20 Mistakes Seniors Make When Dating
Dating is challenging at any age, but can be even more awkward and confusing when you've been out of circulation for decades. Feeling nervous and unsure of yourself, or making "mistakes" as an older dater is normal, relationship experts say — and chances are, you're not alone: There were 19.5 million unmarried U.S. residents 65 or older as of 2016, according the Census Bureau. Here are some senior dating pitfalls to avoid.
Those who last dated in their 20s and try again later in life will find things have changed drastically, says Jonathan Bennett, a certified life, dating, and relationship coach and owner of Double Trust Dating. "You'll have to be willing to adapt to the realities of modern dating," Bennett says. "Many things have changed, including online dating, instant messaging, new venues to meet singles, and even gender roles."
There are many ways to connect with other people, including online dating platforms and mobile phone apps that connect daters instantly. Many seniors shy away. "While you may not be tech literate or particularly interested in learning, this attitude will put you at a disadvantage," Bennett says. "If you don't at least attempt to use current technology such as texting and social media, you'll be overlooked by men and women who want to use that technology to communicate with you and possibly date you. And this includes fellow seniors."
Now that you're dating again, it's time to ditch the limiting attitude, Bennett says. "Just because you're older doesn't mean you have to act how everyone else expects," he explains. "Date younger. Be more casual. Explore your sexuality. Above all, have fun! Dating shouldn't be a chore."
It's easy to get in routines over the years. This can include circulating within the same social circles and hangouts. "If you're having trouble finding dates, you might need to expand your social network and hang out at places you previously might have ignored," Bennett says.
Many seniors have an idea of what "senior dating" looks like. This includes thinking they are "too old" for things such as flirting, sexting, or even admitting normal sexual urges. "Don't handicap your dating life by thinking you're too old for anything," Bennett says.
Playing hard to get or waiting for the man to make the first move are no longer rules to live by, and that can be a tough adjustment. "Some people hold to dating rules that can be very outdated," Bennett says. "Take a hard look at your dating assumptions and toss out whatever 'rules' don't work for you."
Online dating is a great way to meet someone, but keep in mind, there are also people out there who prey on seniors. It's not unusual for seniors to fall for scams, says J. Hope Suis, author of "Mid-Life Joyride: Love In The Single Lane" and creator of inspiration and dating advice site Hope Boulevard. "Someone new to online dating should be very careful about providing too much personal information either on their profile, or in messages once they meet someone," Suis says. "They should also be on the lookout for those who say they're 'stuck' overseas on a military or humanitarian mission. These messages pull on heartstrings, but most are not legitimate and will eventually ask for money."
Seniors jumping back into the dating pool also don't want to be taken advantage of and taken for a fool, says Holly Zink, a relationship expert for Kiwi Searches. "With this in mind, they often keep up their guard when initially dating new people," Zink says. "This can turn off the person they're dating, leading them to believe you're not interested."
The average first date now is a mere meet-and-greet, Suis says. This can be somewhat jarring for senior daters used to a more formal process. "It usually revolves around having a cup of coffee or maybe ice cream just to sit and chat and get to know someone before investing the time and finances in a traditional date," Suis says. "This is not always the case … but there is nothing wrong with getting a feel for someone in a time-defined space to confirm you are comfortable pursuing more."
When young people date, many have the goal of eventually getting married and beginning a family. That's different as a senior, Suis says. "It is important for each person to know exactly what their expectations are. There really aren't any wrong answers — just honest ones. And once someone knows what they want, they should be upfront and clear about it with anyone they meet," she says.
For someone who had a lifelong love ended abruptly through death, it can be hard to start over. "Even when they feel ready [to date again], it's very common to want to try and recreate that beautiful dynamic — which is completely understandable, but highly unrealistic," Suis says. You will never have the exact same type of romance, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Everyone is different in the way they express emotion and look at love; starting a new relationship will look and feel differently, but that can also be wonderful.
Not letting go of past hurts, maybe from a loveless or even abusive relationship, can affect dating success. "The issue here is finding the strength to let the past stay in the past," Suis says. "It is never okay to let someone who is currently in your life pay for the sins of another." Each relationship must start at square one with hope, trust, and good faith.
Older daters who haven't gotten out there in many years can get overwhelmed with anxiety about everything from the idea of meeting a stranger to figuring out what to wear on a first meet, says blogger and novelist Shirley Goldberg, who created the MidAge Dating site. "Look at this as a chance to make a new friend," advises Goldberg, who specializes in writing about relationships among the over-50 crowd. "At the very least, keep a positive outlook and approach the experience with the idea that everyone has something to say. Get him to tell you about his grandkids. Have her tell you the story about getting the boat turned around in Greece. You'll forget your nervousness."
Younger daters are used to online dating and know the drill. Older daters — not so much. "Rejection is a normal part of dating in real life, yes, but especially online. The person rejecting you doesn't know you. Don't take it personally," Goldberg says.
Older daters can correspond via email far too long without actually meeting in person. "Don't get stuck in 'email land.' Ask to meet sooner. Nothing counts until you meet," Goldberg says. "Emailing is not dating."
Senior daters might also try to move the process along a bit too quickly. "Don't try to rush the process, because that's what it is: a process. Rushing the process might mean taking your online profile down a week after you've met someone. Or dating seven nights in a row," Goldberg says.
Seniors aren't patient, Goldberg says. "Perhaps because meeting new people is a chore, and they tend to hang around with their good friends, those they're familiar with," she explains. "Online dating is not like trying on a new dress, or buying a car … Let's face it, finding someone you're compatible with is not easy. It takes time."
It's okay to ask someone new a variety of questions about themselves, but not too many all at once. "Seniors who are starting to date again sometimes want to skip ahead and immediately get all of the answers regarding who the person is," Zink says. "This mistake can cause a date to freak out and feel put off a bit."
Some seniors may have grown up in cultures where affection was not shown openly. "Holding hands all the time like a young couple would might not be part of what this senior finds normal," says Katie Ziskind, a licensed marriage and family therapist and owner of Wisdom Within Counseling. But there are plenty of senior daters who do want to hold hands and be openly affectionate. Bridging this challenge may simply require talking through cultural differences, Ziskind says.
The brevity of life is felt even more keenly as we get older. Losing your partner, or going through a divorce can put one in a funk, Suis says. But don't allow yourself to stay there. "Even if you have no desire to date, find out what you do desire," Suis says. "Maybe it is travel. Maybe it is a new goal. Whatever it is, go for it."
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