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Midlife Dating: What are the Rules?

When you get ready to dip your toe into the dating waters after having been married for a while, you may be wondering what the rules are.

While some people say “there are no rules” in the game of life, I think it’s the opposite. There are always rules, and you have to figure them out as you go along.

There are no rules in the sense that you don’t have to follow them, following them doesn’t guarantee good results, and they don’t apply to everyone.

You can also follow all the rules but personalities and emotions get in the way. For instance in school, you probably learned the unfair fact of life that you could be the best student, but you might not get the best grades if the teacher didn’t like you. That’s a meta-rule.

Meta-rules are the rules about rules. To say “there are no rules” is a meta-rule.

It will be helpful if you arm yourself with some meta-rules before you begin dating again. Here are a few. There are more in my ebook, “Midlife Dating Survival Manual for Women.”

1.Use good manners. Then no matter what happens, you’ll still feel good about yourself.
2.It’s frustrating because everyone’s in a different stage of recovery and because it’s a challenge to meet new people. There will be rejections. Roll with the punches. Everyone else is going through it too.
3.People of the opposite sex have changed since last you dated. If the last time you dated the women were 20, and now they’re 40, you’ll find they’ve learned a lot about men and relationships. Expect surprises.
4.All members of the opposite sex are not like the one you just lost or left.
5.There’s a lid for every pot. Keep looking.
6.Get clear about what you want, and make sure you’re sending out the right signals. (Check with a coach.)
7.“I love you” no longer means a commitment. It’s said more often, just as hugs between men and women are given more often.
8.People lie, both men and women. This hasn’t changed.
9.People also do not always know how they feel nor are they able to express it accurately. Women remain better at it, statistically. It can take a man hours to figure out what he was feeling at the time. If you’re a man and want to speed this up and clarify, work with an EQ coach. If you’re a woman, give him time.
10.It takes time to get to know someone and trust them. Experience them over time in different situations with different people and pay attention.
11.We “intuit” the meta-rules. The rules that are spoken or written are not always the rules that matter. For instance in grade school we knew the rules, but we knew what teachers enforced them and what teachers didn’t. Likewise with midlife dating, it’s not always as it first appears. With experience, you’ll start to catch on, get better at it, and feel better about it, even if you can’t articulate it. That’s intuition.
12.There are no mistakes, as long as you’re learning and growing.
13.Date with the attitude of having experiences and getting experience, not having success. Success may be a byproduct of the experiences, but getting the experience is the point.
14.Desperation drives it away.

Now you need to get the lay of the land.

1.All-singles affairs aren’t the best way to meet potential dates. It’s too forced and the male:female ration is always askew. Attend them, but not exclusively.
2.If you’re a woman, consider adding Internet dating to your mix. There are more men online than women.
3.Men aren’t against marriage. A man who’s married once is likely to marry again. It’s women who file for divorce 2/3rds of the time.
4.At 50, if you’re a woman and want to get married, there are 4 single women for each single man. However, only 8% of women polled by the AARP wanted a spouse, so the odds are better than they appear.
5.For dating, they’re less than they appear. 80% of men over 50 say they want to date a younger woman. The older they are, the wider the gap they want.
6.People do differentiate between “dating” and “a partner.” The top things they’re looking for in both are personality and compatibility. However, when dating, appearance matters more.
7.Introductions from friends and family are the best bet, followed by the workplace, but most people who’ve dated someone in their office say they won’t do it again.
8.Only 2% of women and 20% of men think sex is acceptable on the first date. (AARP)
9.If you get turned down for a date, it isn’t you. 9% of seniors say they wouldn’t date anyone, any time, under any circumstance.
10.Only when you’ve gotten over the past and love yourself, are you ready to date and love again.
11.Go slow. The divorce rate for second marriages is 60-70%.

One last thing that hasn’t changed: if they don’t write, don’t call, they just aren’t that into you. Sad, but not the end of the world. Put a smile on your face and throw your hat back in the ring. Someone is hoping you’ll find them one sweet day!

True love is something else that never changes.

About the Author
©Susan Dunn, MA, Midlife Dating and Relationship Coach, . Offering coaching for men and women in dating, transitions, retirement and other midlife issues. Susan is the author of “Midlife Dating Survival Manual for Women,” available at . .

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