by Gina B.
If you’re over 35 and in the dating world, you truly understand the meaning of “it’s complicated.”
I have a few friends who married in their twenties. When I attended many of those weddings, I remember thinking that the bride and groom were very young – almost too young – and wondering if those marriages would last.
Fast forward several years, the predictable amount of early-weds are divorced. But in present day I find myself envying the ones who managed to keep it together and have now been married for 10+ years. Compared the rest of us, their lives are nice and simple.
The couples that I’m thinking of joined forces when neither of them owned property, had previous marriages under their belt, or children from former relationships. They didn’t need pre-nups because they were on even playing fields and built everything together.
At this stage in our lives we meet members of the opposite sex, but before we get too excited, we hold our breath, waiting to learn their circumstances. Because there are always circumstances, aren’t there?
The best case scenario is that you find a single man who’s gainfully employed, resides alone in a property that he owns, has never been married and has no children. Even if he has been married in the past, as long as they haven't procreated, there’s no lingering ex to deal with. With him, you can build your own life without intervention. No looming court appearances or filed motions, no need to protect yourself financially (at least not more than normal), and no ability for the government to set your family schedule or dictate the allocation of your income.
However, the best case scenario is painfully rare.
Usually what you’ll find are children from one or more previous relationships, a tenuous relationship with the ex, custody and child support issues, marriages that haven’t yet been legally dissolved, sticky employment situations, post-divorce financial devastation, questionable living arrangements, wistful feelings about past loves, etc. The list goes on and on. Unfortunately.
If you ask about the future plans of a couple that’s 35+, more and more the answer is “Well . . . it’s complicated.”
Now . . . if you’re a woman who has an equally difficult situation, the two of you might be able to commiserate and support one another. But if you’re in a demographic similar to mine – the never-been-married-no-kids demographic – these circumstances are foreign to you, and will hit you like the hardest right thrown by Floyd Mayweather.
Most of us enter these relationships with the knowledge that the older we get, the higher the likelihood that we will find someone who has circumstances that will complicate their lives. And there’s no way to predict how complicated your collective lives will become.
You have decisions to make, and a lot of questions to ask yourself.
The first and most important internal conversation to have is whether or not you love him, and are you in it for the long haul?
If no, you might want to look for a less complicated scenario.
If the answers to those questions are yes, then ask yourself how much complication you can take, and how much involvement you’re willing to have. What is your personal limit? Will you date a man who has children, and if so, are you willing to deal with the ex-wife/baby mama drama? Do you draw the line at one child, or is it okay if he has five? If he’s in court, are you prepared for all outcomes? Are you okay with the concept of rarely, if ever, being first priority in his life?
Are you financially protected? Understand the statutes in your state, and know that the laws are not in your favor. Will legal marriage enhance or further complicate your lives?
If you decide that it's safer to replicate the lives of Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell without legal reinforcement and commitment, will that be enough for you?
If the two of you decide to marry, consult a good family attorney. How will you handle your money? Will his obligations to a previous relationship be changed by the addition of your income to the household, and can your accounts be legally subpoenaed? If you decide to purchase a home together, can your finances be legally exposed?
Lots of serious stuff to think about, and none of it is fun. Complication is rarely enjoyable, but successfully navigating it will be the key to a good life.
But it kinda makes you wish you had stopped clubbing in your twenties, doesn't it? :-)