I guess I should preface this post with a disclaimer.
Sporty and I aren’t looking to date. We haven’t suddenly discovered the joys of polygamy, swinging, or any other extracurricular activities.
‘Extracurricular’ in lesbian circles generally means starting a book club or owning mini cows.
Hobby farms aside, we have no intention of messing with our happy marriage.
Why am I writing about mature dating?
Well, not everyone is fortunate enough to meet their one and have them still be around two decades later. That’s crazy lucky.
People get divorced, they grow apart, they get sick and die. Life happens. One day you’re a unit and the next day you’re not. Or, it could be that you just haven’t met your one yet.
There’s no rule that says falling in love is only for whippersnappers. Pam Houston found true love at 55 and if her essay isn’t anything to go by, Mike was more than worth the wait.
A number of our friends (women in their 40s, 50s and 60s) remain steadfastly single. Some happily so, others not as much. Listening to them, it’s become apparent that looking for love when you’re older can be a challenge.
Where on earth do you meet prospective mates? Will you still remember how to flirt? What about all those unspoken rules of engagement that were complicated even in your twenties?
It can be a minefield if you let it. But here’s the thing, you don’t have to. By taking a minimalist approach to mature dating, you’re able to ditch the baggage and focus on what you want.
But first, let’s consider why growing old alone can be problematic.
The Problem With Growing Old Alone
Humans need one another. The less contact we have with the outside world, the higher our chances are of turning into that weird old cat lady or that curmudgeon who refuses to throw out yesterday’s newspaper.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not implying that being single isn’t okay. It absolutely is. If you choose to fly solo, good for you.
As rewarding as being in a relationship is, there’s something to be said for being responsible just for yourself. It’s one of the reasons Sporty and I are always harping on about the benefits of relationship sabbaticals.
We’re actually on a mini one at the moment and it’s doing us both the world of good.
It bears mentioning that being in a relationship isn’t an automatic cure-all. You can grow old alone even if you are married. My parents shared the same house, but they may as well have been living on separate planets.
The importance of ‘social capital’ for older folks cannot be overstated. In your 20s, 30s and even your 40s, personal connections are easier to come by.
Between college, work and a natural inclination to go out and try new things, meeting people happens almost by osmosis. But as you get older, things change.
You retire, you spend more time at home. Routine rides shotgun, relegating adventure to the back seat (if it’s even along for the ride at all).
Before you know it, your world is the size of a pinhead. You rarely go out and when you do you invariably forget your manners at home. (Emotional baggage has that effect on people.)
Tips for Mature Dating
So, what can you do to make dating later in life something you enjoy, as opposed to something you’d much rather avoid?
For one thing, you can refrain from calling it mature dating. I keep using the term because Google says that’s what folks are searching for, but I think it makes us sound like cheese.
If you haven’t been on a date in decades, it can seem daunting. But at the same time, it’s also exciting. You get to flex your social muscles in a whole new way.
It’s an opportunity to meet new people and learn about different lifestyles and cultures. It’s 2019, you can date whoever you please. Be at least a little adventurous.
1. Go Out More
Don’t wait until you have a date. Go out on your own or with your friends. Watch a movie or a play, take a yoga class or enroll in a happiness programme.
Getting out forces you to interact with other people. Oftentimes, older folks (especially those of us in long term relationships) have the tendency to hole up at home.
We forget how to make small talk. We feel uncomfortable or awkward in the company of strangers. We worry that we’ll say or do something idiotic.
The only way around that is to go out more. So what if you say or do the wrong thing. Everyone has done that at some point or another.
I don’t say this lightly.
As an introvert, I know how appealing it can be to draw the curtains and disappear into Netflix. I’m not what you’d call comfortable in my own skin.
But, having grown up around two people whose lives folded in around them, I know firsthand the importance of getting out more.
2. Spoil Yourself
It’s not a given, but sometimes ageing can mean getting a little too comfortable in our sweatpants, crocs and wash ‘n go hairstyles. There’s no need to dress for breakfast ala Downton Abbey, but there’s also no reason to stop spoiling yourself just because the years are adding up.
