Dating Over 40 - The New Rules

Want some romantic advice that makes sense for your life right now? Read on for the latest strategies to find lasting love.

By Nina Malkin

here’s a saying that life begins at 40… and that includes your love life! Trouble is, much of the conventional wisdom for romance at this age is so, well, conventional, it doesn’t even apply anymore. So, whether you’re just re-entering the dating scene after a divorce or simply want to approach it in a way that makes sense for the person you are now and the world you live in, these tips can help. They tweak tradition (or throw it right out the window) so you’re guaranteed the dating success you deserve at this point in your life!

Passé policy: Don’t date anyone significantly older or younger than you
New rule: Don’t be hung up on your age—it’s irrelevant
“Age is a matter of attitude, energy and outlook more than chronology,” says sociologist
More casual activities (bowling or a walk in the park) can help you see someone’s true nature.
BJ Gallagher, author of Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Other Women. “Look for someone who is compatible in those dimensions, and forget about the numbers.” More important to compatibility than actual age is life stage: If you’re ready to slow down in your career and the person you met is just getting started, that could be a problem. But even if there are differences between you, they can actually be a plus. “The objective is to grow from every dating situation,” points out Gilda Carle, Ph.D., author of Don’t Bet on the Prince! How to Have the Man You Want by Betting on Yourself. “So somebody younger will bring a different perspective into your life, just as somebody older might.”

Passé policy: Date one-on-one—double and group dates are for kids
New rule: Go ahead and go out with friends!
You’ve spent years developing a stimulating social life, and chances are the same goes for the person you’re dating, so there’s no reason to keep them separated. In fact, there are smart reasons to intermingle. “You can learn a lot about someone by seeing how he or she interacts with friends,” says relationship expert Deborah Taj Anapol, Ph.D., author of The Seven Natural Laws of Love. “And when you bring your date into your social circle, you can reap the benefit of your friends’ impressions and opinions. It’s easy to be blinded by infatuation, so it’s good to get input on your date from those close to you.”

Passé policy: Don’t mention a previous marriage—you’ll come off like damaged goods
New rule: Feel free to bring up a former marriage in positive terms
Your former marriage was a large part of your life, so there’s no reason to avoid the topic. Just don’t give the grisly details about your ex-spouse’s flaws or your knock-down-drag-out divorce. “Present a past marriage in a positive light—that you learned from it, came away with new skills, developed in new areas,” says Carle. “Basically, explain how it helped shape you into the person you are today.” Odds are that your date has been there too, so be open to tales of marriages past. “These stories are a valuable source of information about the person’s character, willingness to hang in there when things get tough, and ability to sustain a long-term commitment,” says Gallagher. “Divorce stories are simply data, and the more data you get, the better decision you can make about the person.”

Passé policy: Nothing beats getting dressed up and going out to a lovely dinner
New rule: Don’t define a date as sitting across from someone over candlelight and lobster
Sure, you’ve got to eat, but there are plenty more interesting (not to mention romantic) things to do. Since you’re trying to get to know this person, the whole façade of gussying up for a fancy meal can feel like a front for some people. More casual activities — going bowling, hitting some galleries, taking a walk in the park — can help you see someone’s true nature. Suggests Anapol, “Save the fancy dinner date for when you know you care for this person and are starting a real relationship, so it’s more of a celebration than an artificial exercise.”

Passé policy: Don’t let your children know you’re dating—it’s too confusing for them
New rule: Don’t call it dating; call it “making friends”
Even the littlest kids can feel insecure by the connotations of the word “date,” but you don’t want to lie to them. “Deceit is
At your age, you don’t have to prove anything.
bad for any relationship,” says Anapol. “It’s better to talk to them in terms they understand: that you’re making new friends and having fun.” That said, there’s no need to introduce your children to all your friends. “It’s best not to involve your kids in a new relationship until you feel that it has the potential to go somewhere,” says relationship coach Toni Coleman, MSW. “The rule of thumb with kids is to provide the minimum information to satisfy their question: ‘I’m going out with a friend tonight.’ When this new person becomes significant to you, you can begin to discuss how you will introduce your date to your kids.”

Passé policy: Go ahead, kiss on the first date. You’re not in high school, and it will prove how passionate you still are
New rule: Don’t feel pressured to get intimate until you’re ready
This new rule applies to the first date or any date—after all, at your age, you don’t have to prove anything. “It’s important to go with your instincts and judgment, and do what feels right for you,” says Coleman. “If kissing is what you want to do, go for it. If not, don’t give in to pressure or a sense of obligation because you were treated to a nice evening.” Anapol agrees. “The physical relationship should follow the emotional relationship,” she explains. “If you are genuinely feeling affectionate, go with that. But if you’re feeling guarded, don’t try to override it in order to be perceived differently.” And bear in mind: The need to practice safe sex is just as important at 40-plus. Sexually transmitted disease and unwanted pregnancy are not just issues for the younger set.

Passé policy: Romance should just happen
New rule: Take charge of your love life!
“Prince or Princess Charming is not going to break down your door,” says Carle. “You’ve got to be out there for him or her to know you exist.” So be proactive, and check out as many venues as you can. Go online, go on speed dates, go out on set-ups, go to classes, go to ballgames, go to poetry readings, go out with your friends and see who’s having drinks at the next table. “If finding a mate is important to you, you need to act accordingly and treat it like a project of high importance,” says Gallagher. “Allocate time, energy, and money to your project.” And once you do, you will see results.

Nina Malkin is the author of 6X: Loud, Fast and Out of Control.
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