Tips for finding love after 50
With the huge number of people who are living — and loving — longer than ever before, more and more of us are finding romance (some for the second or third time!) after 50. Dating later in life has its own set of issues, but don’t worry: We’ve got advice to help you navigate dating at 50 (and beyond).
Tip #1: Pick up the dating pace
Though many people associate getting older with slowing down, “dating as an older adult is a much faster rule-out endeavor,” says Laurie Watson, a licensed marriage therapist author of Psychology Today’s “Married and Still Doing It” blog. “First, with good life experience, people know more about who will make them happy. Second, they’re often wishing to rejoin the married lifestyle after divorce or widowhood and aren’t as commitment-phobic.” We make decisions faster and with more confidence because we know who and what we want.
Bonus tip: Figure out how fast you’re willing to proceed in a relationship — and how far you want it to go. Then, seek out dates that happen to be going the same path at a similar pace.
Tip #2: Check your emotional baggage
At 50 and older, we’ve lived more than a little bit already. And some of that living hasn’t been done under soft-focus and flattering lighting; in fact, it’s been painful. “An excess of emotions is like a suitcase that’s too heavy; it will weigh you down and slow down your progress toward reaching your desired destination of a new, healthy relationship,” says Terri Orbuch, a professor at the University of Michigan and Oakland University and author of Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship. “To unpack that bag, find healthy ways to release any stressful emotions. Engage in vigorous physical activities; hang out with others socially. Take up creative activities that feed your spirit, and yell at the top of your lungs inside your car.”
Bonus tip: If you can’t shake those negative feelings on your own, find a therapist to help you deal with your emotions and prepare for your future in a positive way.
Tip #3: Pursue your true interests
The best way to find a date who shares your interests is to engage in them regularly, especially in a group setting. “Focus on activities that you enjoy — sports, classes, or political, social, charitable or religious activities — that are meaningful to you… and will bring out your most attractive character traits,” says Tina B. Tessina, licensed psychologist and author of The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again. “As a bonus, you also get to observe that person around other people, which will tell you a lot about his/her character. Dating doesn’t happen until after you’re already quite sure you two are mutually compatible and interested in each other.”
Bonus tip: Participate in activities you already enjoy, and try new things to stay sharp and meet people outside your usual circle.
Tip #4: Nip relationship issues in the bud
Many over-50 daters have family and financial obligations that don’t affect younger singles. “Economic considerations are very real at this stage of life versus our youthful, misty-eyed idealism when we believed ‘all you need is love,’” Watson says. “Be prepared for equal sharing of expenses on dates and trips and even prenuptial agreements, should the relationship progress that far.” You may also have to deal with adult children who aren’t as excited about your new relationship status as both of you are.
Bonus tip: Talk candidly and calmly with your date when these issues first arise to keep them from becoming significant problems that affect your relationship.
Tip #5: Get over your insecurities about being single at this age
If you’ve been in a previous long-term relationship, it may have been a while since you actively dated — and you may be self-conscious about feeling rusty compared to your peers. “You may feel shy about introducing yourself to strangers, going to parties alone, or calling someone up for a date,” Orbuch says. To combat this, work out your social muscles in lower-stakes situations. “Practice making small talk with strangers in line at the grocery store or coffee shop. When he or she responds to you, ask a follow-up question; this is how you start a real conversation and get out of the shyness habit,” Orbuch advises.
Bonus tip: Ask friends and family to make introductions for you or to start conversations you can then join until you’re comfortable doing the initiating on your own.
Remember, you’re never too old for romance — and there are plenty of other over-50 people dating out there, too. “Your age isn’t reflective of your feelings,” says Christina Steinorth, a licensed psychotherapist and author of Cue Cards for Life: Thoughtful Tips for Better Relationships. “If you desire someone, let that person know. If you want to be romantic, do it! Age is just a number; it doesn’t define you!”
Margot Carmichael Lester is a freelance journalist and writing coach who found love later in life. Her work also appears in the Los Angeles Business Journal and International Cinematographers Guild magazine.