Not everyone who is dating after 50 comes out of a long-term relationship, but many people do. If so, starting to date again can feel uncomfortable.
Maybe last time you were single and dating, there was no online dating. Maybe most of your friends were also single, while now they aren't. Perhaps back then, you didn't have children, but now you do. How will you go about meeting other singles on your own while considering your current lifestyle and commitments? How are you going to create a new relationship taking into account your present life?
When you walk into something new, it's easy to lose direction—you simply can't find your bearings. And when lost, it's easy to despair. When people lose direction, it often leads to depression. If you don't know where you're going, it's hard to have a sense of purpose or confidence. What's more, fear often starts leaking in as you feel lost and scared you won't be able to handle whatever it is you're facing.
In short, starting to date again can be discombobulating and feel like too much, or too strange, to handle.
Don't despair, though. While it might be a brand new world, you'll soon find your feet and start enjoying the journey.
Dating Coach Frances Kelleher told Age Times: "50 is the new 40. With the good food we have and the fantastic health care in this day and age, we are younger and have more energy. You are not too old to meet someone, I promise you. Get online, it's a fantastic way to have access to an ocean of people you would never have the chance to meet in real life. Learn how to use online strategically.
"Hire a coach, read a book, do something every day to move you towards your goal of meeting the right person for you. Sharpen your social skills by talking to everyone so you will be ready to talk to that attractive person when the opportunities arise. Start putting yourself out there in baby steps and build on that. Before you know it you will be meeting so many lovely people and asking yourself why didn't you do it sooner."
Everyone's too set in their ways
Does the thought of sharing your life with someone else leave you despairing, thinking you'll never find someone who fits into your life? You're set in your ways, and, surely, they'll be set in theirs, too. So how could it possibly work?
Don't fret. While you do have more set routines when you're older, it doesn't prevent you from starting new ones—especially if they're better than your old ones.
When you meet someone you like, they tend to inspire you. If you change any of your habits, it's because you find new ones that suit you better.
Furthermore, you should bear in mind that whoever you meet will be uniquely suited to you. You will enjoy each other's company and fall in love because you're a fit—you already share a common view of the world and certain habits.
In short, instead of thinking of dating someone else as something that will turn your life upside down, think of it as something which will, if anything, bring more joy to your life. If changes happen, it's because you want them to happen—you desire the change.
I don't have time to date
Really, but you do have time for a relationship? I know, I know. In a relationship, you often hang out at home on the couch. When you date, you have to put on nice clothes, possibly fix your hair (but if it's raining, why even bother?!), and arrange with a babysitter if you have children. Even if you don't, who can be bothered to go out in the middle of the week after a long workday?
The truth is, having a relationship takes up more time than dating. Maybe you just feel overwhelmed as you're looking to meet up with several different people, and it doesn't form part of your routine to do so. There are ways to make it work, though.
First of all, if it's the first meeting, keep it short and sweet. You do not want to be stuck for two hours with someone who turns out to be deadly boring, spews hate speeches, or is plain annoying. While you can walk out on a date, doing so while also showing respect for the other person can be difficult. So keep the date short.
Secondly, weave it into something you'd like to do anyway. For example, if you want to go for a walk at sunset while munching an ice cream (cardio and treat at the same time!), then make that the date.
Here are some ideas:
- Meet someone for coffee during a lunch break or before work/the gym (you need caffeine anyway, don't you?!)
- Have a quick after-work drink, making it clear you are booked for a class at the gym afterwards and have to leave
- Meet someone at your local farmer's market and hang out while doing the shopping for the week—should they turn out to be nice, you can always have a coffee after
- Invite someone to join you for a lecture/workshop—there will be other people, and you'll partake in something, so you won't be "stuck" with the other person (but you can grab coffee afterwards if you like)
- Meet at your local bookstore to show each other your favourite books and have a coffee—as always, make sure you're leaving at a specific time
Always frame it up, letting the other person know that it'd be great to meet for a quick chat to see if there's chemistry in real life, but you have to leave at a particular time as you have other plans later. That way, they know it will be a short meeting.
