A Guide To Get You Out There : Life Kit : NPR

An illustration of three older adults in separate 2-D spaces holding up their phones to their faces to look at dating apps. Their heads are each encompassed in graphic heart shapes.
An illustration of three older adults in separate 2-D spaces holding up their phones to their faces to look at dating apps. Their heads are each encompassed in graphic heart shapes.

Contemplating dating when you’re 50, older and more “seasoned,” can feel daunting, especially if you ended a longtime marriage or other relationship and never thought you’d be back out there looking for love again. Perhaps you know more than you did in your salad days, but after a divorce, death of a spouse, or the end of a long-term committed relationship, you may have more accoutrements, such as children, mortgages, eldercare and other responsibilities. Not to mention, while you were boo’d up, the dating landscape likely changed — fewer phone calls and emails, more texts, dating apps and social media.

But, as cheesy as it sounds, love is a wonderful thing! It’s just that, to get to the love, you usually have to date.

Before you swipe left or right

If your instinct is to just run out there and leap at the first available person you see, Bela Gandhi, a professional dating coach and founder of Smart Dating Academy, advises that you first take a little time to get yourself together. “You need to do some work on yourself,” she says.

Gandhi and relationship expert Susan Winter recommend asking yourself a few key questions:

  • What do I want this time around, another marriage, a committed relationship or something else entirely?
  • What kind of partner is going to make me happy? 
  • What do I need in a partnership to be happy and successful? How do I want to feel in this new relationship?
  • Have I done the work to grow myself so I know what I contributed to the breakup of my last relationship? How am I better? 
  • How would it look and feel in the real world? 
  • How do I see my daily interactions with this person? 
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It’s important to know what you want because marriage for a mature person can get a little complicated.

“Now you’re talking about children, blended families, inheritance,” Winter says. “You’re talking about financial concerns. So there’s a lot more to it. Maybe you want to rethink how you’d like to participate with your partner to get the best out of the closeness and the intimacy and to minimize any of the downside of the risk or, you know, hurt feelings from kids that don’t really know how to process your being in their parent’s life.”

It’s OK to be a little afraid

Even after doing that work, you may still be apprehensive about dating again, which is understandable. It’s hard to put yourself out there and face possible rejection. But Winter says fear is a part of the process. Don’t let it stop you.

“You have every right to be nervous. You’re not good at something you haven’t practiced in ages,” Winter says. “So start with allowing yourself the ability to explore, be curious and learn. You don’t have to know what you haven’t done.”

Look at the dating process with new eyes and change your perspective.

“When you get excited about the possibility of what could happen in your life, how you could create a new story, a new chapter, it will automatically override your resistance,” Winter says. “Making the effort to get back out there — even if you don’t find love right away — is a positive thing.

The apps give you more options

If you haven’t already, get on the dating apps. However, limit it to just one or two to keep things manageable.

“Online dating is the world’s largest cocktail party, and that is a party that you want to be at,” Gandhi says. “Now, is everybody right for you? No, but are there some great people there that could be good lids to your pot? Absolutely.”

But don’t limit yourself to the apps. Sometimes we have to leave our comfort zone to meet people.

“If you can find something where …you’re happy going on your own, independent of meeting somebody, you’ll be in the right mindset and the right frame of mind to meet somebody if it does happen,” Winter says.

Just 30 minutes a day

OK, you’ve sorted yourself out, figured out what you want and put yourself on a few dating apps. Now what? You’re busy, have all these responsibilities and don’t have a lot of time to be swiping hither and yon on profiles. Both Gandhi and Winter say to think about it strategically, have a plan and be proactive about it.

And what does that look like, exactly? A daily dating routine. Fifteen minutes in the morning and evening. That’s it. Use this time to check the apps, send and respond to messages and set up dates. This also helps with dating fatigue, says Gandhi, who adds you should share yourself like sips of water versus one big gulp.

“Just tell yourself, ‘I’m going to get myself out there, and I’m going to meet a lot of interesting people and make some friends, and I’m going to have fun with this.’ That is the best mindset,” she says.

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“It worked until it didn’t work”

Once you connect with someone, oftentimes, they want to know what happened with your last relationship or why your marriage ended. Gandhi says have those conversations between the fifth and the tenth date because earlier than that is too early. And, if you are carrying shame or feelings of failure around being divorced, don’t.

“There’s no such thing as a failed marriage,” Winter says. “You changed and you grew, but it worked until it didn’t work.”

The podcast portion of this story was produced by Andee Tagle.

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