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Ora Nadrich Headshot

Too Old for Romantic Heartache

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When I was in my late teens and early twenties, it seemed like being hung up on the "bad boy" was desirable, if not preferable. The more unavailable a guy was or hard to figure out, the better.
"Is he going to call or isn't he?" These were the questions that played obsessively in a lot of young women's minds. And if he was good at keeping you guessing, you wanted him even more.

The rogues, the cads, and even the jerks always had women wanting them -- these were the guys the singer Sade wrote about in her hit song, "Smooth Operator," one of the hottest songs in the '80s; if you couldn't take their game playing anymore, there always seemed to be someone else who gladly would. Her lyrics said it all back then:

Diamond life, lover boy,
He moves in space with minimum waste and maximum joy...
Melts all your memories and changes into gold.
His eyes are like angels but his heart is cold.
No need to ask.
He's a smooth operator.

A guy like this, who could manipulate you, yet be smooth about it -- now he was oh-so-sexy!

But, as we know, he isn't strictly an '80s phenomenon. Even today the bad boy seems to still reign supreme with young women, but instead of the jet setter, Saturday Night Fever disco types from my Baby Boomer generation, it's the vampire that has all of the girls swooning.

Even though he's a fantasy that exists in blockbuster trilogies, he still represents the kind of guy women go ga-ga over -- bad! What's maybe different from the one Sade was singing about is that the modern day "bad boy" sucks your blood and takes you into the underworld with him. Is that sexy enough for you ladies?

Today I view the "bad boy" as something forbidden or naughty that you needed to try or experience when you're a young woman because you don't really know who you are yet, and once you get it out of your system, you never have to do it again. You realize that any man who has the word "bad" in front of him is someone to avoid like a sexually transmitted disease. But for some women, they believe and convince themselves, especially when they're attracted to someone, that they're special and going to be the one to change him and make him "good." That might be fine if you're young and have time to spare or waste on a guy who, like the leopard, will never change his spots, but it's not good at all if you're no longer in your teens or early twenties, and don't have time to throw away.

When I speak to women who are in their 50s and are still carrying on a relationship (if you can call it that) with a guy who's unavailable, or manipulative, or keeping them guessing about anything they don't want to communicate, I want to say to them, "What are you doing!?" Your 50s aren't a time for heartache and drama. It's a time for eliminating stress and chaos of any kind, especially when it comes to love and romance. You reach a point in your life that having someone treat you well is paramount, and if a man after a certain age can't show up and be present for a healthy, intimate relationship, you need to tell yourself that you're simply too old to try and change him, and he's probably too old to change, or too much of a Peter Pan to want to try.

When a man resists growing up and stays a boy inside, he has what's known as the "Peter Pan syndrome." Jung called it a Puer, which in Latin means "eternal boy." I'm not saying that every man who can't grow up is a "bad boy" necessarily, but, more often than not, the characteristics of these types of men who avoid responsibility or commitment are similar.

Unless you take pleasure in babysitting your man, or are genuinely excited to figure him out like a Rubik's Cube, you might want to ask yourself what can you possibly be getting from a man who can't be there for you in the ways you really would want him to be. Making excuses for the unavailable man or "bad boy," allowing them to "kind of" be there or "sort of" be committed to you is only giving them a message that it's OK or enough for you. But what most women who are in these types of situations will tell you, when they are honest with themselves, is that those half-hearted efforts really aren't enough to meet their needs at all, and sometimes make them feel more alone than if they were truly by themselves.

If romantic heartache is something you're still willing to put up with in your 50s because you don't want to be alone, just know that if at any time you change your mind, or feel that you've had enough, it's OK to speak up and tell your man that you're giving up Peter, as in Pan, to find a guy like Paul, as in McCartney. He just married a beautiful woman who seems like an equal and a great match for him, and he for her. Now there's a man willing to take responsibility and make another commitment to marriage, even though he's experienced deep loss and disappointment in his previous two. That's the kind of guy who's available and can show up, and there's nothing "bad" about that!