Dating when you’re pushing 40 means previous marriages and spouses, ex-boyfriends and girlfriends, children with different parents, two different households with two different schedules, expectations, and above all, two people pretty set in the way they like to live their lives. At best, it’s very complicated and it’s always extremely messy.

You meet a great guy, but he lives far away, has a demanding career and two kids on three different baseball teams. For some extra sh*ts and giggles, why not throw in a very “complicated” ex? On your daily plate are two kids with their own activities, work, a pretty packed social schedule, one ex husband and above all, a zip code you refuse to leave.

But, you can’t predict who it is that will be the right person for you. Who will make you laugh, cry, scream (in that good way); who will make you feel safe and cared for and with whom you will feel utterly at peace. You can’t fake ease, compatibility, respect, honor and love. The benefit of dating when you’re pushing 40 is that you know when it’s right. And if you’ve paid attention, then you know that sustaining a meaningful and long-lasting relationship isn’t about being clean; it’s ALL about how you clean up the mess.

Hours are spent on mind-numbing calendar negotiations. Being in the same place is your new priority, so you give up a drawer in your closet and a shelf in the bathroom to make that one place feel like home to your new part-time live-in love. Slowly, one drawer turns into three and a section of hanging space. You bite your tongue when his ex calls; you attend parties and events on your own — thank you, Uber. He gets new babysitters and drives up to see you any chance he can. You both leave sweet notes around the house for each other and make sure to be there when it’s really needed. He gives your kids extra ice cream and you replace his kids’ soda with water. There are times you travel together, but often with only some of the parts that make up your whole. Someone is usually missing someone in this new modern equation. Some nights when you are just too tired to talk, things get missed. It’s all mess, mess, messy.

Since being with the right person some of time/half the time/most of the time (when you’re lucky) is better than being with anyone else all the time, you decide that being location-challenged is do-able, albeit with a good dose of longing. In time, you even learn to shrug it off when that one-day booked months ago for your big “Brady Bunch” gathering is cancelled. For the 9-year-old’s baseball playoffs.

Life is messy, love is messier and dating at a certain age is the messiest. So, when you find the person that you want to spend the rest of your days with, you start to tidy up. It’s best to accept that which is and always, always, have the wisdom to know when to call a cleaning service.