by Wyndi Kappes
“Sex and the City” character Carrie Bradshaw famously said, “Enjoy yourself… that’s what your 20s are for. Your 30s are to learn the lessons, and your 40s are to pay for the drinks.” However, many of Atlanta’s relationship gurus would wager that your 40s aren’t just for buying drinks but also for finding your true love. You are established in your 40s. You have that killer job, a fantastic place and you have finally figured out how to part your hair in just the right way. You are more confident than ever in who you are and what you want. If all these things are better in your 40s, why shouldn’t dating be better too?
Is dating over 40 easy? Of course not. But, we have compiled tips and advice from the experts to help you not only score a date with that PTA hottie you’ve had your eye on but to help you make deeper connections than your 20-year-old self ever dreamed of having.
How to Get Back Into the Game
“The biggest thing for dating over 40 is to actually start dating,” says certified sex therapist Natalie Elliott. For many men and women reentering the dating scene, the problem is knowing how to start. “Go on practice dates,” says spiritual advisor Ursula Lentine. “Go out with male friends just to get used to the opposite sex again.” Once you begin “real” dating, consider dates without alcohol to start. Doing so forces you to get more creative with your outings and keeps your judgment clear.
Lentine recommends a walk in the park or a bicycle ride, and Elliott suggests a coffee or ice cream date. Nervous about spending time one-on-one? Consider a casual meetup of singles through Eight at Eight Dinner Parties. Hosted by One on One Matchmaking, their expert matchmakers group eight eligible singles together based on compatibility and set a date, time and restaurant. All you have to do is show up! Group events like this can help you not only warm up to the idea of dating but possibly introduce you to someone you can set a date with later.
Whatever first date you choose, don’t spend too long chatting on dating apps or via email beforehand. “Set a date to meet up after a couple weeks of chatting or once you have talked on the phone,” recommends Jennifer Barnes Miotke, president of One on One Matchmaking and Eight at Eight Dinner Party. “Wait any longer, and likely there’s something wrong. Married people and those with something to hide don’t want to meet up outside of that—why else wouldn’t they be getting to the point?”
Acknowledging the Elephant in the Room (It’s You)
Once you’ve dipped your toe into the dating pool, it’s essential to not just focus on your matches but also on yourself before jumping in. “Self-work” has different meanings for each of us. Still, Elliott advises making sure you are in a good place with old relationships, can articulate why they failed, and have balance in your family and work-life before committing to seriously dating. In fact, the opportunities provided by dealing with past issues and learning to communicate gives older daters a boost, according to clinical psychologist and psychotherapist Dr. Linda Olson.
People in their 40s and 50s are more willing to look at how they might have built-up anger and resentment, which can be positive for dating. “We can’t heal what we won’t acknowledge,” says Olson. “The more we avoid our fears, the more we tend to repeat them.” Mature daters are more likely to begin to look at their patterns and how they recreate what they fear the most. “And that is a good thing. Self-awareness is critical to having a healthy relationship,” she says.
Another plus of dating in your 40s? People have often quit looking for what looks good on paper and have started searching for what they want at their core. “Love Strong” author Denna Babul emphasizes the importance of acknowledging the core values of what you are looking for in a partner and going into detail, “If one of your core values in a partner is trust or honesty, what does that really look like to you? Does it look like someone that doesn’t cheat on you or someone that doesn’t cheat in life in general?” The farther you whittle down what’s important to you, the easier it will be to find a partner that aligns with what you want.
Fostering a Love That Lasts
So you’ve done the “self-work” and put yourself out there, landed a few dates, now what? How do you spot red flags and keep a relationship thriving? “Contrary to popular belief, red flags are less about what your partner is doing and more about how they make you feel,” says Babul. “For instance, ‘He didn’t pay for my dinner’ or ‘he mentioned his ex’ aren’t necessarily red flags. A red flag is anything that makes you question who you are or causes you to feel uncomfortable with your body emotionally, physically or sexually. At the end of the day, the biggest red flag is someone that makes you compromise on who you are.”
Have something good going that you are hoping to continue? Miotke suggests breaking the rules when it comes to an average date and doing something different. “Go for a hike in the mountains, join an outdoor yoga class before having a picnic in the park or try a new food experience, like Ethiopian cuisine. You can’t ever go wrong with enjoying a bottle of wine outside!”
What to Do When It’s Not Working
Along with the territory of dating over 40 comes the understanding that you don’t want to waste your time. There is no reason to stay in a relationship that’s not working. According to Babul, if conflicts linger, someone is ignoring your boundaries or it just doesn’t feel right, it’s time to move on. There is a proper way to end things. “You need to address it upfront when you aren’t feeling it anymore instead of just ignoring the person or ‘ghosting’ them,” says Miotke. “Just be honest and try to do it in-person if possible. However, it can be as easy as texting someone you’ve been on a few dates with and saying, ‘I don’t think we are a long time fit, but I have enjoyed this.’ There’s no need to drag things out.”
After all, Babul points out that dating should be fun, not just a pursuit of marriage or a long-term relationship! “Even if the person you’re dating isn’t your forever person, maybe you’ve learned something new, found a great hobby or maybe they have a great friend who is just right for you.” Surprise—your 40s can be ideal for dating and relationships! Maybe it’s time to put your life experience to work for you and try viewing the dating scene from a positive perspective.
6 Tips to Get the Conversation Started on Your First Date from It’s Just Lunch
- Read up on what’s new before the date. Whether it’s a popular new movie or the latest viral video, talking about the latest in pop-culture is not only stimulating, but it’s a great way to get to know someone and their tastes.
- Ask lots of questions. A simple rule of thumb to live by is if you don’t know what to say next, just ask your date a question about themselves.
- Comment on his or her appearance. “I like your tie. Where did you get it?” This question alone could spark a whole shopping conversation.
- Really listen to what your date is saying. It’s important because you are getting to know the person and if you listen, you will most likely have follow-up questions, which will lead to more conversations.
- Be open and honest. It’s OK to say something like, “I haven’t dated much and this is new to me … so I’m a little nervous.”
- Laugh! The best thing you can do on a first date is laugh. Studies show that both men and women love dates who make them laugh and smile.
Denna Babul, Author of “Love Strong” dennababul.com
Jennifer Barnes Miotke, One on One Matchmaking and Eight at Eight Dinner Club 1on1matchmaking.com
Natalie Elliott, Atlanta Sex Therapy atlantasextherapy.com
Ursula Lentine, Spiritual Advisor ursulalentine.com
Dr. Linda Olson, Atlanta Psych Consultants drlindaolson.com
It’s Just Lunch www.itsjustlunchatlanta.com