Better Together: Tips On Finding Love Later In Life
Dating isn’t easy in your 20s and 30s, so it sure isn’t going to be any easier in your 50s, 60s, or 70s. Add in modern dating rules, various matchmaking apps (see sidebar), swiping left or right, and you might be tempted to throw in the towel before you’ve even uploaded a selfie to your online dating profile.
One thing that hasn’t changed? Your need to be vulnerable. Whether you’re grieving a spouse or a marriage that has ended in divorce, it’s hard to keep your heart open. But as you may already know, the risk of pain is worth it. “If you remain guarded or closed off, you won’t reap the rewards of a close, connected relationship,” says Kari Gallego, LMFT, at Foothill Therapy in Folsom. “You have to be willing to put yourself out there and know the benefits of a deep connection outweigh the pain that we experience when a relationship ends. One of my favorite sayings is by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. ‘’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.’”
Other dating dos and don’ts that are worth a reminder? “Do the work to know yourself before dating again. Do pay attention to red flags. Don’t jump in before you’re ready. Don’t play games. Don’t stay in a relationship you know is unhealthy. And don’t expect to fix or change anyone,” she says.
With the wise words from local therapists and matchmaking experts, we’re sharing 10 tips to help you in your journey to find love again or for the first time.
TIP #1: Give Yourself Time to Heal
“Make sure enough time has passed,” says April Davis, president and matchmaker at LUMAsearch.com, a California dating service (with a branch in Sacramento) for single professionals and executives who prefer a customized elite search. “Some people jump back into dating too soon and it feels like they’re just trying to fill a job role. Be sure you have allowed enough time to heal, because the last thing you want to do is make your date feel like they’re your therapist.” Suzy Lee, MA, LMFT, AASECT certified sex therapist and executive director at The Place Within in Folsom, a non-profit counseling agency, says you should also be honest with potential partners about where you are in the grieving process. “Some potential new partners are uncomfortable talking about a spouse [who’s passed away], but if that’s where you are with your grieving and you need to talk about it, you’ll need to be honest with a new partner about it.”
TIP # 2: Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
Everyone’s timeline is different. Just as people become parents at different stages in life, people also need different amounts of time to heal and move on from past relationships. “A person’s readiness to date after the death of a spouse varies widely,” Gallego says. “Some people jump right in while others never venture into another relationship again. My advice is to make sure you’ve allowed yourself time to truly grieve the loss of your spouse and that you’re not avoiding your grief by getting into a new relationship. Seeking therapy to assist in the grief process can be tremendously helpful.” No matter what, do what is right for you when the time is right.
TIP #3: Get Out There
“There” is anywhere. “There” is trying new things. “There” is signing up for online dating. “There” is taking a new class or learning a new skill. “Just get out and meet people. What can you do to get out there? Join clubs, Meetup.com groups, or something with your passion. For example, if you love golf, join a co-ed golf league. Join a workout facility. Join a travel club. Take solo trips,” says Julie Yarworth, vice president of matchmaking at It’s Just Lunch Intl. Lee also encourages people to join clubs or groups related to something they’re interested in to help meet others with similar interests. “And don’t forget to tell your friends that you’re single and looking to meet people. Many people meet their loves by getting set up the old-fashioned way,” she shares. Davis says by doing these new things, you’ll create a great life for yourself as a single person. “Try taking new classes—cooking, improv, language, fitness, etc. By learning new things, you expand yourself and your social network. Be sure to do things you’ve always wanted to do. Read. Interesting, well-rounded people make for great dates,” she says. “Check out social events through your church. Of course, you can always join a legitimate dating service or start dating online too, if you’re looking to get out and meet several people.” It’s that simple—and fun!
TIP #4: Have No Fear
That means no fear of rejection, what others will think, or your own insecurities. Let all those negative thoughts and excuses go out the window. Fear is common and will hold you back. Yarworth says fear could come from anything—fear of dating again or from the initial impression (what do I say? what if conversation slows?) to the first kiss or rejection. “If someone rejects you, simply say ‘next’ [and move forward]. Rejection is part of the process.” She also says to let go of insecurities. If you’re waiting to date until you get in better shape, you’re only hurting yourself by “focusing on old memories rather than focusing on creating new memories.” Lee says she’s heard clients express fears about online dating. “Ultimately, I’m not sure it matters how people meet—the important part is how they stay together happily,” she says.
TIP #5: Learn From Previous Relationships
With any relationship that ends, there will be two sides of the story. How much do those tales line up? Since we know nobody is perfect, it’s fair to say that you probably made some mistakes in that relationship just as your partner did. It’s worth taking the time to figure out what the strengths and weaknesses of that relationship were. How can you bring those same strengths to a new relationship and how can you improve upon the weaknesses? “Understanding what did and didn’t work in your previous relationship and gaining insight into what you’re drawn to in others is invaluable information for when you start dating again,” Gallego shares. “When you do begin dating, be honest and direct about what you want and need in a relationship. Playing games won’t get you anywhere.”
