem to me that the guest blogger is unaware of the consequences at all or that she is expecting to find a real-lfe perfect person.
I think this is a very real, measured, introspective post.
“Good men are scarce, to be sure…” Pause for thought, and then a question: Are good women scarce? To be sure.
For me, if it was just a case of ‘you say tomaytoes and I say tomatoes’ I’d hang on in there but if the ‘missing ingredient’ was that I didn’t fancy him I’d have to end it as that can, and has, quickly turned to revulsion! Failedatforty says she ‘longs to feel his embrace,’ though, so I’m guessing that’s not the case here.
Also, the difference between early and late forties is significant (especially if you can still get away with being in your thirties) and you’re in with a much better chance if you fall into the former category. I know I was. Sob.
btw, failedatforty, I meant to ask apropos of one of your former posts (I think it was you)…. are you really a rocket scientist?
A rocket scientist? Heavens, no! …but that sounds awfully interesting…
Ah fail my dear. So I take from your post that you let a man go who was warm, kind, affectioante, passionate (him; apparently not you so much) and so on because you did not feel “it”? I peruse this sight occassionally and while I must admit I am unqualified to say who is or is not plankton, you post certainly is singularly unusual. What prompted you to post this?
Well, I’ll take you at your word. You want it all or nothing; no “in between”. Hat off-good luck. I would rather imagine a bright future as a blogosphere columnist does not await you. Few can adopt your strategy and, if you’re still at it as 50 nears, I very much doubt you can. Get busy girl-the next 5 are crucial, unless you do intend to write “Mid Amercian Plankton”.
Yesterday, well in the last couple of days anyway, one of the correspondents, Fi I think it was, mentioned that you were not well.
I don’t recall the subject of your health coming up – do you have a health problem?
Unconnected question: I see that Sodini has surfaced again in the last few days. Connection? Coincidence?
Mixed feelings here too, it couldve been me for the first two paragraphs except in my case my “beau” let me go in favor of imagined perfection.
You have my sympathies. I found it felt far worse to be dumped by a person who had nothing more than dreams of meeting their imaginary ideal, than it was to be dumped in favour of a real life person.
You’re right about wasting your time with a man who isn’t right. Life’s too short and you’re not desperate.
Good luck with finding the man who will certainly not be perfect but who will be right.
Hmm, wonder who it is then. There definitely was a rocket scientist, at least they said they were.
Plankton has mentioned meeting two:
I know who you’re thinking of – damn I can’t remember names but there was a scientist (female) contributing to this blog who someone else then put in touch with a scientist (male) friend of theirs. ( I would have to seach back through the blog to find them but I remember it sounded promising! )
Failedatforty – a very brave and difficult decision. IF you feel that it needs to be ‘right’ – or you have the option of living with a compromise for the rest of your life. A compromise sounds pretty good to me, but we were not behind your closed doors were we?
If your heart was heavy with the incompatibility of it all, so be it.
But weighing up options means the alternative could be worse.
Lizzie – it was me of who you speak regarding in touch with another scientist. But I am not a scientist of the rocket variety. The only kind of rocket I can comment on is in my salad or my garden.
That’s YOU! (Yes I know you are not a rocket scientist!!)
I just thought if Rosie is talking about one of us – not the blog itself – then there was only one scientist that I can recall – you!
Hope all is going well with you…..
There was a forty in there somewhere.
Not sure I can agree with your letting this one go, but you know your heart.
On the other hand, not dragging the relationship out because you had doubts was probably a kindness, and obviously you miss him.
I also agree with rosie and tvmunsen, when you get closer to 50, things will change, and that time will be here before you know it.
I agree with the guest blogger on this one. Its not fair on anybody to lead them on and let them believe that you will ever feel more for them than you would a friend, and it prevents him from finding someone who may fall madly in love with him and him her. And hanging on to someone from fear of being on your own is I think a very selfish thing to do, especially as sooner or later your dissatisfaction leaks out and you would make this guy unhappy anyway.
Yes, I think it’s very simple: Failedatforty loved this man, but wasn’t *in* love with him. I suppose some people could make do with this (better than being alone, etc.) but I don’t think Plankton herself would be in this camp either. She wants someone she fancies, obviously, as I hope we all do!
