When I started my business, A Little Nudge, I didn’t know who to expect as my client base regarding age. Part of me thought that I would work with a lot of 30-something women, looking to have children. Another part 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-plus segment of the dating market. Thirty percent 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, the excitement), some things are unique to this age demographic.
Based on my observations and those of my clients, let’s take a look at the five things to keep in mind when dating after 50:
1. Keep your expectations in check.
While most of us may hope that each first date will also be the last first date, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment 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. Perhaps you’ll hear a funny story. Or you’ll meet, chat, and end your night knowing that while this person may not be “the one,” you gave it your all.
2. Know that everyone 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 strained 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 No. 1, and no matter how much your date wants to make you No. 1, there are often 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 young grandson. I encouraged her to give it some time because it showed his dedication to family. While they can’t take all of the weekend trips she was dreaming of, she’s grown very fond of the grandson and respects her beau for making that role a priority.
3. Remember that everyone gets older.
Almost all of my 50-plus 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! It’s not true that a counterpart the same age as you is necessarily in worse shape or can’t keep up, despite what you may think. In reality, 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 and “young” 70-year-olds. It’s all relative.
4. Use common sense.
People often tell me that online dating is scary. Their rationale is 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 “creepers,” 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 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. It’s also important to note that no one person is representative of a whole online dating site. So, if you have a bad experience, shake it off and move on, without blaming the site itself for the bad date.
5. Focus on yourself first.
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!) It’s okay — and encouraged — to take things one step at a time, one day at a time, and one date at a time.
(Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating. Want to connect with Erika? Join her newsletter, eepurl.com/dpHcH