Got midlife dating burnout? It’s OK! After all, you’ve been around the block a few times — hey, maybe you’ve even been married — and it’s human nature to feel bored. “Some of the rules have changed since the days when you were first single, and being the only person over 50 at an event is not ego-boosting,” says JoAnn Magdoff, Ph.D., a psychotherapist in private practice in New York City. “It can be hard to stay motivated to stay out there... or get revved up to get out there again after a marriage has ended.”
The good news is that even if you’re feeling meet-and-greet ennui, there are ways you can get reinvigorated to get out there. The first step? Redefine your concept of dating.
“As a person in the 50+ bracket, your situation is very different from when you were in your 20s,” says Dr. Magdoff, explaining that a lot of the pressures of younger dating — “Is this the person I’ll marry and start a family with?” — have passed. “Therefore, you can be much more inventive, much looser in what you want or expect from dating,” notes Dr. Magdoff.
Put your focus on just enjoying yourself in the process. You may find someone to grow old with, or you may just find someone with whom to share an occasional weekend along the way. “We’re talking about independent people who can connect in whatever way they want to for their own desires and their own particular reasons,” says Dr. Magdoff. “Enjoy the freedom that comes with your age — it can be great and liberating.”
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Once you’ve redefined your expectations of 50+ dating, it’s easier to go forth and socialize. Check out these mix-and-mingle ideas that’ll have you excited about stepping out again.
Love-life booster #1: Cultivate a few new hobbies
“Why not approach this period playfully? Look for someone you can share a laugh with as you learn something new like golf, surfing, Italian or tango dancing,” advises Dr. Magdoff. Take classes. Challenge yourself to try things you’ve never done before. Not only will this bring you into contact with new people, it’ll give you new things to talk about with the “same old people” in your life… making you a more interesting person. Here’s how Debbie, 59, of Boulder, CO, explains it: “I know I’ll never be a champion rock climber, nor will I ever speak French like a native, but by taking classes and exploring these interests of mine, I feel as if I’m pushing my boundaries. I have more confidence — and more to talk about with dates. Plus the people in my classes have expanded my social network in a wonderful way!”
Love-life booster #2: Volunteer for a cause
Getting involved with a cause is not only a great way to exert your collective social conscience, it’s also a brilliant means of connecting with like-minded individuals. “Activism is a great way to meet people, and many of the individuals involved in these groups are over 50 because we’re the ones who lived through Vietnam and the oil crisis in the 1970s, so we’re concerned when we see history repeating itself,” says Sandra Chalton, Ph.D., 61, a university professor in Menomonie, WI. “I know that my life is too busy with work for me to try and fit in dating. But if I’m giving up my free time for something I feel strongly about, and I happen to meet another intelligent, passionate person in the process, then it works for me.” If you’ve picked something about which you feel strongly, you will automatically be surrounded by stimulating people — and that’s the whole point. You never know who you might meet while replanting a forest or attending a rally.
Love-life booster #3: Attend all reunions
Though you may cringe when the invite for your 40th high school reunion arrives in the mail, if you’re single, it might be in your best dating interest to attend. Just ask Kelly Smith, 62, from Washington, D.C., who met her last two boyfriends at reunions she attended after her divorce. “I don’t know if it’s the fact that there is already a comfort level from shared history or that in some cases, there was always that ‘what if’ factor with certain people, but I have had great luck finding dates at reunions — including the man that I’m living with now. I think because we already had things in common to discuss, the transition to dating was easy and natural.” It can be really energizing to reconnect with your past as well. Dating people who ‘knew you when’ can bring out your high school/college spirit all over again. And don’t think you have to limit it to just school get-togethers... remember there are reunions for clubs, church groups, etc. Keep your eyes open for chances to reconnect with your former life. It just might make your future more interesting.
Love-life booster #4: Take advantage of technology options, such as online dating and social networking sites
It’s a big, wide, technological world we live in, and diving into different communities online can definitely help spice up your social agenda. Not only will exploring technology help keep you in the moment, it can also open up a myriad of dating possibilities that weren’t available in the past. Ever sent a flirty text message, or perhaps used your smartphone to find someone across a crowded room? These tech tools take dating to a whole new level and make it even more fun. “Today, virtually everyone uses smartphones and email; besides, more and more people are finding dates on a variety of Internet sites,” says Dr. Magdoff. “For many boomers who work hard, late nights at a bar or club are not a sustainable option to meet new people. This is where online dating can be really helpful.”
The Internet can also allow for matches in different venues that 50+ daters might not have previously considered. “I met my now-husband through the Internet, which would not have been possible years ago because he lived out of town and was visiting NYC for the summer,” says Flo Rothacker, 63, who also encourages her sometimes hesitant 50+ friends to try online dating. “We met through technology, lost touch and then reconnected a year and a half later through technology, and I can now say we are a match thanks to technology... what have you got to lose!”
And finally, try these two quick tips: 1. Don’t avoid younger singles and the trendy spots they love. Just because a place or a pursuit is popular with the 20- or 30-somethings doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it, too. So take your new date out and try competing in that classic trivia night at a neighborhood pub or visit a sake tasting together — remember, half the fun of dating is the adventure!
2. Network within your current circle of frequent connections. Tell a few key people — say, one relative, one friend, one close business colleague — that you’re single and looking, and then ask them to please set you up. Utilizing these everyday resources can quickly expand your dating pool, and blind dates are often under-rated. Look at them as a way to add a sense of mystery and surprise to your love life, not as something scary or challenging to avoid. And what’s more, many successful couples you probably already know started out that way!
Kimberly Dawn Neumann (www.KDNeumann.com) is a New York City-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Women’s Health, Marie Claire, Maxim and more. A frequent contributor for Match.com’s Happen magazine, she’s also the author ofThe Real Reasons Men Commitas well as the founder of www.DatingDivaDaily.com.