Preceding the two times I seriously dated as a single woman over 50 and then over 60, I did a lot of online and real-life research about women and dating, relationships and love. I didn’t know what to expect or how to navigate the dating game at my age. I needed help.
First, I was surprised by how little information I found relevant to someone my age.
Often, the mature dating advice I did find was clearly written by younger people. They reinforced the stereotypes and myths about mature women and dating over 50 . . . and over 60 . . . and beyond.
In a Huffington Post article that insightfully discussed the issues, Anthonia Akitunde noted that some stereotypes are ingrained in us:
“While you would think your age would translate into mature dating experiences, many women (and men) find themselves reliving their teen years when it comes to the dating world.
Though there are new realities to deal with if you’re dating after 50 (illness, sandwich generation concerns, menopause or impotence), it shouldn’t dampen your love life or make you settle for anyone less than who you deserve.”
Age-old stereotypes about mature women and dating.
In my research, I was struck by how prevalent one particular stereotype is. Ironically, single girlfriends my age are still holding onto this stereotype.
That is, men over 60 only want to date much younger women, so 60+ women better be willing to date men 10 or more years older than they are.
Too many women take this to heart too readily.
Part of the reason is probably because so many of us have deep-seated body image issues, that only get worse as we age and our bodies increasingly look older.
We may think of ourselves as “old” at 60 . . . unattractive and not desirable to men.
Instead of being confident in and appreciating who we are, what we’ve done and how much we have to offer, we fuss, have “work” done and try desperately to hold on to a youthful appearance.
In an AARP Magazine article, Barbara Hannah Grufferman suggested:
“Think better. Instead of thinking ‘younger,’ think ‘better.’ We all need to get real when it comes to aging. Cosmetic treatments and procedures might, in some cases, shave a few years off your appearance. But if you aim to look and feel ‘better’ rather than ‘younger,’ you’ll wind up taking good care of yourself, which is almost guaranteed to show.”
Don’t stress or obsess or believe the stereotypes.
Certainly, there are men over 60 who won’t go near women of the same age, but I doubt that it’s true for the majority of mature men who are seriously dating.
Most of them know enough to look at the whole woman, not just her outward appearance.
If they’re seriously looking for a life partner, they want someone who will be as compatible as possible . . . someone whose personality, sensibilities and lifestyle will fit with theirs.
My advice: Don’t waste a minute fretting over the older man/younger woman syndrome.
No matter what you do, some men will only date younger women. They’re not going to be interested in you. You don’t want them. They have their own issues about growing older . . . and they may be in that group of people who are incapable of true love.
With online dating, you may not even come in contact with these men. If you’re truthful about your age on your profile, they’ll pass right by you if you’re too old for them.
If you want to shave off at least 10 years from your age on your profile, they may give you a tumble, but lying to such an extent about your age will come with its own set of problems.
What’s wrong with looking 50+ or 60+ or older?
Why can’t we be comfortable with looking our age? What’s so wrong with having wrinkles. Why do women want to erase them?
We’ve earned our wrinkles. Getting rid of them takes away much of the character in our faces.
I can see why women do it, but I feel bad for them, that they think they have no choice but to plump up lips, and nip and tuck.
It’s the rare woman who doesn’t struggle from time to time with body image. In our youth-driven society, it would be hard not to.
Have you seen the thousands of TV ads we’re bombarded with for wrinkle creams . . . and the women shown are no older than, say, thirty? How many women have ANY wrinkles at that age?
It all plays right into women’s sometimes crippling body image issues. This is something that men seem to have no problem with.
Some women – maybe most women – endlessly assess and rate parts of their body. Getting beyond this and loving themselves is important for good overall health and longevity.
And it’s a good thing to get beyond before dating in earnest. Loving yourself also makes you more lovable to others.
Being comfortable with my aging body didn’t come easy for me.
I’m as guilty as any other woman around my age who worries about looking “old”.
Sometimes I really like the way I’ve aged. Other times, I miss the way I looked, say, thirty years ago, and I can get bogged down in negative thoughts about my looks. It’s foolish thinking, but I still struggle with it sometimes.
I remember how I felt when I first started seriously dating in 2011. when I was 57.
I couldn’t imagine being comfortable enough to get naked in front of ANYONE (girlfriend, sister), let alone a man I hardly knew.
Sometimes I’d look at a first date sitting across from me and think, “If and when it comes to it, will I be able to be naked with this guy and have sex with him?”
Of course, I wasn’t factoring in that, by the time I got to that point with any man, he’d no longer be someone I just met.
Because part of my dating strategy was to wait a few months before having sex with anyone, when I did shed the clothes, he would be someone I loved, and who loved me.
How to dispel those pesky body image issues.
You may have read about things you can do to improve your self-esteem and body image. These exercises can work wonders.
According to another article in the Huffington Post, one way for women to improve body image is to:
“Replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
When you look in the mirror, try to replace any negative thoughts that are pushing their way through like an unwanted whitehead with an affirming thought about the way you look or feel. Replace a disapproving scowl with a confident smile.”
In her Psychology Today article, How Do I Improve My Body Image? Mary E. Pritchard Ph.D. suggests taking “the sticky note challenge”. The idea is to post sticky notes with positive phrases about you and your body in various places where you (and others) will see them.
And here are a few things I suggest doing:
- Tell yourself at least once a day that you’re beautiful, sexy and desirable. I mean, say it out loud. Verbalizing is very empowering.
- Stop saying negative things about your body and, when you find yourself thinking them, do your best to nip the thought in the bud.
- Stand naked (yes, naked) in front of a full-length mirror. Notice and say out loud how beautiful your body is.
- Embrace who you are. Literally hug yourself.
In general, instead of dwelling on what you think is wrong with your body, remind yourself that your body houses “you” and all that you are. Think about how well your body performs for you.
Turn off negative thoughts about your body quickly by saying out loud “Stop!”, and replace it with positive thoughts about what your body does for you on a continuous basis. Tell yourself things like “This body helped me clean out that closet (or paint that room, or plant my garden, etc.)”.
Put the older man/younger woman syndrome behind you.
When you’re dating, set your sights on the many, many men over 60 who appreciate women close to, or at their own age. They’re out there. They’re looking for you.
Concentrate on reaching out to men you feel WILL be right for you – men you can have a happy life with – who are somewhere around your age. A few years older or younger won’t make a difference in the whole scheme of things.
The worst thing you can do is to settle for someone who you know, in your gut, won’t be right for you long term, because of some notion you have in your head about looks or other superficial things.
When I was dating, I came across lots of men around 60 who paid little or no attention to my age. They were attracted (or not) to the kind of person I was.
There were several times when I dated men a few years younger, and I was way too focused on age. Turned out, the men weren’t focused on that number at all.
I know that Cosmo wasn’t. I’m 4 years older than he is. It was never a concern of his, though I initially worried about it. That concern vanished quickly.
More About Dating For Women Over 60
And, check out the blog archives here of all the Smart Dating Over 60 articles I’ve written.