How To Get Back Into Dating Later In Life

How To Get Back Into Dating Later In Life

Dating can be daunting at the best of times and even more so if – as a mature woman – you are returning to the scene after a long-term relationship or marriage. Whatever your situation, it takes a lot of courage, so make sure you get some advice before you take the plunge. If you’re looking to date and find love but aren’t sure where to start, our experts have some honest and straightforward advice.
Photography: iSTOCK/LUMINA

Ask Yourself If You’re Ready To Date

First, ask yourself if you’re ready to date, especially if you’ve just come out of a long-term relationship, explains Rachel MacLynn, founder of matchmaking service The Vida Consultancy. “There are several ways to identify if you are ready to date again – ask yourself if you are over a previous relationship with no residual hurt. Have you reflected on the past to understand what you want from a relationship and what works for you? Also, does the thought of dating excite you? If it doesn’t, then you might not be ready to meet someone. Equally, it’s important to know your self-worth and be happy in your own life with your passions and hobbies, and don’t feel like you need to assign your happiness to another person.” Celebs Go Dating coach, counsellor and partner with SmileDirectClub Anna Williamson agrees: “At this stage of life, you might be divorced, widowed, or have been through a breakup with complex emotions. If you’re feeling fatigued and emotionally drained, then now is not the right time to dive straight back into finding love again. Instead, take some time out to focus on you – and to heal and re-energise. However, if you are feeling excited, bright eyed and bushy tailed, have parked the past and are open to meeting new people, then you’re ready.”

Work On Your Self-Confidence

When dating, you need to present the best version of yourself and be open-minded to love interests who may come your way. Often, that means feeling secure in yourself and having the self-confidence to get back out there, says Anna. “Many women who go into the dating scene slightly later in life often lack confidence and practice when it comes to meeting new people. It may be some time since you have properly focused on yourself – most people over the age of 50 have commitments, work, family, a home, so it’s important to take some time to really focus on just you. Confidence is best gained through self-care. Taking up an exercise class, eating well, socialising with friends, and starting a new hobby can all help boost your confidence and self-esteem. Or perhaps take the plunge and do something you’ve always wanted to do like switching up your hair or booking that long-awaited laser eye surgery you’ve been thinking about. Earlier this year, research by SmileDirectClub revealed that 1 in 3 women are lacking confidence when it comes to dating, and 61% admitted that they found first dates stressful. Small changes can have a big impact on confidence.”
Relationship expert and founder of Select Personal Introductions, Alex Mellor Brook, adds: “Confidence normally comes from within, but looking good can boost this feeling. Anxiety is one of the key factors you will encounter, even for singles who seem calm on the outside. You need to think about the positive things in your life and surround yourself with your positive friends – the ones who have your back. Also, prioritise exercise. Studies show that exercising releases anti-anxiety neurochemicals, like serotonin and gamma aminobutyric acid. Once you’re in a good routine, have a few outfits to hand that make you look and feel good.”

Be Open-Minded

Most people have an idea of who or what they are looking for but going in with an open mind is the key to successful dating, explains Anna. “Don’t fall into the trap of sticking to what you think is your ‘type’. Listing a shopping list of traits only excludes a massive pool of potential dates and you don’t know until you meet someone whether there’s a spark or not. Be open minded. Be careful not to compare your date to previous loves, they are a new person and are deserving of your time and respect without any previous partners’ legacy dampening their chances. Plus, be careful not to interrogate! Firing off a list of questions such as: ‘Do you own your own house?’ ‘How many children do you have?’ and ‘Are you on good terms with your ex?’ can come across as self-serving and will naturally put your date on the defensive.” Rachel agrees: “Be more adventurous and open to trying new things at this stage in your life. Break out of old routines you’ve had for many years and get into the habit of going with the flow and generally saying ‘yes’ to positive and fun opportunities that come your way, including trying new activities or introducing your new partner to things that you are passionate about. Dating is all about creating new experiences and memories together.”

Most people have an idea of who or what they are looking for but going in with an open mind is the key to successful dating.
Anna Williamson

Plan Something Fun

Take it in turns to plan each date and switch things up to make it interesting, says relationship expert Nadia Essex. “Dinner followed by drinks is always a good idea, but if that feels too formal, try something different like a cocktail making class or dance lesson – something that keeps you entertained or gets you moving will inevitably spark conversation.” Matchmaking expert Lemarc Thomas agrees: “It’s great if a date can be dynamic, where you can change scene, move around, but also have the chance to talk and connect. Think of it like a dance, you want to start slowly to find your rhythm together – you give a little, they give a little and slowly you can pick up the speed and into deeper conversation. Doing something with a little bit of adventure will boost adrenaline and attraction on both sides.” That said, a good first date should be more relaxed so you can get to know one another, says divorce coach Sara Davison. “A good first date enables you to really talk. A country walk can be romantic or a drink at the pub is a good place to start. Future dates need to keep a good mix between keeping the spark and romance alive. Something that combines one of your passions is a good idea too – whether that’s going to the theatre, an art exhibition or gig, followed by a romantic dinner,” she told us.

