Mid-life Dating and the Feel/Flee Phenomenon

 I often wonder why I pay 38.99 for three months of browsing profiles that don’t match mine. Deleting messages without even reading them. Rolling my eyes at the computer screen. Thinking things like “Jeezus Christ! … Oh dear lord … Seriously?? … What the actual f&%k?”

… 38.99 for continuously swiping left.

Still has four kids at home… swipe left
Writes two lines on their profile… Swipe left
Drinks often/moderately… swipe left
“Looking for something casual” … swipe left
Doesn't like dogs and/or cats… swipe left
420 lifestyle… swipe left
Multiple spelling/grammatical issues… swipe left
“Separated” … swipe left
Works out 6 days a week… swipe left

If I continued, we’d be here all day.

So why do I do it, you ask? Well, because… mid-life dating.
That’s why.

Dating at this age is so much harder than I remember it being. Not only are all those aforementioned things (and many more things) challenging, but there’s more to it, something more prominent, more poignant, more troublesome.

It seems that no one my age is actually looking for a relationship. And by that I mean, a true life partnership. No one seems to want that anymore. Some people my age are simply comfortable and content being single. Being alone.

But, but, but… Why? At our age? Do they all want to die alone?

Many of them say they want a relationship. They might even think that they do. Until they are reminded that it takes effort, patience, dedication, and compromise. That’s about the time they realize that they like the idea of a relationship, instead of an actual one.

I was talking to a friend of mine earlier about dating at our age, a single guy, so it’s always interesting to hear something unbiased from the other side. I said these same things to him. How no one wants to make the effort anymore, there is no intestinal fortitude. That most people just want casual because anything more than that is too much work. He agreed. Even said some things that sounded like they could have come out of my mouth.

Then suddenly, and probably unknowingly, he said something that sounded like every other guy I’ve met over these last two years. Paraphrased, it was something about how he is just going with the flow and waiting to see where life takes him.

Ok, so maybe that’s not as severe as what I’m talking about, but it’s quite similar. Approaching the idea of dating and relationships without intent. No one seems to have a true desire to actually pursue something real, something lasting, anymore.

I have dated a handful of men over the last couple years. And more than once, I have felt a connection. Many times, immediate. They weren’t imagined. I might be a girl, but I’m not na├»ve. I’m a hopeless romantic, but I’m a realistic one. Authentic connections, unmistakable, often times intense. And each time, reciprocated.

One lasted a few months. Sometimes it was a few weeks. Sometimes only a matter of days. Once or twice it may have even been one night. Some ended dramatically, with lots of tears (on my part). Some kind of just fizzled out. Some disappeared altogether.
And no amount of hanging onto them would make any difference.

This phenomenon confuses me. I call it the feel – flee phenomenon.

How does someone experience something like that, genuinely feel it, and then walk away from it? Set it down. Brush it aside. As unimportant as an old, faded gas receipt, crumpled and forgotten under the back seat of a car.


Then again, it’s possible (but unlikely) that my “feelings radar” might have gone askew as I’ve aged. After all, my “asshole radar” has definitely failed me on more than one occasion these last few years!
(I almost just made a list of names, but I resisted)

I’ve had my feelings hurt quite a few times throughout these mid-life dating adventures (and countless times in my history of failed relationships, but that’s another blog…). And it never does get any easier. It’s not like drinking heavily and eventually building a tolerance to it. Or getting Covid and developing an immunity to it. Every new hurt feels as bad as the last. Every time is as shocking as the time before.

It. Never. Gets. Easier.

So perhaps it’s only a matter of time before I join the feel-flee movement. After all, how many times can I go through that before finally succumbing to the fight or flight response?

Alas, I probably won’t. As I mentioned, although realistic, I am a hopeless romantic.

I am not a happy, content single person. I am wired to be partnered. I am better with love in my life. My life is better with someone to share it with. I am starting to believe that I am an oddball. A critically endangered species.

But, I’ll keep trying.
A glutton for punishment. Time after time, hurt feeling after hurt feeling, connection after connection. Until I find one that sticks. Until I come across that needle in a haystack, that one other human near extinction. One that connects and commits, instead of feels and flees.
Keep. On. Trying.

And hopefully I’ll survive it.

The Happy Grouch