The single life - most of us have been there at some point in our lives and may still be there.
It’s the time you’re always out with your friends, you’re inspired to try new things, and you listen to your friends moan about their partners as you complacently sip your cocktail. It’s when you can retreat into you own space while everything in your home is tailored entirely to you and somehow, the world seems that little bit bigger and that little more liberating.
Equally it can be a lonely, difficult and trying time. Often, we are conditioned to believe we need that ‘one significant other’ who will complete us, the other half to make us whole and without it, we somehow feel we are lacking. Not to mention, with social media inescapably plastering ‘relationship goals’ from every corner, it is easy to feel inadequate about finding love, and in some cases, losing it.
When it comes to dating later in life, this can become even more complex since it can seem a little harder to bounce back. We may struggle to get over our divorce, our partners ability to move on and build a family when we don’t feel we can. Perhaps the premature death of a significant other proves difficult or containing the envy when we see photos of our friends new grandchildren- all the while inducing negative feelings toward finding our own companionship- feeding into the very myths which can’t be further from the truth.
Interestingly, the topic of a glamorous single life is often one reserved for narratives of the ‘young and free’. Older generations tell people in their 20’s – “Don’t worry about settling down, you’re young, enjoy yourself, or you’ll regret it later in life”. While ironically, in some cases, it’s those from the older generations who struggled to find love later who offer words like: ‘Don’t settle down too late or you’ll be left on the shelf’. We wondered why there seem to be so many contradictions and complications to what should be a personal and satisfying journey, unique to each person.
Dating recently has been great for me. I no longer feel the pressure of starting a family or providing financial support. I can just be interested in the person for themselves and find somebody who makes me happy
Here at TLC, we believe dating should be made a little easier and grasped at any age. Lo and behold, we don’t stop living after 50 and in fact, we believe it is perhaps the most empowering age to find friendship, love and to connect with that special someone. We want to share our perspective on a common conversation- getting back out there and dating after your 50’s. Yes, it’s possible. And though there remains common misconceptions attached to stepping into the dating world, we are demystifying them- so that dating can be embraced and enjoyed- just as much as the next teenage romance you see at the bus stop.
1. Online dating is the only way forward, yet you can’t do it.
This can’t be further from the truth. In fact, recently, the biggest growth in online dating happens to be people over 50 with this age group increasingly looking to the internet for finding potential partners in a convenient way. Much to the surprise of many bewildered millenials, the older generation do indeed have a grasp on technology and dating sites. With 51% of adults aged between 55 to 64 regularly using social media and 23% of over 65's jumping on the bandwagon too, there has been a significant growth. In the past year over 50% more people aged 65+ are now using social media.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with finding love online, it’s convenient and you can carefully select preferences and it can be quite an enjoyable journey when you get used to it. I considered using it myself after being recently divorced. It took me a while to come around to it as I found it quite daunting to begin with, but having used it, I’ve not yet found love but gained new friends. I suppose it’s like finding love in other ways, it’s a hit and miss but I wouldn’t disregard online dating for over 50’s. The older generation most definitely have a place online"
Though Tinder is the real-life equivalent to going to a crazy university dorm party (with only 1% of users between the ages of 54-64 using that platform), OKcupid seems to be a favourite for more mature generations, as well as Match.com. In terms of sites better suited to those above 50 specifically, there are Our Time, for those looking for casual or deep connections, Stitch, for finding companionship over 50, and Senior People Meet, which is a little like Tinder- with added sophistication.
But again, there are no rules and it’s all down to personal preference which sites you should choose. Many of the 50+ users list preferences within a ten-year age range of their own age with the vast majority of people wanting to date people their own age... which brings us on to the next myth.
2. Older men want younger women, so mature women are at a disadvantage.
In reality, everyone has preferences. Some younger people want to date people older, and vise versa. But there are plenty of people who want to date those their own age or older. Actually, what people look for is attraction, a spark and compatibility. When dating in your 50’s and beyond, what many usually look for is companionship which goes beyond the sliding number of age. Sure, there are some 50 year old's who want to date a 25 year old, but they’re the exception to the rule and in the same way, young people aren’t particularly cruising around looking for much older partners. It’s all relative.
