The Art of Relating

Christine Kniffen,

Sometimes the Sweetest Love Happens in the Second Half of Life


During one of my Blogtalk radio shows I had the unexpected pleasure of interviewing the author of a fantastic book titled, “Autumn Romance: Stories and Portraits of Love after 50”. I knew that I would like the topic, as I am a hopeless romantic at heart. However, I never dreamed I would find such happiness and sweet delight reading the true-life stories of those who had stumbled upon the greatest loves of their lives. This love in later life offered the most incredible tenderness combined with passionate intimacy, both emotionally and physically, that they had ever known. The author went on a cross country search and portrayed 29 different couples, sharing their pictures and telling their stories. She followed up with an important question that she presented to each of the couples. “What advice would you give to someone over 50 who is looking for love?” The answers, though varied, revealed an emerging theme. Their advice was centered around the idea of one’s personal evolution, which has a better chance of becoming more complete in the latter half of life as we gain more clarity and our needs become more accurately understood. Three of the biggest themes in the advice realm included loving yourself, getting to know yourself and being willing to take a risk.

Yes, Whitney Houston sang about it. “Learning to love your self is the greatest love of all”. We hear it so much that is sounds silly, simplistic, obvious, etc. Unfortunately, it is all too easily dismissed and many people are not acting in ways that send the right message to themselves. It is true, that until you love yourself you cannot truly love another. It is for the simple reason that until you love yourself you are not ready to receive the love of another and more than likely you wouldn’t let them in anyway. A big part of loving yourself involves walking away from a relationship that is not good for you and cannot meet your needs. If you are not yet able to be good to yourself and do this, then you are not going to be able to fully appreciate the value of the person that will be good to you, let alone recognize them when they pass by. There are many other ways that you can begin to act more loving towards yourself. Take care of your body by filling it with healthy food, getting exercise and stopping smoking. Be good to yourself by building a network of wonderful, supportive friends to enhance your sense of belonging and connectedness. Be good to yourself and your self-esteem by setting goals and acting to obtain those goals. Be good to yourself by becoming aware of and ending all that negative self-talk. Finally, take the time to slow down and rejuvenate. These are all great, concrete places to start putting some energy into loving yourself.

Getting to know yourself is imperative in your quest for genuine, lasting love. As mentioned before, you must be able to identify your needs to recognize the person who will ultimately be able to meet them. What do you need in terms of values from another person? These would include things such as honesty, kindness, a giving personality, integrity (their actions match their words), emphasis on family, spirituality, etc. Equally important, can you name your emotional needs? I can name mine. I need validation. Feel free to tell me that I’ve done a good job, dinner is delicious and that you appreciate me. I need to feel secure in the relationship. More importantly, I can tell you how you make me feel secure. It means that you make me a priority. It means that you let me know that you realize the specialness of our healthy love and how great that feels in a world where so many relationships are unhealthy and unhappy. These are all examples of emotional needs. So, learn to identify what you need so you can give them words when you feel they aren’t being met, rather than just being angry with the other person.
Lastly, to find genuine love, you need to be willing to take a risk. Get out there and join a singles group, internet dating site or a co-ed biking group. The best time to meet someone is when you are living your life to the fullest. When you do this you feel satisfied, positive and are likewise exuding the affiliated positive energy. Positive energy attracts positive energy. You don’t particularly want to meet someone when you are feeling hopeless about love and filled with negative vibes. If you date while in that stage of feeling hopeless and discouraged about love, that energy will attract the wrong people. Most importantly, when in that state of virtual desperation, we rarely use the proper filters. We seem to ignore the obvious red flags, begin to settle and stop insisting upon getting exactly what we truly need to feel happy.

So, the great thing about finding love in the second half of life has everything to do with coming into your own. It’s about being good to yourself and making sure that you are meeting your own needs. It is about being comfortable in your own skin, because when you are you present a more authentic self to any prospective partner. You want to be adored for exactly who you are to feel great in a relationship. So, you need to be able to answer that question and wear it proudly on your sleeve. Then and only then will you find that great love that is waiting just around the corner for all.

Christine Kniffen, LCSW is a Relationship Coach and Therapist. For a free consultation call 314-374-8396.