Read an Excerpt
Dating After 50 For Dummies
By Pepper Schwartz
John Wiley & SonsCopyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd
All rights reserved.
Jumping (Back) into the Dating Pool
In This Chapter
* Evaluating the state of your mind and body
* Knowing the best places to find dates
* Keeping safety in mind
* Saying and doing the right things in a relationship's early stages
* Talking about sex and money
When you haven't dated for a long time, dating again may seem so daunting that you don't want to approach the subject, much less start the process. But sooner or later, you feel a change in the way you think about various activities and daily life, and you know you'd like companionship or maybe a life partner. You also know that just waiting for the right person to show up hasn't been a successful strategy. At some point you realize that you need to tackle what it means to date again, and you start thinking about who you're looking for, where to look for potential dates, and what you have to do to prep yourself for dating.
Dating takes some rethinking of how you use your time and how you want to present yourself. Quite frankly, if you haven't dated recently, the rules of the road have changed, and you need some time to learn what they are. This book is meant to be a guide to dating — from renovating your dating skills and intuition to figuring out online dating to meeting people in new places. I also cover safety, which was probably not so important when you were in high school but is terribly important when you start meeting new people at this stage of your life.
Dating can be a lot of fun, and it's definitely a growth experience. Yes, it has its down moments and frustrations, but the upside is terrific. You can have a great romance, meet interesting people, learn a lot about yourself, and widen your horizons. Dating after age 50 (or at any age!) is worth the effort.
Getting Real: How Do You Feel about Yourself?
As you take on dating after some time out of the game, you need to evaluate your state of mind and body. I suggest that you work through some checklists to evaluate the emotional and physical state you're in now. This is ground zero because if you don't feel good about yourself, you'll transmit that feeling to everyone you meet, and it will undermine the possibilities that may have been there if you had come across as a self-confident person who is living a fulfilled life. You need to make sure that you can feel good about yourself before you even get fixed up, go online, or join a singles group.
Your psychological checklist
Chapter 2 contains some tools to help you review your state of mind, but in general, you have to attend to the following main aspects of your emotions:
[check] Let go of past failures or frustrations and assume you can do better. You also need to let go of the hold on your soul that people you've loved or lived with still have. Your past relationship may have left you with shrapnel in your heart or a beloved spouse may have died and left you sad and lonely. Life deals people grave losses and traumas, and no one, least of all this author, minimizes these losses. The challenge is to put them in a place that allows you to approach someone new full of optimism and energy for exploring a relationship. If you're not in emotional shape to do that, you have to work on your emotions until you're ready to open up to someone new.
[check] Get to a good place regarding your feelings about yourself. You're older now and no longer have the face or shape of a 25-year-old. Of course, you know that rationally, but you have to find a way to feel good about who you are now. If you don't like the way you look, you can either do something about it (exercise, lose weight, and so on) or accept the belief that you're worth knowing — and desiring — just the way you are.
[check] Surround yourself with people who are supportive of your new quest for love. If your children are unsupportive, tell them to get over their qualms and think about your needs as an individual. Hang out with friends who are happy for you and who send you back into the search for love if you start to back off. Everyone needs support, and you need to be willing to look for it and avoid naysayers.
[check] Think about who you're looking for and why. You have much to consider now that you're not building a family with someone or just starting out in life. Chapter 3 has a list of core characteristics that are important to consider for potential dates, but you need to take into account some differences at this stage of life. You may want to think more out of the box now that you aren't picking the father or mother of your children. The person who was right for you in your 20s or 30s may not be a good fit in your 50s. On the other hand, you may still need someone who shares your values and fits into the culture of your family and friends. The bottom line is, before you go out again looking for love, you may want to revisit your romantic criteria.
Your physical checklist
You may be "camera ready" — or not. It's easy to get sloppy about your looks if no one is admiring you. Sometimes it's the little things people forget about (like clean nails!) that no one brings to their attention; others may look at those seemingly small imperfections, though, and make assumptions. Going out again requires giving yourself an honest once-over — or asking a supportive friend to do it for you. For example:
[check] Hairstyle: Has yours been the same for the last 20 years? Maybe that's not a good thing. Even men sometimes need a more stylish cut. Hair should look clean, neatly kept, and at the very least, not immediately aversive. And guys, most women find those comb-overs to hide bald or thinly covered areas unattractive. Consider an alternative.
