It's a luscious experience, falling in love as a grown-up. You're wise to the relationship hazards that used to snag you, you know what's important in a partner and won't settle for anything less and you're ready to meet a man as an equal on every level, including horizontally!
And those are all good things.
We wrote this book just for you.
If you're single and wondering whether you'll ever find someone to love, if you're dating a special guy and not sure whether you should take your relationship to the next level or if you're on the fence about going after grown-up love with all the hope and passion in your heart, the Garter Brides say, "A thousand times yes!" We know, because we did itand we're on a mission to show other women how.
The Garter Brides' Guide to Love for Grown-ups is a relationship book full of field-tested advice from us and from other women who found lasting love and happiness after our thirty-fifth birthdays had come
and gone. We're not psychologists or relationship experts, but honors graduates of the School of Relationship Hard Knocks: we've forged happy, successful, sexy, fun, grown-up marriages not when the storybooks predict, but when we and our husbands had histories, careers, furniture, sometimes children, ex-spouses and all kinds of responsibilities.
We knew there were lots of other women out there who had done what we did. We've sought them out, tapped into their insights about what works and what doesn't and want to share the tried-and-true wisdom of this special sisterhood with you.
What can we tell you about grown-up love? Between us and the many women we've interviewed, quite a lot. We won't insult your intelligence with babble about getting in touch with your inner beauty. Let's talk turkey: you're a hot babe with a busy life you'd love to share, a cozy bed into which you'd welcome a good man for some great sex and great fun, and a well-oiled BS detector you didn't possess in your twenties. You're mature enough to handle grown-up love, to move forward without looking back and to appreciate how great a gift that is.
Like you, we took some extra time to find our own true loves and it was well worth the wait. But marrying later in life isn't as simple as finding Mr. Right, getting married and having a family. We know a lot of grown-up women whose relationships failed because they didn't know how to handle some of the situations they faced. We want to make sure that doesn't happen to you.
Who Are the Garter Brides (GBs)?
It all started, as many great adventures do, with girlfriends having dinner (i.e., drinks). Nina, Ann and Pat were business colleagues and longtime friends, all over the age of thirty-five. All had successful careers and were going on dates (approximately 9,000 of those by Pat alone, according to her), but none of them thought she'd get married.
Six months later, Nina got married. Six months after that, Ann got married. Six months after that, Pat got married.
Nina said, "At my age you wear a garter, but you don't throw it." She slipped it off and gave it to Ann, who wore it at her wedding. Ann then gave it to Pat, who wore it at her wedding. They named themselves the Garter Bridesand a new tradition was born!
Today, this good-luck garter has been worn by girlfriends ranging in age from thirty-eight to fifty-seven, and it has traveledin a FedEx boxall over the United States and even to that city of ultimate new-lywed bliss, Venice!
Everyone who's heard about the Garter Brides has been captivated by the story of how this little scrap of lingerie was part of so many happy endingsor shall we say beginnings? One of the many women who loved hearing the Garter Brides story was Tish Rabe, because she kept on believing in grown-up love when she found her own happy beginning: she married for the first time at thirty-sixto a man she'd known since high school! She encouraged Ann and Pat to share their stories, and thus the idea for The Garter Brides' Guide to Love for Grown-ups came to be.
From a Tiny Garter, a Sisterhood Grows
All of the Garter Brides have been questioned repeatedly about how they met their husbands and made new lives with the men they loved. How is a mature marriage different from when you get married in your twenties? Keep reading!
Where dating books leave off (although we talk about dating, too), the Garter Brides' book continues. We know that a grown-up woman's wedding is just the beginning of a rich, rewarding life one she probably couldn't have handled when she was twenty-five. (As one woman we know says, "Thank God I met my mother-in-law when I was thirty-fiveat twenty-two, she would have eaten me alive!")
We're writing this book on the best authority: our own life experiences and those of women we've interviewed around the world, from ages thirty-seven to eighty, who have applied their grown-up life experiences to forge happy, sex-filled marriages in all types of circumstances. We are producers, lawyers, actresses, teachers, masseuses, psychologists, yoga teachers, agents, writers, fashionistas, art critics, financial advisers, nurses, real estate brokers and even a dancer of the bump-and-grind variety!
Some of us are first-timers at marriage; for some it's husband number two and for others it's husband number three. Some became step-moms, first-time moms or stepgrandmoms and a number of the brides adopted children. We met our true loves in all sorts of waysblind dates, parties, online dating, the commuter train, even while taking flying lessons. Our dream weddings ran the gamut from ultra-glam to super-casual; our households are filled with everything from antiques to running toddlers to crazy Jack Russell terriers. And we have great "here's how I did it" stories to share about moving in together, becoming a stepfamily, navigating finances and the art of joining two full and complex lives.
As a result, we have a unique handle on what it takes to make grown-up relationships work. We and our fellow brides are living proof that finding the right guy and making a wonderful marriage is possible at any stage of life. We've learned a lot, we're still learning (as Pat says, one great thing about being married is that there are plenty of do-over opportunities) and we're still laughing. It's this mix of real-life lessons and strategies for staying flexible and enjoying the humor along the way that we want to share with other grown-up brides and brides-to-be.