TIP #6: Have the Right Mindset
Timing is everything, according to Davis. “You should make sure enough time has passed and that you’re working towards a goal,” she says. “Taking baby steps is key in helping you get to that goal. If your goal is to start dating again, come up with a plan and list your path on how you’re going to get there. It’s overwhelming if you think about it in totality, but if you break it down into little steps, then you can better go after it and ultimately get where you want.” Gallego says if you’ve made it through any hardships that have come up along the way and done the work on yourself, then you’re likely ready to date. “We’re creatures who desire human connection, so we naturally begin to feel lonely after the loss of a relationship. That loneliness and desire for connection are often the signals that we’re ready to date again,” she says. Remember that life is a marathon, not a sprint. “Don’t go out with the mindset that you’re looking for your next husband or wife,” Yarworth says. You’ll only add more pressure to your dating experience.
TIP #7: Know that it’s OK to be Single
During the time that you’re single, make time to date yourself. Treat yourself to your guilty pleasures and to the simple joys you have in life. Splurge on the luxuries you enjoy, whether it’s a nice meal or a spa day. Knowing who you are alone will only make you a better partner in your next relationship. “When you’re in a long-term relationship, you somewhat start to morph into each other and become co-dependent on each other,” Davis says. “You should take the time to figure out who you are as an individual. Now is the time to explore all the hobbies you always wanted to try. Take classes, go to the gym, and expand your social network.”
TIP # 8: Have Great Photos
If you’re trying out online dating or dating apps, we cannot stress enough the importance of photos as they are the first impression when anyone comes across your profile.
“The key to online or app dating is photos. You have to have high-quality pictures,” Davis says. “It’s worth investing in getting your makeup and hair done, buying a new wardrobe, and then hiring a professional photographer who will show you in your best light.”
TIP #9: Learn the current rules of dating
“Hey Siri, how soon is too soon to call?” Forget waiting three days to call a potential love interest. Now you can text, email, call, or message within a dating or social media app. Communication has never been easier, while also simultaneously being somewhat harder. So, if you have a question about current dating etiquette, turn to the Internet or your friends for advice. “One of the benefits of the Internet is the plethora of information it provides about pretty much any topic. If you want to know the latest rules and etiquette of dating, Google it,” Gallego says. “Also, don’t hesitate to ask your friends or family members who are in the dating scene for their advice. The rules are very different than they used to be and vary by age group. Be informed!”
TIP #10: Know What You’re Looking For
What are your must-haves in a partner? What are your dealbreakers? What do you want out of a relationship? It’s never too late to turn to the ol’ pen and paper to figure it out. “Before you start dating, sit down and make a comprehensive list of what it is you want in a relationship. Identify all the characteristics you would like in a partner,” Lee says. “It’s a good idea to also have a list of things you absolutely cannot tolerate in a relationship. Keep this list handy when you’re dating and be willing to end relationships that don’t meet what you’re looking for.”
By Kourtney Jason
Couple Spotlight: John & Stephanie MacDowell
A mutual friend knew that Stephanie, 61, and John, 64, would hit it off. She just wanted to wait until the time was right.
“I was a widow of a few years by then, and John had been divorced for a while and had been dating,” Stephanie says.
Both felt overwhelmed with how much dating had changed over the years. “The mass amount of online dating, texting, cell phones, etc. has changed the game. It really is overwhelming,” he says. “It was a challenging experience to say the least.” Stephanie agrees that it’s hard to keep up with all the technological advances. “I was so nervous to be dating in my late 50s at the time,” she remembers. “A lot has changed in our world from when I was younger.”
Thanks to that mutual friend, however, once they met, they quickly found commonalities. “The first time I met her she was dancing her fool head off. She always had a crowd of people around her everywhere she went,” he says. “I first thought that she might be way too social and outgoing for me, but after getting to know her, I found out quickly she loves to be home and so do I.”
Stephanie was drawn to John’s charm. “He was very attentive to me, a true gentleman. And he loves to flirt with me!” she says. “Best part, he had me laughing within the first five minutes we met. He also has amazing eyes!”
As the couple spent more time together, it was clear that their feelings were quickly growing stronger. “It didn’t take long to figure out what a beautiful person she is both inside and out. She has to be, hands down, the nicest person in the whole wide world.”
For Stephanie, she loved how natural it was between John and her kids. “He adores me, respects me, and my children love him. It’s a trifecta,” she says.
