If you were married for many years before losing a spouse to death or divorce, the prospect of dating again may seem intimidating. Yet with patience and persistence, you can find a wonderful partner—and enjoy the search in the meantime.
Common fears about dating and how to overcome them…
FEAR: “I’m too old/unattractive.”
REALITY: Age need not be a barrier to meeting someone new—it even can be an advantage. At this stage in life, you likely have developed many sources of fulfillment aside from romance, such as an established career or hobbies that you are passionate about…as well as clarity about values and what matters most in life. Self-knowledge and the confidence it brings can make you radiant to the opposite sex.
As for attractiveness, you don’t need classic good looks to appeal to the opposite sex. Health and vitality are powerful attractors. To project these qualities, get regular exercise. Walk with your spine long and your head high.
You also may want to consult an image consultant or department-store personal shopper to update your style. Whatever your body type, contemporary clothes that fit well will help you project a radiant image—and this goes for men as well as women.
FEAR: “I’ll put a profile on a dating Web site, and no one will be interested.”
REALITY: The 50+ segment is the fastest-growing group on dating Web sites. It should be a part of everyone’s dating strategy. You can take simple steps to improve your online dating success and capture the attention of interesting people. Keys to success online…
Register with more than one site. To increase your exposure to people who might be a good fit, start with two sites. One should cast a wide net, such as Match.com or eHarmony.com. The second should be more specialized, such as JDate.com (for Jewish singles), CatholicMingle.com (for Catholics) or OurTime.com (for people over 50).
Show, don’t tell. Don’t post a list of interests and adjectives about yourself—everyone does that. To stand out, tell brief stories about those qualities. Example: Instead of vague phrases such as “love to travel,” describe what inspired you about your most recent trip.
Ask friends what they see as your top five characteristics and for vignettes that illustrate them. Incorporate these examples into your profile.
Post current photos. Choose four or five current photos that look like you and that show you at your best. The main profile photo should be a close-up of your face. The others should show you in a variety of poses doing things that you love. If you don’t have recent photos, ask a friend to take some.
Don’t wait to be discovered. If someone’s profile interests you, send him/her a message through the site. This applies to women as well as men—it is perfectly acceptable, and expected, for women to contact men on dating sites.
Make your message short, catchy and specific. Mention one or two things in the profile that made the person stand out for you, such as a warm smile, a clever turn of phrase or a book title.
Don’t be discouraged or take it personally if your message doesn’t receive a reply—it happens to everyone. Keep viewing profiles and contacting new people who interest you.
FEAR: “I may put myself in danger.”
REALITY: You should take simple, sensible precautions to protect yourself…
Protect your privacy. Don’t use your real name as your screen name—instead, use a hobby or personality trait, such as FilmFan or LoveSailing. Have a separate e-mail address that you use only for online dating messages. Don’t give out your phone number until you have built up some rapport and trust via e-mail, and use your cell phone so that the number cannot be easily traced to your home address.
Whether you become acquainted online or through more traditional means such as a friend or a class, choose a public place for your first few dates. Tell others where you will be. Don’t get picked up or dropped off at home until you have known the person for a while.
Do some checking. As soon as you know a prospect’s full name—which usually is early in the e-mail stage—do an online search to determine whether he has portrayed himself accurately. In addition to searching by name, you can copy his photo into a search engine such as Google Images and perform an image search. By using this technique, I learned early on that someone I had met online had disguised his identity, made up a sob story and asked a number of women for money.
FEAR: “First dates will be awkward.”
REALITY: First dates can be awkward, but they also can be interesting and fun. Although meeting for coffee is a classic, low-key first date, consider more active options such as visiting a museum or taking a walk downtown. Standing or walking side by side is less awkward than sitting face to face, and your surroundings will provide conversation cues.
In addition to talking about mutual interests, ask lighthearted questions that delve beneath the surface. Examples: What was your favorite toy when you were growing up? What would you love to do if there were no constraints? What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you? If your house were on fire, what’s the first thing you would grab to save?
FEAR: “There are a lot of losers out there.”
REALITY: More than any other factor, your attitude has the biggest impact on your satisfaction with dating and your ability to meet compatible people.
Television and other popular media reinforce negative stereotypes of the opposite sex by portraying single men as inept or self-centered and single women as confusing or impossible to please. But these are just caricatures.
The truth: Many men are capable and loving. Many women are straightforward and agreeable.
Assess a person’s character by paying attention to the person’s actions as well as words. Look for evidence of kindness, respect, integrity, emotional generosity and responsibility.
Examples: Does she show up when she agreed to or keep you waiting and make excuses for being late? How does he treat the staff at a café? Does she put her cell phone away during dates and give you her full attention? When the subject of past relationships comes up, does he dwell on his ex’s negative traits?
FEAR: “He/she will want sex right away.”
REALITY: Plenty of people don’t mind waiting, and someone who is right for you will respect your boundaries.
If you are interested in someone but this person is getting more physical than you are comfortable with, express your feelings frankly in a positive, nonjudgmental way.
Examples: “I’m attracted to you, but I want to slow this down”…“I don’t have sex with someone this soon, so for now why don’t we just kiss and cuddle.”
If and when you are ready to have sex, make sure that both of you have been tested for sexually transmitted diseases. Not only is this important for your health, it also is a good gauge of your relationship. If you don’t trust each other enough to show each other your test results, you’re not ready to have sex.
Bottom line: The biggest obstacle to finding love in midlife or later is staying home. So move those fears aside, and get out there and date.
Source: Sandy Weiner, dating coach, blogger and workshop leader who specializes in helping people over 40. Based in Stamford, Connecticut, she is chief love officer at www.LastFirstDate.com, where she has posted many articles about dating in midlife. She hosts the online radio show Courageous Conversations at www.BlogTalkRadio.com.