My first dating experience after my divorce was in 2011 at age 57, leading me to “Sam” who sadly died after we were together for only 3 years. The second was at age 63, leading me to find my ideal partner, Cosmo.
In my other career I’m a job search strategist. Through that work, I came to understand that dating and job search follow a very similar path.
For my dating strategy, I had the benefit of using the fine-tuned process I developed for my job-seeking clients.
I turned all that strategy into a mature dating game plan.
I strong advise you to develop a dating plan to get yourself on the right track. More about that coming up.
Look Inward First and Work on Yourself
Before you even start mapping out your dating plan, look at your behavior in relationships. Get your head on straight, so to speak.
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.
How your early family dynamics may impact your dating life
For instance, 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 attracted to people who are highly judgmental and critical.
You may be attracted to people who are emotionally immature, just like your dysfunctional family.
This speaks to my own experience early in my dating life, before I figured things out about myself.
I had two dates with one particular man who could be the poster child for the Peter Pan syndrome. That is, he never grew up.
In conversation, he was overly, and irritatingly, sarcastic.
He delighted in manipulation . . . leading me along with drawn out, stone-faced fabrications and then landing a verbal punch aimed at my gullibility.
It was like some kind of test he used to see if I could take it, because he surely wasn’t going to stop doing it . . . ever.
He enjoyed my discomfort and the look on my face when, ultimately, he hit me with his smug “gotcha” smile.
But I didn’t enjoy it.
It was childish and tiresome.
On the second date, after I’d put up with his games for a while, I said something like, “It’s difficult to have a conversation with you when you do that. I don’t know when to believe what you’re saying”.
He gave me a cold, dismissive look that said, “She’s a drag. She can’t take a joke”.
After the second date, I knew this had to end.
Why would anyone want to be with someone who treats them badly?
If the first important relationships in your life (your family) were so much centered on that kind of behavior, you’ve probably gotten so used to it, you don’t really see it for what it is.
Without being conscious of it, you may keep getting into these toxic relationships in order to repair the damaged childhood relationship(s).
But the repair never happens.
All of this leads you to be attracted to people who will treat you badly.
That is, unless you take a close look at those childhood wounds and keep them top-of-mind as you look for a partner.
You will probably still carry those wounds and they may always be hurtful, but your dating choices don’t have to be driven by those wounds.
If you don’t deal with these issues, you may be destined to keep falling for people who aren’t good for you, leading you to believe you have bad luck in dating.
As Cosmo wrote in his article How to Overcome Bad Luck in Dating:
“It’s easy to blame bad luck when you have a series of lousy dates. In a perverse way, it’s even comforting to believe that your destiny in love is beyond mere mortal control.
If like me, you find yourself in your sixties after a series of unsuccessful relationships, your confidence in re-entering the world of dating is undoubtedly shaken.
You end up blaming yourself, thinking there is something fundamentally wrong with you that can’t be fixed. The problem with this thinking is that it absolves us of any responsibility.
The truth is that you can indeed re-program how you deal with relationships.
We always have control over our choices and in how we react to things going on around us. This includes our search for love.
I admit there is an element of luck and serendipity in life that’s not in our control.
Think of your life as a ship on the ocean. Yes, you’re at the mercy of wind and currents. Yet you can steer the ship and set the sails to follow the course you want, despite the uncontrollable wind and currents. The same is true of your dating life.”
Your Dating Plan to Find Your Ideal Partner
Is it too calculating and impersonal to follow an actual step-by-step strategy to find your ideal partner?
Shouldn’t things just unfold naturally?
It would be nice if they did, but don’t count on it.
You’ll improve your chances of being successful if you take the time to prepare, and then use strategies that are known to work.
- You’ll be more likely to find your ideal partner.
- You’ll be less likely to have lousy first dates because you won’t waste time on people who will not make you happy in the long term.
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?
Just like in job search, where step one is determining what companies will be a mutual good fit, with dating, step one is determining who your ideal partner is.
My dating efforts focused almost entirely on online dating
I also tried meeting people the old-fashioned way (asking everyone I knew if they knew someone) and I scoped out meet-ups and other activities.
I even tried hanging around the grocery produce section where, supposedly, you’d find men to chat up. But I had zero luck.
Quickly I determined that the biggest pool of potential partners was on dating sites, so that’s where I had to be.
I was leery of these sites at first.
I paid too much attention to friends who turned up their noses at online dating. They told me that’s where the losers were who couldn’t find someone any other way.
If I had listened to them and didn’t use dating sites, I never would have met Cosmo . . . even though he had lived right across the street from me for 7 years!
Whether or not you’re going to use online dating sites, like eharmony (our readers’ favorite dating app), my advice on how to find your ideal partner will apply.
But before you dive in, be sure you know what your intentions are with dating:
- Are you only interested in casual, sexual hook-ups?
