Intimidating, daunting, unnerving, just a few words to describe online dating after 50.
When I found myself separated at 50, it was a huge adjusting to single life again. And while I wasn’t sure that I was ready to remarry, I wanted to explore my options. The lessons learned over the next few months of online dating after 50 were eye-opening not just for me, but for quite a few of my other single friends.
For all of us, dating was an “ancient” concept, lost in the mists of time and long-term marriages. There were quite a few friends who had to move forward on the wrong side of 40. And then there were those who were just curious about how I was dealing with dating in the age of Tinder and ghosting and micro cheating.
For the record, I moved to Melbourne from Singapore via Perth when I turned 30. The only people I knew were colleagues and an old boyfriend. After a while, I felt like I was in a soap opera because I was dating from the pool that were friends of friends. So I used personal ads to find new “candidates” and met my ex-husband via a chat website (in those days, this was seriously strange).
That means that doing online dating was a less radical step for me than for most people. It meant I knew what to do to get past the first online conversations. I had also traveled extensively for work, so I also knew how to organize meetups in safe locations and what to do to give myself the greatest opportunity face-to-face.
I was encouraged by a friend to go online because she had done it herself. She hadn’t pushed herself, so it never led to anything. I’m not even sure now if she actually met anyone. But that didn’t stop me or her from encouraging me.
I enthusiastically signed up on a couple of dating sites, and what happened after is the basis for this little guide.
What should you do if you want to try online dating?
Firstly, you should figure out what you want before you start looking.
This is not the easiest question to answer, I grant you. But it would help if you could figure out if you just want to date casually or whether you looking to find your life partner.
My ego was dented because I had just turned 50, and my husband had met a younger woman (15 years younger than me) online. We hadn’t been intimate in a long time, and I was starting to feel old and unlovely.
So I wanted a boost. It didn’t matter that it wouldn’t lead anywhere, because how could I even imagine getting involved with someone else.
Secondly, find an online dating site that suits your purpose.
I went on Tinder because I was comfortable with the typically short-term nature of “relationships” that were dominant with this site. RSVP and e-Harmony seemed to be the place for those who wanted to settle down, and I wasn’t looking for that. Zoosk was one I hadn’t heard of before but I felt that it was a nice middle ground between the two types.
Thirdly, set up your online profile.
Your online dating profile begins with a good photo with just you, no one else. If you have a good selfie, use it. If not, ask a trusted friend to take one. Try not to be sexy in the shot, unless that’s the image you want to project. The photo should be a half-body shot, not just your face.
If the site allows for several photos, have one full body shot, and one of you in your favorite (be truthful) environment. If you love the beach, have a photo taken there. But if you’re a homebody, please don’t try to make yourself out to be a party animal or a camping enthusiast or playing sport. There’s no reason to pretend.
Be clear in your description. If you want to go dancing, say that. If you like hiking, say so. No one else will understand what you mean when you say you “want to have fun.” It may mean that you’re happy to have a hook-up.
Don’t mention your financial situation. You can say “independent” but don’t say “successful” – you’re just leaving yourself open to scammers.
You can and maybe should specify that you’re not looking for one-night stands or men outside a geographic area.
I got a lot of responses from men in different states, or those in regional areas. If that works for you, then great. But I have a school-aged daughter who is my priority, so I wasn’t about to squander my non-working time driving long distances to meet some stranger.
Fourthly, start looking at available men.
Set up parameters that are exactly what you want. For example, you could say 40+, with a university degree, within a 20-mile radius. But be prepared to be flexible, because your guy may not come from within those parameters.
Not all the ones that I shortlisted ended up being interested in me, so I adjusted the requirements. After all, if you’re just using a checklist to meet men, you’ll miss out on the gems that you never even knew existed.
Fifthly, respond or send a simple message.
A simple “Hi. I’m _____” isn’t a bad start. The genuine ones will respond. The a**holes won’t. The shy ones might be patient.
I had many who I could tell had viewed my profile over and over again, but did not reply or reach out.
I had many who sent an initial message that was offensive or made me uncomfortable. You can block and report them. That’s easy.
There were those, however, which made me realize why they were looking for love online. Because I’m Asian and look young for my age, some thought I was looking for a sugar daddy or that I had been a mail order bride. I had to reject them.
Others though were nice but not right. I usually replied with “Thank you for your interest and I wish you all the best in your search,” and left it at that.
If within the first 3-5 messages it feels right, then give him your number. Be brave. You can always block later. Take a risk.
If that’s too much, ask for his number. You can’t tell what a person is like from just messaging because you can edit and it doesn’t truly reflect their personality.
Related to that is the man who is clearly online but doesn’t respond to you “live”. He’s either talking to other women, or he’s taking his time to respond to you, Ask yourself how you feel about this, because you have to be prepared to deal with the reality that the guy you thought was wonderful is doing what you are – getting to know lots of people, before he (a) asks you out or (b) ghosts you. If you don’t know what ghosting is, look it up. It’s an important concept to be aware of while dating in this era.
Lastly, organize a face-to-face meeting.
Of course, you should meet at a public place that’s not super busy. Let someone else know what you’re doing, and have a plan for them to check in with you after a certain time.
Try to meet for drinks, not a meal. You can always move on to a meal if you hit it off.
If it goes well, fantastic.
If you want to have a more intimate encounter…. you’re an adult. But be clear what this is. Let’s not pretend this is already a relationship. Don’t let him move into your house.
Get to know him. Let him get to know you. Decide if this is what you want.
I met quite a few men early. The first was sweet but I was bored. I tried to gently let him down so I continued texting, which was probably unkind in the long run. Others were clearly not right as we turned out to be mutually unattracted.
I talked to quite a few on the phone. One man was so attractive on the phone, but he never really tried to meet up. He later told me he was diagnosed with Asperger’s and had trouble connecting with people, and wasn’t very interested in a sexual relationship.
I dated someone who was smart and attractive and affectionate but we never really had a good conversation. He had a difficult family situation, and I began to wonder whether he was really separated. He eventually told me he had met someone who was someone he had been looking for all his life. Since this person lived a good 4 hours drive away, I couldn’t quite understand how he would resolve the situation with his children and recognized he wasn’t for me.
In the meantime, I had met someone else. Since I wasn’t dating exclusively, I was quite comfortable with spreading my net.
He is not at all what I was looking for. I had no recollection of swiping right on him, nor understood how I found him since he didn’t meet my geographic criteria. But he is someone that I couldn’t imagine being with. We have such chemistry and I have grown so much since being with him. It’s been 10 months. We have no idea what the future will hold since our pasts are complex and have scarred us both. We are living in the moment.
And that is what I wish for you. To find happiness with the moments that you have in your adventures.