Get your hair done. Have a facial. Book a massage. See a therapist about ditching that emotional baggage. Jazz up your wardrobe. Healthy up your food choices. Join a hiking club. Start running. Do things that make you feel good about yourself.
Note: I say spoil yourself rather than take care of yourself, because I think it puts a more positive spin on things. Which brings me to my next point.
3. Be Positive
I’m not suggesting you turn into one of those Pollyanna hippies who fills their Facebook feed with pictures of unicorns and rainbows.
Unless you want to, then by all means, have at it.
Humans have a tendency to complain. Especially when life isn’t going the way we’d like it to. I’m not judging, I’ve done my share of kvetching over the years.
Complaining has some nasty side-effects. Among other things, it increases your stress hormones, wires your brain for negativity and it can even shorten your lifespan.
Life is way more pleasant when you don’t whine and moan. Studies have shown that practicing gratitude has a multitude of benefits, one of which is opening the door to more relationships.
It’s easy to tell someone to be positive, but what even does that mean? It’s actually not that complicated. All you have to do is go on a news fast. Turn it off. Don’t read anything, watch anything or listen to anything.
Bingeing on bad news fuels your stress levels, leaves you unhappy and discontented about life. Because bad news is pretty much all that’s aired, you start thinking that’s just how the world is.
Here’s the kicker. There’s actually plenty of good news out there, we’re just not used to looking for it.
What Does Swiping Right Look Like for Over 50s?
Swiping right in online dating parlance means you like the look of someone enough to consider meeting them in person.
‘Right’ in this context means getting a handle on the tricky business of mature dating. I’m explaining because I know Sporty will ask me if I don’t.
My wife spends her time working on actual work, whereas I hang out on Google.
With the plethora of dating sites for over 50s springing up on the interwebs, I think looking for love online makes sense for those of us in the second half of life.
It allows you to take minimalist approach to mature dating. By the time you reach your 50s you have a much better idea of who you are and what makes you tick.
Gone are the days of chasing after people you know in your heart aren’t a right fit for you. You’re wise enough to know that looks and charm are only a small part of a much bigger whole.
The advent of dating apps and websites has made meeting and getting to know people so much easier. They’re not just for twenty somethings, either.
Do a search for over 50 dating sites, for example, and the all-knowing Google will will respond with a lengthy list of options.
Once you’ve found a website that appeals to you, it’s simply a matter of setting up a profile, uploading a recent photo and waiting for the algorithms to work their magic.
You only have to look at Amazon’s book suggestions to know they won’t always get it right, but they’ll certainly offer up some prospective dates worthy of a closer look.
When my cousin’s husband passed away from cancer it took her a couple of years to get to a point where she could entertain the idea of dating again.
When she was ready her daughters helped her create a charming but honest profile of herself and into the dating pool she tiptoed.
A year later she met a man, fell in love and got hitched. Hers isn’t a happily ever after story. They parted ways after five years.
But, that can just as easily happen however you meet the person you end up committing to.
It’s Never Too Late
I’ll end off by noting that it’s never too late in life to find love. When Stella Grey’s husband requested a divorce after 20 years of marriage she descended into a period of self-destructive behaviour.
Daytime vodka-tonics, eating ice cream straight from the tub, that sort of thing. But then she got up, dusted herself off and ventured back into the ring.
Two years, 14 dating sites and 56 dates later, she met Edward. Stella isn’t the only one. These couples all found their soulmates after 50.
If you want to meet someone, you need to put yourself out there. Yes, it takes a certain amount of vulnerability to do that, but it’s better than the alternative.
Isolating yourself because you’re afraid of getting hurt only seems like a good idea. In reality, it’s anything but.
In Four Funerals and a Wedding Jill Smolowe reminds us that grief is not only about endings–it’s about new beginnings.
When you find yourself shying away from connection, afraid of opening up, getting too close or risking too much, remember that starting over can be a magical thing.
It won’t always be comfortable or easy, but despite the challenges, it’s still better than doing nothing.
Today’s Note from the Universe summed it up perfectly.
Growth comes from change.
Happiness comes from acceptance.
Balancing the two is how you take a minimalist approach to mature dating.
I know, I said it again, but only so Google can give you what you’re looking for.