Few people have a long range goal of dating in midlife. To the many who find themselves faced with the possibility, midlife dating can seem like a mystifying, even overwhelming, journey to find a partner.
The reality is that despite the horror stories of friends or the fictional depictions of perfect couples repelling down snowy peaks, the experience of midlife dating really depends upon your goal.
When you expand the goal of midlife dating from finding someone to finding and re-defining yourself, the experience changes. Instead of a solution to being alone – midlife dating becomes an evolution of self.
Why Midlife Dating?
Usually something has or has not occurred in the lives or personal relationships of people ages 40- 65 that makes midlife dating a consideration. Some have left a troubled or contentious marriage; some feel they have been the one left; some have never looked up from a career; some have weathered the illness and death of a partner; and some have decided they are finally ready to settle down.” Most don’t want to be alone.
Some Important Considerations
Notwithstanding these different starting points, here are some common issues worth considering as you take on midlife dating as a personal experience.
Everyone is Anxious – No One is Perfect
If you are anxious with even the thought of midlife dating – it fits. Dating at any age conjures up feelings of insecurity, fears of rejection and worries about whether you or anyone approaching you will be desirable. When you introduce dating into the reality of midlife, the worries increase and the assets are too easily forgotten.
“I haven’t dated since high school – I can’t do this.”
“Have you seen ‘Sex and The City’ – where do you I fit into that?”
“What would I say I’m interested in – my kids?”
“Who wants a guy on medication?”
For too many, Bob Seeger’s famous lyric applies, “I wish I didn’t know now, what I didn’t know then!”
In fact, if people accept their personal best, remembering the experiential benefits they have acquired and re-focusing the goal from fear of judgment to curiosity about the experience, they can often lower their anxiety enough to find out that no one is perfect. They often find that many share similar feelings, differences can be interesting and age is not an issue.
Everyone Comes with Baggage. It’s What You Do With It That Counts
Many folks approach midlife dating with the pain of lost or broken bonds. Understanding what you carry can often help you use rather than misuse your history.
Death of a Spouse or Partner
Divorce of a Spouse – Breakup of a Long Term Relationship
Divorce is so common in this culture that most people know of the guilt, rage, rejection and devastation that both partners carry in its wake. In a study of “Divorce at Midlife and Beyond” based on 1,147 respondents between the ages 40-79, the greatest fear reported was of being alone ( 45%) followed by the fear of failing again (31%). That said, the question of how unresolved feelings of self and other will color the decision to date again becomes an important one for divorced folks to consider.
It is not a great feeling – but it is not the end. It is a lesson that can expand self especially if it makes you want more and know that you deserve it. Your ex-spouse has no claim on your self-worth – no one does but you. Believe it and others will reflect it.
Many years ago, a man who had ended his marriage but who was aware that his prior fears of inadequacy had played a part in the dissolved relationship, presented me with a stack of all the responses he had received from a personal ad he had placed. He reported that he was both terrified and overwhelmed – he felt he would never be able to choose a suitable person because he feared he would be taken with any w omen who seemed enthralled with him. What was planned was that he start by not looking for a new partner; but instead, looking for himself in the eyes of different women. Having never dated in his young years – this was an opportunity to learn about himself without the instant fix of someone claiming to love him- a problem when he did not yet know or love himself.
Truth or Dare – The Fear of On-line Dating
The Acceptable vs. the Authentic Self
The question of deception and on-line dating is important in that it illuminates an age old dilemma pertinent to midlife dating-the effort to balance an acceptable self to the prospective partner with an authentic self.
If we re-define the goal of midlife dating as not simply the search for a partner but a journey of re-definition and expansion of self then we need room for flexibility when deciding who to date as well openness to the thoughts and feelings of others.
So maybe you don’t describe yourself as a skier but as someone who would like to try. Maybe you date someone from a different culture and find it very interesting. Maybe you are considering being more intimate with someone until you realize that this person will not talk about or be flexible about sexual connection. Maybe you hold your core values even as you explore and expand.
Often when we are excited about re-defining ourselves we become more visible to others and they become visible to us.
Be sure to join me on blog radio on Wednesday with Kelley Connors – I will be interested in speaking to you about Midlife Dating http://eepurl.com/hLeaI
Here’s the radio show
Midlife couple photo available from Shutterstock.
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Last reviewed: 28 Dec 2011