Once you get to know someone better, invest two hours in a movie, or do activities like hiking or going to the theatre. Of course, by then, you'll know it's worth it. Still, you can get creative—suggest dates that involve things that you'd do anyway, be it a yoga class or a country walk.
No one else is single
Are none of your friends single? Does the idea of attending events to meet new people scare the heck out of you? Not to mention—going on dates?
It's OK to be scared. You're not alone in this—most people fear anything involving change and, consequently, most things worth doing. It's been said that life starts outside your comfort zone. Not that the things within your comfort zone aren't great, too. Still, once you get comfortable being uncomfortable, you will find that you can do anything you set your mind to!
Just knowing that doesn't always help, however. So, let's look at making single friends and going on dates.
How to make single friends
First of all, you can make single friends, if that's what you'd like. Have a look at Bumble BFF to see if there are anyone on there you'd like to make friends with. Look at local meetup groups and InterNations groups. The benefit of those two organisations is that many people attend events on their own. There's usually something that caters to everyone, too, be that joining a hiking group, a group for pagans, or a wine tasting group.
Of course, there are also local groups you can find out about in your community. Chances are pretty big that no matter where you live, there is at least one book group, one sewing group, and groups for other activities. There are also bound to be charitable organisations that you can donate your time to. This, if anything, is less awkward than attending events as you'll have a job to fulfil.
You can take classes and attend workshops, too. You might not meet people right away by doing so—you're there to learn, not to socialise—but in the long run, it's a great way of making new friends. So if you always wanted to learn French, carpentry, or how to design and sew dresses, now's the time.
If you're just looking for online networking, try Facebook groups for singles, single parents, or single grandparents. The list goes on!
On Medium and similar blogging platforms, you will also find blogs by singles sharing their journey (go to Google and search for "blog single mum" or whatever it is you're after). Read, comment, and join the club!
Want to be even further from the action but still get inspiration? Pick up books and movies about finding love later in life. Barbara O'Neal has a range of exciting books about women in all stages of life. And as for dating later in life, check out the movie "It's Complicated."
Now that you have single friends, or at least—inspiration—you can start attending events together with them. Maybe you've already found someone to date while out there looking for single friends, though! Because what I outlined above about joining groups, doing charity work, and other activities applies to meeting singles you'd like to date, as well!
The online world is confusing
Online you don't know if there's a spark. You have to send messages instead of talking face-to-face. Most people you chat with drop off the face of the Earth within a week anyway, so why bother?
You should bother because it's the easiest way to meet a whole lot of new people in one go! If it's truly not for you (and you only know once you've tried), then don't do it. It's perfectly possible to meet people elsewhere. However, if you fancy checking out a ton of nearby singles while sitting at home in your pyjamas eating a tub of ice cream, as opposed to putting on your clothes and going outside, then it's an obvious option.
Yes, you will meet people who you realise after a few backs and forths that you don't want to speak with and, therefore, you'll stop talking with them. But, of course, that will happen the other way around, too. And some people really won't be what you expected them to be when you meet them in real life (hence, meet them ASAP and make the meeting short), but you can meet many people fast. And some will turn out to be true gems!
Worried about how to create a great online profile? I wrote an article about it. So stop fretting—it's not rocket science.
Don't like typing messages? Ask people for their WhatsApp and exchange voice notes, or call them, or let them know that you'd prefer a quick coffee to gauge if there's chemistry. (Always meet in public, of course.)
Oh, and if you think everyone online is a scammer—think again. It's one of the most popular ways of meeting people today, enjoyed by billions of people. Of course, those billions of people aren't all scammers. But if someone asks for your home address, work address, or credit card, don't give it to them! And don't leave your purse with them when going to the bathroom on a first date. Use common sense safety procedures.
It's going to be horrible introducing the children
Are you putting off dating as you just can't stomach the thought of introducing someone new to your children? Yet, if you met someone fantastic, wouldn't your children benefit from that? And if the person makes you happy and helps you be a better person, wouldn't that be an even greater benefit to your children?
