Being single post 50 is different than being single in the first half of your life.
Instead of meeting at a disco or pub, you’ll be scrolling through pages of potential partner ‘resumes’ on dating apps. The three date rule has become the your choice rule, sexually transmitted diseases aren’t just loitering around, they’re on the rise and the younger men you’d eye off with an ‘I wish’ while partnered up, might just be your new date.
I was single creeping up to 50 and I know what it’s like – fantastic at times, bloody awful others.
My constant lament was ‘Why are there so many older women who are attractive, bright, kind, clever and single – and no male equivalents?’.
Any single guy I met around my own age had a big ‘reject’ stamp on his head: it was clear within a month of seeing them why they hadn’t been snapped up.
I dated the sweet guy who quickly revealed himself to be an alcoholic. I dated the handsome guy who had (scary) anger issues. I dated the tall guy who was attached to his mother by rope, not apron strings (even more frightening).
The reason I went out with them, even though I suspected their flaws before they became screamingly obvious, was because there weren’t any other options.
I used to meet at least one new woman I liked and admired a week.
I’ve met one fantastic single man in the last decade and I’m now married to him.
Don’t head for the cliff just yet though: you only need one person, after all (well, assuming you’re not into polyamory). At least six of my previously single friends also happened to meet one fantastic single man, after looking for years, and are also happily coupled up.
They are out there but, Jesus, you need confidence, determination and an excellent sense of humour to find the bastards.
HERE’S FOUR GOOD PRINCIPLES TO GO BY
I can think of many but, if I had to narrow it down, I vote for these.
(If you want more, you’ll find a nice, big chunky chapter about being fifty-something and single in my new book Great Sex Starts at 50.)
Focus on the things that matter
Height doesn’t matter. His bank balance doesn’t matter (unless he has real money issues like gambling or living way beyond his means, in which case it most certainly does). Clothes sense really doesn’t matter (most men are happy to be styled). His job doesn’t matter, especially if he really loves doing it.
There needs to be some sexual attraction but that doesn’t mean they have to be good-looking. Charisma trumps chiselled cheekbones or a square jaw any day.
Kindness is critical. Niceness also. Being able to love you the way you want to be loved is essential (and something you only find out over time). Respect is paramount. Making a big effort with your family and kids is another must. Thinking you’re the sexiest thing they’ve seen in years is vital if you want a good sexual relationship. Sexual technique isn’t important because it can be taught.
All this applies regardless of sexual orientation.
You’ll also have your own list of absolute musts – just make sure they’re musts that matter.
The second piece of advice I have is this…
“I’m trying to wean myself off younger men,” was the headline of a magazine article in The Observer about me, when I was in my late 40s.
I wasn’t lying: I’d get older, but the age of my boyfriends remained the same. Between 10 or even 20 years younger than me.
You already know one reason why – I didn’t meet any men I fancied my own age.
But I did meet lots of younger guys who not only looked great and had the energy and outlook I found attractive, they also found me attractive.
“Men my own age either find me threatening (alpha males and I have always clashed) or want younger models, even though I look young for my age,” one woman wrote to me. “I find it ironic that I can pull a good-looking 30-year-old at the age of 52 but not a very average 55-year-old man.”
Another happy customer writes: “When I was 43, I dated a guy who was 23 and a few others who were under 30. Much more fun! They have a zest for life and take much more care of themselves.”
The perceived ‘man shortage’ isn’t helped by the fact that most women prefer men who are older than they are. It’s hard-wired into us and also a choice because men who are older than us, tend to be richer than us.
When a young woman chooses an older man for this reason – money or evolution – she steals what men there are available for older women.
Beat the system: go younger.
I’m not suggesting that you settle down with some guy who’s a decade or so younger than you (though if you really like each other, why the hell not?) but I am saying broaden your horizons and not all relationships have to be long ones.
A fling or two with someone younger could be just what you need to keep you amused or give you an ego boost. (For the record, I did wean myself off: my husband is a mere three years younger than me, which doesn’t count.)
Do some navel gazing
Along with the ‘reject’ dating (see above), I did actually date some very nice men.
I was the one who stuffed those relationships up.
I had a dreadful habit of asking other people’s opinions about three dates in, before I’d really made up my mind about the person. Friends are protective and take the job of vetting seriously. They will point out faults you never saw, before the poor guy’s had the chance to reveal the really good bits of him that aren’t immediately apparent, which might balance them out.
When I met Miles, my husband, I didn’t introduce him to anyone for months and when I did, I didn’t ask their opinion because I already knew I really liked him.
The other thing I did differently with Miles was admit I wanted a relationship.
I used to pretend I wasn’t the settle down type, because it seemed much cooler to say that. (In my defence, I actually wasn’t for about twenty years – I was way too career orientated and having a ball – but I was keen to meet someone later on).
I was also aware I’d sabotage relationships. I had some trust issues. I was fine for a few months but when I started to really fall for someone, I’d subconsciously sabotage it.
I got some therapy over the years but it still didn’t stop me trying it on with Miles. The difference was, when he called me on it, I recognised that’s what I was doing and stopped.
The point of me telling you all this is that if I hadn’t done lots of navel gazing and therapy to identify patterns of behaviour that weren’t working for me, I still be single, rather than incredibly happy, eight years into a relationship.
Know yourself. Know your patterns. Ask your friends what mistakes they think you make, the wrong signals you send. Listen to them.
Do things differently.
Most of all…
Don’t force love
I know. When you’re lonely and on your 30th date (or haven’t had any at all for 30 months) and feeling down and desperate, it can feel like anyone is better than no one.
If that means you relax rigid standards, this moment is a breakthrough.
If it means you’re going to make yourself pretend to love someone just because you want another live human in your house, I promise it won’t work.
Nothing is lonelier than being in the wrong relationship.
Get a dog or a flatmate instead.
There’s loads more dating advice for older women in my book Great Sex Starts at 50. It’s available online (amazon in the UK and US and booktopia in Australia) and from all good bookshops and as an ebook.