Middle years can bring to love a long-awaited wisdom

Girl Talk • CLARE MARIE CELANO

There are two kinds of cravings where our love lives are concerned. The first involves the sharing of the passionate, the lustful, the erotic; the other involves the touching of hearts and souls.

If mid-life has taught me anything regarding romantic relationships, it’s that these are two distinctly different experiences. And when you get to a certain age, you can see the two quite clearly; whereas before, they were rather a blur, blending together like one of those fancy new bar drinks.

Just as the dawning of our teenage years brought confusion and chaos when it came to guys in our lives, mid-life holds its own confusion and chaos. Much like during those early years, we seem to be thrown into relationships that before those mid-life hormones exerted their grip on us, we would never even have considered.

Of course you don’t see this until you’re out of the vise grip that those hormones and those emotions may have cast upon you.

When I first became divorced, it seemed as though everything inside me screamed “lack.”

Although I was old enough to know better, because of where I was on my path, I couldn’t see that some of the relationships I had with men were only satiating the need for physicality, not the need for true intimacy of the purest kind. Having had both types of cravings satisfied in a marriage for many years, I was unable to see that these two needs were oceans apart.

But who knew?

You grow up, you fall in love, and if you’re lucky, you experience the fulfillment of both the craving for physical expression and the quieter, deeper and more enduring need for closeness with the same person.

Like an adolescent for a second time, I took what I experienced in my marriage and thought I could apply that formula to my relationships with new men, thinking that what I once had was once again being offered.

What a devastating awakening it was to find that some relationships only fill one craving or the other. You do not always get both served up like a pair of Hostess Twinkees on a china plate.

Sometimes raging hormones and the feeling of “having to have it all before it’s too late” put us in a place where rational thinking can take a vacation and we flail around like unruly teenagers.

I didn’t do adolescence very well the first time around, and I only had myself to take care of. Small wonder the emotional chaos that erupted when a 50-year-old teenager looking to recapture the essence she believed she missed merged with an adult going through divorce with adult responsibilities to attend to.

I primped, I creamed, I slithered out of the house with enough body butter to grease an old Chevy, with a carefully made-up face and body in search of what I assumed was love, but in reality was the satiation of my unmet needs — love not being one of them.

I had that for so long I had forgotten what it looked like and what it did not look like, and therefore did not understand that what was being offered up to my carefully crafted slick self was in no way love, but rather lust.

Lust in and of itself is a beautiful thing, and maybe at that time I did need someone to look lustfully at me and call me a “hot babe.” But in my pseudo-teenage innocence I had mistaken that lust for love.

It took me years to learn to distinguish the differences that the two cravings displayed. Mid-life may bring many things we are not happy with, but it does at some point bring a bit of enlightenment where love is concerned. I had spent so much time studying men, their behaviors, their needs that I had forgotten there was another person in the relationship — myself.

Something shifted in me toward the end of my 50s, bringing about a light, maybe even wisdom.

The love we search for that we seem to be running from guy to guy trying to find really must begin with ourselves. I found that once I started to care for myself, and my needs, my wants, and set up boundaries, things began to change.

At this point, I find that the closeness of intimacy, the sharing of joys and sorrows, the feeling of connection — hand to hand, soul to soul — is more important than rustling hormones and someone who sees you as just a “hot babe.”

I believe our life takes us to amazing places, some we’d like to visit again and probably cannot for one reason or another, often resulting in a real sadness, and we have to grieve that loss. But learning is a lifelong experience, and we need to shift our thinking and realize that when one course is completed, we will move on to the next one.

But here’s the rub. You must successfully complete the course in order to move on. If you flunk, you get to do it all over and over again until you get it.

Living a second adolescence is a beautiful memory, and like a person looking back on college days, there is a wistfulness about not being there anymore. Hanging out with 20-somethings, dancing in clubs until 2 a.m., dating guys half my age, banging weights and actually not injuring myself, subsisting on about three hours of sleep a night were all part of my adolescent spurt, as I tried to recapture what I believed I had missed.

And although some level of maturity has allowed me to see what I hadn’t seen before because I didn’t have the right eyes for it at the time, there is a part of me that sorely misses that 50-year-old teenager. That wide-eyed innocence and unbridled drive to do it all, that pure openness, along with the rushing to the surface of emotions kept under wraps for so very long, have formed a visceral as well as an emotional memory lining the landscape of my mind and heart.

Coming to grips with and accepting who we were at various periods in our lives and who we’ve become because of those periods is an ongoing challenge, and one that requires both grit and moxie. These words by Anatole France put it into perspective beautifully:

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy;

for what we leave behind is a part of ourselves;

We must die to one life before we can enter another.”

Contact staff writer Clare Celano at

ccelano@gmnews.com.