‘I think one of the biggest stereotypes is that no one will be interested in you if you are over 50 and looking for love because ‘men want younger models’. But I think that’s something that’s been glamorised more because of the media and it can leave people, more so women, feeling valueless. I mean there are 7 billion people in the world, I am sure we can find people who share the same values, want the same things, who aren’t particularly fixed on finding someone younger. As a single older man, I for one know that I wouldn’t want a younger model since I would want someone on the same page as me who has fostered the same life lessons’ – Anonymous, 55
3. People who date over 50, want to settle down as soon as possible.
Men and women dating over 50 have often been married at least once before, for a number of years. After going through previous serious relationships, they often become accustomed to their own space and independence while balancing other relationships i.e friends, older children, grandchildren etc. Each desire spans from companionships, to find love again, a flirty friendship, and many may not be interested in co-habiting or marrying. While some over 50’s are open to casual fun and easy-going company, there are still those who lean toward the idea of marriage- being divorced and in midlife does not deter them from this goal.
Again, it’s just personal preference, the same way some young people may be happy without a marriage certificate, how some yearn to get married young, or how some don’t want to have children. Personal preference is not defined by age and most of the time, there are people out there that have a mutual appreciation for what you want from dating.
Being older means you have an opportunity to reflect on you past relationships and learn from them. Dating later in your life means you often meet somebody who has their own complex ‘family dynamics’ and it is ok for you both to have a relationship whilst keeping your own identity
4. Over 50’s have lower standards
This is perhaps one of the most incorrect and unfair assumptions attributed to people aged 50+. Everyone has standards- regardless of which generation.
The years may make mature people more open minded- but that doesn’t mean they don’t stick to what they want. In fact, many over 50’s have as many desires and deal breakers as those in their 20’s while the majority of them claim to be pickier now than when they were younger. Often, we find that older clients share with us that their experiences have encouraged them to form stronger opinions and preferences on what they want and find compatiable.
“Dating in your 50's is massively different to dating in your 20's but in such a good way. You know what you want and you’re absolutely not willing to settle for anything less. The whole idea of older women being desperate or with baggage is nonsense. Why because I settled for less in my late teens does it mean I don’t deserve happiness in the long run?! I made some huge mistakes in my first marriage. Mistakes that affected my health and my children’s lives. Never again will I put myself through that. I’ve learnt so much from my past relationship to know that dating in my 50's was always going to be on my own terms” – Susan, 52
5. Over 50’s have too much ‘baggage’
To save the biggest misconception 'till last and perhaps the most common myth about over 50’s... having too much ‘baggage’. The truth is- everyone has baggage, whether your 23, 45, 58, 67 or any age!
The idea that it is exclusive to divorcees or older people is frankly, ridiculous. Being older, divorced, having a family, or recovering from past issues, should not be a deterring factor to dating. If anything, it’s more of an asset since it makes you self-reflect, know what you want, and ultimately, what to avoid. It is your experiences that make you who you are, more mature, a better self and respectful about all you embrace. It is those rich life experiences that make us multi-dimensional, helping us sail through life with a little more compassion and understanding. That doesn’t sound ‘damaged’ to us.
Relationship Counsellor, Clare Prendergast sees a range of clients in their 50's and 60's who are tackling the dating world, some for the first time, states:
“When I see clients in that age bracket, they often have different anxieties about dating and forming new relationships to people in say, their 20s. A predominant discourse in our society incorrectly positions people aged 50 and over as ‘damaged goods’, an idea that people can internalise, creating worry about putting themselves our there and what they have to offer”.
“When we are in our 50s, I would argue that yes, in some way, all of us are a bit ‘damaged’. Of course, we are – we have lived a rich life and it’s likely life has knocked us about a bit. Also, it is very different to dating in our teens and our early 20s as it’s likely we have more complex lives to introduce a new partner to – this could be children, problematic finances, a demanding job and so on. However, there really is value in reframing ourselves from ‘damaged goods’ to ‘interesting folk with stories to tell’. The characters you will meet dating in your 50s and beyond have lived many different lives. We need to exchange the word ‘baggage’ for ‘colourful experiences’ and more to share with someone!”
So, there you have it. The common myths- dispelled. Though challenging, if we reshape the narrative about the dating over 50’s, it can be a more incredible, fun and rewarding experience at any age- whether you’re looking for casual companionship, finding a friend, or looking for love.
If you’re aged 50 or over and want some support with navigating the dating world – we’re here to help! Please don’t hesitate to give us a call for a consultation with an experience relationships counsellor who can support you through the exploration of ‘getting back out there!'
Note: Names have been changed for confidentiality.