July 26, 2012
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This week’s pick from our archives is a great interview I did with an amazing older woman, who happily shared her pearls of wisdom about life, love and relationships. I learned a lot when I sat down with Abbey way back when, and I’m hoping those of you reading her words for the first time (and perhaps even the second) will learn something too…
Yesterday, you got some insight into the Joys of Being Single according 20-40 something women. Today, we’re giving you yet another perspective on life as a single: this time from a 63 year old woman.
I sat down to interview “Abbey”, a fun loving, passionate, bubbly, independent, single and dating mature business woman recently, and for the better part of two hours she treated me to some amazing stories, insights and bits of wisdom about marriage, love, parenting, divorce, and being single. From what I could tell, she had as much fun sharing as I had listening to her answers to my many questions. Much of what she had to say got me thinking about how I see myself and the life that I am living. Hopefully, what she had to say will get all of you out there thinking too.
Skye: As a young single woman what were your views on marriage and was there pressure from your family or friends to get married and have kids?
Abbey: No, I can’t say I was pressured by my family, or at least if I was it didn’t have much impact. I’ve never been all that interested in marriage. Even when I was younger I wasn’t driven by the need to get married or have children. The only reason I got married was because it was important to my husband. He felt we needed to be married if we planned to start a family. I would have happily continued living with him otherwise.
Skye: Did being married change anything about your relationship with him?
Abbey: Luckily no. Living with him as his wife was just as wonderful and awful as it had been prior to our wedding day. Having the license and a ring changed nothing for us.
Skye: How long were you with your husband?
Abbey: From the time we met to our divorce we were together for 25 years.
Skye: You mentioned in a previous discussion that you’re amicably divorced. Can you tell me more about that?
Abbey: My ex and I have been apart for just over 12 years now and even so we still consider each other family. We still do a lot for each other and spend time with my daughter and her husband as a family. When we decided to separate we made a commitment to one another to put our daughter first. We both realized it was important to show her that people weren’t disposable. We didn’t want her to get an impression like that so early in life.
Skye: Do you think that the two of you managed to do that well?
Abbey: Yes. I really do. She’s married now and really happy after three years, so we didn’t turn her off of the institution. And she herself has told me, out of all her friends’ parents, married or divorced, she thinks ours is one of the most functional families she knows of. I don’t think any parent could ask for better feedback than that.
Skye: In your opinion what was the best part of being married?
Abbey: Smiles. I’m going to state the obvious and say regular sex. Regular sex is great. Laughs. But the comfort of companionship and being supported in a way I hadn’t been before were all so really great things that came with being married.
Skye: What kind of support did marriage offer you?
Abbey: My ex was the kind of man who was interested in everything, so it was really easy to share ideas with him and he gave me a lot of external validation at a time when I really needed it in my life. I wouldn’t need that from a relationship now, but back when we were first married I felt really supported by it.
Skye: And the most challenging part of marriage?
Abbey: That’s easy. Losing my freedom. Having to consult with someone before doing things. Having to do things you don’t want to do, like spending time with his friends that I didn’t particularly like. Also, having to deal with his conservative way of handling money. Money was never a problem for us, but he was much more nervous than me about taking risks. He talked me out of starting businesses many times. And because, as I said, early on in our relationship I depended on him for validation, I didn’t have the courage to pursue that goal while I was with him.
Skye: So the business you own now you started after your divorce?
Abbey: Oh yeah, less than a year after. It was something I’d wanted to do for a long time, but lacked the courage to do without his approval. By the time we split up, I was ready to go.
Skye: Was the development of your entrepreneurial spirit what eventually pulled you two apart?
Abbey: No. We grew apart for other reasons. Over the years we developed different interests. We had less and less things to share with each other. I know for some couples having separate lives would work, but it didn’t for us. Things really shifted for us as our mutual interests diminished.
Skye: Based on that do you think that keeping a marriage together entails a little luck? I mean no couple knows if they’ll grow together or grow apart over time, right?
Abbey: No, I don’t think it has anything to do with luck. I think that it’s more about how important staying together is to each person involved. Rightly or wrongly, if that’s the main thing they both value, then no matter what they’ll make it work.
Skye: So, what would you say was your main value in making the decision to end your marriage?
Abbey: What I’ve always valued, my happiness and freedom. I valued that much more than being in a relationship where I felt stunted and less of myself in.
Skye: After being attached/married for so many years what was it like being single for the first little while?
Abbey: As much as I missed the companionship and still loved my husband, after my divorce I felt as if I had been reborn. Like I was coming into my own again.
Skye: What are your thoughts on being a 60+ dating single?
Abbey: Oh God. I am dating, but I would never describe myself that way. That’s so interesting to me. Pauses. When you put it that way to me it suggests some kind of longing or lack. There is so much that amazes me about life, so much I’m curious about experiencing and learning. I love people, my work, and laughter. Pauses and smiles. This may sound corny, but my life is so rich. It’s full of so much goodness right now I don’t’ feel that I’m missing anything. To have a relationship with someone right now would just be the whip cream and sprinkles on top of an ice cream sundae, you know? Nice but absolutely not necessary. My life is full. Dating is just a one of a number of interesting things that I do.
Skye: Okay. Would you be open to dating someone seriously or even getting married again now?
Abbey: As long as they don’t want to live with me. Laughs. Seriously, though. Living with someone I was in a relationship with felt like crowding to me. It zapped my independence and made me behave more selfishly, because I had to struggle to claim what was mine. Essentially what I’m saying is I’m okay with dating because as a general rule it’s fun – if only for the great stories. But as for marriage and /or living together, no way.
