Finding love is such a common quest in life that there are even television shows about finding that one special someone for your life. And, while finding love over 40 may have its own hurdles, adding distance to those hurdles is a challenge that Richie and Maxine Alexander have overcome.
Richie says, “So many people keep repeating the same pattern, but after becoming single again I thought, ‘I want to fix myself first.’ I wanted to stay single and get myself the way I wanted to be, so that I would attract the person that is right for me.”
While enjoying being single, Richie read books on relationships as he worked on personal goals.
“I already knew what I ‘didn’t want’ and I didn’t want to repeat the same pattern. I worked on things in myself for what I wanted in someone else. I read in a book that you should write down about 10 things that you want in a relationship and I made a list,” Richie says.
It was important to Richie that a woman be independent. Having owned a successful tile business, Richie feared meeting someone who wanted to be rescued and not love him for who he was. He wanted someone who had a career and her life in place.
“One day I just said, ‘Now I am ready’,” Richie affirms. He admits he was ‘living it up’ the first few years of being single and though alcohol was not a problem he enjoyed getting out with his friends on the weekend and that usually included drinking.
Maxine was not much of a drinker and, though she may have gone on an occasional date, she was not looking for Mr. Right. She had a successful career at Kawasaki; she raised her children and was now enjoying her grandchildren. Though Maxine didn’t need to be rescued, she admitted that she had attracted men who did not respect her. This time, Maxine was determined not to settle.
“I had always picked the worse guys ever and after my divorce I had enough of it. I agree with Richie. I knew I needed to fix myself before getting serious again and I thought, ‘I am a good woman - why am I attracting so many bums?’ I did the exact same thing as he did and I made a list of everything that I wanted,” Maxine says.
Maxine wrote down that she wanted to find someone who took care of themselves and cared about fitness and someone who liked to travel and who made her laugh. She wanted someone who was loving, caring and would respect her.
“I had been working on myself for quite a while and I wasn’t looking for someone because I knew that whoever it would be – we would meet when the time was right anyway,” Maxine insists.
With a desire to calm down his weekends, Richie felt restless one night and called a buddy who lived two hours away. He decided to drive to Atlanta and meet him for dinner and to hang out.
Meanwhile, Maxine’s father had recently passed away and she felt a need to get out and get her mind off of things. She had gone to a high school reunion and ended up leaving early and headed to a restaurant/bar where she had no idea she would meet the love of her life.
Richie recalls that moment vividly, “I saw some girls that I knew who were friends and I bought them a drink. When I turned around to get my drink …there she was,” Richie says with awe. “I saw her and I just stopped.”
Maxine interrupts, “I was checking him out and I got caught!”
As the magnetic attraction drew them in, Richie and Maxine spent the evening getting to know each other.
Richie says, “When we were leaving we saw that our cars were parked right beside each other. It was like we were meant to meet. I got out my cell phone and told her I was going to look her up on Facebook. I typed in ‘Maxine’ and asked her, ‘What’s your last name?’ and she said, ‘Alexander’. I said, “Really? That’s my last name…. I hope we are not related’,” Richie chuckles.
Maxine thought he was kidding her at first. The coincidences rushed in one after the other. For Richie to have been home in Chattanooga just hours before and with Maxine leaving the reunion early was only part of it. From the moment their eyes met to the moment they walked to their cars that were parked side by side, they both felt the dynamism of their connection.
After a few days of communication, Richie told Maxine, “All I can do is think about you” and he asked to take her to dinner. When Richie arrived once again in Atlanta the couple went to Longhorn Restaurant. As they were talking Richie said to Maxine, “I know this might sound crazy to you, but I wrote down a list of what I wanted in a woman.”
She didn’t say a word, but was looking at him with amazement because he had written a list and she had also written a list.
“As he told me everything on his list - I fit every single one. After he said that, I told him, ‘You aren’t going to believe this, but I have a list…’ and I just knew from there – this could very well be it,” Maxine asserts.
