Over 50 And “Just Friends” Dating

Too busy having a ball with your pals to bother looking for love? Here, a dating coach reveals four good reasons you should give romance a chance.

By Rachel Greenwald

“My friends are fantastic!” a 58-year-old single woman in Los Angeles recently told me, “Why should I bother with a romantic relationship?” She regaled me with examples of the fun she has with her friends, from Bunco (a dice game) to chick flicks to getaway weekends in Vegas and Canyon Ranch. She asked me why on earth she should follow my advice to post an online dating profile and attend her church socials, assuring me she “had been there, done that, and is now through with that!” She is perfectly satisfied with her close circle of girlfriends, volunteer projects and family, thank you very much. But as a dating coach and hopeless romantic, I completely disagree with her perspective! Here’s why (and how) to fit love into your world:

You can’t cuddle or kiss your friends
Is it great to have a close circle of friends who love and support you, and are fun to be
Being with your friends is easy and risk-free—but without risk, there is no reward.
with? Absolutely. But remind yourself how wonderful being in a romantic relationship can be, too. Don’t focus on the disappointments you’ve experienced in the past with dating trials and tribulations; rather, look at happy couples you know (at any age) and observe the physical contact and excitement they share. If you found the right partner, wouldn’t it be nice to have someone to come home to? Being with your friends is undoubtedly easy and risk-free—but without risk, as they say, there is no reward. I’m guessing your friends don’t snuggle with you, hold your hand at the movies, and have passionate sex with you? Consider making room for one more person in your life to acquire everything life was meant to give you.

A relationship doesn’t necessarily mean compromise
One of the most common fears I hear is this one, as expressed from my 54-year-old client in New Jersey: “I like my routine. I like my home. I don’t want to start compromising things at my age and become someone’s caretaker!” But understand that a relationship doesn’t have to lead to marriage or require sacrificing your lifestyle. Today’s couples make their own rules. See your love interest once a month, keep separate homes, do the long-distance thing if you want. I have a 65-year-old client in a “weekend relationship” now with a man she met online in a city 1,000 miles away. She sees him only on weekends and devotes her time on weekdays to a rich social life with her friends. It’s the perfect mosaic of convenience and emotional fulfillment.

You can spend time with pals and a romantic partner
Of course your date can mix with your friends—it’s not an unwritten rule that never the twain shall meet. You can have your friends and get romance, too. Yes, it can be awkward at first because the pals may harbor a little jealously about your budding relationship or, even worse, they might be judgmental. But if you act easygoing around your date, this person is sure to win your friends over because if you like your amour, your friends will see how happy he or she makes you and eventually see things your way. Consider asking your date to volunteer with you and your gang at one of your favorite charities for the first meeting, which creates a low-pressure environment where your date’s not the sole focus.

You may discover new experiences you’ll adore
It’s hard to give up things you’re attached to—people, activities, favorite rituals.
There are new experiences and new emotions that may replace old ones.
I hear many single people express concern that if they get romantically attached to a new partner, they will lose their “old life.” While it’s usually true that your patterns will change once you enter a relationship, it’s important to focus on what you’re gaining, rather than what you’re losing. There are new experiences and new emotions that may replace old ones, but you’ll only embrace them if they make you just as happy, if not happier. A 61-year-old business executive I met recently in Houston told me that she always led a very active lifestyle (hiking, swimming, tennis) until she met her new beau, who has lower energy. At first she thought that was a deal-breaker, but suddenly he had her hooked on crossword puzzles and Sudoku, and her Sundays with him have never been more fun. She still spends Saturdays doing outdoor activities with her friends, but can’t wait for Sunday to dawn. Trust yourself that you’ll know what’s good for you if you find it, and take a chance that a partner can enhance your already full life.

The bottom line is that you, like all of us, seek happiness. Happiness comes wrapped in different packages throughout the many stages of our lives. I am not here to convince you to search for new packages if that’s not the right decision for you. Committing to find a romantic relationship after 50 is a very personal decision, thus my intent is to merely challenge you to consider what may be holding you back. If the answer is any one of the above four concerns, then perhaps you can now frame those fears in a different context and arrive at a new conclusion. The risk may very well be worth it.

Rachel Greenwald is the author of The New York Times best-selling book Find a Husband After 35 Using What I Learned at Harvard Business School. She is also a dating coach and matchmaker.
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