They say that dating is like riding a bicycle, but if you have been out of the dating pool for a while it can be hard to get back up on that bike without a little practice first. The same can be said for seniors as they start dating later on in life.
With popular online dating platforms like eHarmony and Match, and especially sites like Our Time that cater to people over 50, the way people connect with each other has changed since the Baby Boomer generation was in high school. It’s a whole new world for them when they find themselves looking for love these days.
For many seniors, they’re back in the dating pool because they are divorced or they are widowed. There’s a big difference between those two things and they will have a huge impact on how someone enters the dating game again. There are also seniors who have never been married and decide to start dating again for the fun of it.
Though the reason a senior wants to start dating again will vary across the board, what’s important is that there are things seniors do that jeopardize their relationships and their dating success. Understanding these things, and knowing how to avoid them, will help lead seniors to dating success.
To help, we have identified 8 common dating mistakes made by seniors, and how to avoid them.
Not Prepared Mentally
In the case of a divorced senior, getting back into the dating game is a lot easier. For those that have lost a spouse it’s a lot different. Imagine being with the same person for forty years and then losing that person. You’re alone for the first time in four decades and you might not want to stay that way as you head into your Golden Years.
You want to find someone else, but are you ready?
If you’re not mentally ready to date, it’s possible that you could find yourself on a date with a nice person that you really like, but a combination of nerves and a lack of mental preparation will keep you from enjoying it. In fact, you might not even make it to the date because you could be so nervous you can’t get there.
Being mentally prepared to date is very important. For seniors who suddenly find themselves single after being married for a long time, sometimes you need to make sure you’re ready for dating by talking to family or friends about how you feel.
If you have friends who have been through the loss of a spouse and a return to the dating world, ask what you can expect when returning to the dating scene. Ask for advice. Ask for tips on places to go, things to do and ideas for fun ways to entertain someone.
If the anxiety run deeper than just not knowing what to expect, you might need to speak with a counselor, therapist or even a trusted member of the clergy. Someone you trust. You might not realize it, but it’s possible that you’re still mourning the loss of your spouse and feeling guilty for going out with someone new. This happens and it’s completely normal, but you shouldn’t let the anxiety get the best of you. Talk to someone and get help, because if you don’t then you might never take the first step.
Making sure you’re mentally prepared will keep you from accidentally pushing someone away who could be a very good match for you.
Not Prepared Emotionally
Being mentally prepared and being emotionally prepared for dating as a senior are two different things, though they go hand in hand.
When it comes to being emotionally prepared for dating, consider that you have to be ready to open up to your new partner. After being with the same partner for decades, it’s hard to open up again.
After being with someone for years and years, opening up to a stranger (even if you’re dating someone you already know) can be difficult. Talking about your past is one thing, but opening your heart to someone else can be a big challenge.
Instead of hiding how you feel and dodging the truth, being open is the best course of action. It sounds overly simplistic, and in some ways it is, but the act will take courage on your part.
Let your new partner know that opening up is hard for you, but you’re willing to try. The best course of action is to explain how you’re feeling upfront so that your partner isn’t wondering why you aren’t being open. It’s possible that your partner is feeling the same way, especially if he also lost a spouse.
It might not happen overnight, but with time and mutual understanding, you’ll find that soon enough you’ll start to feel comfortable emotionally in your relationship.
Not Prepared Physically
What most people don’t realize is that seniors have very healthy, very active sex lives. While this might come to a shock to the younger generations, it’s hardly a secret among seniors themselves and sex is part of many senior relationships.
For some seniors, sex hasn’t been part of their regular routine for a while. This is especially true for those seniors who have been on their own for a while. The idea of being intimate with another person is intimidating enough, but in some cases the idea of being intimate with someone who isn’t a missing spouse can be enough to put a hard stop to the relationship.
On the other hand, some seniors might have physical reasons that prohibit or limit physical intimacy. This can be a barrier to dating success as well, leading some seniors to put an end to a relationship before it gets physical.
The barrier to intimacy for seniors can be mental, physical or a combination of both. Talking to a therapist can help with the first issue, and talking with a doctor can help with the second one. There are quite a few products on the market these days for both men and women to help with physical intimacy, and once those challenges have been addressed it eases tension and makes it possible to enjoy a physical relationship with a new partner.
