Aug. 5, 2014 at 9:58 AM ET
Remember that very first date? Sweaty palms. Awkward conversation. You probably even had a curfew. Once you hit 50, at least the curfew is gone. But according to TODAY’s “This is 50” survey results, only 18 percent of single people in their 50s said they were dating. More than 40 percent said they were considering it, but not actually doing it.
As to the “why” behind the lack of date-nights, nearly 60 percent say they don’t need a relationship to be happy. That’s true whether you’re 16 or 56, but more than 40 percent don’t believe there is anyone “out there” to date. More than 30 percent don’t even know where to begin and nearly 30 percent say they find it too stressful (think back to those sweaty palms and awkward conversations.)
For more than 40 percent of respondents, other priorities are simply more important, and nearly one-quarter say it’s just too difficult to date when you’re 50-plus.
On the positive side, the age 50-plus daters seem to be pretty darn smart when choosing a date-mate. In fact, nearly 60 percent say they make better decisions about compatibility now compared to when they were younger. Some 42 percent have better quality dates, and 52 percent say part of the allure of dating in the 50s is the absence of the tick-tock of the biological clock.
Most people want to find a friend or a life partner, and to meet the dates who may fulfill this desire, many 50-somethings, about 80 percent in fact, do it the old-fashioned way — through friends or family. One-quarter use dating websites.
Dating after 40 or 50 means taking control of your love life, just like you do the rest of your life. It means being kind to yourself and the men you meet. It means making good choices.
I have compiled a list of Dating Do’s and Don’ts exclusively for women like you. These aren’t your daughter’s dating rules. These are for the woman who is done repeating the same mistakes, and is ready to find her grown-up love story.
1. Don’t bond over your baggage.
Baggage bonding is when an early date shifts into deep conversation about some baggage you have in common. It starts off innocently with a question like “So what happened with your marriage?” or “How has online dating been for you?” And off you go! You start comparing your horrific ex-spouses or your crazy awful dates.
Nothing positive can possibly come from this, sister. Steer clear of these topics until you know each other better.
2. Don’t call him if he doesn’t call you.
Yes, I know he said he was going to call you, I know you had a great date and want to see him again. I know it’s tempting. But don’t do it. Men know who and what they want, often better than we do. That’s especially true of the grownup men that you’re dating.
Your 25-year-old may want to linger and go down the rabbit hole trying to figure it all out. The grown-up dater gives him a reasonable amount of time to show up, and then says a big “So what!” and moves on. Yep, just like he did.
3. Don’t have sex until you're really ready.
I know, you're mature, smart and competent. But every day I coach women like you through situations they wish they didn't get into. The last thing you want at 55 is to wake up in the morning with flashbacks to your days as a 20-something, right?
Unless you can talk with your dude about safe sex and the status of your relationship after intimacy, steer clear of the sack. Take care of yourself by initiating a conversation and sharing your needs and wants. If you are dealing with a grown-up man he will appreciate and respect you for it. If he's not; he won't. Good to know before you jump in!
4. Do start by finding 3 things you like about him.
His manners, his shirt, his smile, the way he talks about his kids. Start off with the positive and try to stay in discovery mode before you decide he’s not right for you. This keeps you open to someone who might not be your type. (Because after all, your type hasn't worked or you would be reading this.)
5. Do flirt like a grown-up.
Yes, grown-up women flirt and men like it! Keep your body language open, play with your hair, smile, touch his arm. And best flirt of all: compliment him! And bring your femininity to every date. It’s the thing we have that men want most!
6. Do manage the date conversation.
Be the master of the segue if he talks too much, or the conversation swerves into uncomfortable topics. Make sure you get to talk about yourself in a meaningful way as well. If he walks away from the date having shared too much or hasn’t learned about you, then there won't be a second date. Why is this up to you? Because you are better at it than he. Just do it, and you’ll both enjoy the date more.
Show up to your dates open, happy and being your already charming self. It will bring out the best in him and insure that you both have the best time possible. Remember, even if he is not Mr. I Love You, there is something valuable to learn from every date.
Don't miss this: Dating at 50 isn't all that bad: It's getting naked that's brutal
Bobbi Palmer is The Dating and Relationship Coach for Women over 40 and founder of Date Like a Grownup. Take Bobbi’s free Man-o-Meter test and read her blog at www.datelikeagrownup.com
All week, TODAY is exploring what 50 is like today, from dating to sex, health, fitness and finances. Follow the series here.