Skye: So even if a really great man came along who wanted to live apart and get married you’d say no?
Abbey: Yes, I think so. I believe, as I always have that you can be committed and pledge your love to someone without being married.
Skye: Let’s get back to your dating for a minute. You mentioned great stories a moment ago. Do you have one you can share?
Abbey: Oh yeah. I’ll tell you one of my favourite ones. This man I had seen a few times before offered to stop at the liquor store to get some wine for us to share before coming over to my place. He was really into wine, so he said he wanted to bring a really special one over for me to try. Anyway, he arrives at my house with this supposedly great bottle of wine, and makes this great ceremony of opening and sampling it. After one sip, he declares that there’s something wrong with it because in his words “It tastes awful” and then he puts the cork back in. Of course being a good host I offer him one of the bottles of wine I have on hand. He gladly accepts and then downed almost ¾ of the bottle. Funnily enough, after much discussion and merrymaking over my wine, when he got up to leave, he made sure to pick up his awful bottle of wine.
Skye: He took back the wine he brought you?
Abbey: Well, I’m not sure he intended it as a gift, but I do know there wasn’t anything wrong with the wine he brought. He was just being cheap.
Skye: Wow, that’s awful. How do you generally meet the men you go out with?
Abbey: Through friends mostly, but I did try a dating service once and that was a disaster. I just seemed they were sending me out with any guy in my age group. I never had anything in common with them.
Skye: And do you go on dates often?
Abbey: Some periods a fair bit and other times not so much. It’s really just about having fun for me, I don’t think I’m likely to meet anyone I’ll be able to have a relationship with.
Skye: Why do you say that?
Abbey: Because, most men want a younger woman, just as most women prefer older man. And the men who see me as a younger woman now are retirement age and are looking for a woman to settle down with. One who’ll spend all her time travelling with them or taking care of them. I’m not ready to retire yet. I love my work and commit a lot of hours to it. I just don’t have the same short term goals as the men who are most often interested in me.
Skye: It’s funny you should say that. A 50 something single I know often tells me all the men she meets are either looking for a nurse or a purse. Would you agree with that?
Abbey: That’s a funny way of putting it. I do agree. And at this stage in the game I’m not interested in doing anyone else’s laundry.
Skye: Okay then. What about younger men?
Abbey: Shakes her head and laughs. I’ve never been attracted to them and from what I can tell I don’t spark the interest of younger men either. But if I were to consider it, I think I’d have the same problem I do with the older men. Depending on how big the gap is, I think our short term goals would be really different.
Skye: You mentioned missing regular sex before. Does the lack of suitable men to date make things all the more frustrating for you?
Abbey: No. Not really. I have to be really interested in someone to become involved in them that way. Also, I have a friend I’ve known for years who I spend time with from time to time.
Skye: Would that be a friend with benefits?
Abbey: Absolutely. Smiles.
Skye: So outside of the challenges of finding a suitable bed mate, what are the best and most challenging things about being single for you?
Abbey: I’ll talk about the challenges, if you can call them that, first. I’ve found that I am more aware of being single when I host dinner parties with two or three couples and me. Otherwise I am okay with being alone. I do a lot on my own comfortably – movies, concerts, shows, even take myself out to nice restaurants. It would be nice to have a companion sometimes, like the sprinkles and whip cream on top of the sundae I mentioned before, but I don’t let not having a mate limit my life. As for the best thing, single or otherwise, it’s how full my life is.
Skye: What would you say to the young women out there who are feeling anxious about the fact that they are not already married and having kids?
Abbey: First of all, don’t be anxious about it, that’s wasted energy. They should just really go for it if that’s what they want. Put some energy into dating and being noticed. They need to be open and look for opportunities to meet people wherever they go. I know my friends who are most successful with dating and relationships put a lot of work into it.
But, while you’re waiting for Mr. Right to show up, remember that there’s a great big world out there to discover, see and experience. Do things you enjoy, pursue your passion and live your life to the fullest with or without a man. Do everything else you want to do while you’re looking or waiting for a mate or husband, so you don’t have any regrets later in life. Also, the world has changed so much in the last few decades. There are so many options open to young women now, ones that don’t always include marriage and kids. They should really take the time to consider all their options to ensure they’ll be happy and fulfilled whatever path they decide to take.
And would you mind if I add a bit of a side bar here?
Abbey: It’s a bit off topic, but I just want to say that in my experience generally, the older women I know are much less conservative than young woman about life.
Skye: Go on.
Abbey: It just seems that there is so much of a drive to conform to peer pressure and achieve a certain list of things that make you successful, including things like a husband and kids that seems to limit what’s really possible for young women.
Skye: By peer pressure do you mean hustling to keep up with the Joneses?
Abbey: Yes, that’s it. I think young people are so caught up with fitting in and being seen as good enough that they’re not free to be who they really are. Pauses. Maybe it’s because most people my age have had long careers and full family lives, so perhaps it makes it easier for us to feel free to just be. But I wish more young people had just a bit of that freedom. That they could shake off their need to be accepted and widen their view of life. There is so much possibility I think a lot of young women are missing because of their really narrow view of what life could and should be.
Skye: I don’t doubt that many of us are…With that in mind, what’s the number one piece of advice you’d offer young, single and dating women?
Abbey: Enjoy your life. Cultivate good friendships, pursue your hobbies and interests, and think outside the box. The biggest attraction for most people, I think anyway, is someone who is truly content with who they are and what they’re doing. Any woman who is confident, happy and living her life to the fullest will eventually draw a man’s attention – whether she’s looking or not.