They got married in 2015 at Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Church in La Jolla, and they knew they wanted it to be a family affair. “We’re both faith-based individuals and felt that we wanted to have a religious ceremony with very close friends and family,” she says. “My daughter and best friend were the maid and matron of honor, and John’s son was our best man. My son escorted me down the aisle.”
Now residing in El Dorado Hills, John—a retired California Highway Patrol sergeant—still enjoys working out and is an active tennis player, while Stephanie—who retired as general manager of Spare Time Clubs—currently teaches an active aging class called “FIT for a Life Time” as well as aqua classes at Life Time Athletic in Folsom.
We asked the couple some playful questions about marriage and their relationship. Read on to get to know them a little bit more.
What’s your go-to date night?
Both: Going to Downtown Sacramento and exploring new dining experiences or events.
What’s your favorite thing to do together?
Both: Romance! Spending time with family and friends. Exploring new places. Hiking. And we love sporting events.
What’s been the most trying time throughout your relationship, and how did you work through it?
Stephanie: We sold our individual homes and bought a home together. That’s the best part. The trying part was my home sold in two days and we bought the home together within those same two days and moved in 30 days.
What's the best gift you've received from your spouse?
John: On Valentine’s Day a few years back, she dressed up in a sexy San Jose Sharks outfit and presented me with a poster-sized handmade card, which included a poem using over 15 different candy bars, which she sang to me.
Stephanie: The first time I was leaving for a trip, he gave me an envelope and asked me not to open it until the flight took off. It was a true love letter. Since that initial time, if I fly anywhere without him, he sends me off with a love letter. I’ve kept them all.
What’s your favorite thing about the other person?
Stephanie: He has me laughing every day! Charming and oh-so-witty.
John: She’s a very giving and caring person; plus, her love of nature and her enriched spirituality.
What’s one thing the other person does that drives you nuts?
John: She’s full throttle, all day every day.
Stephanie: He gets mad at his sports teams and can mope around all day if his teams lose. As for his answer about me, I am laughing so hard because it’s true! When John met my daughter for the first time, she warned him not to try and keep up with me.
How do you define love?
Both: When you’re in love, you always want to be together, and when you’re not together, you’re thinking about being together because that person makes your life complete.
What’s your best relationship advice for other couples?
Both: Don’t take each other for granted. Life and love are special.
BEST DATING APPS & WEBSITES
Thinking about signing up for online dating? That’s great! These days, it isn’t just limited to your computer. Most matchmaking sites also have corresponding apps that you can download to your smartphone.
Will you have more success on a dating app versus being set up by friends? It depends. “I’ve seen people have both wonderful and terrible experiences with online dating and being set up,” says Kari Gallego, LMFT, at Foothill Therapy in Folsom. “So much of relationships early on is about chemistry and whether or not we find the other person attractive, interesting, and fun. Sometimes friends and loved ones who know us best think they can find a good match for us. Other times, the computer algorithms have just as good of a shot.”
One thing to be aware of when deciding to create a profile is that online dating can be time-consuming. It may take you away from other activities you enjoy more.
While some dating apps like Bumble, Tinder, and Hinge are quite popular for those in their 20s and 30s, there are some that specifically target older adults. “Finding one that fits with your philosophy and/or desire for what you’re looking for is my best advice,” Gallego says.
We researched the most popular sites and apps for those looking for love later in life. In no particular order…
Within the same family of dating sites, both OurTime and Match boast large user databases. OurTime is specifically created for singles that are 50+, while Match’s age demographics are wider, with 36 percent of users aged 39-53 and 28 percent aged 54-74. On both sites, you’ll create a profile and answer some questions. Then, you can browse other profiles and message those that interest you. Sign up online or download the apps.
1 month: $23.99/month
3 months: $17.99/month
6 months: $11.99/month
3 months: $33.99/month
6 months: $21.99/month
12 months: $19.99/month
This site is popular for those who are 50+ and looking for love and companionship. A free, in-depth personality test helps the site match singles who live near one another. Sign up online or download the app.
3 months: $57.95/month
6 months: $44.95/month
12 months: $31.95/month
On eHarmony, you’ll fill out a detailed questionnaire that’ll feed your responses into its Compatibility Matching System, which analyzes 29 different dimensions of compatibility. Then, matches are presented to you. Sign up online or download the app.
3 months: $39.95/month
6 months: $29.95/month
12 months: $19.95/month
About 36 percent of the users on ChristianMingle are 45 or older. This faith-based dating site focuses on bringing together Christian men and women to create relationships built on mutual faith and love. Sign up online or download the app.
1 month: $49.99/month
3 months: $34.99/month
6 months: $24.99/month