One dear friend of mine, now in her sixties, recently re-found the love of her life, re-found because way back in junior high friends used to say that some day they would end up together.
Another, in her mid fifties and long-ago having decided that love would never come her way, seems to have found her true love. She was looking to buy a new vehicle for traveling long distances. The knowledgeable fellow on an internet site who helped her seems to be turning out to be the companion with whom she may travel the rest of her life.
What can increase your odds of finding true love as well, if you are over 50 or at any time?
I found fascinating data in a surprising place. The book Autumn Romance: Stories and Portraits of Love after 50, looks like a coffee table art book, but I have not been able to leave it on the table. It's fascinating.
In Autumn Romance, thirty couples each share how their inspiring later-in-life romances came to be. Every story, engagingly retold by author/artist Carol Denker, conveys insights into what love is and what people have done to be able to welcome it into their lives.
The book's poignant photos of each couple further illustrate what true love looks like, proving again the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words. Let yourself be inspired. You could feel this way too . . .
What did the individuals in these now loving couples do that enabled true love to enter their lives?
Here's five essential tips for love after 50 based on recurring themes in the stories in Autumn Romance.
1. Get comfortable with yourself. Some did this via therapy. Many used alternative therapies or spiritual growth programs. The more you like yourself, the more likely it becomes that others will like and even love you. No need to go overboard with arrogance about how great you are. Just become self-accepting, warts and all.
2. Look hard and long to learn from your past mistakes. Many of the now-happy lovers had experienced the pain of divorce. After a divorce it's easy to blame the failure of the relationship on your spouse. Those who later lived to love again instead focused primarily on their own mistakes. Had they been too critical? Too quick to anger? Selfish? Defensive instead of listening to their partner's perspectives? Too forgiving instead of able to stand up and say when their partner's behavior is unacceptable and that they would leave unless it changed? Did they try to get their partner to change instead of looking at what they themselves might do differently when tensions rose?
3. Become the person you want to be. The eventual lovers each first let themselves love what they loved to do....and do lots of it. No matter if the activities you love are reading history, gardening, painting, collecting, going to football games, or whatever. Do them.
4. Get out of your house. If you stay at home, the odds that you will meet someone zoom down. As soon as you leave your house, and especially if you leave to go do activities you enjoy, your odds of bumping into someone with similar interests zoom upward.
Are you a history buff? Do your reading in libraries and bookstores. Go visit historical sites or become a volunteer at a historical site.
5. Learn the skills for communicating in ways that sustain relationship goodwill and that resolve differences collaboratively.
In my books and website that teach the skills for marriage success, I focus on the four skill sets that my couples therapy clients find especially potent:
a) Give forth positivity, that is, appreciation, affection, gratitude, smiles, helpfulness, etc.
b) Radically curb your negative messages. The closer you can get to zero criticism, blame, and anger the better.
c) Stay in collaborative dialogue mode instead of becoming oppositional. The hardest part for many people is to learn to listen without responding with "but."
d) Resolve all differences with win-win solutions. No more my way, no MY way. Clarify the concerns of both of you. Then find a plan of action responsive to all of these.
And if you do follow these five tips for love after 50?
There's no guarantees that love will come your way. Or marriage. What is highly likely though is that you will become a happier person, and that the relationships in your current life all will become more loving.
Some say 'live and learn." I say, "Learn and love."
And in the meanwhile, if you want to feel inspired with new hope, do enjoy the stories and portraits (including the photos in this post) in Autumn Romance.
Denver psychologist Susan Heitler, PhD is author of two books on skills for marriage success--The Power of Two and The Power of Two Workbook--and of the fun interactive learning website, poweroftwomarriage.com.