[check] Clothes: Clothes need to be clean and unrumpled. Wear something that doesn't look like you slept in it or used it for a tablecloth. If you look like a mess when you meet someone, the person may never take the time to find out you can generally put yourself together very well.
[check] Hygiene: Examine your fingernails, your breath, your body odor, and whether your hair looks dirty or greasy. It may be the end of the day, but you still need to look and smell fresh when you're meeting a date. For some people, something as seemingly trivial as dirty nails can be a deal breaker.
[check] Weight: Let's face it: It's a weight-conscious world. That doesn't mean that no one will want you if you're heavy, but it does mean that getting dates is easier if your weight reflects overall good health. Dating is a good motivator for setting up a healthy eating and exercise plan, which is invigorating, helps boost self-respect, and has health benefits. But don't hesitate to begin dating just because you're not at your best weight. Lots of people are in the same boat you're in, looking for someone to love, and many will accept you just the way you are.
It's not all about looks in the dating world, but your first interaction with someone is heavily influenced by appearances, so you need to pay attention to what you wear and your physical presence.
Looking in All the Right Places: Where to Find People
Dating for people over 50 used to be difficult. After you asked everyone you knew to fix you up, you still didn't have a clear path. These days, however, because of longer and healthier lives, cultural shifts, and online dating, meeting people isn't so difficult (although meeting the right person always takes a bit of time and resilience!). Chapter 5 gives you some clear directions about places that offer good possibilities to meet good people, but it all comes down to the five options I discuss in the following sections.
Events targeted at single people
Most cities have events that are specifically organized for single people. The nice part of these events or outings is that you're going to something you'd enjoy anyhow. It may be a bicycle trip, a wine tasting, a white-water rafting trip, or a series on foreign films, but the idea is that everyone who attends has a common interest, so you'll have something to talk about when you meet someone who interests you. At the very worst, you'll make new friends.
As you go about your day, you're constantly thrown together with new people, and some will be single and interesting. The hard part is getting to meet them because the only thing you have in common, to begin with, is being in the same place at the same time. That's why when you're at a grocery store or post office, or at the train station or an airport, you have to keep your eyes peeled. Consider all these places an opportunity, but you have to look for it and seize the moment by being inquisitive, friendly, and approachable (or approaching!).
Online dating isn't for everyone, but it's where the people are. Millions of them, in fact. And the fastest-growing group among them is people over 50. That's why Chapter 6 is full of specifics about how to date online, because honestly, the choices are vast, and the chances of meeting someone you'd never meet any other way are high. Furthermore, online dating is the only way you can preselect a large pool of possible dates according to age, interests, and values. It's also the best place to go in terms of selecting people who are obviously interested in dating and available for a relationship (apart from the occasional jerk who's really married, but those people are the exception to the rule).
In Chapter 6 I go into detail about how to write profiles, select quality people, and learn the art of 20-minute coffee introductions. I don't call them dates; instead, these are really auditions, so you need to treat them as a kind of speed-dating experience, not real dating. Still, superficial as these first meetings may be, they eventually put two people who should be in front of each other together, and then real dating commences.
Younger people have parties all the time, but after 50, not so much. Still, parties, whether they're fundraisers, political get-togethers, or large office celebrations, are a good time to meet people you don't know. It takes a bit of guts to introduce yourself to someone you don't know at these large gatherings, and a naked fourth finger on the left hand doesn't always tell you whether someone is single. Still, it's worth going to these kinds of events because there are likely to be people there you don't already know.
One of the best ways to meet people who share some of your passions is to meet them while you're engaging in said activity. That may mean skiing, going to an art opening, or taking an evening class on film, history, or anything else that you love. This way of meeting people is a long shot because there may not be any single people there besides yourself — or no single people who attract you — but if you do meet someone, it's a great way to begin a relationship.
