Think back to when you were 16 or 17. What characteristics did you seek in a boyfriend or girlfriend? If you're honest, you might remember that your #1 requirement was: "Is she (or he) breathing?" Of course, we all wanted the cheerleader or the captain of the football team--but we'd settle for almost anyone who would show a little interest in us. And as likely as not, we'd imagine a fantastical drama about our relationship, creating an enormous ordeal of ecstasy and agony!
As you reminisce about your early relationships, do you remember if you were self-centered or other-centered in your puppy love. Try putting yourself back in your teenager mind-set. When you dated, were you more focused on YOUR own performance (your clothing, your pleasure, your behavior) or did you consider your partner's concerns?
Few teenagers are mature enough to be other-centered. In fact, it is the developmental task of adolescents (It's their JOB!) to view the world from their ego-centric position and to experiment with behaviors and attitudes that they see around them. Seeking a sense of independence, teenagers strongly identify with some and fiercely reject others as it serves them. Their self-perception and personal satisfaction depends upon the reflection and reactive input they get from others--very ego-centric.
As mature adults we've successfully emerged from adolescence, advanced to the young-adult stage, and many married and raised families. And, now some of us are single again. Despite an accumulation of additional birthdays and more extensive experience, grown-ups are often just as uncomfortable and nervous about "dating" as their junior counterparts. And, due to a lack of credible models of mature partner-seeking behaviors many grown-ups feel a bit lost. They know what doesn't work; but their vision about what might work differently is elusive.
The challenge of being a single grown-up seeking a meaningful and satisfying relationship isn't easy because it seems like navigating uncharted waters. But we've got skills, experience (and maturity!) on our side.
One benefit of maturity is practical optimism--grown-ups have learned there are usually multiple methods to achieve a goal. Even if a specific strategy is not immediately obvious, grown-ups know they can research, learn and succeed with some effort. When the goin' gets tough, they go 'n get more information.
Another benefit of maturity is an appreciation of reality. Grown-ups have learned that people are multi-dimensional. Our relationships are more than skin-deep!!! We accept and honor the surface AND subtle characteristics of friends, family and lovers.
And, perhaps the greatest benefit of maturity is the preference for balance or moderation. When seeking a life-partner, grown-ups are more likely to seek partners based upon a combination of head-and-heart criteria--excitement AND comfort.
Mature relationships take on a very different style and intention than the younger set's single-dimension romantic relationships. This doesn't mean that romance isn't important--it just isn't everything.