As a middle aged man that was widowed in my 30s and then divorced in my late 40s, I’ve had the fortune (or misfortune) to have experienced the changes in how we meet potential partners and dated through three periods. (Actually when did “dating” become a thing? We used to just “go out” with someone). Firstly there were those comparatively care free days of my youth that stretched into my 20s, when meeting someone, going out and starting a relationship largely just happened. We didn’t have reality TV programmes or blogs to refer to for “inspiration”. Then after my wife died, coming up to the end of the last century (that makes it sound longer ago than 19 years), we were in the era when the internet was just truly getting going – it was clunky and we didn’t have broadband or smart phones, so using it for anything was much slower than nowadays (perhaps, in the world of dating, not necessarily a bad thing). Then, after getting divorced 7 years ago I found myself in the current era, and gosh how things seem to have changed.
In the preceding decade so much of our lives have changed with the quickening pace of technology, and the world of relationships and dating (as it definitely now is called) has not been immune to those changes. Like so many aspects of our life dating often commences when we reach for our smart phone or tablet, and perhaps furtively (as if we are doing something that we really shouldn’t) explore some web sites or download an app, bringing all our optimism to the fore just in case “the one” is at the end of the next click! I know from talking with friends, there can be lots of hesitation over whether to proceed at this stage. Should I, shouldn’t I, do I want to join this site, is it going to be safe meeting a stranger, what will my friends think, have I got the time for all this? I know, I’ll just have a little look for now but won’t actually do anything, no harm can come from that, can it! Our inner voice can talk us into or out of anything.
However, in most ways, nothing has changed not only over these three periods, but over many years. Human beings are still human beings and the natural desire to seek a partner and have a fulfilling relationship is no different now than it was for our grandparents. Perhaps the biggest challenge to us forming relationships in the 21st Century is to remember that, and not let the fast paced changes driven by technology and their corporate masters (the online dating market will be worth in excess of £200 million by the end of 2018) undermine and distract us from our natural human behaviour. I encourage people seeking a partner to embrace all the new technologies that can enable us to discover someone that otherwise our normal lives would not have us meet- even if, as I have discovered, that person lives in the next street. At the same time don’t let the technology drive our behaviour or allow the “business of dating” to encourage us to live counter to our beliefs and values or to rush us to act in ways that don’t suit.
Perhaps another significant challenge to those looking to form new relationships in mid life today, is the diversity of personal experiences in modern life. Until quite recent times for most people, relationships meant heterosexual, married / living together and long term. In our circle of friends and family that meant that we appeared to all have much more in common that we did apart. If we faced challenges others in our circle faced them too. Sometimes nowadays it can feel that although we know there are plenty of people facing similar experiences to ourselves, they don’t seem to be amongst our close friends, and so where and who do we turn to? For example, my own oldest friend has been fortunate to enjoy an established relationship for over 30 years, by contrast to my own relationship experiences. As friends we support each other but have very contrasting experiences from which to do so. Many people can feel that no one quite understands what they’re going through amongst their well intentioned friends.This can be just one place for a relationship coach to help.