At any age, dating can be daunting, especially when you have been out of the game for a while, it can feel especially intimidating. But, once you get over your initial first-date jitters, meeting new people can be great fun and will provide you with a great opportunity to find someone who could be an incredible addition to your life. But, when it comes to dating over 50, understand that it's not going to be anything like it was when you were in your 20s and 30s.
Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D., a sex and relationships researcher and author of Prime: Adventures And Advice On Sex, Love, And The Sensual Years “You are not the same person you were back then.” In fact, who and what you are attracted to will look very different than it did in your younger years.
You'll also come to realize that much has changed when you have been out of the dating scene for 20 or 30 years. In fact, behaviors like 'ghosting' - ending a relationship with someone by cutting off communication without an explanation, and 'breadcrumbing' sending someone messages to keep them interested, but not enough to be committed has become part of the new norm. "These behaviors have been around for a long time, but nowhere near the extent to which they are now,” says Deb Laino, DHS, a Delaware-based relationship therapist and certified sex educator.
So, what's the best way to navigate all of these changes once you re-enter the dating game? Here are 8 tips to keep in mind:
This is one of the biggest shifts that has taken place since the last time you dated. For most people over 50, Schwartz says "online dating is where it’s at," who recommends using sites that users have to pay for. "That means the company has their credit card, and if they are a bad actor in any way, you can tell the company, and they can bar them from the site.” Meanwhile, Laino recommends sites like eHarmony, Match.com, and OurTime.com. “In my opinion, there’s a higher percentage of finding a relationship versus somebody just kind of fishing for a one-night stand,” she says. To get the ball rolling, work on your online profile with a friend and have them 'OK' your picture, which should be a recent photo and not a photo from 20 years ago. And if you're worried about it taking some time to get the hang of online dating, don't be. “My experience is that a lot of people who’ve been out of dating for that long—even 15 years or 10 years—have a little bit of a learning curve,” says Laino.
While online dating has become the go-to for most singles, it's still important to not put all your eggs in one basket. Laino says “There should be a rotation of online and face-to-face meetings. I never think it’s a good idea to just hang out in one area.” Laino also recommends having friends or family introduce you to potential matches, as well as going to outings offered by work and going to meet-up groups, such as those being offered by Meetup.com. This will introduce you to people with common interests like hikes and book clubs. “I think that’s actually a really good use of both online and in person, and it takes away the concept of a date,” Laino says.
When you haven't experienced dating in a while, getting rejected may seem discouraging at best, and hurtful at worst. The key is to not take rejection personally, as more often than not, it has nothing to do with you. “People reject people for a whole host of different reasons,” says Laino. “Sometimes it’s because they don’t have the nerve to say hey, I’m dating a couple of other people. Or hey, you remind me of someone. Or hey, I just feel a friendship vibe from you. So they end up just kind of disappearing, and it really comes off as harsh rejection.” Schwartz recommends that keep in mind what is known as the 'pineapple theory', which states: Someone doesn’t like pineapple, so they take it off their plate when it’s served. But there are tons of people out there who love pineapple. “It’s the same fruit, but for no big reason except for individual taste, it’s a favorite of some and disliked by others. But the pineapple is what it is—neither desirable or undesirable by nature. It just needs to find a pineapple lover.” So remember: “You just need to find the person who has a taste for you,” says Schwartz.
Have you been feeling frustrated? Keep in mind that trying to find a partner is rarely a pretty, seamless process. “You may not find the love of your life on the first or second or third date, and that’s okay,” says Laino. “Dating is definitely one of those things that has lots of ups and downs.” You're probably going to have to go on several dates with different people before finding someone you can really connect with, It's normal, so while it's easier said than done, don't give up after a few bad dates. “It could take a year or more to find the right person, but if you are determined, you will find them,” says Schwartz.
We all have insecurities and baggage from our past - be it failed relationships, or health issues, or problems with your children. But to get back into the dating world, you need to be willing to leave any baggage that you have behind as it will stop you from finding future happiness with someone. “‘People think: Well gosh, I’ve been divorced twice. I’ve got three kids. Who’s going to want me?’" says Laino. "But the baggage has to go out the door because the reality is, everybody has baggage.”
First dates can be especially nerve-wracking, particularly when it has been decades since you've been on one. Laino suggests you “Keep the conversation light and fun. Don’t go heavy on what your ex did to you.” And be aware of your body language too. Make sure you smile often and sit up tall with your head up, showing that you are happy to be spending time with this person. Keep conversation of your kids to a minimum. “The last thing you want to do is be having dinner with somebody and the conversation is all about the kids,” says Laino. “That’s not going to do anything for a spark.”
It takes time to get to know someone. So give it at least three dates to see if you do click. “If you set up a vision and you go out on three dates and you’re questioning whether this person’s a good listener, or they acknowledge you, or whatever, and you haven’t seen it after three dates, then you’re probably not going to see it,” says Laino. For the first date, keep it to a 20-minute coffee date, especially if it is with someone you've just met online. “That's enough for the first introduction, and it can feel very long for the wrong person,” says Schwartz.
Perhaps in your 20s you would sit by your phone waiting for a guy to call you and ask you out on a second date, but at 50, that is not something you should put up with at all. “I think at that age, at 50ish give or take, if somebody says they’re going to call you and they don’t the end,” says Laino. “Get out of the game playing.”