As a dating coach, I work with people of all ages – from age 22 to 72. There is a lot of dating advice out there for millennials and they’re the ones who ask the fewest questions. I’m here to shed some light on dating for my wonderful over-50 readers.
Based on my own observations and those of my clients, let’s look at the 5 things to keep in mind when dating over 50:
1. Every Person Comes as a Package Deal
It’s not reasonable to assume that someone will come to the table without some form of baggage. Whether that baggage is in the form of a bad divorce, a strained relationship with a family member, or a sick parent, there is something that is going to be a priority in this person’s life, and that something will not always be you. No matter how much you may want to be #1, and no matter how much your date wants to make you #1, there are other factors at play. Just like you can’t say, “Let’s forget my family obligations for a month and take a yacht to St. Thomas,” they can’t either.
A client of mine in her 60s who has no children or grandchildren was reluctant to date a man who was the caretaker of his seven-year-old grandson. I encouraged her to give it a shot because at least it showed his dedication to family. Plus, if it wasn’t little Timmy, it would be something else that was tying him down! While they can’t take all the weekend trips she may want, she’s actually grown fond of the young grandson… and finds herself with a newfound love of chicken fingers at Friendly’s. Go figure.
2. Manage Expectations
While most of us hope that each first date might also be the last first date, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment if we go into every date with such high expectations. The best way to go about dating is to simply take each experience for what it is—meeting a new person. Maybe you’ll learn something about your date, or even yourself, that might help you in life. Maybe you’ll hear a funny story. Or maybe you’ll simply meet, chat, and end your night knowing that while this person may not be “The One,” you gave it your all. Pinning your hopes on this one person simply creates too much pressure.
3. Everyone Ages
Almost all of my over-50 male clients tell me that women don’t age as well as men. And you know what my female clients tell me? Men don’t age as well as women. The moral: We all age! Everyone gets wrinkles, everyone’s metabolism slows, and everyone isn’t the 20-year-old sports star that he or she used to be. But that’s okay. Please don’t make overarching assumptions based on a number. Treat each person, regardless of his or her age, as an individual. For some reason, when we picture someone else our age, we picture someone “old.” If you’re not “old,” then perhaps neither are they.
Although plenty of men out there are looking for someone their own age, it is, for better or for worse, more common to see men who are looking for someone younger. For whatever reason, social norms support the man being older — but why? It’s frustrating when men don’t include a woman up to their own age in their search. It’s a huge double standard, but women are generally more accepting of older partners than men are. Men often say, “I want a thin, athletic woman,” and women say, “I want someone who’s intellectual and cultured and well-travelled.” Remember that someone can be all of those things at any age, so don’t overlook someone solely on a number.
As one of my 72-year-old female clients once said to me, “What? I was good enough to sit next to you in kindergarten, but now I’m too old for you?!” Let that sink in.
4. Don’t Overlook Common Sense
People often tell me that online dating, and dating in general, is scary. They reason that you don’t know who’s out there, and most of the people are likely creeps. I hate to say this, but creepy people can be anywhere. Are there more of them online than offline? I have no idea. What I do know, however, is that if you avoid online dating to try to evade the “creepsters,” then you’re also closing yourself off to meeting many wonderful people as well.
Instead, take precaution when meeting someone for the first time. Meet in a public place. Tell a friend where you’re going. Yes, scary things are everywhere… but common sense will take you further than you might think.
Also remember that no one person or one experience represents the whole of the dating pool, so don’t base your beliefs or thoughts on such a small sample that happened to you or someone you know.
5. Love Yourself
While it may sound like a cliché, you have to love yourself before you can love anyone else. What does that mean? Finding a partner will not create happiness. You first need to find (or re-find) that happiness and confidence that you have in yourself.
I remember that after a long relationship of mine ended, I was a mess for a while, a long while. But then one day, I met a friend of mine for brunch, and I was wearing my favourite shoes—hot pink sequin sneakers. She looked at me and said, “Erika, you’re back!” I had found myself again and learned to love it.
Treat yourself well, heal from the last relationship and rediscover yourself. Only then can you add someone else to your world and know that he or she complements it, not completes it.
It doesn’t sound so daunting anymore, does it? (If the answer is yes, then let’s talk!) Remember to take it one step at a time, one day at a time, and one date at a time.