10/28/2014 04:33 pm ET Updated Dec 28, 2014

Go Fish

I was running with a good friend, talking about all things kid, work, love, and life. She told me a funny story about her 5th grade son, Luke. A girl-mom from class pulled her aside and confided that her daughter had a giant crush on Luke. My friend cackled and said, "Well, unless she can turn herself into a fish, he will never even notice her!"

Her son Luke loves fishing, is obsessed with fishing - all things water, lures, lines, bobbers, ties, tides, boats, boots, and bait. If it's related to fishing, he can relate. He wants to go fishing after school, on weekends, and whenever and wherever they go on vacation. Give the boy a stream, a river, a pond, a lake, a bay, or an ocean and set him free.

"Doesn't that remind you of being young?" she said. "The way we used to pine for boys and they pined for everything else?"

I totally remember that. When I was boy crazy, the boys were crazy about sports, their friends, their cars, their fraternities, their parties, and watching their favorite teams on TV. Later my husband was consumed with work and winning, and I was consumed with him.

As women get older, get married, and long for connection, most men are busy longing for success at work, at the gym, in the stock market, or on the golf course. We are looking at them and they are often looking everywhere else.

Mothers often begin to pour their energy into their children, because at least there is a significant return on emotional investment. Many marriages end somewhere between the post-partum haze and the first twig breaking in an empty nest. But if they don't end, there is an interesting shift.

Women start going fishing.

What I mean by this is that just like Luke, we become more interested in what we love to do than we are interested in looking for love. We have deep friendships that we have nourished over all these years. We have close connections with our grown children, and our grandchildren, the abundant harvest of many seasons spent in the fields. We have new or resumed careers, born from the freedom of more time and the wisdom of seeking. We go back to school. We travel and embrace adventure. We learn or dust off foreign languages. We train for marathons and practice yoga. We pray and meditate; our peace is unshakeable. We have a sure sense of self, without being selfish. We speak our minds without apology. Our confidence comes from our core. We read, and talk about big ideas. We become more beautiful and less concerned about it. We try new things. We grow.

Suddenly, we are the most interesting fish in the sea.

And the shift happens, as sure and as soft as the changing curves in our bodies, as many men begin to turn inward in life, we turn outward. Some women's lives expand just as some men's lives shrink. Men's vision can narrow while women begin to see a panorama. I notice this in some retired couples; the men suddenly want to do things, everything, with their wives. The husband isn't quite sure what to do with himself after spending years being defined and validated by his title and his achievements, and the wife is busy fishing, dropping her lines and casting her nets wide and far. She pulls in a bounty. She sails the high seas. She navigates. She has the respect of her crew.

And her husband wonders, who is this amazing, beautiful, brilliant person I married? How can I capture her attention?

When did she learn to fish?

And if they are very lucky, they sail off together into the sunset as co-captains, balanced on their boat, in love with life and with each other.