I agree no one should be with someone they don’t fancy, but I assumed she fancied him since they were together for six months.
I’m not sure about this whole “in love” business. How many couples that have been together for a while would say they are “in love”? It does depend on what we mean by “in love” of course, but if you are expecting your heart to race and your stomach to go flip each time you see your partner, that might just be a little unrealistic. Most older couples I’ve heard comment on the subject say they love each other in a different way than they did when they were young, but that they value that deep sort of love just as much, if not even more than, those heady early days of passionate love.
btw, I’m an idiot. Meant to reply directly to your post, MissM, but ended up replying to the community at large (below).
Lol, it takes more that one simple posting mistake to make an idiot thirtysomething. I suspect quite a lot of posts on this page end up not exactly where the poster had really meant them to go, so I figure it is an easy mistake to make. Of course I have heard it said that if you make the world idiot proof, the world only comes up with a better idiot.
Do you want my cell phone # ?
I offered to send my cell phone # to The Plankton last year, she seemed notably uninterested…. …..
@scott. No wonder she’s a plankton. You’d think she’d be chomping at the bit to phone a complete stranger if he’s a man!
I suppose if she’s missed her chance with you she could always try opening the phone book at a random page, close her eyes and pick a phone number and try dialling that and seeing if a man answers. 🙂
Fi, we are dealing here with a woman who has set up a blog page devoted entirely to describing how difficult it can be to select the right partner for a relationship when you are forced to choose between no one, absolutely no one, pretty much no one and of course, no one.
And she’s been adding a new post almost every single day for an entire year now, and once a week, one of these posts appears in The Times.
I felt sorry for her… And she intrigued me a bit, I was curious to learn more about the mysterious Ms. Plankton… Can’t blame a guy for trying…
Alas, 2 months from now, the first digit in my age will no longer begin with the number “3,” so perhaps I too may soon be elligible to join the ranks here….
“Alas, 2 months from now, the first digit in my age will no longer begin with the number “3,” so perhaps I too may soon be elligible to join the ranks here….”
You are having a sex change for your 40th?
Get that woman out of your mind, I’m in the directory under “Lover, Mrs T”
Oh no- No way… Just a couple of days ago you offered to sell you husband….
No way am I sending you my phone # …..
Perhaps, Mr. B, you should post a photo, age and stats here…you’d probably be inundated with requests to meet from lovely women.
I must say that I am genuinely thrilled with the dialogue, some assumptions and questions that have arisen as a result of my post here! You — this engaged community — are giving me both food for thought and potential material for discussion on failedatforty.
Check back as I will try to respond in greater depth throughout the week as time allows, especially on my own failedatforty.com, where I have the luxury of space, time and editorial oversight.
Well failed at 40 i dont know what to say,you seemed to have lots going for you with this man, what exactly wasnt right. I think i might have settled but i am older than you and also i have a friend of your age who is still in a relationship that died ages ago, nothing like yours, they are very unsuited . I dont think either of them love each other at all,there is no warmth in their relationship, hes tried to end it, but she hates being alone, so wont, and as he has little money, and couldnt afford to buy anywhere, its her house, he stays, he sometimes seems like the lodger. Your relationship seemed wonderful in comparison, only hope you dont regret ending it in a year or so,
However only you know how you feel and its your decision, and i admire your courage.
But, really, I don’t understand at all…. this relationship sounded so good and you say you really loved him. You say you miss him. You long for his embrace. Yet you let him go? That’s brave! I don’t think I would have done it if I felt like that. But this all boils down to one thing, and one thing only – should we be searching for Mr Perfect, when Mr Good Enough will do just fine, if not brilliantly, sometimes, over time? You have to take the long view and be prepared to put the work in. Me? I think the Mr Good Enough wins, hands down. I speak not from my own personal experience but from what I’ve seen my friends and other family members go through. So many of them have crashed through one unsuitable relationship after another, been sad, depressed, and lonely (and all these are fabulous, educated, attractive, professional, successful women) who are alone because, quite simply, they were chasing a chimera. Every time a potential Mr Good Enough came along i.e. a nice, decent, loving man, it was they who fled to invest yet more wasted days, weeks, months, years on undeserving so-called ‘Mr Perfects’. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard them say, ‘but it’s different this time, he’s the ONE, he’s perfect’. When he’s anything but. I’ve got three, forty plus female friends, all wonderful, but all still single, still looking for ‘the one’, all of them wishing they’d had kids and, now and then, regretting the ‘good guys’ they’d passed on. What I’ve learned from being married is that true love is a very, very rare thing and that, if you find it but once in your life, you are truly lucky. So if love comes your way a second time round, in the shape of a kind man, who’s not too hard to love back, my advice would be: GRAB HIM!!!!!!
