29 Tips for Finding Love in Your 40s
Ah, love. It's wonderful and terrifying no matter when you find it. But looking for love after 40 comes with its own unique joys and challenges.
So, how’d ya get here?
By the time you reach your 40s, there are many possible paths your life may have taken to get you to where you are. As Brian Bishop*, a recently divorced 40-something Connecticut man told us, “You can’t date in your 40s without considering how you came to be dating in your 40s. Is it that you’ve never been married? Or is it that your marriage has come to an end? Whatever your answer, it affects your perspective.” For example, if you’ve never been married, but still hope to have children, you may approach dating with more of a sense of urgency than someone who has already done the whole family thing. And someone who still has young children at home will invariably have to approach dating differently from an empty nester. “Like it or not, these are factors that will come into play in determining with whom you’re compatible,” Bishop says.
*Some of the names of our singles have been changed for privacy purposes.
There’s no better time than now to find true love
Maybe you’ve had your fair share of frustration, rejection, and heartache, but while you can’t erase your past, you can certainly learn from it. In fact, “when you’re in our 40s, you can really make use of those life experiences,” notes Jodi J. De Luca, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist in Colorado. It’s not just that you know yourself and what works and doesn’t work in relationships, it’s that by the time you reach your 40s, you’ve probably felt “the magic of love,” as Dr. DeLuca puts it, and “if you’ve felt it before, you can and will feel it again. The emotional brain is seemingly void of chronological age or time. We can and do fall in love at any age.”
Start by owning where you’re at in your life
When you’re single in your 40s, some people react to you as if you’re violating some natural order. “People tend to look perplexed. They want to know why,” says Tanya Fruehauf, MA, CSAT, CCC, a Canadian psychotherapist. “The reality is, however, that the timeline of finding love in our youth is an arbitrary and outdated prescription. Own your singleness as a choice you’ve made, whatever your reasons are.”
Embrace being single
This is important not just as an internal attitude, but as a matter of how you project yourself, says Jennie Lynn, relationship expert and author. “Don’t express a hatred for being alone or single. We need to be comfortable being alone and loving ourselves, and that positive energy will attract a partner who is right for you.”
Recognize what you bring to the table
“Allow your wealth of life experiences to make you confident in going for what you want,” suggests Margaret Bell, MA, a Colorado-based mental health counselor. “You’ve lived a few decades, and you probably have a few battle scars. You’ve got history and experience. You’ve learned lessons and you’ve got lots to share. You are ready for give and take and to create a lasting relationship with someone who shares your values and interests.”
But, don’t drag the past into the present
It’s one thing to learn from your past on an intellectual level. It’s another to stay mired in it emotionally, says online dating consultant, Stacy Karyn. “It’s essential to move past the past if you want to snatch up someone great,” she says, adding that it’s not just a matter of how you feel, but also a matter of how you project yourself in the early stages of dating. “Try not to talk too much about your past relationships in your first few dates,” Karyn advises.
Treat everyone as an individual
One way to get “past the past” is to remind yourself that each new person you meet is exactly that: a new person. “Just because you’ve had some bad experiences, that doesn’t mean that everyone you meet will lead to that same bad experience,” says Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW. It’s not fair to anyone to project your past experiences onto them, and you’re far more likely to really get to know a person if you view them as an individual, rather than as some sort of reincarnation of a relationship past.
Don’t be a cynic
Owning your past, recognizing mistakes you’ve made, and even working through the pain of having been wronged is not the same as coming at dating with a negative attitude. “Don’t let your life experience turn you into a cynic,” suggests Jonathan Bennett, relationship coach. “Instead, try to connect with the old energy and excitement you had before you had these experiences.” Connecting with those positive feelings doesn’t mean forgetting the lessons you’ve learned, he points out. It just means allowing yourself to enjoy the moment with some of your youthful exuberance.
Treat each first date as a clean slate
When you have a bad date, says Hershenson, it’s easy to fall into negative thought patterns, especially if you’re a veteran of dating and relationships. But don’t. Come to each date with an open mind, Hershenson suggests. Here are 11 creative date ideas to get a conversation started.
