It was our last-ditch attempt at couple’s therapy. The exercise was to envision our ideal mate, then share it with each other. The idea was to see if a hint of possibility existed at saving our relationship. Admittedly, it was an assignment I should’ve given myself 20 years ago before choosing my partner — and probably again each year to reevaluate where we were at and how we could grow with one another instead of apart.
When I sat down to list some traits and qualities (more on that later), I had an earth-shattering realization. My current partner is simply not equipped for the kind of change I wanted. It was a square-peg-round-hole situation. I simply couldn’t stand for another short run of a chameleon-morph, only to return to his broken-record status quo. He would have to do a full-throttle, balls-to-the-wall leopard changing his spots ninja transformation to become my ideal mate.
Another lightbulb went off: he lacked the maturity to even give it the old college try. He had so much growing up to do, and I wasn’t willing to hold his hand or scold him through it anymore. He was a child trapped in a thirty-nine-year-old man’s body, and I was already a mom to a toddler (who was much easier to deal with). That’s when I knew — I wanted to marry an older man.
On that note, I should acknowledge that developmentally, men can be behind women in their growth. I already see it with my three-year-old son and his female peers. He’s just not quite there hanging with the ladies, if you know what I mean. Men sometimes (not always!) lag behind women, especially in Adulting 101.
I want to be clear: I’m not here to man-bash. I have seen plenty of friends’ husbands who have risen to the occasion. Some are even better spouses and parents than my female pals. But in my particular case? It was over. It was out of my control. My husband needed to grow up, and I couldn’t do it for him. If only I could give him a soul serum to infuse 10 more years of experience and therapy — and wave a wand for him to man up!
“My husband needed to grow up, and I couldn’t do it for him.”
I’m also willing to own up to the fact that we live out patterns from our childhood. My mom married someone terrifyingly similar to my husband the first time around and my stepfather was much older than her. While he wasn’t perfect either, the pendulum swung for her very much in the same way that I’m asking for it to swing for me, ie. marrying an older man the second time around.
There’s a saying that the second wife reaps the rewards of the first wife’s struggles. Perhaps there’s some truth to that. A marriage ending can be a strong catalyst for change—even a rock bottom for some folks. When something this big happens, it’s a chance to step up and strive to be better. For ourselves. For our partners.
After all this, I did the mental-visualization assignment of who my next mate would ideally be. This is what he looks like:
He lets me sit in the figurative passenger side of our lives, in more than one lane. He takes the wheel and spearheads finances (a weakness of mine) and researches life hacks for us. I can trust him. He’s a doer. He shares the burden of household chores. He teaches me things about life and how to handle it. He’s into culture and art and discusses things that inspire me. He likes to feel inspired in turn. He feeds me, and I don’t mean the cooking. Quite simply: he has his sh*t together.
Marriage is a daily workout of the mind and a consistent test of patience. But if we can check off even some qualities on our ideal mate list, it should at least make us break less of a sweat, right? If we’re compatible on those fronts, we can talk, mister. So, let’s take it from here, silver foxes of the world.