When I started my business, A Little Nudge, I didn’t know who to expect as my client base. Part of me thought that I would work with a lot of 30-something women, looking to have children before they decided that their time for this had passed, whether true or not. Another part of me thought I would work with people who are simply too busy to put the time and effort into online dating. Was I right? Absolutely. But the group I wasn’t counting on was the 50+ segment of the dating market. 28% of my client base, which includes both men and women, are 50 or older, and, while many aspects of dating are the same at any age (the nerves, the anticipation, the awkwardness), some things are unique to this age demographic.
Based on my own observations and those of my clients, let’s take a look at the five things to keep in mind when dating over 50:
1. Every person comes as a package deal
It’s not reasonable to assume that someone will come to the table without some form of baggage. Whether that baggage is in the form of a bad divorce, a ruptured relationship with a child, or a sick parent, there is something that is going to be a priority in this person’s life. No matter how much you may want to be #1, and no matter how much your date wants to make you #1, there are other factors at play. A client of mine in her 60s, who has no children and thereby no grandchildren, was reluctant to date a man who was the caretaker of his grandson. I encouraged her to give it a shot because it showed his dedication to family. While they can’t take all of the weekend trips she was dreaming of, she’s actually grown very fond of the young grandson and respects her beau for making that role a priority.
2. Manage expectations
While most of us wish that each first date will also be the last first date, we are setting ourselves up for failure if we go into dating situations with such high expectations. The best way to go about dating is to simply take each experience for what it is—meeting a new person. Maybe you’ll learn something about your date or even yourself that might help you in life. Maybe you’ll hear a funny story. Or maybe you’ll simply meet, chat, and end your night knowing that while this person may not be “the one,” you gave it your all.
3. Everyone ages
Almost all of my over-50 male clients tell me that women don’t age as well as men. And you know what my female clients tell me? Men don’t age as well as women. The moral: We all age! Everyone gets wrinkles, everyone’s metabolism slows, and everyone isn’t the 20-year-old sports star that he or she used to be. But that’s okay. Please don’t make overarching assumptions. I know plenty of “old” 30-year-olds who sit on the couch and knit at night, and I know plenty of “young” 70-year-olds who love skiing, sailing, and chasing their puppies. It’s all relative.
4. Don’t overlook common sense
People often tell me that online dating is scary. They reason that you don’t know who’s out there, and most of the people are likely creeps. I hate to say this, but creepy people can be anywhere. Are there more of them online than offline? I have no idea. What I do know, however, is that if you avoid online dating to try to evade the “creepsters,” as some of my friends might say, then you’re also closing yourself off to meeting many wonderful people as well. If this rationale holds any water, then I’d say you might as well also avoid the subway, the supermarket, or really anywhere people are. Instead, take precaution when meeting someone for the first time. Meet in a public place. Tell a friend where you’re going. Yes, scary things are everywhere… but common sense will take you further than you might think.
5. Love yourself
While it may sound cliché, I ascribe to the conventional wisdom that you have to love yourself before you can love anyone else. Finding a partner will not create happiness. Will it add to happiness? Sure. But first, you need to find (or re-find) that happiness and confidence that you have in yourself. Treat yourself well, heal from the last relationship, and rediscover yourself. Only then can you add someone else to your world and know that he or she complements it, not completes it.
It doesn’t sound so daunting anymore, does it? (If the answer is yes, then let’s talk!) Remember to take it one step at a time, one day at a time, and one date at a time.
This article was also featured in JMag, the official magazine for JDate.