If you’re contemplating letting go of a relationship that’s not working, but thinking you’re too old to start over, think again. I did it. At 41, I let go of a 12-year relationship with a man I adored that just wasn’t giving me the commitment I wanted—and everything that went with it: A life in the city of Chicago I adored, my job, my apartment, my friends (at least in terms of proximity), and even a part of me.
Was it hard? Like leaving your best friend on Mars.
But it was my only option. Because I couldn’t stay where I was anymore. I couldn’t hold the beach ball of dissatisfaction down in my gut anymore. Stuck in a relationship going nowhere, I was depleted and depressed. I had lost myself. And I wanted to get myself back.
I knew that if I ever wanted to ever feel happy and full again, if I was to ever find the committed love I wanted, I had to shake things up. That meant taking the biggest risk of my life and letting go of the man I’d loved for the better part of a decade. And it was a risk. After all, I was no spring chicken. At 41, I felt like the oldest unmarried woman on earth (yes, I’m avoiding that ugly word, “spinster”), especially when it came to dating. I knew logically that wasn’t true—that women were finding love at all ages—but I wasn’t hearing it. Instead, I was listening to other people’s voices in my head telling me that my best years were behind me. That I had to be young and aesthetically perfect—two things I was NOT—to find love at any age, let alone over 40. That the odds were against me.
I believed the voices screaming in my brain when they told me that my age put me squarely behind the eight ball … which is one of the reasons why I stayed in the wrong relationship for so long. Because I thought it would be my only shot at love.
The talk track in my head:
- What if I’m too old to let go? To start over?
- I’ll wind up alone.
- Men my age want younger women. How will I compete?
- How could I ever trust again? After all, Hector and all the others before made promises they couldn’t keep. And look where that got me.
- I’ve wasted so much time…
- At my age, who would want me now?
Then, after a period of deep introspection and some very honest conversations with my fear (no pushover, by the way), I took a long, hard, deep breath and, eyes shut and face in full wince as if someone were pulling a million stitches out of my skin, I let go anyway. I spent a lot of time grieving the loss, allowing myself to feel my feelings so they wouldn’t manifest in other less-than-ideal ways, leaning on good friends, and practicing self love–and not just the generic “feel good”, “pamper me” kind, but the kind that allowed me to understand the beliefs that were driving my choices and actions in relationship, so I could make a course correct and not make the same mistakes the next time I stepped out. And while it took me some time to grieve the life I’d known as part of a couple for so many years and re-enter my body and life as a whole again—it was also one of the best decisions I ever made.
Because today, 14 years later, I thank that younger me for being bold enough to withstand the pain and push past her fears anyway. For not letting other people’s voices and her own limiting beliefs keep her from letting go in service of her own desires. For taking the risk she needed to take to have what I enjoy today: Love and marriage with a wonderful man I met through an online dating site about a year after I’d let go and never looked back. He was and is the one for me. (The universe has its plans, even if we don’t believe or realize it in the moment…)
But you couldn’t have told me that he was out there and that this would be my happy, married life, while I was held as a depressed hostage to a relationship going nowhere. While I was convincing myself that staying was better than leaving. That holding on was better than letting go. That my sell-by date had expired, and there was nothing else out there for me. That I should just suck it up and accept that this was all there was.
Boy oh boy, was I wrong. And if you’re struggling with the same issue, I’m saying that you’re wrong too. Because there are not only real options for finding love after 40, but there are actual benefits to letting go of a relationship that’s not working and giving yourself a shot at finding one that does.
Benefit #1: You know the value of self-love.
And you’re working on it. Even if you’re not where you need to be yet, you know without it, letting go is hard. Because it requires risk. And it’s the sense of safety we get from loving and understanding ourselves that empowers us to move forward with boldness—and let go successfully.
Benefit #2: You know more than ever before about who you are.
Your choices are reflective in that you will no longer bring, stay, or tolerate people in your life who don’t mesh with your beliefs and vision for living values—or who won’t get you where you want to go.
Benefit #3: You’ve been through some stuff and survived it.
