If you’re single, it doesn’t matter if you’re 24 or 44—when it comes to your love life, everyone has an opinion. And sure, you could take unsolicited advice from your cousin Becky or your nosy neighbor, but here’s a better idea: Listen to the pros. We tapped dating coaches, professional matchmakers and relationship experts for their best advice for dating after 40. There are a ton of great tips to choose from, but one thing we can all agree on? There’s never been a better time to find true love. Whether you’re getting back in the game after a divorce or breakup, or you just haven’t met the right person yet, let these words of wisdom inspire you to find your ideal mate.
1. Know What You Want
We’re not just talking about the kind of person you want to be with—think about the type of relationship you want to be in too. “Do you want to have kids, for example?” asks dating expert Betsy Johnson, host of the radio show Lunchtime Quickies. Dating after 40 can still mean having children if that’s something you want, or it could mean meeting partners who are already raising theirs. Decide if this is a deal breaker for you or if it’s something you’re open to exploring. “Know your nonnegotiables,” she advises. And here’s some good news: Chances are you’re much better at knowing what you want now than you were ten years ago. Maybe 30-year-old you was attracted to a guy with ambition...until you realized it meant you never got to spend any quality time together. Thanks to experience, you’re now so much more attuned to your needs. And once you’ve considered what’s important in a partner and in a relationship, don’t settle for less, says clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, Ph.D., author of Aging Joyfully. “Many women in their forties and beyond think they are too old to find a great partner,” she tells us. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. “Working to know and embrace your worthiness—the amazing benefits of yourself and your life as a whole—is the best way to date with self-confidence and joy,” she says.
2. Don’t Be Afraid of Technology
If it’s been a while since you were on the dating scene, you might be surprised by how many couples meet online these days (about 40 percent, according to this Stanford University study). And the thought of meeting someone through a website, an app or on social media can be pretty intimidating. “Instead of shying away from it, be a part of it and accept that this can actually be a new and creative way to meet people for dating,” says relationship counselor Sophia Reed, Ph.D. “You may even want to try joining dating sites that are geared toward women over 40,” she adds. When creating a profile, don’t overthink it—stick to the truth and have fun. (Psst: Here are some great online dating stories to motivate you.)
3. But Don’t Rely on Technology Too Much
We know, we just told you to get on board the online dating train. But once you get over the initial fear of online dating, it’s easy to get so entrenched in it that you forget to, you know, actually date. Messaging back and forth can be fun and flirty (and less scary than having to talk face-to-face), but if the goal is to date, then you’ll actually need to go out on a date, says Reed. “If your person of interest is too interested in texting or messaging you instead of actually talking and connecting in person, then disengage,” she advises. Just because the times have changed doesn’t mean you have to waste your time.
4. Embrace Your Baggage...
You may get unsolicited dating advice no matter your age, but one thing that your younger self didn’t have to deal with? All that baggage. Think of previous relationships (yes, even the failed ones) as lessons and insights to learn from, says dating and relationship coach Rosalind Sedacca, author of 99 Things Women Wish They Knew Before Dating After 40, 50 & Yes, 60! “You can't make better choices unless you’ve changed your perspective and priorities about your ideal relationship or partner,” she says. Think about previous relationships you were in and what worked well or didn’t work well. Maybe decades ago you were with a social butterfly who told the funniest stories. Except you eventually realized that you were dating a narcissist and none of those stories actually checked out. That experience has taught you to be a little warier, and now that you think about it, you prefer staying home in the evenings anyway. Lesson learned.
5. …Even If It’s Painful
If you’ve experienced trauma from previous relationships, it’s important to address this before entering a new relationship. Seek professional help if necessary to clear up (as much as possible) any old hurts or issues you might be struggling with. “Carrying old baggage into new relationships eventually triggers unresolved issues and patterns,” says Manly. And let yourself talk about it, if you wish to do so. “Don’t be afraid of sharing your past—just make sure you say what you learned and what you are responsible for,” advises behavioral relationship expert Tracy Crossley. One more thing: Keep an open mind when it comes to other people’s baggage. Remember, it’s not so much what they have done but what they have learned.
6. Stay Positive
Maybe your friend can’t stop complaining about the series of boring dates she’s been on lately. Or perhaps you’re feeling doubtful after yet another failed relationship. It’s hard to do, but try to replace that cynicism with positivity, experts say. “You want to be sure that the energy you’re putting out is happy and not bitter,” says matchmaker Rori Sassoon. But how do you do that if you’re just not feeling it? Fake it ’til you make it. And show yourself some love by updating your look and surrounding yourself with upbeat friends. “Don’t be negative,” adds matchmaker Susan Trombetti. “I have seen women leave parties and declare that all the men wanted were the younger women who were there. But I knew someone was interested in them and they missed out!” Stay positive and give people a chance, she says.
7. Learn Your Love Language
Have you heard of The 5 Love Languages? Created by marriage counselor and author Gary Chapman, Ph.D., the theory is that everybody communicates love in one of five ways: words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, quality time or physical touch. According to Chapman, the key to any romantic partnership is being able to speak your partner’s love language and understand your own. Let’s say, for example, that your love language is words of affirmation. That strong but silent type who doesn’t know how to pay a compliment? Probably not a great match for you. Here’s a five love languages quiz that will help you discover your wants and needs.
8. Get a Dating Look
A classic LBD, a velvet jumpsuit or some stylish jeans and a fitted tee—whatever it is, have a go-to outfit that’s comfortable and makes you feel great. Not sure where to start? Go shopping with your bestie or ask her to raid your closet. Just make sure you feel like your most confident self in whatever you choose. Here are some ideas to inspire you.
9. And One More Thing…
“Don’t give up on love,” says Renée Suzanne. “I didn’t and I’m so glad.” She’s a certified life coach who met her husband on Tinder after years of being single (and after being widowed with four kids). How did she do it? She took charge and treated dating like any other skill that can be learned. Just remember, practice makes perfect.