We know how woman-to-woman supportbeing able to turn to others who've been therehelped our own loves flourish. Grown-up life is both wonderful and complicated. Sometimes it may feel lonely when you're dealing with relationship challenges. What we've learned from connecting with so many women is that you are never alone. We've laughed and cried together as we've shared experiences and insights. We've become more convinced than ever of the importance of our mission to gather and share women's wisdom about this unique time in life. We've formed a sisterhood of womenall Garter Brides who want to encourage all women to take a chance on grown-up love and have the life they always dreamed of.
What to Expect from This Book
If you're still looking for that special someone, we'll show you how to take a fresh approach to dating, stay open to the promise of grown-up love and have funwhether the next date is Mr. Right or Mr. What-Was-I-Thinking?
If you've found the terrific guy you deserve, we'll share ideas for developing your relationship and combining two busy lives.
Grown-up love raises a lot of questions: Are one or both of you divorced, or widowed? Are exes in the pictureand just how pretty is that picture? What's the best way to welcome stepchildren and build these new relationships? Speaking of children, does anyone hear a biological clock ticking? What's important to know about living together before getting marriedand should the new "we" live in your place or his? Who makes the move if it's a long-distance relationship? How should grown-up finances be handled?
To help you quickly pick up the take-home info, each chapter is organized by the key questions women commonly ask (or should). We reveal the issues and answers women need to keep in mind as they find true love and build a life together. We flesh out our ideas with anecdotes and examples from our experiences and those of other grown-up brides, all served with a double scoop of Garter Bride attitude. We've also created a website www.thegarterbrides.com where we offer additional up-to-the-minute tips and advice on real-life situations and you can visit us on Facebook and Twitter. On our site you'll also get to meet other Garter Brides who share their stories and you can share yours. We want to get to know you, too! We also invite you to ask us questions so we can help you in creating a new life with the man you love.
So get ready to meet The Garter Brides because for every woman seeking the love of her life or embarking on a special relationship, we are here to bring hope, help and hilarity.
Meet the GBs
Before we launch into our advice, you should get to know us better. The first things you need to know about us are that (1) we laugh a lotespecially at ourselvesand (2) although we have opinions about everything, we're far from perfect. Our lives are full of the usual stuff: work complications; kid crises; pesky relatives; missed deadlines; messy drawers; unruly hair; pounds gained, lost and regained; purchases we regret; girlfriends we can't live without.
One thing we all also havewhich both delights and humbles usis husbands who absolutely adore us, regardless of the aforementioned usual stuff. The wonder of being adored by a man for everything we areand despite everything we aren'tis our wish for you, and one of our reasons for writing this book. You'll learn more about us throughout the book, but to get started, here's a snapshot of each of us.
The thing you need to know about Mark is that he's a doer. He pursues possibilities most people wouldn't even consider. And because he's ever hopeful, he's always prepared. For example, he travels a lot for work and he automatically rents a car in the city he's visiting, because you never know if you might need wheels to follow up on a business lead in a nearby town.
So when he called a work colleague for a date only to find that she'd just gotten engaged the week before, he naturally asked, "Do you know anyone else?"
For Mark it was the equivalent, in dating terms, of prospecting for business the next town over. Never get off the phone without a referral, right?
It so happened that this woman worked with a dear college friend of mine, and the three of us had gone out for chick dinners together. "What about Pat?" the newly betrothed chick asked. "No way!" said my college friend. "They have nothing in common." But she, too, liked Mark, so they figured what the heck.
So here was their pitch: "There's this nice guy named Mark. He's divorced, has two kids, comes up here to the New York office pretty frequently but lives in Atlantayeah, Atlantabut he's a really nice guy."
"Do you hate me?" I said. "I need a guy like this like I need a bigger rear end."
I'd been on 9,000 blind dates. No way was a guy who lived 800 miles away going to be blind date number 9,001. Talk about unavailability. On which I was an expert, by the way. I was actually dating I use the term as loosely as he dida gorgeous, sexy engineer from Massachusetts who was working on a project in New York. He'd call at the last minute (never, of course, when I expected) and blow into town for a whirlwind good time, then disappear again, leaving me to wait by the phone for the next wave of inordinate, inappropriate and inconsistent attention. It was heaven, if you liked the thrill of never knowing which end was up. As it seemed I did.
"Look, I really like this guy," my college friend pleaded. "For God's sake, have a glass of wine with him when he's in New York. You don't have to marry him." (How often have we all heard that?)
Mark and I talked on the phone two or three times before we met. My friends were right: he was nice. On his next trip to New York, we planned to go out for dinner. Clearly he knew nothing about the New York dating scene. So when he came to pick me up straight from the airport with a huge suitcase and said, "I'll just leave this here," he was oblivious to my deer-in-the-headlights expression.