Though two hours away, their path was set and the couple could not be without each other. With Richie having an established business in Chattanooga and Maxine working long term for a company in Atlanta, it seemed nearly impossible to pursue a serious relationship.
Richie says, “We have talked every day since we met. From the start we knew we really liked each other.”
He says neither of them experienced ‘red flags’ but he did want to be honest with Maxine and after a couple of weeks into the courtship, Richie opened up to her and shared what he felt were the negative things about himself hoping she wouldn’t change her mind.
Maxine had the ability to look beyond anything Richie could have shared and focused on the goodness she saw in him.
“There wasn’t really anything negative that we couldn’t handle together,” Maxine says. “The distance was probably our biggest hurdle, but it has been working beautifully.”
As most men ponder and work out problems in their head, Richie gave serious thought to how it was going to work.
“There was a lot to think about in the beginning, but we just kept going and we are still going strong three years later. I just had a good feeling that eventually, things will come together and work out,” he says. “The distance was the only barrier because I won’t marry someone until I can be with them every day and that is what I want.”
With each owning their own home and tied to careers which keep them from merging their lives, Maxine says confidently, “It’s not a rush. We know we are going to be together, but we are waiting for things to work themselves out. Everything is great and we are great together.”
As Richie and Maxine had their lists of what they wanted to find in a special someone, what they considered ‘deal breakers’ were also important. Maxine spoke up first to say, “We don’t call each other names. There is a lot that people can say in anger and you can’t take back those words. There is such disrespect when you do that.”
For Richie, a deal breaker would have been drugs. “I don’t care if it comes from the street or Walgreens – it’s all the same to me… any kind of drug. I wanted someone healthy-minded,” he says and then admits, “Of course, I did drink like a fish at the time and she didn’t drink much at all. We worked through those things and now, neither one of us have had a drink in five months.”
When they first began dating, if Maxine would order a drink she felt it was making her fat. Her body just didn’t feel good to drink each time they went out and Richie knew this was something he wanted to change in his life for the positive.
“We didn’t drink that much together, but now we aren’t drinking at all. We just want to feel healthy. I woke up one day and said, ‘I’m done’,” Richie says.
Maxine adds, “When we do the activities that we do – there just isn’t time to put that in it too and, if you drink …you really don’t feel like going for a run or a ride. We have so much fun with our fitness and we really enjoy doing those things together.”
The couple’s love has grown stronger each day and they just celebrated the anniversary of the day they met three years ago this month.
Maxine shares what she feels has kept the relationship going strong. “We focus on the positives of each other. If you ask me what Richie’s shortcomings are I couldn’t really tell you, but I could tell you all the positive things about him because that is what I focus on- the negative is very minimal,” she says. “And, when you do that with somebody it brings the positives out even more and he does the same with me. He is my number one cheerleader and encourages me. When you have someone who does that constantly, it is hard to see their shortcomings.”
Richie agrees with Maxine and acknowledges that no relationship is perfect, but he feels it is important to always encourage each other.
“There are times I will tell her she is getting on my freakin nerves,” he laughs, “but it is so minimal. We aren’t perfect, but we just keep working at it. Yes, we have gone through different stages of the relationship, but as far as knowing when we were right for each other …I have always known. It’s her. She is the one!”
As they consider the chance of being in the right place at the right time, being parked next to each other and having the same last name, the couple witnessed from the start that they were meant to be.
“The joke,” Maxine says, “is that the sun rises and sets on Richie… in my eyes. He says that I always tell him that he can do anything …and I do. I adore him. He is like a big kid and how can you not adore a kid? He is so good-hearted and he is not out to hurt anybody.”
Every Friday Richie travels to Atlanta for the weekend. When asked why he feels they have been able to keep a long distance relationship going for the last three years, Richie jokes, “Of course it’s because of me - I am perfect!” to which Maxine expresses nausea and they both laugh.
The couple agrees together that to find love again, it begins with self-evaluation and making necessary changes. Richie sums it up by saying, “I seriously believe you have to fix yourself first and become like the person you want to have. If you want an honest, sincere loving person… you need to be that way too.”