There are no hard and fast rules about what men and women should or should not do when it comes to dating later in life. Yet things are much different for us as seniors than they were in our youth.
Awareness of these differences can prevent embarrassing mistakes. And it can help us have a lot more fun in the search for our ideal partner.
Practical Senior Dating Tips and Advice
With that in mind, we compiled some senior dating advice based on our experience and on the recommendations of psychologists.
Be confident and authentic
Don’t try to be someone you’re not, and don’t be afraid to show your true self. As a kid, I felt it was necessary to hide who I truly was.
Not knowing any better, I used to think I had to fake some ideal version of myself that the world would accept. Lots of therapy and relationship difficulties helped me recognize and avoid that self-defeating attitude.
Post recent photos of yourself in your online dating profiles. That high school yearbook photo is NOT the one to use! No one wants to arrive at a first date to find someone that looks like an entirely different person. It’s misleading and wastes everyone’s time.
Don’t lie about your personal or economic situations. Be truthful about your interests, hobbies, and other activities. This will weed out the people who are not right for you. And it saves a lot of wasted time on first dates that should never have happened.
Pay attention to your appearance
Although looks aren’t everything, grooming and hygiene go a long way in making a good first impression. You don’t get a second chance to do that.
Men, ask a female friend or family member to evaluate how you dress for your dates. And make sure your hair and nails are in good shape. You don’t have to be Brad Pitt, but you must look like you take care of yourself.
One of the best things about spending time on your appearance is that it instills confidence. Self-confidence makes you feel better about yourself. Your dating partner will sense this.
Be honest about intentions, personal situation, and expectations
Communication is key to a healthy relationship. Be honest about your intentions and expectations early in the dating process. Hidden things will come out sooner or later and they sow the seeds of doubt in a budding relationship.
This doesn’t mean you must reveal everything on the first date or two. The first dates are simply a way to see if you like the person, if your personalities are compatible, and if there is a connection.
If you see potential during the initial dates, then move on to other compatibility elements in later dates.
- Discuss health issues that can affect the relationship. We all have them as we age.
- Discuss family considerations. For example, children or grandchildren may be living with you, or you may be caring for someone.
- Discuss religious and political beliefs that are important to you.
Do “coffee dates” on your first dates
Meet for coffee at a local coffee shop or restaurant. Avoid meeting for dinner or some other time-consuming first date.
This way, if the date isn’t going well, it’s easy for either partner to leave.
Once you feel comfortable with your dating partner, then it’s OK to move on to other kinds of dates.
As your dating relationship progresses, be open to trying types of dates that might be outside your comfort zone. It can enhance your life and strengthen a budding relationship.
Don’t rush the relationship
Take your time getting to know your partner. Don’t try to force a relationship to move faster than it naturally would. A good relationship will be easy and develops naturally.
Deal with societal expectations and stereotypes about aging
Stereotypes. They surround us in the media, and we may not even be conscious of them.
Nevertheless, these “beliefs” affect our success at dating and relationships.
One somewhat ageist expectation is that at some point as we age, we are “too old” to date. I confess, I used to think that way, too.
I’m not sure where that thinking came from, but I had to get rid of it.
Dr. Maria Baratta, in 3 Tips to Finding Love When You’re Older says,
“What is particularly daunting is that when they [patients] are past what they believe to be their ‘prime,’ they sometimes feel that they are pretty much ‘too old’ to find someone whether for the first time or once again. Of course you can meet and fall in love at any point in your life.”
So, if you feel too old, ditch that thought. Now.
The only thing negative thinking does is keep people from finding a partner. This related article lists seventeen people who are great examples of success later in life.
Here’s another fun example that age is not necessarily a barrier to what we want.
British guitarist Albert Lee, who is now 80 as I write this, is performing here at age 67 on one of his hit songs, Country Boy. (If you’re a music fan, the best stuff happens towards the end of the video.)
Men and women over fifty are also finding that sexual identity is one of the things that can change later in life.
The author of Sexual Re-Identification After 50 estimates there are currently 1.5 million lesbian, gay and bisexual people over 65 in the US (about 2.7%.) By 2030, that number is expected to double. Being single later in life is the perfect time to evaluate repressed feelings.
Another societal expectation is the pressure to get married or to find a serious relationship. Is that what you truly want? Or do you prefer to date just to socialize?
Decide what it is that you truly want for yourself and in a partner. It’s up to you and not up to what the world thinks.
Be respectful and considerate
In Dating While Aging: Gems to Keep in Mind, Dena Kouremetis says a common complaint about men from her single friends are that they:
“> Lie about their age and/or their economic status
> Can’t stop talking about themselves
> Tend not to show curiosity in who a woman truly is.”
That person sitting across from you, or responding to an online message, is someone with a lifetime of unique experience and wisdom. Think of every interaction as an opportunity to get to know about them.
Showing respect and consideration for your partner is essential for a relationship to blossom. And it’s simply a good way to interact as fellow human beings.
If after the first date it turns out they’re not right, be thankful for the opportunity to have met them and move on.
The Key to Successful Senior Dating
It seems that success in senior dating comes down to belief and persistence.
Dr. Maria Baratta also found some common things among her patients that get in the way of dating.
- They feel as if they failed when first dates don’t automatically click. They immediately get sad and discouraged when “living happily ever” doesn’t happen right away.
- They express feeling that everyone else has “luck with relationships” but they are the exception.
- They easily give up on dating.
Not unlike dating at any other age, it’s about a willingness to put yourself out there and patience with the process necessary to meet someone who potentially could be your life partner–your own personal journey necessary to lead you to the person who is right for you. That can take time, patience and discernment. It takes a willingness to stay the course and not give up.”
Keep a positive mindset about your dating experience. Remember, for most of us, dating is a screening process to help you find a compatible partner.
So yes, senior dating does require effort. But the reward of finding someone with whom you can enjoy life outweighs any work that goes into it.
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