One of the myriad side effects of divorce is that you may find yourself thrust back into the daunting world of dating in your 40s or beyond. It’s easy to dismiss dating as a young person’s game and become intimidated at the prospect of putting yourself back out there after life has had years to make its marks upon you.
Love is not, “One strike and you’re out.” You always have another chance.
Perhaps you worry that your body is too saggy or that your emotional baggage is too heavy. The thought of putting your best face forward and making the effort to get to know somebody sounds exhausting. You’re hesitant at the thought of opening up again and you’re increasingly enjoying doing things your way. And through all of these concerns, is the uneasiness that there is nobody out there for you (or the twin fear that nobody will want you).
Yet the urge to connect is still there, persistent in its approach. You may no longer be looking for somebody to start a family with and your white picket fence dreams have faded with the harsh light of day, but even now, you desire to have someone by your side. A partner through life’s second half.
Dating in your 40s is an opportunity to apply what you learned in your 20s and 30s.
Dating when you’re younger is all about possibility. Excitement. It’s less about what you’ve experienced and more about what you want to accomplish. The youthful veneer of invincibility has yet to wear off and so you may approach relationships with a sense of certainty that if it feels right, it is right.
Dating in your 40s is different. You’ve experienced both love and loss. You’ve had to accept that wanting something to be true doesn’t make it so. And while it’s true that dating in midlife can be more challenging in many ways, there are also many advantages to dating once you have lived a little.
In many ways, it’s easier to determine if someone is the right person for you when you’re dating in your 40s.
You see who somebody is, not what they promise to become.
When I was dating my first husband, I stated that I would never be a teacher and he promised that he would never turn into his father. We were wrong on both counts.
When you’re dating in your teens and 20s, you are basing decisions about how well you fit with somebody based on their dreams and youthful intentions. And many of those expectations may never materialize.
Once you’ve reached your 40s, those early aspirations have been woven with reality, a tapestry that speaks to the truth of who you are. You no longer have to rely on who somebody says they want to be, you now have evidence to support (or refute) their claims.
You are able to ascertain how they handle transition, disappointment, mistakes and failure.
I never knew that my first husband was prone to cowardice and deception until he faced some harsh realities associated with his chosen career. If I had known that about him ahead of time, I may have thought twice before deciding to marry.
Few of us reach 40 without dealing with some major blows from life. When you are getting to someone new that has been through life’s tumbler, you have the opportunity to discover how they handle hard times before you make the decision to make them your partner through the good and the bad.
All of this is valuable data to have that is difficult to come by when you’re younger.
The inevitability of mortality often encourages more vulnerability.
There’s a softening that happens to people in their 40s that is unrelated to the effects of gravity and a slowing metabolism. Parents are aging, friends are beginning to be diagnosed with serious illnesses and you begin to experience the inevitability of aging.
As a sense of invincibility is replaced with a respect for mortality, a desire for real connection often follows. When you no longer feel like you have forever, you begin to understand the importance of every moment and every interaction.
Along with this sense of urgency comes a fear of being alone and of missed opportunities to express your feelings. All of this can lead to more openness and less ego.
Your beliefs and values have become your own and you are less concerned about appearances and the views of others.
I love to compare first weddings to subsequent ones. The initial nuptials are often lavish affairs, dictated both by what’s popular and by the expectations of the families. Second weddings are more personalized and less commercial, reflecting more on the couple than on those around them.
Relationships often follow similar patterns. When we’re younger, we’re more likely to structure our lives in a certain way because it’s what’s expected or because we want others to perceive us in a certain way. Once we reach our 40s, there’s a certain confidence and a “Don’t care what others think” attitude that reflects a comfort with your own beliefs and decisions.
Lasting friendships give insight into commitment and loyalty.
“I promise to never leave you,” my first husband said. And then, over the years, I saw him leave friendships, his parents and eventually, me. In contrast, when I met my second husband’s friends, I was impressed at the longevity of these friendships and his loyalty even through trying times.
Maintaining friendships becomes more challenging as we grow older and our lives become increasingly busy. When you’re dating someone in midlife, you have this powerful window into how important maintaining relationships is to them.
You learn about their adaptability.
Change or become obsolete.
It’s harsh. But you only have to look to the natural world to see its truth.
I’m a firm believer that adaptability is one of the core qualities people need to have for successful relationships.
And by our 40s, life has given us many opportunities to adapt – children come and go, jobs are secured and security is threatened, earlier choices lead to unseen consequences that require difficult choices. And aging will bring even more opportunities for adaptation. Isn’t it nice to have a sense of how somebody will cope?
Dating has its challenges at any life stage.
And it also has its advantages.
Don’t let fear or discouragement hold you back.
There is no age limit to love.