A Part 2 of yesterday's letter.
I am a therapist and work with a good amount of middle age people in my practice. Some are divorced and some have sexual disfunction. As a result, they feel unworthy of love and hopeless about having a partner at this stage in their lives. They're in their 50s and 60s with a lot of life to live. They have good self-esteem and have full lives in other regards, rewarding careers, active. Do you have concrete any advice for middle-age people in the Boston area who are more interested in meeting people for companionship, sharing, fun, and yes, love, but without sexual expectation? People are reluctant to go online or put themselves out there as they feel like they are misrepresenting themselves. Some feel shame, some compartmentalize this aspect of their lives. Any advice would be helpful.
– Dating in middle age, not the gilded age
Well, if you're asking me, my answer can't be "see a therapist."
But I do think that's part of the process. I'm glad people are seeking you out, talking about this in a place where they might make some progress with self-acceptance.
Yesterday's letter was about this issue, and I've had a few recent letters that absolutely fall into this category, even if sexual function is not part of the question. A lot of people seem to be insecure about what they offer after a certain age. Maybe they forget that their peers have their own concerns. By your 50s, you've lived a lot of life. No one is a clean slate.
You bring up an interesting idea in your letter – that it's not just about shame or fear, but also misrepresentation. People don't want to put themselves on an app because they feel that they'd be lying to others about what they can offer. But there's no lie – no catfishing whatsoever – in saying you want companionship. That is a truth! I hope the people you work with can understand that there is no need to go on these apps with a massive disclosure – or apology. The only real expectation in dating, especially on apps, is that people are looking to meet people.
Even that isn't true sometimes. So many younger people tell me they communicate with others on apps – message after message – until they realize the person has no intention of getting together in person. That, to me, is the real catfish, to make someone feel like you want to find love, when really you just want the high that comes with online attention.
What does one do if they're over 50 and insecure about what they offer? They can ask people to set them up with friends of friends. They can get on apps and charm people, bonding over similar interests. When it's time, yes, they can talk about sex and what they'd like to try. They should remember that they'll have to have empathy too, because others will show up with kids, debt, trauma, caregiving responsibilities ... they'll show up up with life.
We all have worries and shame, which is kind of a relief when you think about it. I think that's the trick. There is no magic place to meet a partner who will love you as you are, but a lot of people are worried that they don't bring enough to the table. That means people are having a shared experience. I hope people can find comfort in that.
Readers? Tips? Thoughts? Would you consider it a "misrepresentation" if someone didn't disclose sexual function issues on a profile or first date?