If you’re thinking about dating after 50, you may be embarking on an adventure you haven’t thought about in 20s or 30 years.  After a long-term marriage, you may feel out of practice and wonder, “Where do I even start?” What can I expect when I’m dating over 50?

See also: Dating After 60

Lots of things have changed in dating rituals, like online dating, but more things have stayed the same.  Dating is spending time with someone to find out more about them. Don’t focus on getting into a long-term relationship too soon.  Before you start dating, know what you are you looking for — companionship? validation? sex? or something more enduring?

Dating After 50 For Divorced Women

I had been married 33 years when my then husband decided his girlfriend would be a lot more fun or something.   After three years of me begging, pleading, sobbing and screaming, he still would not give her up, so I filed for divorce.  It was the hardest thing I have ever done. I was devastated, and I thought I would never be happy again.

I was 53 when our divorce was final.  Early on in the divorce process, dating was the furthest thing from my mind.  If you’re in the early stages of becoming — or being — single again especially at midlife, you’re probably not interested in dating yet, and that’s a good thing.

Especially after a messy divorce, you should take a deep breath, and set the pause button on serious relationships.  Trying to start a new relationship before you have fully recovered from your last one is a recipe for disaster. (67-70% of second marriages fail, and you definitely don’t want to go through that again!)

Heal and re-discover your best self before you even think about dating

One important after 50 after divorce dating tip: Take care of yourself first.  Focus on you for a change.  

  1. Be kind to yourself.  Do good things for you every day.
  2. Start a regular exercise program.  
  3. Surround yourself with upbeat, active, good people.
  4. Rediscover your own goals and gifts and desires  

Getting healthy physically will help you emotionally and you will be more confident as you start expanding your social connections.   And remember, self confidence is the most appealing attribute to both sexes. You can’t feel confident if you are still in that “I must be such a loser” after-divorce thinking.

How to Start Dating After 50

If we’re 50 and beginning to explore new relationships, we have to figure out:

  1. What we’ve learned from our divorce
  2. Who we are as an over 50 single woman
  3. What kind of life do we actually want in the future.

By the way, especially after being married for a long time, it’s easy to lose our whole concept of who we are.  What do I like? What are my values? What am I looking for?

Any relationship takes an investment in time and energy, so we have to get clear who we are ourselves and what kind of person we want to invest in.  Before you start dating after 50, make that now-famous list of:

  • Deal breaker qualities
  • Must have qualities
  • Nice to have qualities

What To Expect

When we start dating, we need to be prepared to “kiss a lot of frogs” so to speak.  Regardless of if we’re just looking for friendship or a romantic relationship, those lists are really, really important!  Why waste time with someone who has characteristics on your “Deal Breaker” list? Liar? Arrogant? Disrespectful? Controlling?  Self-centered? Smoker? Not over his first wife?

Simply cross those people off your list!  Do not waste a minute of your precious time trying to cultivate a real relationship with someone who has any of your deal-breaker qualities.

Decide what things are “Must Haves” to warrant further investment in the relationship.

Honest?  Generous?  A God follower?  Has a job? Fun? A good listener?   Enjoys family? Do not think you can change people who don’t share your most basic life values!  

The “Nice to Have” list leaves more wiggle room.  Not mandatory, but would be nice. Hair? Teeth? (Just kidding!)  Likes to cook? Enjoys nature? Great dancer? Fabulously rich? Have fun with this one!  Use your imagination!

The more clear you are about who you are and who you want in your life, the easier it is to find people who share your bigger life-vision.  

Common Mistakes Men & Women Make

Two of the most common mistakes people over 50 make when they start dating are:

  1. Feeling pressured to find someone quickly. After divorce in our 50s, we think, “If I don’t find someone soon, I’ll be even older, and I’ll never find anyone!”  That is not true! I was 56 when I met my new husband, and my life is amazing! Focus on you first.
  2. Letting loneliness drive our need to get married again after 50Creating a satisfying life as a single person is the most important thing we can do before we start looking for someone else.  Having a full, purposeful life of our own actually makes us more attractive. Desperation is never a quality people are looking for!
  3. Dating Our Ex. This is tempting, especially if we miss them and want them back, but dating your ex almost never ends well.

In my work, I sometimes deal with women who are divorcing after second marriages that were jumped into right away.  These women almost all say they got into the new relationship too soon. For me the excruciating loneliness was a big part of that pull to fill that space where my old spouse used to be.  But take the time to learn from the solitude, as hard as that experience is. Don’t rush it!

Online Dating After 50

The thought of dating at all after not having been on a date with anyone but our husband for decades, can be terrifying.  But it doesn’t have to be. If we have found our strong, beautiful, worthy self again, we aren’t as fragile, and we can start dating with more fun and less angst.

Look at online dating as an adventure, and remember that one of the good things about menopause is that we start caring less about what people think of us!  So, when dating at 50+, it’s easier to simply cross someone off our list who is not good for us.

Online dating at any time can bring amazing results.  I met my new husband online! But every day, there seem to be more pitfalls to be aware of.  Recently several scams aimed mostly at over 50 women have been brought to light. Google “online dating” and you’ll find hundreds of articles with good advice.  One of my favorites is Ten Essential Online Dating Safety Tips

Something else that helps is to be part of a safe community of women you can interact with online.  Women who are somewhere on the midlife divorce recovery journey can share advice and personal experiences that are helpful to others just starting out on the dating scene.  Find a group like that.

Dating Over 50: When To Kiss?

It’s weird to feel like we’re back in high school when we’re dating and our kids are in high school or older!  Lots of things change when we start dating in midlife. One funny story is that the first time my now husband brought me home from a date, my high school senior son was waiting on the porch for me!  Talk about role reversal! I thought it was cool, myself, and I felt like he wanted to make sure “this guy” wasn’t going to take advantage of me somehow.

When I first started dating, I wondered if I would ever feel those exciting feelings I felt with my first husband.  I doubted it. When I was first divorced after being married for 30+ years, I couldn’t imagine even kissing someone, much less doing anything more than that.

Let me reassure you!  Don’t worry about that!  When the person is right and the time is right, all of those feelings come roaring back.  In fact, after the first time my new husband kissed me, after he left I actually started crying because it was clear that a new relationship meant new feelings of romance and desire and love that I was worried would never come back.

Here’s one other little tip.  I read not long ago that midlife men are least likely to practice safe sex.  Just a little warning from your midlife divorce recovery expert!

Why Bother?

Sadly, there is some “why bother” thinking for some women who are 50 years and older.

Here’s what happened for me:  After several years of doing the grief and healing, I  then started rebuilding a life that was full and rich and fun on my own.  That was important groundwork. Slowly I became confident enough to think about sharing myself with someone else.  I opened up my heart to friendship and love again.

I will admit, though, you usually have to bite the bullet and actually have the guts to get out there again.  Here is a little advice: Go back to your “Deal Breaker” list, your “Must Have” list and your “Nice to Have” list.  Be choosy.

Look at the things on your “Must Have” list first.  Do you have the characteristics on that list?  

Fun?  Generous?  Confident? Honest?   Are you showing qualities that are on your “Deal Breaker” list?  Not over your first spouse? Holds a grudge? Whiny? Clingy?

Look at the whole dating thing as an adventure, as an exploration … even after 50.   Have fun! Learn about lots of other people. Learn more about yourself.

Especially after divorce, one helpful rule is to say to yourself, “I will not get into another serious relationship for at least six months, or 12 months” or whatever you decide.  That will make your dating after 50 more relaxed and fun. Who knows what delightful things might happen?