Dating For Over 40 and 50? Forget What You Think You Know!
Whether you're re-entering the dating scene after years of marriage or long-term partnership, or you've been single for a while, it's easy to get stuck in assumptions or patterns of behavior that may actually work against your best chances to find a great match.
Thankfully, most of us aren't the ninnies that we were when we were in our twenties and thirties and have gained a deeper understanding of ourselves as we age, gaining valuable life experience and fine-tuning our priorities.
Re-examine Your Definition Of "A Great Match"
You know those lists we all used to make when we were younger? Those "must-haves" or "non-negotiables"? Lists are helpful to fine-tune what you want, but hopefully you'll be a lot less specific than you were when you were younger, and leave more open space for possibilities. One of our friends, Brian, found a list he made when he was in grad school many years ago, and he laughed to see that he had written, "gym rat" on a non-negotiable column. Really? You won't date that cute and funny friend of your friend because she doesn't hang at the gym for a couple hours a day? Maybe when you were 23, but likely not a must-have now.
HINT: It might be more helpful to you to recognize from life experience what will not work for you, and just keep your definitions of a great match more fluid.
Examples of fine-tuning your "won't be able to live with" list:
- Years of being married to a problem drinker or constant cigarette smoker may dictate taking a hard line about not dating heavy drinkers or daily smokers, etc.
- If your last partner drove you crazy with financial instability, you will want be sure that your next potential mate has a stable profession, or solid retirement benefits; not to take care of you, necessarily, but to make sure you aren't left holding the ball for them.
- If you know that family is super important to you, make sure that the person you date isn't going to resent the time and energy you share with your loved ones.
- Are you hoping to travel, retire within the next 5 or 10 years, and maybe even relocate? You're going to be pretty unhappy if the partner you choose doesn't have that flexibility for one reason or another.
- Out of shape, unhealthy, couch potatoes won't do it for you? You need to feel comfortable saying that the person needs to be able to keep up with your active lifestyle. There are many people out there who say they spend the majority of their weekends cuddling on the couch with a movie and take-out, but if the thought of this makes you want to shrivel with boredom, move on.
Lists are a helpful tool, but keep an open mind to pre-conceived notions about what makes a good match.
RETHINK WHAT YOU THINK YOU KNOW
1. Appearance and Instant Attraction
While obviously still important, appearance may not feel quite as crucial, or rank as #1 anymore on the wish list. Most of us, through the school of hard-knocks, have developed the realization that a pretty package can be be quite deceiving, and that physical attraction is a factor, rather than the deciding factor. The elusive "chemistry" between people almost always contains much more than simply good looks. Look for that chemistry, rather than what you've "always" been attracted to. Your "type" may not have been serving you well, after all.
2. Expand The Possibility of Relationship Options
Just because the majority of couples follow a typical trajectory of dating > committed relationship > living together > marriage, there is no reason to blindly accept this model. Maybe you're finally an empty-nester, and want to find a partner to enjoy life with without necessarily merging households.
Case in point: After a divorce, followed by a couple of painful co-dependent relationships, one of our good friends, Lana, 55, met Eric, 62, five years ago at an organic gardening workshop, and the two have been in a committed relationship ever since. Neither of them have children, and each already owned their own modest home in an expensive seaside town on the California coast. They took an early retirement, and live frugally.
Although the typical path that most couples follow would suggest that the "smart" thing to do is to merge their households, and possibly get married, Lana laughingly confessed,
"Are you kidding? He'd drive me crazy if we lived together full time. We see each other 3 nights a week, and get together for other activities during the day, but this keeps things fresh. Eric's not that social, and this gives me all the space I need to do my own thing. Plus, there's no squabbling over chores or money. We look forward to catching up with each other when we do get together. We've watched all of our friends struggle with traditional arrangements, and despite having to field questions all the time about why we're not married, this works perfectly for us!".
Friends with benefits?
Admittedly, FWB does not work longer-term for the majority of people, but sometimes life circumstances are complicated, and if both partners enjoy each other without the pressure of a relationship, then why not? This can also be a way to experiment if you've been monogamous for a long time, and want some space to sow your wild oats and figure out what you like. Enjoy it as a "for as long as it lasts", or take it to the next level if both people are on board.
Longer Distance Dating
People in their late 40s, 50s and 60s may have more flexibility to date outside of their immediate geographical area. Why not consider expanding your online dating site search parameters? This option can work if you no longer have offspring in the home, or if you have the flexibility in your workplace or career to pull it off. So many people are now working from home that you just might be willing to consider a relationship with someone a bit further away. (More on why online dating is perfect for older adults)
Stop Apologizing For Who You Are!
One of the blessings of maturity includes making peace with who you are, and not working so hard to please someone else. This is the time for you to be more fully you.
Women, in particular, have been enculturated to tamp down their interests or priorities to please others, often to their own detriment. Family, work, and prior partners have likely been your priority all these years, so take some time to figure out what it is you're looking for, and put it out there.
Dating someone new is a perfect opportunity to prioritize yourself first. Stop focusing so much on whether the other person is pleased by you, and focus more on whether they are bringing enough to the table to satisfy you.
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