I have once more survived the vilest day of the year: Valentine’s Day. You can keep your overpriced chocolates, tawdry cards and every other piece of commercial baloney associated with this sickly sweet hetero tradition. Instead, I chose to settle down with a huge glass of Port, kicked off my carpet slippers, and chilled in front of the TV.
Try as us singles do to ignore the date; it’s impossible to escape from the endless hype which seems to taunt you for not being coupled up. If you’re in a particularly bad frame of mind (which I most certainly was this year), it’s all too easy to let your thinking spiral into overwhelming negativity, as you convince yourself that things will always be this way; that you’ll never find “the one.” The most horrific thought of all - you’ve just left it too late to be in a fulfilling relationship, meaning that you’re condemned to be a bachelor of the parish until the day you die.
Is there a cut-off point, whereby if you’re still single you will remain so? Only if you fall into a negative mindset, said a trusted friend, who met his husband at 38 and has friends who met their long-term partners when they were in their forties. Attitude is everything, but it became apparent from the men I spoke to that things don’t get easier in the dating arena as you mature.
Paul Brown, now 62, has had many relationships but has now been single for a number of years. He believes that ageism is a major problem among gay men. “As an individual, you have to rise beyond that and seriously carry the belief that there is someone out there for everyone,” he says.
“I still refuse to believe that that side of my life is over. Everyone has arrived in my life when I haven't expected it or been actively looking or thinking in those terms. It can still happen. But you should also remember that if you are single, you are not in someway any a lesser person than the rest.”
Paul Brown’s point about the often stifling societal pressure that one can feel to be in a relationship is crucial - and certainly something that I struggle with. Paul Hallam, a year older than Paul Brown at 63, also touches upon this: “I don't see any reason why someone should particularly aspire to or desire to be half of a 'couple,' though all the best for those who enjoy being in such relationships.
“I have been in what could be called ‘relationships’ that lasted a few years each. Though once we were not in the 'couple’ relationship, the relationships with ‘ex-partners’ developed in other ways. And other extraordinary non-couple ties, which I wouldn't only call friendships, have lasted and continue to emerge. Being ‘single’ is still so often seen as being an undesirable or sad condition perhaps ... it ain't necessarily so.”
With age comes independence and an appreciation of what you want and need in your life. We may well have tolerated unacceptable behavior from a partner when we were in our twenties, but are less likely to do so as we become older and grow to understand ourselves and respect the lives we’ve created. Collin Kelley, a poet, aged 46, believes this is vital.
“I’m hopeful that someone will come along,” he says, “but the older I become, the less I'm willing to compromise. I also refuse to ‘settle’ on someone for the sake of not being alone. If I can't meet someone and feel the thunderbolt of love, then I'll just carry on being single.”
But beautiful, exciting things can still happen as long as you remain open to new people and experiences. “I never expected to meet a new and much younger partner at 54,” Jonathan Loudan tells me. “It was intense and surprising to fall in love and have all those giddy feelings in your mid-fifties. Now it's over I both wonder whether the situation might be repeated, and feel 'well, even if I never have another, the last one was a good one.'
What are your experiences? Is it never too late to find love no matter what age? Leave a comment below.
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