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The new rules for dating after 40

The new rules for dating after 40

By Nina Malkin

There’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 currently live in, these tips can help. They tweak tradition (or throw it right out the window) in so many ways, you’re practically guaranteed the dating success you deserve at this point in your life!

Old rule: 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 B.J. 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 the life stage both of you are in, so 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.”
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Old rule: 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 the two. “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.”

Old rule: 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 — i.e., that you learned from it, came away with new skills, developed in new areas,” says Dr. Carle. “Basically, explain how it helped shape you into the person you are today.” Odds are good that your date has been there, too, so be open to trading tales of marriages that ended. “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.”

Old rule: 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 a meal
Sure, you’ve got to eat, but there are plenty of more interesting (not to mention romantic) things to do. Since you’re trying to get to know this person, the whole façade of dressing up for a fancy meal can feel like a front to some people. More casual activities — going bowling, hitting some art galleries, taking a walk in the park — can help you see someone’s true nature. “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,” suggests Dr. Anapol.

Old rule: 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 youngest children can be made to feel insecure by the connotations of the word “date,” but you don’t want to lie to them. “Deceit is bad for any relationship,” says Dr. Anapol. “It’s better to talk to them in terms they understand: 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.”

Old rule: 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.” Dr. 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.”

Old rule: 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 Dr. 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. Look online, try speed dating, go out on set-ups, sign up for classes, attend sporting events, stop by poetry readings, socialize with your friends and see who’s sitting 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.