Alias (DO NOT USE A REAL NAME!!): Cassandra
Comment: I’m a 53-year-old female who has been dating a man, 58, for the last year. We’ve had a great time in getting to know each other and in this time we’ve been almost inseparable in going on various adventures and doing fun things together. I love you‘s have been exchanged and there’s been some discussion of eventually living together and/or getting married, but we’re not there yet.
The most significant challenge for me with the relationship is my boyfriend’s need for attention. He is somewhat of a local-area sports legend, (albeit aging now), and he loves being the center of attention in just about any situation, especially in a social setting. The issue is when his need for attention manifests itself with what I perceive to be overly-flirty behavior with other women, to the point of being inappropriate at times, (with them), which is hurtful and disrespectful, (of me). When I see it happening. I invariably walk away to not only avoid seeing what he’s doing, but to send the message that I find his behavior unacceptable.
When I’ve tried to discuss how his behavior makes me feel, he’s dismissive and says these women are simply friends/coworkers/neighbors/
So just what are the boundaries? At what point is flirty, touchy behavior simply harmless fun versus being truly inappropriate or douchebaggery? You‘d think at my age I would know, but I divorced about two years ago after an almost 30-year marriage and I guess I’m still learning.
To me, the boundaries are clear: if you communicate a valid concern to your partner and they do the whole “It’s all in your head thing” then it’s time to cut bait. But before you do, ask yourself this: Do you – with regularity – become bothered by things that other people tell you are no big deal? If so, then this might be in your head. But if not and this is the only thing that upsets you about him, and if you’re not picking a fight just to pick a fight, then it’s safe to say that this one small critique is not a figment of your imagination.
People in relationships flirt because they want to know they’re still attractive. If he’s some All American Football Hero or whatever, and he was once some sort of Golden Boy, then I can kind of see why he still needs to scratch that itch and remind himself of his glory days. It’s kind of sad, but people do it.
The relationship with this man that you describe sounds pretty good. Barring any other issues, it seems solid and like it makes you happy. So, I’d hate for you to throw everything away for this one albeit irritating peccadillo. With every couple, there are things that one or both of them do that makes them want to scratch the other’s face off. It’s not like you can walk away from this guy 100% certain you’ll never meet someone with any annoying quirk ever again. If he draws the line at flirting and never crosses it, would you be able to just look away and tell yourself he’s just feeling insecure and needs an ego stroke? Because that’s all it probably is: just an aging sports hero seeking out attention that he never used to have to work for but now does because he’s no longer relevant. Ouch.
That said, what bothers me isn’t the flirting but rather his dismissive reaction to you expressions of hurt. That’s what is really troubling. It has only been a year. For all you know this guy just hasn’t pulled off his mask completely and there’s more douchebaggery lurking beneath the surface.
I don’t really know what to say here. This might just be something he does when he’s feeling extra needy. Or he might be a complete asshole. I’m not sure. The only thing I know is that, as a trainer at my gym says, if something causes you pain, stop. Maybe that’s the answer: walk away temporarily and see what he does.
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