Age doesn’t come with wisdom for everyone, but sometimes it does as it relates to love. After decades of being in one relationship or several, you’re likely to come to conclusions about love you wish you knew earlier. Many of us who are in love or looking for love could benefit from these lessons.
Perhaps you’re in a stable relationship but want to deepen the bond between you and your partner. Or maybe you’re happily single but want to be ready when the love of your life does come along.
Whatever the case, we asked 17 women over 50 who are both single and partnered to share the things they wish they knew earlier about love and what lessons they can offer to others based on their experiences. Hopefully, you’re able to find at least one piece of advice that resonates with you and where you are on your love journey.
Keep in mind, there’s no one-size-fits all formula for love–everyone’s path is different.
You can, however, take any gems that you connect with and use them to build healthier and more loving relationships.
Tanza Wallace Westry, Hospital CFO and PhD Student, Richmond (VA) – “I wish I knew that it was ok to have a voice — and that having a voice didn’t equal nagging. I wish I knew to set boundaries and stick to them. The women in my family showed me that, to have a man, you needed to ‘let’ him be a man. I wish I knew that a ‘man’ will always be a man without my help. I got married very young and my grandparents, mom [and] aunts showed me to cater to men, and that, for me, has led to emotional abuse and one-sidedness. Wish I knew women mattered, too and that being successful didn’t necessarily include a man. I’m much happier now but it took years and two marriages to get there with my second husband.”
Tracey Banks Newsome, Partner Marketing Manager at IBM, Atlanta (GA) – “Be clear about your core values in relationships. If you’re not clear you can’t truly know what you need.”
Erica Bazzell-May, Attorney and Financial Planner, Ardmore (PA) – “I wish I knew how many stages we would go through as a couple. We’re 25 years in at 54 and 58.”
Colleen Holmes, Closing Agent in Residential Real Estate (VA) – “I wish I knew it was ok and healthy to rock the boat when things weren’t right. We do sometimes. I strive to be peaceful with my husband but in the past I was afraid to speak up. It was just my way of not wanting strife in my home. Little did I know then it’s ok to voice my fears and disappointment but still be his anchor.”
Tara Godby, Certified Life Coach, Austin (TX) – “It’s ok for you to NOT ‘be the one.’ When we are young we tend to be upset, sad, angry when our love interest does not reciprocate or you break up because they found someone else. Or they do things for ‘them’ that they didn’t do for you.You weren’t ‘the one,’ and that’s OK. You will never be enough for the wrong one and way more than enough for the right one. Let people do what they want to do so that you can see what they’d rather do!”
Cassandra Roshelle, Teacher, Atlanta (GA) – “[That] loving myself was going to be the hardest thing to do. Much of the old love advice is rooted in low self-esteem. People advise you to love yourself, but tell you the opposite in various ways when it comes to keeping a relationship. So because my self-esteem was low and a relationship was always a part of my younger goals, relationship ‘health’ took [a] front seat while loving myself would take a backseat. Women were taught to sacrifice, forgive, accommodate, etc. If you’re with the wrong person, this puts it in your head that your needs are not a priority. I still battle in my mind and heart to make sure I am meeting my needs and that my man is too, because being raised the way I was, I will quickly push my needs to the side without realizing that I am doing it.”
Melody Russell, Insurance Underwriter, Birmingham (AL) – “Discuss what love means early in the relationship. Love does not mean the same thing to all people. You can set yourself up for years of sadness expecting someone to love you the way you want to be loved when that’s not how they express love.”
Angel Johnson, Retired Attorney (FL) – “I wish I knew love was a CHOICE not a FEELING.”
Nicole McLean, Writer, Upper Marlboro (MD) – “I got married at 50 for the first time, [and] I tell all my friends, young cousins, and such [to] dump men faster. We women waste a lot of time when we realize or get the gut feeling that someone isn’t quite right for us. Either out of fear of missing out, or being labeled a b—h, or being talked about for body counts. We hang in there way too long. If he annoys you early on the second date, cut him loose. Move on. If you’re five months in and you know he’s lying to you but you can’t prove it, don’t try. Move on. There will be another guy soon enough. Also, stop telling all your ex-boyfriend and former relationship business to men when you start dating. You are way more than whatever trauma you’ve experienced in dating. Don’t talk about why the relationship ended, talk about your dreams, your goals, your hobbies. Talk about you. Men will suck up all the air talking about themselves. Make sure they know that you’re a full person too.”
Tracey Anderson, Procurement Analyst, Richmond (VA) – “It’s ok to put yourself first when in love. You can love and have a career. You have to find the right man but don’t settle for the wrong man.”
Sharon Davis, EA to a CEO, Fairfield (CA) – “It’s okay to say no if asked to get married and you know you aren’t ready or [it’s] just because you’ve been together for a long time. I thought it was a good idea to get married after being in a long-term relationship. I really wasn’t ready, but did it anyway because ‘the invitations had been mailed.'”
Ericka Messia, Healthcare/Payment Integrity, Atlanta (GA) – “LOVE SHOULD UPLIFT YOU, NOT KNOCK YOU DOWN!!! I wish I recognized the now obvious signs of manipulative narcissistic behaviors in the earlier stages of relationships. I think too often we realize the person showed us exactly who they were early on. I find women are raised to be nurturers to the male ego, often at [their] expense, and society perpetuates this expectation to the detriment of women. Even when a woman chooses to love herself over the toxic negativity, she is told ‘that’s why you’re single’ as if SHE is the issue or being healthy and single is NEGATIVE.”
Trena Bryant, Self-Love Coach and Analyst, (MD) – “My advice: it’s ok to do it YOUR (and your mate’s) way! So many folks try to tell you the rules when in reality, there are no rules! Example: If you both desire separate rooms, or heck, separate homes, do that! Do you and yours, your way!”
Keisha Johnson, Systems Engineer, Houston (TX) – “Love on your terms. Not saying don’t compromise, but don’t settle.”
Tanya Taylor, Tower Operator, Harlem (NY) – “Mr. ‘feel good’ wasn’t ‘mr. right.’ Love and lust are not the same. I wish I dated more instead of being in a dead long-term relationship. Wasted too much of my younger years waiting for this man to sow his wild oats. Last I saw him, he’s still single 30 years later. I wish I would’ve listened to my mother. She always said don’t put all your eggs in one basket. My advice to women is date as much as you can. If he doesn’t feed your soul, move on. There is someone for you eventually.”
Beverly Johnson, City Transportation Worker and Entrepreneur, Ypsilanti (MI) – “One thing I wish I had known is how much work it really is because falling in love is easy. Staying in love is work.”
Lisa B Jones, Community Relations Consultant and Advocate, Harlem (NY) – “Forgive yourself for what we did not know and allowed in relationships. Be clear about the difference between what we think that we want versus what we need from relationships. Love always starts with ourselves.”