How to live free

Joey Garcia

I’m 42 and gave up on having a fulfilling relationship because the men I’ve been with don’t communicate or want to do anything fun. It’s been a surprising relief. Suddenly I’m attracted to someone 20 years younger. Is this a midlife crisis? Or, if I don’t have expectations, am I free to do what I want?

We’re always free to do what we want, honey, with two caveats: First, that we do no harm. Second, that we shoulder full responsibility for the way our choices impact others, the planet and ourselves. In reality, giving up on having a fulfilling relationship might be a symptom of hopelessness linked to depression. It can also be an act of spiritual surrender. But you gave up out of frustration. That’s why you experienced such overwhelming relief. Here’s a secret: Your frustration was born of clinging to a man long after realizing he’s not for you. In the future, once you share a reasonable request with the man you’re dating, and he proves he’s incapable, accept that he lacks the self-awareness necessary for change. Or acknowledge that your shared connection isn’t enough for him to want to change for you. Don’t be offended; it works the other way, too. You’re not willing to accept a boring guy and would rather do fun things with friends instead, right?

Let’s chat about your current flirtation. You have a tingle of possibility, and no expectations at the moment. Whether or not it meanders toward commitment, the process of getting to know someone is still called a relationship. So is your flirtation a sign of a midlife crisis? Maybe. At midlife, our spiritual operating system reaches back into our personal history to reveal our most immature parts. If we lack self-awareness, we’ll avoid self-healing. Instead, we opt for whatever offers an adrenaline rush to speed us past seeing ourselves as we are. Are you willing to see yourself clearly? Do you have friends or a therapist honest enough to tell you the truth? Your answers will help you decide whether it’s smart to pass go with your new man or not.

When I try to talk to my boyfriend about our relationship, he says, “You’re overreacting.” I feel dismissed and get upset. How do you respond to a blanket comment like that from a significant other when you feel that you have a legitimate concern to discuss?

Giggle. Telling someone they’re overreacting is an underreaction. But you didn’t see that because—wait for it—you are overreacting. Maybe your tone, or body language, clues your boyfriend in to the gravity of the upcoming convo, and he’s firing back passive-aggressively. Who’s right? Who cares? It’s not about being right. So try asking him to help you be a better partner. Let him know where you think you’ve blown it and why you need help. Laugh at your attempts to transform the relationship into one that you think will be better. Smile at your idea that your boyfriend is capable of change. Let yourself see your relationship clearly so you can decide whether to keep investing in it or not.

Meditation of the week
“Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within,” wrote author James Baldwin. Are you naked yet?

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