Wendy says she always remembers the day her marriage crashed as if it were yesterday. “Michael, my husband, had always suspected me of playing away from home and I’d always denied it,” she recalled.
“Of course I’d flirted occasionally but nothing as serious as wanting to pack in my marriage of close to 15 years. Only this time, I’d run into Seye, an old flame who was separated from his wife and with whom I’d once had exciting lunches and flirty discussions in my office.
“It was easy to continue from where we left off because we had a good relationship when we first got together. I was the one who broke things off because I wanted to get married. Many of my friends were doing just that and Michael, who’d just landed a junior partnership in a law firm looked like a better catch. And while I loved Michael, like most couples in long marriages, I lately felt we’d become a little staid and set in our ways. Our sex life was hardly the firework display of our early years, and sometimes, I’d look over at this snoring, paunchy, greying man on the other side of the bed and wonder: ‘Is this it?’
“A few of my divorced and single friends had talked about meeting men at parties, clubs and through mutual friends and they made it look as if I could easily do the same any time I was up for it. So the day Michael walked into my office, waving Seye’s steamy letter in my face and told me bluntly he was fed up with my shenanigans, he told me he was moving out to one of the flats he let out. The marriage was over but I could stay in the matrimonial home with our three children. I sat and calmly listened to what he had to say. Not once did I plead with him to reconsider. To talk things through. To try to make our marriage work. If that’s the way you feel,’ I told him as he walked out of my office and out of our marriage.
“After the shock of our separation had sunk in, I was eager to explore all those options I thought I had for meeting prospective partners. It sounded like a different world, a sweat shop filled with thrills and excitement – all available at my fingertips. The pick-me-up I really needed. It took me about six months to realise I would do anything to be back with my husband, listening to the sound of his key in the door. Like countless other middle-aged divorcees, I’d found the world of dating to be a tawdry, loveless moral abyss. In fact, I’ll be the first to warn any married woman secretly thinking the grass might be greener on the other side to stay firmly where she is.
“Since I’d been back on the much anticipated dating scene, I’ve been shocked by the number of men who think it’s acceptable to send you pictures of their private parts. One man started sending me lewd messages, asking me what I’d like sexually. When I refused to interact with him, he sent more messages until I blocked him on my phone. What I find particularly depressing is that these men think that’s what women today have been reduced to – that it’s the normal way to speak to a woman in 2017.
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“The supposed dating sites are even worse. For any woman whose last experience of meeting partners was many years ago via friends, work or in a nightclub, she will find the dating landscape has changed considerably – and not in her favour. Because, though dating sites offer the prospect of meeting thousands of men, the power dynamic has sh8ifted once you’re an older woman. First, the pool of potential partners is much smaller. As a 40-plus woman, the choice is very limited. There may be men in their 20s and 30s who want to date you, but the chances of them wanting a relationship rather than their much expected fling with a ‘sugar mummy’ are, sadly, slim.
“Even when a woman goes on a date with a man, it’s likely he’ll have other women lined up so he can keep his options open. There are also the well-publicised sad stories of inexperienced newcomers struggling to navigate the shark-infested waters of ‘second chance’ dating and getting ripped off. As a result, instead of being the ego boost the newly divorced crave, many middle-aged women find it ends up crushing their confidence. Physical attractiveness is put front and centre at relationship building. Historically, there were other things we might also find interesting about a person: their career, taste in music or art, values, friends and social reputation. With ‘second chance’ dating, all that information is stripped away and it seems women are more likely to lose out in this arrangement.
“Men are far more likely than women to desire physical attractiveness in a romantic partner. Women are more likely to desire attributes that signal status. But it doesn’t really help women much because status is not as easily conveyed – and much easier to fake – in a photograph.
“Sadly, it’s too late for me to turn back the clock and after my failure to find a replacement for my husband’s affection, I have reconciled myself to being a single mum. I would give anything to go back to that day my husband confronted me about my infidelity and the fact that our marriage wasn’t working – I would never have let him walk out of the door. It was the most stupid, childish thing I ever did”.
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