I’ve been where you are. After my 30-year marriage ended, I was confused about when, or if, starting to date was right for me.
The last time I had dated was in my 20s. What I wanted (or thought I wanted) in a relationship wasn’t what I wanted at present.
The kind of person I wanted in my 60s was nothing like who I wanted back then.
Turns out, I had picked the wrong kind of person for me.
But more importantly, back then, I didn’t go into dating with an understanding of who I was and what I wanted from dating.
Whether you’re starting to date after an amicable or bad break-up, or the death of your partner, it makes sense to put thought into what dating will mean for you.
After all, you may not have dated for years or even decades.
What does dating look like now?
And what do you want from it?
It might seem counterintuitive, but starting to date doesn’t mean looking around for someone who seems like the right person for you.
The first thing to do: Look at yourself in ways like this:
- What kind of person are you?
- What are your guiding principles and core values (things like fairness, optimism, adventure, religion or spirituality)?
- Are you an introvert who mostly likes small gatherings and needs alone time to recharge?
- Or are you an extrovert, life-of-the-party type, who needs to be around lots of others?
- What things about your lifestyle do you like and want to keep doing?
- What hobbies and other things do you most enjoy doing?
- What kind of relationship do you want to have: romantic with all the bells and whistles or just companionship?
- What things are you good and bad at with relationships?
For more tips on finding yourself, get our mature dating game plan.
Fix your relationship issues before starting to date
Another way to look at yourself is to get your head on straight about what makes for a healthy relationship, and clean up your act, if need be.
Before you start dating to find a new partner, take a close look at your behavior and problems you’ve had in past relationships, and break your unhealthy dating habits.
When things go wrong in a relationship, unless physical or emotional abuse is involved, both people have usually played a part in it.
Even if you feel you were terribly wronged by your partner(s) in the past, investigate what it was that you did, that contributed to the problems.
The way you navigate relationships now often stems from your family dynamics when you were growing up.
Many of us have childhood psychological wounds or trauma. Things that we carry with us throughout our lives. Things that, unfortunately, many of us haven’t gotten past, mostly because we don’t ever deal with them.
Look at how much the way you operate and navigate relationships is impacted by those wounds or trauma.
Are you dating people who are wrong for you?
It may be hard to accept that you’re at least partially to blame for the relationship problems you keep having.
You may have come from a dysfunctional family with narcissistic tendencies, like I did.
If people in your family were highly judgmental and criticized or even insulted you a lot, you may carry with you the feeling that you’re less-than or that you don’t measure up.
And you may be someone who invites that toxic behavior in, because you’re drawn to people who are highly judgmental and critical. Somehow, you find comfort in being treated badly.
This may attract you to people who are emotionally immature, just like your dysfunctional family.
“The reason I ended up in faulty relationships was that I was attracted to, and attracted, the wrong kind of partner.
It was all rooted in classic family-of-origin issues. Growing up in a violent, alcoholic home, I never had a model for good relationships and healthy emotions.
I was attracted to people who would ensure that we’d re-create the damaged relationship of my parents so that I could try to repair it. This was true of all my relationships.
To figure out my real ideal partner, it was important that I clearly understand those things that attracted me to the “wrong” types.
For example, they all exuded a sense of danger, mystery, or excitement. You could never say they were boring. Eventually they all wanted an element of control in the partnership or friendship.
Sometimes it was in the overt form of a highly critical personality (just like my alcoholic dad.) At times it could even be called bullying.
Other times it was in the more sinister form of martyrdom or victimhood, as with a hypochondriac who manipulates through feelings of sympathy (also like my father.)”
Starting to Date to Find the Right Person for You
If you don’t have a clear idea of what kind of person will be right for you – before going on first dates – how will you know them when you see them?
It’s best to put thought into the personality traits and qualities in a partner that will work for you . . . and those that will NOT.
Your deal breakers are just as important as what you DO want.
Before starting to date, I created my 4-step process to find my ideal partner, which included:
- Looking back at my disastrous marriage, which ended in 2004, and considered what things about my ex I wouldn’t accept in a new partner.
- Writing down a list of my core values and things I needed in a relationship.
- Putting together a list of the personal/physical attributes and character qualities he must and must NOT have.
- Listing the lifestyle and activities/interests I HOPED to share with him.
Try both traditional and online dating
Naturally, you may be hesitant to even dip your toes into the dating pool, but nothing’s going to happen for you if you don’t give it a go.
I first tried traditional dating sort of haphazardly for a while . . . with zero success.
And I remember one disastrous blind date. A relative of a close friend of mine invited a man she thought was right for me to a small get-together with my friend and a few others.
The man was told that he was being set up with me, but no one told me.
Talk about being blindsided!
He was a nice enough person, but was wrong for me on many counts. In fact, he was SO wrong for me, the match was quite insulting to me, and made for an extremely uncomfortable few hours, marking time until I could gracefully leave.
I realized I HAD to try online dating
Blind dates and fix-ups aside, the dating pool of eligible people in our age bracket that we’re likely to stumble upon in real life situations can be very limited.
It was for me, living in a rural area.
I pretty quickly realized that, if I was going to find someone (and I really wanted a life partner), I would HAVE to try online dating.
And, as I’ve written here many times, if not for online dating, I never would have met Cosmo . . . even though he had been living across the street from me for several years.
Even during the few years I used online dating sites before I met him, I never regretted the experience.
I met a lot of good people and learned a lot about myself.
Here are some tips when you’re starting to date:
- Spend some time and thought on knowing yourself better.
- Own the mistakes you made in past relationships and be determined not to do the same things in future relationships.
- Determine who your ideal partner is.
- Try both traditional and online dating.
- Get a designated phone number for dating and keep your personal number to yourself until you really get to know people.
- Make all first dates either coffee dates or ones that will allow you to make a hasty retreat, instead of having to sit through a meal with someone.
- Be okay with having plenty of first-and-only dates, because that’s probably what will happen.
- Don’t get stuck on someone who keeps avoiding actually meeting in person. They may be married or a scammer. Move on.
- Take simple precautions to make dating safe.
- Use the sites’ video dating features to “meet” people without doing it in person.
- If you find yourself getting burned out on too many so-so or bad dates, take a few weeks off from dating.
- Get it out of your head that there’s only one right person for you. There could be many. Adopt an abundance mentality.
Stay motivated and avoid getting discouraged by so many first dates
Although it’s a difficult concept to embrace, expect to do a lot of dating and expect some of it may be unpleasant. Assume you’ll have your share of bad first dates.
It’s not the end of the world. It’s just one date, that you’ll learn and grow from.
After all I went through with bad first dates and some pretty horrible men I dated, I still recommend diving in to dating (and especially online dating) without reservation. There’s such a vast pool of potential partners there, it just makes sense to keep your toes in that pool.
More tips on starting to date
Cosmo and I have written many articles here about all the different ways to meet people, go on dates, embark on new relationships, and find true love.
Here are a few that will help you:
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