Control your expectations
It’s one thing to hope you find what you’re looking for, but don’t expect anything, says Sara Anderson, a licensed professional counselor in Georgia. “Expectations lead to disappointments,” she says. Instead, Anderson suggests keeping your hopes high and your expectations low. This will help take the pressure off both you and your date.
Date outside your type
This is especially true if you tend to focus on appearances. “Don’t be so focused on looks,” points out relationship expert and author Rich Gosse. By the time you’re in your 40s, you should know better! Plus, there’s a chance you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised. Think Charlotte and Harry from Sex and the City—both went against type, and that’s exactly how they found true love.
Date outside your age group
Be open to dating against your notion of what is “age-appropriate.” Try dating people who are younger or older than your knee-jerk reaction tells you, Bennett suggests. Yes, their lives may be in a different place from yours, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be compatible. Whether you are or not requires getting to know one another, which is what dating is about.
Date outside your city limits
In your 20s, it seems like single people are everywhere, so it makes sense to consider proximity as a factor in choosing whom to date. But by the time you reach your 40s, the number of single people has dwindled. That doesn’t mean that the right person isn’t out there. Rather, it means that the right person might be someone who lives 25 miles away—or even 50. The bottom line is, don’t rule someone out just because you have to drive an hour to see them. There is even scientific evidence to suggest that not only do long-distance relationships work, but they’re also downright healthy.
Stop playing games
“Playing games is a terrible strategy,” says Gosse. “Particularly the game of hard to get, because so many men are shy, and you’ll never meet them unless you make the move.” This may be particularly true of men who have been out of the dating scene for a lengthy period of time (because they were married or in a long-term relationship).
Let go of the notion that you can get everything you need from any one person
So, the guy you’re dating is “perfect” except he can’t get into chick flicks the way you can? Make a date to go to the movies with a friend. The guy you’re dating doesn’t have an ear for jazz? Cultivate friends who appreciate your kind of music. In addition, having good friends is healthy. To avoid falling into the trap of either expecting that any one person can meet all your needs or rejecting potential partners because they don’t have “everything” on your list, make sure your social life is on point, suggests Karyn. In other words, maintain your friendships with both men and with women.
Embrace technology that may be new to you
It’s entirely acceptable to make plans via text message these days, so if you insist on a phone call, you’re limiting your options. And social media is a perfectly fine way to meet people. In fact, some of the dating apps won’t allow you to join unless you have a Facebook account, and some make it a practice to show your potential matches a list of those people whom you both “know” in common (or more specifically, people to whom you are both connected via social media). “If you don’t make at least some attempt to use current technology, you’ll miss out on many quality people,” Bennett advises.
Google with caution
“Let’s face it, we know we’re going to Google one another,” Sonier says. And not everything you find on your potential date will be flattering. When this happens, you may want to consider not delving too deeply into the details, at least initially. That said, it could be something to discuss at some point. But you certainly don’t need to go on your first date armed with every piece of information. Sonier’s suggestion is to maintain a cautious but curious mind.
Go ahead, try online dating
“Your 40s are a time for juggling: jobs, kids, older parents, and you don’t end up with a lot of time for dating. Plus a lot of your friends are busy with their own lives and aren’t thinking about who they can set you up with,” says Esme Oliver, relationship expert and author. “If you get online, you can search for your mate from home when you have some downtime.” The key is not to get discouraged too quickly, says psychotherapist and relationship coach, Toni Coleman, LCSW, CMC. “If it’s not working at first, make a change. This could be in how you write about yourself on your profile, who you reach out to or respond to, or what you do to move an online connection to that first meeting.”
But don’t only date online
“Sure, online dating is a great way to expand your reach, but being out and about in your own neighborhood can also broaden your opportunity for meeting great, dateable people,” Anderson says. Dating in your 40s is about creating the opportunity to meet new and interesting people.
Expand your social circles
You should be as proactive about making new friends as you are about meeting potential mates. “As we get older, our social circles have a tendency to shrink,” points out Shannon, the proprietor of Shannon’s Circle, a matchmaking service based in the San Francisco Bay Area. “We get busy, established in our careers, in our communities, and our old friends tend to be married. The reality is we meet fewer single people as we get older, so it becomes important to expand one’s social circle proactively.” You never know where it might lead.