Try as many ways to meet people as you can. You never know which approach is going to pay off.
Making Your Safety a Priority
Unless you fall in love with the boy or girl next door, your coworker, or someone you've known for a long time, dating, almost by definition, is going out with someone you don't know. That means you need to be cautious about how you meet people, where you meet them, and what information you give them.
I talk more about safety in Chapter 8, but in a nutshell, here are the five core aspects of safe dating:
[check] Never give out your address until you've thoroughly checked someone out and are sure he's a safe person.
[check] Never give out your home phone number until you're sure this is an emotionally stable person. A rejected person who's unstable could start harassing you over the phone, and you may have to cancel your number, which is a pain in the neck.
[check] Always do due diligence on the information your date gives you. You should be able to use the web to find out whether he has a criminal record, works where he says he works, is married, and so on.
[check] Never let someone you've met for coffee or just a few dates walk you to your car. The chances of meeting someone who would push you into the car and kidnap you are extremely low, but not impossible.
[check] Pay attention to early jealous behavior or compulsive calling or visiting. If it occurs, back away from the relationship immediately (but do it in a kind manner; you don't want to stir up feelings of anger if you can help it).
Navigating First Dates and Beyond
In the early part of a relationship, you need to watch out for a number of pitfalls. I cover them in Chapter 7 and in other chapters in this book. The following sections outline some of the highlights.
Polishing your conversation skills
Starting a conversation with someone you barely know is always a bit awkward. It's hard to know what will lead to mutual interest. There are some graceful ways to get conversation flowing; here are some ideas:
[check] Talk about things that interest your date. You really need to know how to talk to someone. If you've talked or read a profile already, bring up subjects you know this person is interested in. Make sure you get to cover something meaty.
[check] Talk about a variety of subjects. Not all your sentences should start with "I," and not all your stories should be about yourself. Pull out some subjects that contain both of your interests; for example, if your date is a chess player, and you are too, start talking about chess.
[check] Be a good listener. When people are nervous, they have a tendency to either clam up or not know how to turn off a torrent of words.
One way to know you're listening is to ask the other person questions about herself.
[check] Don't forget to use a little chemistry — after all, this is an interview for a date, not for a job. If you're attracted, show it, albeit in a subtle way. Hold eye contact, smile, and lean forward. Show you have emotions and sexuality.
It's one thing to show that you're attracted; it's another to come across as a lech or someone desperately trying to be a femme fatale. Avoid the extremes and just flirt a little, not a lot.
[check] Avoid being controversial on this first meeting. You may have political differences, but there's no reason to take them on immediately — unless that's an extremely important aspect of how you choose someone to be in your life. Even then, you can find out someone's opinion and state your own without getting into anything inflammatory. Raising the temperature at the table is exhausting and unnecessary. You also don't want to close something down before you get a chance to know who this person is in other important realms of your life.
[check] Whatever you do, leave your ex out of this. Talking about the person who deserted you, or whom you left, or who was the light of your life, is never a good idea.
It's easy to start talking about an ex even if you don't want to because your date may bring up her terrible divorce or breakup. Best thought: Nip it in the bud and change the topic. You'll be doing both of you a favor.
[check] Save the bad news for later. No one needs to know your hospital record or your job problems when you're just getting to know each other.
This first date is still an interview, and you may not get another chance to talk to this person if it doesn't go well. So try to be your most interesting, warm, and compelling version of yourself. Have fun!
Probably the single most valuable characteristic you can have in dating is resilience. Sometimes you meet a lot of people, and none of them is right for you. You have to develop a nice way to tell people that they're not "the one" without being impolite or cruel. Harder is accepting that speech from someone else when you're really interested. But what can you do? Taste doesn't always match up. It's great when it does, and upsetting when you don't see why this person doesn't feel the same way you do, but the fact is, if he doesn't, then you have to move on.
Excerpted from Dating After 50 For Dummies by Pepper Schwartz. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Excerpted by permission of John Wiley & Sons.
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