Hmm. Perhaps this is true, but then again, perhaps this is only true in hindsight. It’s easy for all your forty plus friends to moan about all the ‘good guys’ they passed on now, when they have nary a prospect in sight, whereas if these men actually appeared now, I’m not so sure it wouldn’t suddenly dawn on them again why they passed on these men to begin with.
I’m in agreement with you H, in that I would be grabbing any kind man who is not too hard to love back. But then I quite simply do not believe Mr Perfect exists. For those who believe he does, perhaps they truly are happier holding out for his appearance than feeling the resentment of thinking they have ‘settled’. Personally I don’t see finding happiness with a not perfect partner as settling but rather as making the most of real life options, but not everyone views it this way. Perhaps I am wrong and Mr Perfect-For-Them does exist and he will turn up and the wait will be worth it.
totally agree. My parents were married over 40 years til they died within a year of each other, and neither of them were perfect, and in fact their personalities AND interests were completely different.
You dont throw a guy back i the pond because his taste in films arte not as INDIE as yours. For gods sake are you 21?? I used to believe that i would never date a guy who wasnt an artist, and now at 42 i can look back and see how naiive i was. Luckily i figured that out by the time i was 30. I mean really!! You found a guy who LOVED you, you seriously do not realise how lucky you were to find that. Welcome to plankton land.
I would certainly hope that it was more than his taste in films not being indie enough, that indeed would be the ultimate in childishness.
Some of that stuff depends on how the difference is expressed and dealt with by both parties though. Small differences can loom large in relationships, whether some of us think that’s silly or not.
No one can read a shortish blog post and presume to know all the dynamics in a relationship, or any other relationship they are observing from the outside.
Failed seems to understand her decision and accept it albeit with some sadness.
She’s really the only one who can say whether it was the right or wrong one.
I agree with so much of what you’ve said. Luckily for me, I have my children and feel no crushing rush of the clock to speed into another relationship.
I do realize that what I’ve recently shared is a blessing rare as a flawless orchid…one that, over time, he may have overwatered in his eagerness while I might have neglected amidst other needful things.
I am not searching for perfection; I simply realised that I need more time to address my own shortcomings so that I don’t re-create the negative patterns of my first marriage.
Dear notfailed at all, I really enjoyed this post. I wonder if this isn’t a North American thing, though … I identify with some of your feelings, although I haven’t actually tried anything yet after the trauma I suffered with my former husband (duly noted in previous posts).
However, although I have lived in the UK for at least 20 years, I am originally from Canada and I suppose will always retain a North American outlook. There is a certain reckless idealism there which is not the same over the pond (and here I would include the whole of Europe, not just the UK, since I know the attitudes in other countries too).
I was married to a man whom I had picked carefully, and who was (in his time) very attentive, loving and helpful. Yet I always knew that his alleged interests in arthouse films, world music, leftist politics etc were all about pleasing me. He really liked broad brush Hollywood movies, David Cameron (yes, his Tory sentiments finally came out) and lots of shopping. Now he lives out his dream, grossly at my expense, and I sometimes wonder if he was Mr Good Enough. We had a very long history, a lot of fun and that whole intricate family architecture, but I think I settled, so to speak. And it turned out that I settled for a bit of a nightmare, but I’ve said on my piece already on that.
Plankton I may be, but somehow I think I’ll just keep doing the things I’m doing now. I do wish for someone I can really talk to, but being a culcha vulcha and a serious intellectual kind of gal, with beautiful adult children, I can’t give up.
Thanks for this inspiration.
