The criteria for what we want in our lives changes as we get ‘older and wiser.’ Or, is it that maybe we become wiser as we get older because we are more willing, and more vocal, in stating our preferences and letting our wants be known. The second act of life is a second chance to meet that criteria.
I am privileged to talk to women wherever I go—even though today that’s mostly at Zoom meetings or GoogleMeets. But whether on the road or in the throes of a pandemic, the talk always seems to center on one major theme: what we really want in our lives and how our wants have changed over the years. I know this very well as I have made major changes myself. I’m the queen of reinvention!
Recently, I got in touch with women who have read my book AND THEN I’LL BE HAPPY! Stop Sabotaging Your Happiness and Put Your Own Life First and asked for their take on how they’re changing their lives during their second act. They emailed me with comments that are eye-opening, real, and very refreshing. Some are funny, others practical; a few recount silent frustration in their lives. All quotes are truly felt from deep inside, and spoken by women who are finally putting their own needs and wants first.
Wanting to make life changes is certainly nothing new. In that respect I don’t think we are all that different from our mothers and grandmothers and their dreams. We are however, more able and willing to go after what we want and to achieve our goals simply because we have more opportunity. Life after 50, 60, even 70 can certainly be the second and better half—the half when we finally learn to put our own lives first.
Here are a few wants and criteria of the women of the ‘second half’ and what they didn’t have in a past relationship that is absolutely crucial now.
“You know what I really want in a new relationship?” wrote one woman. “Something that means more to me than love, sex, or good-looks? A separate bathroom! That’s the number one priority on my list for a happy relationship and no compromise is available!”
“An office of my own, a real room and not that ridiculous table set up by my husband in the corner of our kitchen. I’ve taken over one of the vacated bedrooms in our empty nest house! He’s not happy about that, citing the fact that we’ll have one less bedroom ‘for guests’. I told him we have a pull-out couch and there’s a Holiday Inn a mile from our house.”
One woman told me this was a key factor for her after 60. “Having my own savings and checking accounts is a must for me now. I think most women would agree that controlling their own financial freedom levels the playing field in a partnership. I did it only last year and it is a blessing.”
Echoing that statement is one from a woman who spoke to me after one of my seminars. “I am almost ashamed to admit it, but my husband controlled all our finances and in that way controlled me. I said that I was all right with that but I secretly resented that I had to ask for money for everything— it was demeaning. I divorced after 36 years of marriage and learned how to take care of my own finances. The day I opened my own small account was both thrilling and filled with sadness. I waited so long for that independence.”
Having a second career is becoming a must, as is the pursuit of old dreams despite what others may think:
Sometimes in a relationship one person wants to make life changes but her partner is happy with the status quo of familiarity. Changes in a partner, whether they are career-oriented or physical ones make people uncomfortable.
A former educator told me this story. “My future husband was majoring in education. I was in fine arts studying music and voice and he persuaded me to change my major. We were seriously dating, I was twenty years old and in love, so I allowed myself to go along with it. He painted a convincing and beautiful picture of how we’d have summers off together to travel and in my junior year I changed majors. I was never really happy being a teacher, something was always missing. When I took early retirement at 55, I decided that I wanted to pursue my original plan of becoming a singer as a second career. The problem is he can’t understand my decision or why I still have, as he puts it, ‘that dream.’ I’m taking voice classes in the face of tremendous opposition from him but it is what I want to do.”
Physical appearance is a big issue with women who are starting the second half of their lives.
“I moved to a new state a few years ago. I have a great circle of friends and I’m pretty open and honest with them about most things but I do have a secret. What no one knows about me is that I had some ‘work’ done. I don’t intend to tell them because they met me as I am now not as I was before. I invested in myself and am happy that I did so.”
Feeling good about yourself, no matter your age, counts big time as in this woman’s case. “At long last I’m getting braces! So I’m 52, big deal! It’s time for a nice smile!”
Sex takes center stage too. Women over ‘a certain age’ are very upfront when it comes to new ideas about their sexuality and what they want.
“I am more adventurous in my sexual relationship than ever before. So-called bad sex is definitely for good girls! Why would anyone think otherwise? My sensual side is very strong and I am lucky to be able to explore and express it with my partner.”
“When I was in my twenties, the idea of anyone wanting, let alone having, sex after fifty seemed horrible. Now that I’m on the other side of that number, I know that sex is extremely important and necessary at every age.”
Finding your own voice and, more importantly, making it be heard is a must. You need to be satisfied to satisfy yourself.
“I found my voice in my fifties. For most of my life I played the good little girl who was a people pleaser. Now I please myself and speak up.”
“This may be a cliché but guess what Kristen? I finally taught myself to say no to other people! I am putting my needs first.”
My favorite quote is from a woman who, at the age of 65, finally took the ballet lessons she had always wanted and went on pointe. “I stepped on many toes to get on my toes and it was worth it.”
Let’s give the old, rather disparaging words for menopause, ‘change-of-life’ a new modern and exciting definition. Let’s define it as a changing-of-life where our second act is even more fun and fulfilling than the first! Change your life to suit your own needs and wants.
© copyright 2020 Kristen Houghton all rights reserved