Take It At Your Own Pace

“Take it at your own pace and take the time to work out what you are looking for in a partner,” says Sara. “So many of us focus on what we want (which is important) but we totally forget to identify what we actually need from a relationship. It’s important to learn the lessons from past relationships so you can ensure you don’t repeat them. Don’t rush too quickly into anything and leave some time in between each date to reflect on what has gone well and to see whether you have chemistry with someone. Are you looking forward to seeing them again? If the answer is no, they might not be the person for you.” Building trust with someone, even if you are casually dating, is also key, explains Alex: “The hardest thing about starting to date again is trusting another person, especially if you’ve had trust issues in the past or you’ve had to deal with infidelity. It takes time and you may be cautious, but that’s good. Never be coerced into something you are not comfortable with. Set a pace you are happy with and let the trust build up gradually.”

Look For Similar Values, Not Interests

“Having things is common is always good, but don’t mistake this for compatibility,” says Alex. “Doing things together is important, but so is having different hobbies and interests, as it helps to keep a relationship fresh and can even add a little passion. Studies show that similar core values create a strong, long-term relationship. This could include being on the same page about marriage and relationships, believing in the importance of trust and communication, or love and intimacy.” Anna agrees: “Having shared values and interests is a big part of finding a compatible partner. Most people over the age of 50 have family, so depending on the age of your children, that may have an impact on how suitable a certain person might be for you at this stage – if you have younger children, you may not be able to relate to someone who has children in their 20s. Find common ground – if you have shared values and similar interests, that serves as a great foundation for a potential new relationship.” 

Look Out For Red Flags

Go in with an open mind but look out for ‘red flags’ that signal someone might not be right for you, says Rachel. “You wouldn't hire someone who isn't up for the job, and you need to view your potential partners in the same way. Red flags include things like turning up to a first date drunk, being consistently late or inconsiderate, or not returning messages in a timely manner. Not being forthcoming with details about their life or previous life is another thing to look out for.” Before you even start dating, know what your red flags are, says Sara: “Identify what you want to avoid in a partner, things you know you can’t tolerate in a relationship. Keep an eye out for them and trust what your instinct is telling you. Listen to what shows up as it’s a common pitfall to ignore red flags when you have rose-tinted glasses on.” 

Telling your family and friends that you are dating again can be daunting, but you have to put yourself first and not feel guilty about going on dates.
Lemarc Thomas

Try Not To Talk About Your Ex

If you were in a relationship or married for a long time, it might feel natural to bring up your ex-partner, but this can be counterproductive when dating, especially on a first date, says divorce coach at Amicable Bec Jones. “During a date, it might feel like all you want to talk about is your ex and the challenges of going through a breakup or divorce. While it's perfectly reasonable to be open about your past relationships, don’t spend too much time discussing your ex. Remember you are an individual with interests and quirks who can hold a conversation without discussing previous partners. It could also send off signals that you might not be over them – if that is the case, you know it’s not the right time to date.” Equally, badmouthing your ex isn’t advised, says Alex: “Don’t disrespect your ex in front of a potential new partner. How you treat others is how your partner will perceive your core values,” she advises.

Consider Your Family, But Put Yourself First

Telling your family and friends that you are dating again can be daunting, but you have to put yourself first and not feel guilty about going on dates, explains Lemarc. “Dating later in life is a time for you alone. Your children are probably grown up and your responsibilities and priorities have probably changed. Talk to your friends and family, especially your children, to tell them you are dating. Remember, they want you to be happy and they will support you when they understand your needs. It’s better that they are aware early on that you are opening up to love rather than it coming as a shock!” Anna agrees: “It doesn’t matter how old your children are, they will almost certainly have feelings and opinions around your love life. It’s usually a good idea to communicate with your friends and family about who you are intending to see, not least because it helps to keep you safe and your whereabouts held accountable. Your children may have some particular feelings around your love life – they might find it a challenge, or they might be overly keen and have some definite ideas on who they want you seeing. Communicate with them appropriately about your wishes, your boundaries and take into account their feelings to enable as smooth a dating landscape as possible.”

Try Online Dating 

“Online dating has become incredibly popular so it’s impossible to ignore – and it would be remiss to disregard this method of meeting new people,” says Anna. “There are so many dating apps and websites catering for every demographic and whim, and there is every chance you will meet like-minded people who have the same dating and relationship goals. They can be a bit of a minefield so it’s important that you choose the right one that’s tailored to your likes and lifestyle.” However, don’t put too much pressure on yourself says Sara: “You don’t have to meet ‘the one’ on the first date, it’s much more important to have fun. It may have been a while since you dated so just get used to flirting and being playful again. Be yourself, choose a photo that reflects who you truly are and make sure you listen to your gut instincts. Above all, don’t feel pressured to do anything you’re not comfortable with.”
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