- Do you want to find someone for companionship or friendship only – no sex?
- Or, are you looking for a “forever” romantic partner with all the bells and whistles?
My Own 4-Step Process to Find My Ideal Partner
1. I looked back at my disastrous marriage, which ended in 2004, and considered what things about my ex I wouldn’t accept in a new partner.
I spent a lot of time on this. Without sorting it all out beforehand, I risked making the same mistakes again.
After Sam died and I was ready to date again, I looked closely at my relationship with him, so I would know what qualities I DID want in my new partner.
Many of us date in search of our soulmate. This may be what drives you to find your ideal partner.
In a Psychology Today article about whether you should even believe in soulmates, social psychologist Jeremy Nicholson says:
“If an individual finds they are repeatedly falling in love with the ‘perfect partner, only to be disappointed and dumping them soon after, their belief in soulmates may be to blame. It may cause them to give up when things are not perfect (but may be still good or great). It may motivate them to not compromise, work, or change, when others don’t love them completely for being exactly as they are.”
2. I wrote down a list of my core values and things I needed in a relationship.
I recently found a folder with notes about my two times in the dating go-round. In the folder I found my original list of core values, written in 2011:
- Committed to making a relationship work, even when things go bad
- Willing to compromise and negotiate problems/disagreements
- Good communication in general
- Sensitivity to, and respect for, each other’s feelings
- Keeping promises – not promising what you know you can’t (or don’t want to) deliver
- Mutually supportive of each other’s non-shared interests
- Willing and eager to learn from, and grow with, each other
My marriage had none of the above, but my relationship with Sam came close. My relationship now with Cosmo entirely does.
3. I put together a list of the personal/physical attributes and character qualities he must and must NOT have.
These were the absolute deal breakers.
He had to be:
- Kind (truly my number one must-have, and Cosmo’s too)
- Courteous and polite
- Forthright and honest
- Emotionally healthy
- Optimistic and positive
- Even tempered
- Giving and generous
- A good listener
- In relatively good health and fit, someone who took good care of himself
- My height or taller (I know, this is superficial, but it was important to me)
- Pleasant to look at
- Shares and appreciates my sense of humor and silliness
- Someone who laughs out loud
- Someone who appreciates the serenity of quiet times together
- Somewhat of a homebody, as happy nestling in at home as he is going out
He could NOT be:
- An excessive talker who didn’t let me contribute to the conversation
- A negative, complaining person
- Someone who brought too much of his past relationship(s) – good and bad – into a new one
- A biker dude
- A smoker (of anything – cigarettes, cigars, weed, etc.)
- A drinker (I don’t drink and don’t want to live with someone who does)
- A hunter and/or gun collector (I don’t want to live in a house with guns)
- A sports enthusiast who would nag me to get involved too
- More than 5 or so years younger, or more than 3 or so years older (I was lenient with this).
4. I listed the lifestyle and activities/interests I HOPED to share with him.
These were not deal breakers, just added bonuses:
- A love of music and movies, similar tastes to mine
- Someone who liked to cook and work together in the kitchen
- Someone who enjoyed all different kinds of cuisines, and dining out occasionally
- A love of writing, and preferably blogging
- Someone who liked to dance
How To Determine Who Your Ideal Partner Is
I hope my lists above help you get started. Maybe I didn’t cover all the bases in my notes, but I was pretty thorough.
When we get to be 60 and over, we’ve all had serious romantic relationships that worked or didn’t work. Start by examining the things you loved about them, and the things you don’t want to deal with again.
This work is necessary to find your ideal partner.
Zero in on the character qualities, physical attributes, values, lifestyle, activities and interests that appeal to you, and those that don’t.
For instance, unlike mine, your deal breakers may include:
- You want someone who loves and is good with children because you have grandkids you see often.
- You don’t want someone whose religion is different than yours, or someone who’s anti-religion or doesn’t believe in God.
Be realistic. Don’t rule people out too quickly.
And be realistic. At 60 and older we all have many shortcomings and things about us that may not be desirable to potential partners. Don’t expect them to overlook things in you that you’re not willing to overlook in them.
Another thing to be aware of. Don’t be so specific in your criteria that you rule out some great contenders.
Cosmo briefly – thankfully, very briefly – had these 5 criteria for his ideal partner. She must:
- Be a pilot (like he is) and own her own plane.
- Go to Mass every day.
- Be a small business owner.
- Own her own home.
- Have a nice car.
He learned quickly that he was impossibly narrowing his search. If he had insisted on the first two in his list, he never would have gone on a date with me.
And one other thing to be aware of . . . if you’re resistant to online dating.
With online dating, you’ll be able to determine much easier whether some people do or don’t fit some of your criteria, before you actually meet them in person. Unless they haven’t filled out anything in their profile, you’ll get some information about them, which will help you decide if you want to reach out to them.