Thank you, Lucy and thirtysomething, for the kind and understanding words.
MissM, true, true, I agree that once the rose-colored glasses of infatuation wear off, the love you feel for someone changes over time, etc., but six months seems a bit too brief for someone to already come to that realisation. At the end of the day, you don’t want to be with your partner feeling happy-ish but longing for more, looking around at other men or at other relationships and having that nagging gut feeling that someone is missing. When you know it’s missing, you know. When you know you are complete, you also know.
*something is missing, not someone! (though I suppose in the end it is someone who is actually missing…)
Valid point too thirtysomething, though I admit I have never been in a relationship which has given me a nagging gut feeling of something being missing, I can see how that would be less than optimal.
Ultimately we are not in possession of all the facts of this situation and really never could be since only the person experiencing the situation, which is failedatforty, knows how it feels. Therefore I have no intention of judging. Though I must confess I wish I were lucky enough to have a man in my life telling me I am worthy. *sigh* That sounds just divine.
And I think while some people will think about what’s best for them, it sounds as though Fail, generously, and caring about this man, decided to act with integrity. I admire her very much. She may end up on her own of course, but no-one knows what lies ahead.
Couldn’t agree more. (Thirtysomething original post)
i am sorry but I think you have made a mistake throwing this fish back. Men are not perfect, and you are searching for something that does not exist.
Hopefully this man will find himself snapped up by some other plankton who will cherish him, see past his imperfections and value the good qualities he has. Hopefully he is not going to think all women are just too fussy, become bitter and end up on the Private man blog, or whatever it was called. It is very unfortunate he found himself wanting someone who did not want him back when there are so many women out there who would probably have adored him.
Miss M, I’m sure he will find somebody. At least I hope he does and like you say doesn’t end up bitter and on a woman hating blog, moonlighting on plankton blogs and leching after younger women who only laugh at him. I guess life isn’t easy for men either.
I think this man will find somebody, or somebody will find him. It seems to unfair that a woman dumped a good man just because he wasn’t perfect, or the “spark” wasn’t right. I am fed up of people, male and female, going on about the “spark”, in my opinion it would be easier to find a cure for the common cold. Find somebody you get on with reasonably well and who makes you laugh, take it from there and see what develops. None of us are perfect.
I love that last paragraph Elle. My thoughts exactly on the mysterious spark. My three criteria are: Do I enjoy his company and conversation? yes/no Does he make me laugh? yes/no Would I like to go to bed with him? yes/no
The winner is someone who makes me say yes to all three, a single no means I have no further interest. That is hard enough to find.
I have not got time to read all the replies so it’s possible that what I’m going to say has been said, but here it is. It sounds to me like you’re not ready for a relationship yet, so what was the point in joining a dating website? You met someone who was, in fact, ready for a relationship… I’m not sure it was fair on him…
I’m not certain it was fair, either. To be sure, I thought I was ready…at least to date.
[…] today, The Plankton was lovely enough to post a little something I’d written about my recent relationship and break-up. I was surprised at some of the commentary it received, […]
Lovely post failedatforty, as you say, you are not a failure at all. I agree that wisdom is the most valuable acquisition of these autumn years.
It sounds as though you did the right thing. An unequal thing will always travel downwards, I think, turning to irritation and revulsion. You are right to let him be cherished by another woman.
I also had to leave a good man recently, but by the end he was driving me nuts. Our differences had become corrosive. His desire to devour all my time was not harmonious. And integration with the family is not an easy ride.
Best wishes to you.
Yes, I suspect our differences would have driven us to madness in the end, and it was a blessing to end while there was still love and good feelings between us.
Ultimately, it was lovely to learn and grow, and to see my own strengths at work within our relationship…but also to realize that I had much more work to do on myself to be ready for a “real thing” relationship…which I hope is to come sometime in the not-to-distant future.
I see today that nigel lawson (80) has a new girlfriend (43) 🙂
Gosh isn’t she lucky that Nigel Lawson is willing to date a woman over 40!!! 🙂
@elle. You’re ON FIRE today. And its not even half ten. 🙂
[…] the response to my recent guest post on The Plankton clearly demonstrated a bias toward hanging onto a good relationship, even if […]