One night, I told my boyfriend,”You used to call me beautiful all the time…” The next night when he said he was too tired to come over I complained, “I really need to see you tonight, I’m lonely.” And the worst cliche, when he joked we’d eaten too much at an all-inclusive resort, I bleated, “Do I look fat?
The poor guy tried to be conciliatory. I was still beautiful, it just gets old if you say it too much. We’d see each other the next day. For the last one, he just rolled his eyes.
I hated the way I sounded, but I’ve become unmoored. And that makes me needy. I never expected to be 50 and single, after all. I’m still supposed to be married to my husband of 32 years. But he died.
The me that I was when I got married suddenly became outdated. I’m no longer enveloped in marriage. So, if I don’t want to be alone, I have to venture out into dating and new relationships after being with one person for my entire adult life. It doesn’t help that when I was younger, I was great-looking and a practicing attorney (I burned out years ago).
Now, older and without a career, how do I measure up in the single world? Who am I if I’m not George’s wife, or someone who, until recently, was loved?
Bereft and thrust into a new environment, I can be painfully insecure. I joined several online dating sites, telling myself my professionally-taken photos were for my future career someday, but really I had them taken so I’d feel better about going online.
I dated for a while, not really finding anyone until I met my current boyfriend a little over a year ago. When we first got together, I was worried he might leave me. I was so desperate for companionship. Would he ever say that he loved me? What was he doing on the nights we weren’t together? Could he really commit to being with one person? What if he decided that I wasn’t that great?
It didn’t help that he’s a musician with a freewheeling past, lots of travels, gigs, and women. It seemed that wherever we went, it would make him recall some adventure with another woman.
We were lying in bed one morning when he again told me about some prior fling. I burst into tears, finally telling him I couldn’t stand to hear any more about the other women he’d been with. He stopped talking about his past affairs, but I still worry, seeking reassurance that he’s really into me.
Being with him makes me happy, which, at first, only made me needier. I wanted to spend all our time together. Any little criticism and I’d fall apart. I worried that he wasn’t as passionate about me as he had been, though we’d been together over a year and he has a demanding work schedule.
He doesn’t understand why I freak out about life on my own. Since his divorce, he’s been in only one other relationship, and that was a distance relationship with much time spent apart. Now, he had me demanding all his free time–especially when I feel lonely.
Sundays are my worst days, the day my husband and I always spent together. Now my poor boyfriend has me insisting that he come over every Sunday, that we plan a meal. I even ask if he could please take out the garbage. I hate to do it on my own. Oh, and has he fallen out of love with me? Can he come back over Monday night?
I realize I have to change or I’ll alienate him. I have to be ok with being alone, and our spending time apart. I can’t expect him to always be with me. I hate seeing myself so needy, requiring constant togetherness and trolling for compliments.
It sounds so basic, but I have to like myself as I am now. I’ll be lost if I’m always looking for validation from others. If I’m never okay with loneliness. I need to be okay with me.
And I have to be able to live on my own, understanding both intellectually and emotionally that being unpartnered isn’t my choice, and it’s not a reflection of my self-worth. It’s better to be on my own than make bad romantic choices out of desperation.
I’m trying to think positively. Instead of seeing an older, unmarried me in the mirror, I am constantly trying to focus on what I like about myself–my green eyes, or how I’ve kept in shape (pretty much). Rationally, I look the same with or without my boyfriend’s praise.
More importantly, I focus on what I’ve accomplished since I’ve been alone and what else I want to do. My neediness is based in part on insecurity from my life having changed so much, so I’m trying to boost my self-esteem by reminding myself to be proud of what I’ve done on my own, post-husband and post-law career.
I do have examples to follow, and I’m grateful for that. My single girlfriends are my role models. The ones with boyfriends spend time both with and apart from their guys, seemingly confident in both situations. Those who aren’t dating also have strong senses of self, knowing who they are and doing what they want, without needing a man to confirm their attractiveness.
Following their lead, I’ve scheduled activities without my boyfriend, a family vacation, and a yoga retreat. I say yes to girls’ nights out even if I want to be home with him. When I’m spending time with good friends, I’m less dependent on him, and less needy all around. I’m cultivating my own strength.
I’m also trying to learn to enjoy my own company–an evening walk or a yoga class, then eating and watching whatever I want by myself. I’m lucky to have my own home as my sanctuary where I can have alone time. People who can enjoy their own company by themselves have a great power; they’re not as dependent on others to be happy.
I’m trying to reach that point, and, if I often don’t, I at least try to refrain from complaining to my boyfriend about it. If I’m feeling especially needy or sad, I’m trying to handle it on my own and not take it out on him. (He’ll probably stick around a lot longer that way).
Ironically, he recently asked if I still feel the same about him (since I’ve become more independent.) I tell him yes, but I’m also working on me.