I’m shocked at how shallow men really are. I don’t mean to be egotistical but I have always been considered far above average in the looks department. But now that I am over 40 I have noticed that men just get what they want and leave. Are there any mature single men left out there or am I doomed to stay single?
If it makes you feel any better, I too am single and I certainly don’t feel doomed, so you have that option open to you as well. I quite like my life. But on behalf of my entire gender you have my apologies for any poor behaviour you’ve endured as a result of a minority of men’s myopic interest in sex. It is fine for sex to be important —even very important for some relationships— but it can never be the entire basis for one.
Without knowing more about your situation I can’t say whether or not this may have been a factor but I can speak to a trend I’ve definitely noticed in my work with people in your age group and older.
People may not like these facts, but if you remove the difficulties generated by child-rearing, I overwhelmingly see two basic situations in the struggling heterosexual relationships I work with: the first is grossly inattentive men, and the second is blindly selfish women. In both cases the perpetrators are innocent and are unaware of their impacts.
By 40, even the most jaded guy’s-guy will have done at least some introspection on the fundamental questions surrounding our existence. The few that haven’t will seem remarkably immature and undeveloped, but even for those that have— that still doesn’t mean they’ve also built the communication skills necessary to convey those personal discoveries and their resulting values.
This can mean that a depth really exists within someone, but they have no effective language or even desire to describe it. This can make many men very challenging to communicate deeply with.
Even still today, men are largely taught to become masters of their own destiny. Because they are busy advancing their own causes, in many cases they have greater challenges in becoming attuned to the needs of others around them. As a woman you may be know that many women have the opposite happen –they are so dedicated to others that they often forget to take care of themselves.
Those sorts of subtle influences are why it’s often considered ridiculous for a man to have sex and not orgasm, whereas it’s all too common for women (and that’s largely because the guy really doesn’t even have her satisfaction on his radar). Most men never even consider the fact that their wives might be faking their orgasms every single time.
Again, removing powerful forces like addictions or violence, when men get divorced in midlife it will very often be because they are failing to connect with what’s going on around them. Poor communication skills (read: listening skills) mean they fail to notice their partners needs, as well as some of the more mundane but troublesome aspects of running a household.
It’s common for men to come to me after being left and they are deeply embarrassed about the fact that they later realize that their wives had quite pointedly described all of the things that they needed to see changed and yet it’s common for the men not to have addressed any of those things.
They will not have helped more with the kids or around the house, they will not have made even the slightest earnest effort to even try to control their tempers or temperaments or to be better in bed. In short they weren’t very present within their relationships and that lead to challenges. That said, the ladies have their own version of these challenges and you may be running into that too.
Whereas men tend to be lacking in introspection and general awareness of needs outside their own, the ladies will also often inadvertently be just as selfish. But rather than being unaware of their selfishness, they will justify theirs with volumes of thought.
Of course this thought is all self-talk inside the woman’s own head, so of course it does tend to be overwhelmingly self-supporting and congratulatory. The net result is that a lot of women leave fairly good marriages because they have expectations of a strange kind of perfection. This is covered well in a constantly popular post called, The Disappointing Spouse.
Through their often heavy ruminations about men and love, many women will have imagined their ultimate relationship for some time. They will have imagined it for so long that it will become a hardened plan before even meeting their partners. Many women have conceded that they will have essentially pre-built their own version of a ‘good relationship’ in their head and their husbands get retrofitted to it without their knowledge.
They will know how the couple should act in public, roughly what they should wear, and maybe what level of job the husband should achieve and how the kids should behave etc.. I’ve heard these get remarkably detailed. And they would be great if the man (and the kids) weren’t individuals themselves.
In the case of the husband, just by being himself he will step outside of her script. If his actions or words do not match her imagination it will be viewed as him being ‘wrong.’ His personal choices will be viewed as him being unsupportive, rather than as examples of him merely expressing who he really is. As an example, it’s common for women to see a man’s parenting as ‘wrong’ instead of it just having different priorities than the woman’s version of parenting.
The real problem with that format is that it leaves very little room for the natural growth or the desires of the man. As men age and the allure of sex appeal begins to fade, the desire for peaceful relations begins to increase, both between them and their wives and with any children.
How this plays out is that middle-aged women are looking for complete, well-rounded, emotionally intelligent men, and the men are looking for women who smile easily and who need very little to be happy. On one side there’s a desire for a man who’s ambitious about nurturing his relationship, and on the other there’s a desire for a woman who’s easygoing about conducting her relationship.
If you’re considerably above average in the looks department then you’ve likely had men extending you kindnesses that a lot of women would never see. But as those men age many will have faced years of complaints about not meeting the expectations of their partner’s scripts. So far from seeking beauty or sex appeal, they begin to seek a kind of carefree happiness. They want more peace and less wrongness.
Only you know your own situation. But when you’re on these dates, pay attention to when you find the men disengaging. It may in fact be when they’ve achieved their ‘goal’ and gotten their sex. Or it might be when you start making demands, or if you start describing your definition of a “good” or “proper” relationship.
By middle age, whatever you do when dating will get compared to the rest of that man’s life. And men mostly do one of three things together. They play a game or sport where they’re focused on the moment they’re in and what they’re doing; they discuss subjects that fascinate or entertain them; or they make fun of things or each other and they laugh.
These are all very fun activities, so when that’s what’s waiting for them, it becomes difficult to hold their attention with expectations and demands, however reasonable you feel they may be. In essence, as we all age we are forced to compete more for the attention of others. If we’re not enjoyable enough, how ‘good’ we are becomes less relevant.
If you’re having to deal with guys who are just plain bad at commitment, or who are only seeing you as a sex object, then at least they’ll make a more dedicated man stand out by comparison. And, if you find they’re disengaging when you apply any restrictions on their adult freedom, then it may have less to do with them rejecting you and more about them respecting their own freedom as an individual.
Either way, as long as you’re enjoying your life you can be fine with being attached or single. In fact, when you’re okay with either scenario is likely when the highest quality men would find you most attractive. Then you don’t need things from them, you want time with them for your own sake. As you point out, everyone likes being valued for who they are and not just what they do.
In the end a relationship never really is a commitment, it’s always a choice. And it doesn’t get made on a wedding day, it needs to happen every single day. If we’re looking to have good relationships, we need to encourage good choices. If we’re generally consistent, open, loving people, then healthy people will find it easy to choose to spend time with us.
I’m certain there are many avenues to good fortune in your life, so keep your eyes peeled. I wish you every good fortune in finding a way to share your heart more often. And I hope you always remember to be kind to yourself in the process.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.