Yes, there are hurdles to overcome—no relationship is free of them. But if the person you meet adds value to your life and your children's lives, then they are a benefit to the family, not a hindrance.
What's more, you set the rules.
Maybe you introduce all your dates as friends, as that's what they are. You make it casual and have no pressure. That way, you find out how they act around children or teens. And if they stick around for the long term, you tell your children the relationship has developed.
Maybe you only introduce someone after seeing them for three months. It's your choice. And if you would like further guidance, read this article that I wrote about it. There are ways and means to handle it tactfully and help everyone along on the journey.
You don't feel confident enough to go on a date
As mentioned previously, life starts outside your comfort zone. However, if you don't feel comfortable dating, you can do things to become comfortable.
First of all, try doing less scary things that still make you uncomfortable. There's an excellent chapter on this in Tim Ferriss' book "The 4-Hour Work Week." He decided to chat with strangers in supermarkets. Once he got used to it, the fear went away.
Being uncomfortable when it comes to dating usually means you're scared of rejection. Yet, we all get rejected. It's part of life. Try smiling at strangers for a week, and you'll find only a certain percentage smile back. If you're on the tube, someone may even report you for suspicious behaviour! But once you get down with the fact that not everyone will embrace you and what you do, then you no longer care. Them being grumpy is not your problem. Likewise, you not being the perfect fit for everyone is also not an issue. It's just the way it is. You're looking for the one person you fit with—the rest don't matter!
You can also read personal development books about confidence and communication. Classics include "You Are a Badass" by Jen Sincero, "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie and "The Game" by Neil Strauss. Yes, the last one is a book about pickup artists (horrors!), but you can learn a lot by reading about how they use people skills to win dates.
You don't like your body
Here's the deal: we all age. Like it or not, sagging skin is our birthright—if we're lucky enough to make it to over thirty. Everyone else your age has a similar problem. You can either contemplate your flaws or consider the fact that you can still breathe in the scent of autumn air mingled with pumpkin spice lattes on an autumn morning. It's your choice.
Start thanking your body for what it can do for you. And, by all means, start eating more healthy foods and exercise—a mere twenty minutes a day of cardio does a world of good. Also, stop. Breathe. Take at least an hour a week to go for a walk and enjoy the great outdoors. This is your life—enjoy it.
You don't know what to say when on a date
This part is easy—ask open-ended questions and then ask follow-up questions.
For example, "What's your favourite hobby?" "I enjoy doing up old cars." "Wonderful, what car has been your favourite project so far?"
Or how about, "What do you do for a living?" "I'm a florist." "How lovely—what part of your job do you enjoy the most?"
The second question is not open-ended, as most people tend to reply with one word. However, it gives you ample opportunity to ask follow-up questions. Note as well that words like "lovely" and "wonderful" encourage the speaker.
You want to learn what people enjoy—what their favourite past times, foods, seasons, and passion projects are. Aim to find out what makes them smile. And dig deeper—ask the follow-up questions!
Things to avoid, more than in passing, are questions such as, "Did you have a good day?" You'll get a yes or no answer, and it's unlikely to engage the other person in a conversation.
Beware, if someone says something that disagrees with you, don't just say, "I don't agree." Instead, ask why they think so? Your goal is to understand them, not judge them. And if you disagree, do so politely, "I hear what you are saying about x, I don't see it the same way, because of y. I understand your point of view, I just have a different approach."
Also, when someone's sharing something, don't just sit there considering what to say next. Only when you've sought to understand them and clarified that you did indeed understand correctly by repeating the information back to them, can you share a similar story from your own life, or ask if they'd like some sage advice on the matter.
As a general rule, silence your mind and listen before you do anything else.
You're worried you won't know if someone likes you or not
If this is the case, pick up a book on body language. Also, ask yourself if they show they want to spend time with you, want to get to know you, and are willing to be there for you.
The easiest way to find out, though? Ask them. Making assumptions when dating can cause a lot of confusion and heartache. "Interpreting" people isn't fool-proof. Communicate instead.