I'd had a lot of horrible blind dates, but none so far had made headlines in the New York Post. Was I, after a glass of mediocre wine and a plate of ravioli, going to experience my very own fifteen minutes of infamy? "Uh, why don't you take it to the restaurant?" I asked. "No, it's too heavy. I'll just leave it here and come back," he said. So we left, with me trying to remember if I'd called any girlfriends to say I was going on a date that night.
Our dinner stretched to three hours. We discovered we're both travel nuts, and we talked up a storm. Afterward, he picked up his bag at my apartment and left. My life had been spared. What I didn't realize then was that it had been changed. I thought he was cute, but I felt no fireworks. For that, remember, I had Mr. Unavailable.
Did I mention I was also dating a personal trainer? It was one of the few times in my dating life that I had a lot going on. Maybe that's why it worked between Mark and me. I wasn't anxious over the outcome I was just me being me. Besides which, if I started to take this guy seriously, he might leave me. Weirdly enough, it just felt safer to keep having unpredictable, hot dates with Mr. Unavailable, because that way I would be either (1) having so much fun or (2) so busy obsessing about whether he'd call that I didn't have to face that there was no real future there.
So began a slow, rather old-fashioned courtship by phone and occasional face-to-face meetings. Mark and I got to know each other. What a concept.
One evening I was walking home through Central Park after a tough day at work, worrying about some political complication that was going on there. I remembered Mark had said he was going to call at seven-thirtyjust ten minutes away. I've got to ask Mark about this, I thought.
He called. I talked. He listened. He suggested ways to handle the situation. His advice was great. I hung up the phone, and suddenly the revelation was right there in front of me: Wow. He's the go-to guy. He said he was going to call at seven-thirty. And he did. Then he listened to me. And then he helped me. I really liked that. Maybe loving somebody isn't worrying about what's going on with him and constantly wondering whether he's going to call and want to see you. Maybe it's not about anxiety. Maybe it's about safety. Could I have called Mr. Unavailable with a problem? I don't think so, because that wouldn't have been "fun," now, would it?
I decided right then to be in a relationship, this relationship. I decided to give this guy a shot. It didn't really change the way we interacted that much, but it became different for me because I was different. I was falling in love.
You'll learn in later chapters about how we resolved the longdistance thing, about how we worked out a big issue for many grown-up coupleshaving a childand about the proposal in Paris. (Hint: his big romantic pop-the-question plans went down the toilettwice!) Suffice it to say that our wedding cake had a little Eiffel Tower on top. Now, that was heaven.
We've been married seventeen years. Mark is still that smart, strategic go-to guy. He's no-nonsense on the outside, soft on the inside. I like to call him "the pillar of Jell-O." On paper, I never would have seen us as a match, but our differences are our strengths as a couple. It scares me to think how close I came to not going on that 9,001st blind date. I'm so glad I stopped being a control freak for thirty seconds and let my girlfriends convince me to reconsider!
I didn't go on 9,000 blind dates like Pat did, but there is a number that sticks in my mind: 52,560. That's somewhere near the number of hours I spent dating a man who had no intention of marrying me, even though he knew that I wanted to be married and have children.
He was much older than I was and had two kids. We spent hours over leisurely lunches, took weekend getawaysvery New York, very romantic. I was crazy about him.
All my girlfriends who knew him told me he'd never marry me because he'd been married before and always said he'd never get married again, but that was like waving a red flag in front of a bullit just made me more determined to make it happen. I'd show them!
Things started to get complicated when I could no longer ignore the fact that I really wanted to have a baby. Unfortunately, I was too young to be able to get up the courage to ask him how he felt about it at his age. If he'd said, "Yes, I want to have babies with you," I would have married him in a heartbeat.
The years went by and I was determined that somehow everything would work out. On the night of my thirtieth birthday we were sitting in a restaurant having dinner, and he told me he was very excited because he had finally found the right person to redesign his apartment.
And suddenly I got it. Oh. You're redesigning your apartmentnot our apartment. There is no "we" here. There never really has been.
I got up and walked out. I'm only sorry I didn't throw my drink in his face because it would have been so dramatic. But in truth, it was my fault. When I started the relationship, I was young and got swept up in the romance of it all. Six years later, I was a grown-upor should have been. Either I should have had the tough conversation with him or I should have had it with myself. But sometimes that's easier said than done.
I was so shaken up. I remember taking a cab home and thinking, What have I done? Six years. And in all that time, our lives really didn't overlap. It was one of those defining moments when you see the actual distance between yourself and someone you thought you were close to, and realize you're not really intimate. It was a hard fall.
Flashback: I met John Rabe when I was sixteen and he was seveteen. We were cast opposite each other as the leads in our high school production of Oklahoma!I was Laurey and he was Curly and I thought he was fascinating.
On something like page 64 of the script (trust me, I'd flipped through!) he was supposed to kiss me. When you're sixteen and have braces, this is huge. But every time we almost got to that page, rehearsalwould end! Finally one afternoon, I said my line, and he leaned down and kissed me. As far as I was concerned, that was it.The room sort of went quiet, as though everyone was thinking, I dunno what just happened here, but it was something big.