Slow Burn

I’m Dating, & I Don’t Care If He’s Hot

As a 40-something divorced woman who’s dating, I’ve stopped placing so much emphasis on sexual attraction. And I’m happier for it.

Divorced and looking for a partner who I like
Brooke Schaal Photography/Moment/Getty Images

I was in a passionless marriage for a really long time. It didn’t start out that way. When I met my ex-husband, our sex life was good. Even after the “spark” faded, we still had sex once a week. But over the years, I lost my attraction to him, and being intimate with him was tough for me. I still carry tremendous guilt over it, but it wasn’t something I could control. I still cared deeply about him; he was a wonderful father and a pretty good partner most of the time. But the sex broke us apart. Honestly, when I was 30, I wondered if maybe I was just done with sex.

All that changed after I turned 40, got a divorce, and started dating again. Suddenly I had a libido again, and suddenly I wasn’t afraid to ask for what I wanted when I was with a man. But in the past year, I’ve had an important realization about myself: Since my divorce, I’ve been putting so much emphasis on physical attraction when it comes to choosing a partner, I was ignoring red flags and choosing men who weren’t good for me.

I’ve dated three men exclusively in the past six years. I’m single now, taking a hard look in the mirror and realizing I am why these relationships haven’t worked out. But not because I wasn’t interested in intimacy. Instead, I was letting things slide, such as their actions not matching their words, because I was attracted to them. I excused certain behaviors and habits that caused me a lot of anxiety because the sex was great. I let myself get caught up in our “chemistry” and dismissed the fact our lifestyles were different or that we wanted completely different things. And after a while, I felt unhappy and unfilled in the relationship and ended it. I was putting too much value on the wrong things — and that’s on me.

I’m trying to be more honest with myself: I want to find a deep connection with someone. I want someone who has close to the same lifestyle, goals, and family values. I want something more sustainable than attraction, and that means I have to stop dating guys who make my heart pound so fast it numbs my logical brain. (Of course, I always set out to do that, but as soon as I met someone I was attracted to, I’d make excuses for all the things that didn’t feel right.)

There’s a lot to be said for a slow burn. Meeting someone who makes me feel safe and who I can daydream with is going to be more fulfilling than someone who makes me want to rip my clothes off, even though we live entirely different lives.

I’m not saying you can’t have both — I know women who do. But I’m realizing that if I keep falling for men who turn me on but don’t enhance my life in any other way, I am going to miss out on the kind of relationship I truly want.

So I’m done with letting myself get caught up in physical attraction. I’ll dig more deeply the next time I meet a man I’m attracted to. I am going to be upfront about what I am looking for from the beginning. I will hold off on being intimate with him until I know a more profound connection is there. And I’m not going to give in to any urges because I refuse to keep reliving this cycle.

It may take a really long time, but I don’t care. I’m willing to wait.

Diana Park is a writer who finds solitude in a good book, the ocean, and eating fast food with her kids.