Whether you've lost your spouse or gone through a bitter divorce, starting a new romance at a mature age can seem like an impossible challenge. So what's the secret to finding love later in life? Psychologist Judith Sills and Dennie Hughes, author of "Dateworthy," were invited to appear on “Today” to offer tips for getting back on the dating track. Here’s their advice:
Judith Sills, Ph.D.:
People are living longer, and having more than one mate in life isn't uncommon. First, you need to recognize what might have been invisible to you during your marriage: Flirting, dating and romance for the over-40 group is everywhere. You just didn't see it. Over 40 is the fastest growing group of singles on Internet dating services. It's in the movies, it's at your church. Bottom line? Being single doesn't have the stigma it once did. You're in good company.
Sure, it's tough to meet new people. A lot of us have anxiety about appearing in front of a stranger wearing only a smile! Don't worry that you don't look like you did at 20. It's all step by step. Take a good internal look at yourself. It's not about "being too fat, too old, too tired." You have to change your attitude. Life is about reinvention. No one person can fix your life. No one person can make you happy. You have to do it yourself and the rest will follow.
The key is to reawaken that playful spirit of courtship. You can't go into dating looking for "the one." Don't worry about whether he's "worth it." Waste a little time, have a good laugh. The simple act of getting out there allows you to relearn dating, flirting and meeting. Dating is a practice field to help you break the ice and feel more comfortable presenting yourself socially. Life is about trying new things!
There are two big issues most older single people must face: The fear of being alone and the fear of making a mistake. Finding love late in life is about being comfortable with yourself. If you fear being alone, you are liable to make a premature commitment. Enjoy testing the field. Try dating a number of people. On the flip side, the fear of making a mistake can mean you make snap judgments. Give people a chance. Sure, if you're getting a bad vibe you shouldn't stick with it, but don't rule someone out simply because of their height! As you get older, it's OK to know what you want, but make sure what you want isn't being dictated by a past relationship. You have to let someone new into your life, and they may have gifts that are different than your ex's.
So what should you keep in mind while on a date? Prepare a social resume. It'll get better with practice, but you should have some topics thought out that you feel comfortable with — your love of golf, your passion for art, whatever. Second, hide your pain. You may have reason to feel bitter, angry or lost. Confide those feelings to your friends, not your date. Sure, you may get to know each other and, down the line, share that stuff. Just don't do it while you're still getting to know one another. Dating is supposed to be fun after all! Third, find a reason to connect. Ask your date about their interests. Try to learn something from the person. And last, this is a conversation, not an interrogation. Don't worry about finding out everything right away. A little mystery can be attractive.
Dating later in life can be a lot of fun. There's no biological clock. You don't need to confine yourself to the things that may have seemed important earlier (race, religion, age, etc). You have more "me" time now. Making romantic connections around shared interests is great. You can learn to canoe or garden or take an architectural tour of India. You're also less worried about what everyone else thinks. If you have a good time, broaden your social world and try to be happy, love will likely find you.
Dennie Hughes, author:
Think over 40 means you are so over in the dating game? Guess again! Here's how to get back in the "meet" market!
Fix it up. Ok, it seems superficial, but go ahead, allow someone to fix you up. Get a new haircut. Try a new outfit. Lose a couple pounds. When you feel good about yourself, you'll be more likely to attract others. It doesn't have to be a complete overhaul. This is about making yourself feel more comfortable and confident. He doesn't mind if you don't look 25. Confidence is the biggest seduction.
Strike up a conversation. Catch someone's eye at the grocery store line and smile. You're old enough to wine shop, but never too old to get a quickie education from that really handsome man holding a bottle of merlot. Go to the local street fair or community block party and strike up a conversation about the neighborhood. Anything to get him talking!
Broaden your social circle. Know that old saying, the quickest way to a man's heart is through his stomach? Not much has changed in the 21st century. Try a cooking class (he doesn't have to know that's the last time he'll see you in front of a hot stove) or a wine tasting. Looking for a handy man with a heart? Volunteer with an organization that puts you up close and personal with making houses for those in need. Stay open to singles events. Travel groups or cruises are great ways to meet potential dates. Interesting people meet other interesting people. The only person you're going to meet staying at home is the mailman.
Have a buddy. There are millions of people dating online. Get a friend to buddy up with you. Let her write your profile and you write hers. This is like having a gym buddy. Make a rule you both must go on one date a week and then make sure you stick to it. Better yet, get a group of gals together. Have a party, invite your friends, and tell them the only thing they need to bring is a list: Three things they love about your personality, two things that irritate you about the type of men you choose, and one thought about what kind of guy you should go out with. You'll gain invaluable insight, some much needed self-esteem and the perfect profile to post.
The most important thing is to have a good time. Go to multiple events, try different outlets. Men understand that dating is a numbers game. Women have to embrace this more. The more people you date, the bigger the field to choose from.