I'm over 50, and actively dating. I've enjoyed plenty of great experiences with some terrific women who have shared their worlds with me. But when the spark just isn't there, I've often found it difficult to say it's over. Ending a fledgling relationship isn't an exact science, but these are some of the helpful lessons I've learned.
See also: 5 first-date mistakes to avoid.
Sex can make it more complicated. Over the years I've learned that being sexual too early can be a mistake. Unfortunately, I was reminded of that on an occasion when, in a moment of passion, I ignored my own advice. Sex is empty without an emotional connection, and having to say it's over to a woman I hardly knew felt low. My heart sank as I conjured up the appropriate words while watching her sleep. "You're a sweet woman, but this was a mistake," wasn't the pillow talk she'd likely expected. I write about relationships, but had failed to walk the walk. Feeling slimy slammed the lesson home again.
It's easy when you just can't compromise. OK, so maybe you'd prefer Chinese food and she wants Mexican. That can be an easy compromise, because deciding where to have dinner doesn't infringe on values or beliefs. That's not necessarily true about other issues. I met a woman online. We talked on the phone briefly and made a dinner date. Politics came up halfway through dinner and we were at each other's throats. Our beliefs were diametrically opposed. It got so heated, we didn't finish dinner. We each threw down some cash and fled. No one had to say it was over. If I had asked the right questions up front, it might have been avoided.
Sooner is better than later. There have been several subsequent situations when I had to say it was over after dating briefly. The emotional component hadn't developed, but there was still some connection. But delaying the inevitable is shortsighted. I hesitated after dating a particular woman for a month, even though I felt we were mismatched after two weeks. She pushed to become sexual. I resisted, for reasons already mentioned. I stalled, and when I said it was over after a month, she became angry. When I explained why, she said she'd work on her issues. I resisted because I needed something essential that she lacked. Saying it was over wasn't as bad as if we'd been sexual, but it was unpleasant enough. In retrospect, postponing the inevitable was cowardly. I never made that mistake again.
Honesty is always the best policy. While I haven't found an easy way to say it's over, I've discovered that being emotionally honest makes me feel better about myself. I've dated women briefly and when I knew it wasn't going to work, I've looked them in the eye and said so. I never know what to expect, but I hope they appreciate my integrity. "You're a terrific woman, but I don't feel we share enough common ground to build something special," seems an appropriate path. It's awkward, but honest.
Saying it's over after a few dates creates disappointment but not heartbreak. Continuing down a path to nowhere, knowing it's not feeling right, creates hurt feelings. Stringing someone along because you don't have the courage to say it's over shows a lack of character. Being honest is compassionate and kind. It's how I want to be treated.
Ken Solin is an author, lecturer and blogger who writes about families, relationships, dating and more from the perspective of a 50-plus.
Published November 2012
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