By the time most people reach 50, they expect to be settled, having raised a family with someone they love and plan to grow old with. Not me. I’m 53 and dating again — and truth be told, I’ve discovered that I’m enjoying the scene more now than I did 30 years ago.
Here’s why dating is much more fun now than when I was a fresh-faced, eager young 20-something.
- I Really Know the Meaning of ‘Shared Interests’
Dating in your 20s is like a game of chess- you uncover just as much about yourself as you do the person you’re dating. When I was 22, I hardly knew enough about the world to understand what ‘shared interests’ really meant. A guy who liked the same music as I did made him date-worthy in my young eyes.
These days, I’m more likely to let it slide if my date has an affinity for folk music (I enjoy something you can dance to). I know that someone’s taste in music or movies doesn’t truly reveal his character. I look for shared interests that belie a deeper commitment to lifestyle interests that I share. Most importantly, I look for shared values.
Every woman is different, but dating for me is so much better in my 50s because I know how to suss out a man’s values. Does he try to stay fit? Does he like animals? These are a few of the ‘shared interests’ I look for these days. My 20-something self would have let that stuff slide. Now, I know better.
One of the most important ‘shared interests’ I look for now – socialization. I have realized that socializing is vital to my overall happiness. I want a partner who is willing to step out of their comfort zone. I’m not looking for someone to go on crazy adventures, but I do want a partner who enjoys time spent with friends and family. Alone time is nice, but I feel physically and mentally stimulated after a social activity. I want my partner to feel the same way. Read about the importance of socialization – you may want to consider adding this to your must-have ‘shared interests’ list as well.
2. Fairy Tales Don’t Interest Me
Ask any woman what the ideal man is like and you’ll get answers that all pretty much look the same. Whether it’s George Clooney, Brad Pitt, or Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, they all have this in common: they’re rich, smart, and each seem to have a softer side that belies a big heart. Of course, they are all also drop-dead gorgeous.
One last thing these ‘perfect men’ have in common: they’re not for you. They’re unattainable, because they’re movie stars. But the reason they’re really not for you is that they don’t really exist. Sorry George, Brad, and Dwayne: you are the stuff fairy tales are made of.
Like most of my girlfriends, I had a mental checklist of what the ideal man looked like when I was in my 20s. It described a fairy tale dream prince who didn’t really exist. It took me at least a decade to figure that out, unfortunately. And apparently, women are still making the same mistake today. A UK survey asked women what the ‘perfect man’ was like. The consensus:
- Earns an average of $68,000 (£48K)
- Wears stylish clothes
- Drives a nice car
- Cries during movies
- Has short dark hair
The women who devised this list have watched “Pretty Woman” one too many times. Dating in my 50s is so much more fun because I’m freed from the fairy tales that younger women believe in. I am not Julia Roberts and I am not looking for a Richard Gere. I am looking for a real man who lives in the real world.
3. I’ve Learned to Check My Baggage
In the tell-all days of my 20s, it didn’t feel right if I wasn’t unloading all my emotional baggage up front. It didn’t feel honest if I didn’t, so I gleefully revealed all my past mistakes, bad vibes and all.
I felt I was being honest about who I was and I felt it was important if I wanted to build a solid relationship with someone. Just get everything out in the open right away, and be upfront about myself, warts and all.
Unfortunately, instead of building a solid relationship built on truth, which is what I thought I was doing, I was just dumping all my emotional baggage. Those guys didn’t need to know how terrible my last boyfriend was. They didn’t need to understand the many ways I felt betrayed by my high school sweetheart after he ditched me during freshman year of college.
What I didn’t understand in my 20s was that those experiences weren’t what made me “me.” Revealing all those bad vibes that lurked in my past wasn’t going to give insight to any man I was dating.
Now I know better. I know that I am not made of emotional baggage and that I need to put the past in the past. I’ve learned to check my baggage (and of course now that I’m in my 50s there’s a lot of it!).
In fact, anyone in his or her 50s definitely has a past. We all have exes. We’ve all made mistakes and we’ve all been hurt. Who hasn’t? Learn from them and then move on. If you’re stuck with bitterness about your past, you’re probably not ready to date. Find a way to deal with those issues, pronto.
I dealt with my emotional baggage in the most logical way I knew how – by purging myself of physical baggage. I decided that I needed to downsize and organize. This proved to be exhilarating. I couldn’t believe how many items and trinkets I had collected from past relationships and experiences. I realized that items that once held great emotional meaning to me were no longer necessary. I was able to get rid of the items and finally have closure. Want to go into your next relationship baggage-free? Read these 13 tips on downsizing.
You’ll find that one great thing about checking that baggage is that once it’s gone, there’s room to focus on what makes you great. That leads me to the fourth and final reason I think dating in my 50s is great…
4. Finally, I Know Why I’m Worth It
For me, a defining aspect of the decade that defined my 20s was that I was always trying to prove myself. Whether it was proving myself in my career or showing my family that the path I’d chosen was going to work out for me, or proving to my date that I was smart, sassy, and intriguing. I was always on the lookout for ways to measure my worth.
It’s a wonder what 30 years can do for your confidence. I’ve proven I can get a good job and excel in the workplace, for example. I am proud of the things I’ve done in life, and I’m excited to accomplish even more.
Therefore, when I talk to men, I can relax and enjoy the conversation. I’m not proving myself to anyone, I’m more comfortable in my skin, and I know who I am… all things I did not feel when I was in my 20s.
Dating After 50: Conclusion
Based on all this, if I had to give advice to anyone in her 50s who was just entering the dating scene, here’s what I’d say:
- Look for common interests that matter and which stand for values
- Keep an open mind about the people you date
- Stay positive – with the conversation and with the dating scene in general (don’t give up)
- Enjoy yourself – you’ve earned it!
Now that you have all this great information, all you need to do is start meeting people! One great way to do this (that didn’t even exist when I was in my 20s) is online dating. Don’t be shy. Read advice from a fearless 50-plus single like yourself who found love with the help of online dating.