You may not have planned to be dating in your 40s. Generally, it’s not on the cards when we envisage our lives. We thought we would be settled with a partner and all set to grow old together.
This is not the case for many, certainly not me. My marriage broke down in my late thirties and I found myself back on the dating scene as I hit my forties. Luckily, I was not alone. Lots of my friends are dating later in life so I’ve had people to share my experiences with, and can listen and learn from theirs.
I’ve had some good results with the requisite disaster along the way. Dating is an adventure and you will find that dating in your 40s is even more so.
Here is what I have learned, alongside my advice to anyone dusting off their dating skills and getting back out there in their 40s.
DATING IN YOUR 40’s” WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
EVERYONE IS ONLINE NOW
Heading back into the dating scene after a 20-year break is a bit like walking into a busy bar to find it is empty. Where the hell is everyone?
They are all online. Even the youngsters.
Online dating is the way to go. It is where all the people from the empty bar have gone, and it is where you need to be if you want to date. The sooner you get over the horrifying thought of promoting yourself online, the better. Yes, it is a bit like selling an item on Marketplace, where the item is you, but I promise you that it is considered perfectly normal in 2023.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT DATING APP
That said, finding the best dating app for the over 40’s is key. There are millions, yes millions of people using dating apps. For success, you need to be amongst the right crowd. Think of it like choosing what bar or club to go to in the 90s. You’d choose one where you feel comfortable which is frequented by the kind of people you like. This is how you chose an app.
I know people who have had good and bad dating experiences on most of the major dating apps on the market today. A common mistake is to blame the dating app if something doesn’t go to plan. There are many apps out there, even apps for people who hate dating apps!
My favourite app for dating in my 40’s is eharmony, followed closely by Bumble. I like eharmony as most people use a reasonably-priced paid version meaning they are all committed to finding a partner and taking it seriously. Plus their profiles are really in-depth which makes matching more successful. Bumble is a dating app with a twist because the woman has to make the first move. Not only does this make you feel empowered but it stops the barrage of messages you can get from the more mainstream apps.
Take your time and do your research to find the right app for you.
Further reading: 7 Best dating apps for the over 40’s.
THERE IS A NEW DATING ETIQUETTE
If you only read one part of this article, read this and be prepared.
With online dating comes a new set of rules that might shock you and take a while to get used to.
It is normal for people to be chatting with several potential partners at the same time. To be sure that isn’t happening you need to have the “exclusivity chat”, until you have it, assume you are part of a posse.
Also, if someone decides they don’t like you at any point during the courting ritual, they will opt-out. No need for conversation, and certainly no apology. It is called ghosting and is very prevalent and also very rude. I was texting a guy who I really liked for a few weeks and thought the feeling with mutual. Then halfway through a long texting session, he stopped and I never heard from him again. That is ghosting. I racked my brain trying to work out what I had done wrong. Funnily enough, we were talking about crocodiles so I wondered if that was a trigger for him. Honestly, getting ghosted can drive you insane so just accept it as part and parcel of dating online and learn to move on.
Then there are the requests for nude photos which might come in text No. 2 or 3. And keep your phone away from your kids as an unwanted dick pic could pop up at any time.
It’s a whole new world out there.
Further reading: Coping with rejection when dating online.
IT’S MORE COMPLICATED … OR IS IT?
Most, but not all, people who are dating in their 40s have come out of long-term relationships and marriages with the person they had kids with.
This can make dating more complicated, or less.
It’s no longer all about you. Instead, you have to factor in the kids, and their kids, and how the hell you will find free time to actually date. Plus, there is the other parent (the father of the children) and how they feel about you dating. All up, it can get a bit complex.
For me though, I find dating less complicated in my 40’s. I am not looking for a partner to marry, live with, or have kids with. I want someone who makes me happy and who I enjoy spending time with. This simplifies the process.
DATING LATER IN LIFE (cont.)
SOME THINGS NEVER CHANGE
I started dating again nine months after my marriage break-up and by month ten I realised that, when it came to men, I hadn’t changed at all.
20 years on I was still behaving like a love-sick, man-mad teenager. I would get ahead of myself, be too keen, go off a guy if he was too nice to me (what is that all about?) and fall in love if we had sex. Oh yes, I fell very quickly back into my old ways.
It took real strength and some serious adulting to change the way I approached potential new partners in my life.
Don’t expect because you are older and wiser, that your style of dating will have changed. You might have to do some work on yourself to make it happen.
SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES STILL EXIST
No personal experience with this one but I know many people who have had.
Please remember that contraception will stop you having babies. It will not stop you getting a sexually transmitted disease.
STDs in our age group are rife, with gonorrhea and chlamydia being the most frequently reported.
In my experience, people are less like to use a condom in their 40s, and it can even be frowned upon but stand your ground.
Further reading: I love you, I want to be with you, but I can't share a bed.
ARE YOU READY TO DATE? ARE THEY?
It’s really important to be in the right headspace when you start dating again.
For many of us who have come out of a long relationship, it takes time to heal and you must heal before you date.
Think about your reason for dating. Is it to have fun and to find a like-minded soul to enjoy life with? Or is it to help you get over your ex, boost your confidence and prove to yourself that you can get a partner?
For example, I am currently not dating but was recently told that sex is good for vaginal health when you are perimenopausal. My first reaction was to hit the dating apps and find myself a sexual partner. This is not on the list of “right reasons to date”.
Remember, although you may be mentally ready to date, a lot of your potential dates won’t be. I have lost count of the number of guys I have met on and offline who have not got over their exes. They are a serious no-go but it takes a while to read the signs.
Further reading: How to break through the fear and date again.
DATING IN YOUR 40’S IS A JOURNEY, ENJOY IT
The most important thing to remember is that although you might have an end goal, reaching it is a journey and only you have the power to make it an enjoyable one.
Don’t rush it and take the time to learn and grow from your dating experiences whether they are good or bad. I have not met Mr Right … yet. But I have had some hilarious dates, some happy short relationships, I’ve made two close friends and even found someone to do my gardening! Of course, I have the obligatory disastrous dating stories too but I use them to build my strength and resilience.
Having the opportunity to date again later in life is exciting. Although I entered the dating scene with much trepidation, I have since learned to really enjoy it. And I hope you will too.