Boomers, What Do You Want From A Relationship?

Listen in as Baby Boomers share what they’re seeking—and why those qualities are so critical.

By Chelsea Kaplan

hen you’re dating past your younger years, it soon becomes obvious that your — not to mention your date’s — idea of a good relationship has most likely changed since you were first single. Whether it’s that great conversation now trumps all or that the desire to start a family has been replaced with a desire to blend families, you may have different priorities when it comes to finding a perfect partnership, says Terri Orbuch, Ph.D., author and host of Detroit’s popular “Love Doctor” television and radio programs. Ready for a real-deal relationship? Read on for great insights into what you should be searching for, too!

1. A perfectly independent person
For many single boomers, finding a mate who is self-sufficient is paramount, says Orbuch. “Singles over
Your idea of a good relationship has most likely changed since you were first single.
50 who are looking for love are usually turned off by a date who is unable to do things on his or her own or is dependent on others when it comes to performing general household tasks,” she explains. Larry, 57, a retired teacher in Bronxville, NY, remembers recently dating a woman who had never paid her own bills or balanced her own checkbook: “It really surprised me that she had lived her entire life being completely in the dark when it came to managing her finances. These days, I’m looking for someone who’s more independent than that — a woman who doesn’t need me to take care of her.”

Carol, 61, a social worker in Englewood, NJ, feels the same: “I’m always surprised at how many men my age can’t cook for themselves or even do their own laundry. I’ve already raised three kids; I’m not interested in ‘mothering’ anyone else. I need a man who is self-sufficient enough to take care of himself, someone who’s looking for a real companion and lover and not a caretaker in the domestic sense of the word.”

2. An understanding of the ex factor
When you’re dating later in life, there’s a good chance your date’s been married before and, as a result, comes with some strings attached. Because of this, most older singles are looking for partners who are willing to take an interest in their kids — or at the very least coexist peacefully with their offspring and, in many circumstances, their ex and former in-laws. Gina, 58, a real estate agent in Bellevue, WA, says it’s vital that a partner accept the fact that her ex and his family are still a big part of her life: “My ex-husband and I actively share custody of our kids, so he and I frequently communicate about them. Additionally, because his parents and I are still close and they are a big part of my kids’ lives, I see them a good amount, too. If the man I date is threatened by this, our relationship won’t last.”

3. More romance, which doesn’t always mean more sex
Boomer singles say their definition of physical or sexual intimacy may have changed as they’ve gotten older, observes Orbuch, noting that touch, affection and other forms of intimacy are equally important to midlife singles. “I’ve had great sex in the past, sure, but getting into relationships that were not fueled by much more than physical passion led me to two divorces,” says Mary, 50, an office manager in Hendersonville, TN. “Now I need more from a guy to feel like we’re really connecting on a meaningful level, or at least one that qualifies itself as relationship-worthy. He’s got to be genuinely affectionate with me — holding my hand, kissing me sweetly and hugging me after a long day to really keep my attention and communicate to me that he loves me. I guess I’ve realized that sex doesn’t mean love and that this other kind of stuff does.”

As men age, they often discover the joys of nonsexual displays of affection too. “I’m all for cuddling these days, certainly in a way that I wasn’t when I was younger,” says Ben, 65, a writer in Hacienda Heights, CA. “Maybe it’s because I’m not the hormonal devil I was in my youth, or maybe because it’s that I’ve realized that establishing a
I’ve had enough drama to last a lifetime!
really intimate connection with someone needs to exist in places other than just between the sheets.” While science suggests that a decline in testosterone production accounts for this shift, other doctors chalk it up to a mature man’s ability to better express himself emotionally.

4. Keep it harmonious, please
For many, the emotional aftermath of a messy divorce leads them to seek as easy and pleasant a relationship as possible. “Toward the end of my relationship, my wife and I were fighting like cats and dogs, saying really hurtful things to each other. It had become like The War of the Roses. The last thing I wanted was another relationship roller coaster,” says David, 52, a landscaper in Rockville, MD. “The number one quality I’m looking for in a partner is that she’s a caring, warm person.” Robin, 54, an executive assistant in Kansas City, MO, also says that her painful divorce caused her to truly value supportiveness. “My ex and I really battled it out in court; it was very one side against the other. I’ve had enough drama to last a lifetime! What I want is for it to be smooth sailing — none of this fiery stuff.”

Orbuch said she’s heard these types of sentiments repeatedly. “When I speak with singles over 50, they, especially the ones who’ve been divorced, always say they need and want someone who is emotionally mature,” she says. “When pushed to clarify, they laugh and say, ‘You know, someone who isn’t afraid to be loving, kind and understanding.’”

5. Excitement!
Who says excitement is only for the young? “I’m 58, but deep down I feel 35,” says Diane, a real estate agent in Pittsburgh, PA. “I want to meet someone with whom I can have fun and enjoy life. I once dated this guy who just wanted to stay inside and watch CBNC all day. What kind of fun is that? I’ve got a cabin at the lake and I love hiking, mountain biking and kayaking up there. I want to meet someone who will be able to participate in those activities with me.”

Randy, 60, an automobile-dealership owner in Lake Forest, IL, says he’s looking for someone adventurous enough to share his love of exotic travel. “At this point in my life, I’ve already put my kids through school and am now able to travel a lot for pleasure,” he says. “I want to enjoy traveling to all the places I’ve always wanted to see, like Belize to bonefish and Tibet to climb mountains and go on a yoga retreat. In the past, I’ve met ladies who, when I mentioned these ideas, said things like ‘Fishing?’ or ‘I’m too old for mountain climbing!’ I don’t feel too old at all! And it doesn’t have to be that exotic — just trying a new, exotic restaurant is fun. It’s about taking some risks and growing. Now is the best time of your life to do this kind of thing. Savor it!”

Chelsea Kaplan is deputy editor of The Family Groove and a regular guest on Sirius XM Radio’s “Broadminded.” Read more from Chelsea on her blog, The Momtourage.
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