Before I began writing this book, I knew all the reasons why it is more difficult for a woman after forty to find a relationship. Here are just a few of them:
Men want younger women and can get them.
Women's appearance sags and fades as we age.
Men want women they can mold.
Women are more set in their ways.
Men are more set in their ways.
All the good men are taken.
Men are intimidated by powerful, independent women.
Whatever the reason, the bottom line is inevitably the same: any man we would be interested in is either already taken or not interested in us.
Having worked for more than seventeen years helping both men and women find the relationships they want, I found it painful to witness the resignation I saw in women after forty about finding a really satisfying, fulfilling relationship. So I took on the mission of discovering what it would take for these women to overcome whatever obstacles they encountered and have the same kind of success a woman in her twenties or thirties could expect.
Fortunately, it didn't take me long to find plenty of women after forty or fifty who have found great relationships and to uncover their secrets. What do they know that others don't, and is it transferable?
Not surprisingly, none of the women I talked with advocated the conventional wisdom that, to find a man, you will have to curtail your power, your point of view, or your desires and interests. And while each of the women I talked with is physically attractive, none of them look like twenty-year-olds or like Sophia Loren-and some of them are not even thin.
Initially, I found that what all these women who have been successful in finding great relationships have in common are three very specific qualities. And the great news is that not only is it possible for any woman to cultivate or adopt these qualities, but the qualities are worthy, desirable, and admirable in and of themselves.
The three qualities every woman needs in order to find and keep a truly great relationship are:
1. A profound sense of yourself-as a person you genuinely like, admire, and respect-in other words, a high level of self-esteem
2. Being fun-having fun in your life and being someone who is fun to be with
3. An authentic enjoyment of your own sexuality and sex, not as a way to attract or please a man but as one of the essential aspects and pleasures of being human and being a woman
But after more conversations and after looking more deeply at what was going on, I discovered that these three qualities are just the most obvious manifestations of the real secret shared by all these women.
What is this great secret? It is probably not what you expect. It is certainly not transforming yourself into the vapid, sexy bimbo it seems some guys are looking for. Doing that, however, may be easy compared to what is really required.
The secret to finding a great relationship at age forty-or at any age-is to be the woman you have always wanted to be.
In most cases, this means being a person who is happy, secure, generous, loving, accomplished, sensuous, and beautiful. Some of us may have achieved these ideals and will have little trouble finding a wonderful love. Some of us were once well on the way to being this kind of person, but our development was interrupted by a demanding career, the challenges of parenthood, or an unsuccessful marriage. Or perhaps we were badly hurt by failures in past relationships or other areas of our lives, and our goals for ourselves were set aside while we took care of the business at hand.
One thing I know for sure, none of us aspired to he bitter, cynical, distrustful, emotionally cold and hardened, and physically worn down or spent. Yet many women I meet who are after forty and single do seem cold and bitter. Granted, most of them are justified in being that way, and they can't wait to lay out the trials and tribulations that led them to where they are today. It is just that this attitude doesn't do them any good. Not only are men not interested in them or their tales of woe, but these women are not being who they once were on their way to being-the warm, loving person they know they still want to be and could be.
Fortunately, it is usually natural to get yourself back on track, because by doing so, you are merely being true to yourself. And all those detours and mistakes can turn out to be an advantage. After all, very few women in their twenties have had the experiences you have had. You see, the secret is not something you must do to hunt, trap, or catch a man. The secret is to get back to being yourself. If you can do that, finding a relationship will be a bonus, because you will already have won.
The Three Key Qualities to Develop
Now that you know the secret, let's talk about the three key qualities you need to focus on and develop to find and keep a truly great relationship.
At a dinner with five men who fit my own requirements for a great catch, I told them about these three qualities. Their responses were, "Bingo!" "Nita, you've struck gold." "You have to let women know this." "I would love to date women closer to my age, but they're no fun. I'm sick of feeling that a woman is having sex just to accommodate my needs. I want her to want it, too." I've since shared these three qualities with more than a hundred men, and without exception, they have all agreed that these qualities are what they are looking for in a woman.
The response from single women after forty has been equally interesting. Most of the women I have talked to are embarrassed when I tell them about these qualities. Why? Because they realize that they need to wake up and start enjoying life again if they expect any man to enjoy them. As my friend Claire said, "Alter hearing this, I can see why I haven't been going out. I've been blaming the guys for being superficial, narcissistic, and intimidated by women, but the truth is, I wouldn't want to be with me either."
Not only is spending your time and energy on developing yourself in these three areas likely to pay big dividends when you are looking for a long-term relationship, but it will pay big dividends in your daily life as well, even if you never meet the man of your dreams. This is a game you can't lose.