If you're a straight woman getting divorced, you might be afraid of what's going to happen. Will you ever have a date again? And if so, there can't be anyone good to date, right? Wrong. One of the secrets you don't find out until you're back out there again is that men in the 35-55 age range are high quality, and highly attractive. (And it's not just their yummy greying hair.) Whether they're divorced like you or never-married, guys over 35 are radically better than you think. Take heart. This is what you can expect:
They really like you. (Unless they don't, which I'll cover later in "The Dude Who Never Learned.") They're really happy to be with a woman who can carry on a conversation, who is interested in the things they're interested in (but can teach and learn new things), who's funny and who thinks they're funny. They like your skin and your eyes and your hair. They like your body, imperfect as it is. They like that you hang out with your friends (and when they meet them, they like your friends). They like that you're a good mom, if you have kids. They like that you're good at your job. They like knowing what you think. They just like you.
They're as honest as they can be. By this point in life, men don't want to play games any more than you do. And, honestly, they don't have any desire to have to put on pants, leave the house, and spend money to hang out with someone they're not into. If they're going to choose time with you over Netflix and a beer on the couch with their dog, it's because they either think you have a future together or they really want to have sex with you. And they'll be honest about which one it is. (Unless they don't know yet. But once they figure it out they'll be honest about it.) Note: This also means that you don't have to spend a lot of time doing close readings of their texts or messages. If a 40-year-old doesn't text you back right away, there's no subtext. He was just watching basketball. He'll text you when the game is over.
They have sleep apnea. I know this sounds strange and of course not ALL men over 35 have sleep apnea, but a surprising number of them do. It's from working too hard, maybe carrying a few extra pounds, and just getting older. Sometimes they're cranky without trying to be, because they're sleep-deprived. If they have a CPAP machine to help them sleep, they may be too embarrassed to use it when you're staying over, but a gentle nudge from you will let them know that there's really nothing hotter than a full night's sleep. If either of you has insomnia, it could be compounded by the sleep apnea. Working together for better sleep for both of you can help.
They might be hurt. Whether it's stuff from a previous marriage and divorce, stress from being single for so long, work and life pressure, or just the normal crap that happens to boys that they're not allowed to talk about but that they bring with them into manhood, men this age are unlikely to not have something hurting them that they carry around without realizing it. That means that sometimes their urge is to self-protection, and that doesn't mean that they don't trust you or don't want to be with you. It just means that they aren't perfect, and that they could use a friend. If you two can become real friends -- the kind of friends who help each other heal by being honest and trustworthy and loyal -- then you'll both have someone to trust, whether or not you end up together romantically.
They like sex. And they're radically better at sex than they were 10 or 15 years ago. They're better at individual acts, at pacing, at appreciating your body, at paying attention to what's working for you, at doing something explosive together. They have a more mutual view of pleasure than they did when they were younger, and they're more confident in themselves and their bodies. They're really happy to be having sex with you, and they're happy that you want it with them.
They're good at their jobs, but it's not how they identify themselves. By now they've done the whole "master of the universe" career-building thing, so they've gotten really good at what they do. But they've also figured out that it's not the only thing that gives them identity, and isn't the most important thing about them. This gives them confidence, but also makes them more interesting to talk to than guys in their 20s who self-identify by their job titles. Men over 35 will tell you what their jobs are, but then they talk about "what they do," whether it's hang out with their kids, play soccer, take pictures, or whatever else has their heart instead of just their working hours.
All of those things were surprising to me once I was out in the dating pool after getting divorced, and made me like the men I was meeting even more than I thought I would. Men over 35 are just fun, and they can be really great partners and friends. I did notice, however, that there was a certain type of guy I kept running into, and learned to avoid:
The Dude Who Never Learned: This guy just hasn't learned anything. He has no idea why he's divorced (although he may think it's because his ex-wife wanted him to make more money or to "be more romantic"). If he's never been married he has no idea why he's still single. He doesn't know why he never meets women who want to "settle down." He'll probably spend your entire date not-so-subtly negging you and then will get defensive and possibly insulting if you don't want to go on another date. He gets his identity from what his job is or what he owns, and resents people who aren't as impressed with him as he is.
If you can stay away from the Dude Who Never Learned, you'll be great. Stick with the deep, layered, sleep-deprived, loyal guys you never noticed before, and you'll have a better dating experience and a richer circle of friends.
(This post was a love note to all the men I've dated since my divorce and to all my single and newly-single straight male friends in the 35-55 age range. I'm so lucky to know you guys and have you in my life.)
Magda Pecsenye writes about being a person and a parent at AskMoxie.org. She and Deesha Philyaw help people write through their divorces at WritingDivorce.com with their 12-week online workshop and self-paced workbooks.