For those of you in your 40s or 50s who are recently divorced, widowed, or just eager to re-partner, dating again can be daunting. Perhaps it’s been a while since you’ve been “on the market”. You may want to think and act like a 25-year-old, but your seasoning tells another tale and may actually improve the chances for success.
The truth is that dating does change when you get older…and, in many ways, for the better. The paradox is that your maturity offers you many advantages over the youthful daters. Here’s why.
1. There is no ticking of the biological clock. Without the pressures of getting married and having children, you can enter into relationships for the “right” reasons, not because you are running out of fertile years.
2. Men and women in their 40s and 50s are generally more self-assured. They know what they want out of a relationship, what they are looking for in a mate and are not afraid to ask for it.
3. Your identity is more clearly defined. You are, therefore, more likely to depend on yourself, not your partner, to solve your own dilemmas.
4. You have learned from your previous relationship experiences. You can take inventory of what time has taught you so that you do not fall into old traps. Knowing yourself better and being able to size up others more skillfully gives you a big advantage.
5. You likely have greater financial freedom to enjoy fancy dinners and getaways. The days of scraping together enough money for a movie are over!
6. Romance is more enjoyable. You are more sexually confident and liberated than you were in your youth.
7. You have figured out what is important. You can put away the “list” of perfect characteristics that you are seeking in your date. Physical appearance, the type of car one drives and other status symbols take a back seat to more important personal attributes.
8. You have gained perspective. Not every aspect of your romantic life feels critical.
9. Your personal power is solid and secure. You have won and you have lost. You have made friends and let them go when they were not supportive. You can handle life’s ups and downs with grace.
10. As two independent people with separate lives, you are probably more capable than your younger counterparts to nurture the three entities needed for a healthy partnership; “I,” “You,” and “We.”
With enhanced self-awareness and father/mother-time on your side, there is a greater likelihood that you will make better choices, avoid previous destructive patterns, and build more lasting relationships. However, in some respects dating in your 40s and 50s is quite similar to dating in your 20s and 30s. The following are some common sense dating principles that apply across the generations.
1. Profit from your past mistakes. Know what baggage to check at the door. History has a way of repeating itself unless you mindfully replace your old dependencies and fears with new patterns of behavior.
2. Be proactive in creating opportunities. Whether you are engaging in online dating or joining a group where you will meet people with similar interests, don’t wait for something to happen. Seek out as many opportunities as possible.
3. Recognize the power you have to be successful in your dating pursuits and use it. Seek out people who interest you, with eye contact, a smile or a simple “hello” rather than waiting for them to choose you.
4. Don’t waste time with people who don’t treat you well.
5. Even if you are not interested, be kind and respectful to people who show an interest in you.
6. Try not to focus heavily on the negatives. Not everything your date says or does will sit well with you. Try to see your potential partner as a whole person, recognizing the things you find endearing as well as the ones you see as negative.
7. Communicate. Silence is not always safe. Don’t assume you and your partner see things in the same way or that your partner can read your mind. Take ownership of what is yours and communicate it honestly and directly.
8. Don’t assume the worst. Moments will arise when your judgment about your partner will be put to the test. Don’t be too quick to jump to conclusions. Like you, your partner is imperfect and deserves the benefit of the doubt.
9. Don’t rain on your partner’s parade. It is not possible that your “I” and your partner’s “I” will be perfectly compatible. Keep in mind that a good relationship is based on each person’s ability to be supportive of those differences.
Those of you in your 40s and 50s are in a wonderful period of your lives. You are beyond the confusion of your 20s and 30s and have clarified many of your major life values. Your priorities are in order and you know the benefits of being real. Go for it! You are in the driver’s seat!
What do you like about dating as you get older?
Author of the recently released book, “Who Am I Without My Partner? Post-Divorce Healing and Rediscovering Your SELF,” Deborah Hecker, Ph.D. is a psychotherapist with over 35 years of private practice experience. She received her Master’s Degree from Columbia University and her Ph.D. from The Union Institute. In addition, she is certified as a psychoanalyst and has extensive training in the following areas: addiction counseling, grief counseling, collaborative practice and mediation. For more information, please visit www.drdeborahhecker.com.