Explore a passion
Most of our experts agree that as a way of meeting new people, you can’t go wrong by exploring a passion, whether new or old. A few suggestions from Shannon: Volunteer regularly with a local charity, get involved in your alumni club, or go to educational events that attract interesting people.
Or… you can try to pick a new hobby strategically
On the other hand, all other things being equal, you might want to try an activity that puts you in a favorable man:woman ratio. “There are a lot of men on the golf course,” points out Oliver. “Or try joining a running club. I once trained for a marathon and met a lot of interesting men. If running is too hard on your knees, then try cycling.” Not sure where to start? Here are simple tips for finding a new hobby.
Treat looking for love like you’re looking for a job
Just as you’d get the word out that you’re looking for a job, you should get the word out that you’re looking to date. And just as you’d go on short, informational interviews, you should say yes to blind dates, keeping them to a short window (for example, a cup of coffee or a cocktail), says Stacy Kaiser, MA, psychotherapist and relationship expert. “If you get tired or feel defeated, take a short break, but then get back to trying to find a good companion for yourself,” Kaiser says. “Don’t settle. Keep looking until you find someone that is right for you.” Find out the telltale signs you should say yes to a second date.
Or consider “hiring” your partner like a boss
Another way of looking at the dating process after 40 is as an “executive search,” suggests relationship expert and author Stefan Deutsch. “Finding love should involve the same sort of due diligence you’d conduct if you were hiring a CEO for your $100 million dollar company,” he explains. That means asking probing questions and knowing how to decipher the answers. For example, Deutsch suggests asking potential mates about their relationships with their exes, their children, and their own parents. “It’s understandable to be afraid to ask these questions for fear it’s going to chase away a potential partner, but if these questions chase someone away, then that person is probably not a good potential partner,” Deutsch says.
Don’t badmouth your ex, and don’t date someone who would
Badmouthing your ex is not only bad form, it can also reveal any or all of the following: You have terrible taste when it comes to picking a mate; you’re bitter; you’re disloyal, you don’t accept your portion of the blame for a failed relationship. Besides, there are better ways to get over a breakup.
Don’t bring your kids into it until you’re sure (very, very sure)
Dating in your 40s often comes with kids, but “your kids don’t need to meet someone who is ultimately not going to remain in your life,” says Lynn Maggio, a 40-something divorced mom of six kids and 2012’s Mrs. Alabama America. From her own experience, she suggests waiting six months before introducing anyone to your children. It may seem like a long time, but it’s really just a drop in the bucket when you’re thinking long-term, she points out.
But do make the effort to learn about your date’s children
If you’re dating someone with children, you’re safe in assuming that the children are their number one priority and the most important thing in their life. “I expect that any woman I go out with will ask me about my children,” says Albanese. “If I go out with a woman who shows no interest in learning about my kids, then it’s a really strong sign that she and I are not on the same page.” On the other hand, here are the signs that your partner’s a keeper.
Listen closely. Talk half as much.
This advice is true no matter how old you are when you’re looking for love, but it’s particularly true for people who are dating in their 40s and beyond. “If you listen carefully, you’ll find that people will tell you exactly who they are, especially when they start talking about their past relationships,” advises relationship coach, Linda F. Williams. Often on dates, while the other person is talking, we’re thinking about how to respond. But it’s a much better idea to not worry so much about what you’re going to say and to listen to what your date is actually revealing about himself or herself. Is listening a challenge for you? Try these tips to improve your listening skills.
Don’t rush into anything
Even if you think you’re in a rush, don’t rush. “As we grow older, we may feel a sense of urgency about settling into a relationship,” points out Dr. DeLuca. But it takes time to get to know another person, however, so that sense of urgency is not doing you any favors.”Would you make the decision to invest in a home, business, car, or expensive piece of jewelry without researching carefully?” she asks rhetorically. “So why do anything different when you’re looking for a lifetime companion?”
How long is long enough to know someone is right for you? That’s going to depend on many factors, including how much time you spend together and how comfortable you are in confiding in one another. But here’s how long it takes the average couple to go from the first date to marriage.