'I fell in love at 23 and at 53. Here's why it's so much better the second time around.'

The first time I fell in love, I was 23. It was very unintentional. I was a University graduate, fresh from travelling overseas, living at home with my parents and starting my first full-time job as a lawyer. Falling for a colleague was not part of the plan. Dan was older. He was the designated bad boy of the firm. He was very much the sort of boy I knew I should not go out with in a million years, and so I did not. It later became part of our shared dialogue that he had to ask me out 15 times before I finally said yes.

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And that first date came with a list of conditions: it was not to be a real date; there would be no dinner involved (because that would make it a real date); and he had to have me home by 9pm. Six weeks later we were engaged and 12 months later we were married. 

It was a very traditional 1950s pathway to marriage, set in the 1990s.

At 23 and newly engaged, I used to joke to people that I was a 'child bride' because I looked every bit of 16. But my description wasn't far from the truth. I was far too young to get married based on my belief that I was in love and that this love would last a lifetime. I was far too new to negotiating the nuances of a relationship to even understand what love actually meant, let alone what the commitment of a marriage would entail. But I was impetuous and headstrong and impulsive and naïve and I have often wondered what the hell it was that I was actually thinking. My oldest son is exactly 23 years old right now and the thought of him becoming engaged to someone he has only known for six weeks gives me heart palpitations.


At 23, I was incredibly inexperienced. I had only had one previous relationship, and that one lasted all of 10 months. Of my 23 years on this planet I had only lived away from my parents for 20 months of my entire life. I had never been alone without someone to look after me, ever.

At 23 I did not understand what it was in my life that I most valued, let alone having any sense of whether those values would align with what Dan most valued. As it was, while we were aligned in our drive and love of travel, we were wildly misaligned on some of the most important aspects of my life that I most value such as prioritising my parents and sisters and being a home-body, both of which led to a lot of conflict.

When we separated in my late 40s I had no desire to meet someone new, someone worthy - I wanted time to heal and to find the worth in myself. I needed to get to know me and love me before I had the capacity to get to know someone else and love them. And I needed the time to decide what kind of love I wanted in my life, what kind of love I deserved.  

I was single for five years and over that time I learned a lot about myself, including exactly what I like (and how to ask for it), what I don't like (and how to kindly reject it), what I am capable of (a hell of a lot as it turns out), what I am prepared to compromise on (some things but not if it is in conflict with my values), who I am (a kind, funny, intelligent, giving, articulate, driven woman who sometimes overthinks things), and what it is I most value (my family, my business and my health and wellbeing). I got to know me and I rather liked me.


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The second time I fell in love, I was 53. And it was every bit intentional and well planned and oh, so much better than falling in love at 23. In September last year, before I had even been on a date, I sat down and wrote a description of who my new love would be. Here's what I wrote:

"You are honest and trustworthy. You are wise, protective and compassionate. You make me laugh. You are driven, successful, independent and love time to yourself. You are family oriented and share similar values to me. You are passionate, tactile and when you take me in your arms, I will feel secure and protected. You have taken the time to work through whatever shit you were carrying and you have lightened the load of your baggage. When you look at me and touch me I feel so desired that I am breathless. You are genuinely interested in my happiness — you value my opinion and trust me as your best friend and lover. You are ready to commit, to travel the world, to enjoy life on our terms and we can build a Partner Life List together. You are tall with broad shoulders and beautiful hands. You make me weak at the knees. You have this lovely little crinkle in the corner of your eyes when you look at me and smile. You are kind. You make me feel loved and valued. We support each other’s dreams. I so look forward to meeting you."

And then I met him.

Kate Christie is a time management and goal setting coach and the best-selling author of 5 books including 'The Life List: Master Every Moment and Live an Audacious Life'.

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