Giving Up Too Soon
When it comes to seniors and dating, sometimes the challenge comes in not finding the right person right away. Let’s face it, this isn’t high school and dating has changed a lot. So unless you’re meeting new people through mutual friends or hitting up the single seniors at the senior living community, many seniors turn to online dating.
For some seniors, the idea of scrolling through potential matches is daunting. Trying to establish a relationship with someone online can be overwhelming. When the spark doesn’t come right away, it might be easier to give up than to keep going.
One of the best ways to avoid the mistake of giving up too soon is to recruit trusted friends or family members in the search for love. Having someone to help search profiles and find people who match with your interests can make the process more enjoyable across the board.
Pushing The Right Person Away
Sometimes seniors find the perfect match and hit it off right away, but a combination of factors come together and drive a wedge in the relationship. Usually, those factors include things we’ve talked about already, including not being ready to date and anxiety over physical relationships or opening up.
Instead of talking these anxieties through, it can appear to be easier to push a partner away than to deal with the problems directly. The problem with this is that you could be pushing away your ideal mate, and you normally only have one chance to get this right.
Dating is hard for everyone. There’s nothing inherently more difficult about dating as a senior, rather it’s better to say that dating as a senior comes with its own set of challenges and potential complications.
By the time you’ve reached five or six decades of life (or more), you’re set in your ways and you don’t think that change is possible. Rather than try to change, it’s easier to push someone away than to try to adapt.
However, this is where communication comes into play. Talk through your concerns and let your partner know that this is something you’re working through and that it’s not a reflection of what she is doing.
Worrying About Others
Dating seniors who have previously been in relationships often worry about how a new relationship will be perceived by family and friends. It’s hard for kids (young and old) to see a parent dating after a divorce, and it’s even harder in a lot of ways for adult children to accept a new person into the family after the death of a parent.
Instead of worrying about their own personal happiness, some seniors put the happiness of others before their own. They end relationships because their families don’t approve, or they avoid asking someone out because their friends have opinions.
It’s going to be an adjustment for families and friends when a parent starts dating again after divorcing or losing a spouse. After all the family unit has been broken apart with the loss and everyone is in different stages of mourning. (In some cases, the longer you wait to start dating, the harder it is)
Instead of worrying what other people think, do what makes you happy and then make sure that the people around you know that you are indeed happy. It will be a hard thing for them to be upset when you’re happy, and over time they will find ways to adjust. It won’t happen overnight, but there’s no reason to deny your own happiness while other people adjust.
Denying Yourself Happiness
After years and years of a happy and blissful marriage, finding yourself alone is a terrible feeling. The thought of finding happiness with someone who isn’t your former spouse is hard to bear even though there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. (This is one that applies mainly to seniors who have lost a spouse rather than those who have gotten a divorce)
The challenge is getting into the mindset that you do indeed deserve to be happy, and just because you have suffered through a tremendous loss doesn’t mean you have to be alone forever.
Talking to friends and family members can help alleviate the concern that you’re not supposed to find happiness with someone else. So too can talking with a therapist or doctor.
Another solution is to have a conversation about this with your spouse in advance. If your spouse is dealing with a life-threatening illness, there is nothing wrong with finding out their thoughts about dating after they’re gone. (This sounds callous, and it must be done with care and consideration. You know your spouse. If there is such a moment, find out.)
Odds are good that your spouse who loves you won’t want you to be alone, and knowing this can make a relationship later on so much easier.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
In almost every situation, communication is key. This is the case for every kind of relationship in every age group, and it’s particularly important for seniors because oftentimes they come from a place where their previous spouses knew everything already and sometimes they didn’t need to talk to know what the other was thinking. The lack of communication, then, can play a huge role in destroying a new relationship for seniors.
Starting a new relationship means that the new partner won’t know what you’re thinking. If you’re quiet, she might think something is wrong when really it’s something that is on your mind.
The best advice for seniors to keep from making mistakes in the dating world is to maintain solid lines of communication. Don’t assume he knows what you’re thinking about. Let him know what’s on your mind, and your relationship will be stronger as a result.
The Bottom Line
Dating can be a wonderful experience for seniors, as they have had the chance to live their lives and discover who they are and what they like, and they want to find someone who enjoys the same things. It’s very easy for seniors to fall victim to mistakes when dating, either because they’re nervous or because they aren’t ready to date. Always make sure you’re in a good place emotionally and physically before dating, and seniors will have much greater success.