You’re a warrior who not only knows how to spot danger in its tracks (hello bad boy, shiny dime, or unnecessary distraction) but ward it off at all costs.
Benefit #4: You’re finally living by your own set of rules.
That means no more settling, giving into other people’ judgement, convention, or approval. You know the only person you need to please is yourself and you’re calling the shots now.
Benefit #5: You know the odds are good.
With more than 50 percent of population being single, there are more potential partners in the dating pool from which to choose than ever before. You’ve also got more ways to find them thanks to the Internet and online dating sites—options that didn’t exist back when you were younger and relied on bars, random meetups, or friends to set you up. Dating has always been a number’s game, and today’s technology, used properly, allows you to increase your odds for winning.
Benefit #6: You know what you want and what you don’t.
Experience offers clarity. You know what you’re willing to put up with and what you’re not. Which means that you won’t waste time in the wrong relationship with the wrong person, right?
Benefit #7: You’re not afraid to ask for what you want.
After all, what do you have to lose? If someone doesn’t want to give you what you want, you’ve just saved yourself days, months, and even years of wasted time and heartache. So, go ahead and boldly put those cards on the table.
Benefit #8: You don’t need years to know whether someone is “the one”.
That’s because your criteria for love and partnership has changed. You’re no longer looking to start a family together but rather, blend a family, if the situation calls for it. You’re looking for a best friend with benefits, intimacy and companionship. Someone to grow old with and be “in the bunker” with, and who has your back.
Benefit #9: You know your blind spots.
You know you like a good bad boy, but you also know that a bad boy isn’t going to get you where you want to go. Au contraire. Maybe you met a guy on vacation who lives in Paris and you live in Ohio. Are you moving to Paris? Nope. So you’re not going to waste your time there, even though he’s dreamy and, well, you never know. Instead of giving in or sacrificing what you really want to impulsive whims—unless drama and adventure is what you want—you’re making different choices.
Benefit #10: You’re realistic.
You know nothing and no one is perfect, including you. And that, at this age, people come with baggage. That’s okay, it just means they’ve been living their lives. If they don’t come with baggage, I’d say beware. They’re either lying or are very suspect. Your job is to figure out what baggage you can live with and what you can’t.
Benefit #11: You’ve got perspective.
You know not to take things personally, fight every battle, or let little issues balloon into big ones. All things are relative.
Benefit #12: You’re intrigued but not desperate.
Clocks are either winding down or no longer ticking and you’ve made more than just peace with who you are and where you’re at. If you’re unhappy, you also know you have the power to change it – as long as you can get past the niggling belief that you’re just too old to go after something new (you’re so not!).
Benefit 13: You’re grateful.
That you’ve come this far and that you are who you are. You also know that there are a lot of ways to have a happy life. While having someone to share it with is ideal, if you never find him or her, that’s okay. Happiness doesn’t come from other people. It’s an inside job.
So, are you really too old to let go to find the love you want? I say no way. My advice: Let go. Just do it. Even in your “second act”, as Jane Fonda says, the world is still your oyster. You still have plenty of options, along with some real grown-up skills, beliefs, and abilities that will support you in taking the risks you need to take to let go successfully—and find the love you that want. I hear stories every day of women of a certain age who let go to finally find the love they always wanted, without having to settle. It’s for all the reasons above that they were able to do it—and so can you.
Whether you’re looking for marriage, a date, or simply ongoing companionship without the legalities, you’re never too old to have it. Letting go as a practice will get you there. Doing so taught me that, despite what I may have thought previously, my best years were behind me at all. To the contrary, they were right out in front of me. Still are. And they can be for you too!
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Jill Sherer Murray is an award-winning writer and speaker who studies creativity, relationships and self-growth. She is also the founder of Let Go For It®, a lifestyle brand dedicated to helping individuals let go for a better life. Jill’s TEDx talk as well as her advice column, Big Wild Love: Let Go For It® were created in service to her loyal and growing fan base, who seek support in the act and the art of letting go for the love they desire and deserve. Follow Jill @letgoforit on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.