By Gwenn Voelckers
I’m often asked by readers and those who have attended my “Live Alone and Thrive” workshops whether I ever date. My answer is unequivocally “yes!”
More often than not, people are surprised by my answer.
I like the question, because it gives me a chance to remind everyone that living alone with success isn’t about mastering the art of becoming a hermit. It doesn’t mean abandoning the idea of sharing a life with someone special.
I’ve said it before and it bears repeating: Living alone doesn’t mean being alone. Many people satisfy their need and desire to be with others by developing a great group of friends, including family members. Some want more though, and long for romance and the exclusive domain of a loving relationship.
It is to this latter group that I dedicate this column.
If the idea of dating in mid-life following the loss of a long-term relationship or marriage seems daunting, know that you are not alone. I’ve talked with many older women and men who have resigned themselves to “terminal singlehood,” after having tried unsuccessfully to enter the dating scene.
It only takes a few disappointments and rejections to send people running for cover. But like any challenge, if you approach dating with care, a satisfying and lasting relationship is possible at any age.
Below are a few tips I’ve assembled from my own experience and the experiences of others that may help you jump-start your search for a loving companion:
• Define what dating means to you. If you haven’t dated in years (perhaps in decades), the term “dating” may suggest the first step in a predictable path to marriage.
These days, dating is, well, dating. And you can define it anyway you like.
Maybe you’re looking for a number of companions with whom you could enjoy movies, dinner, intimacy, etc. Perhaps you just want someone to join you for special events. Or you may be on a serious quest to find a new life partner.
Your definition — your dating goal — will shape the style and pace of your search.
• Know what you’re looking for. I remember reading a magazine article recently in which the author detailed her experience of writing down all the things she wanted in a man, and then — lo and behold — having the man of her dreams stroll right into her life.
Was it coincidence? Magic? Who knows, but the exercise has merit. Thinking about what you want as well as what’s unacceptable will help you refine your search and improve your chances of finding a compatible partner.
• Be yourself. This is no time to try to become the person you wish you were or you think others will find attractive. One of the advantages of being a little older is increased self-awareness and the confidence to be who you truly are.
Accept and embrace yourself “as is.” Pretending to be otherwise will only compromise your chances of meeting someone who loves you just the way you are.
• Spread the word. If you want to meet someone, make your search a priority and let friends and family know you’re looking. Don’t be apologetic about expressing your desire to find a companion.
It might sound like this: “You know it’s been a while, and I’m feeling ready to meet someone. May I ask a favor? Would you keep me in mind if you run into someone you think might be a good fit for me?”
Other ways to initiate your search include joining a matchmaking website or by subscribing to a dating service. Having had no experience with these methods, I can only offer this bit of cautionary advice: It’s potentially risky, so take precautions.
There’s a lot written on this subject, so conduct a web search to learn how best to protect yourself.
• Put yourself with like-minded people. Do you like music? Are you an athlete? Is reading your passion? Or birdwatching? We all enjoy being with people who share our interests.
One way to kick-start your dating adventure is to attend gatherings, classes, and social functions that attract the kind of partner you are looking for.
I’ve heard from many happy couples who met on the pickleball court, in a book club, hiking group just for singles, dance lessons that didn’t require partners, or in a support group that caters to divorced or widowed men and women. Others met while volunteering or supporting a cause they believe in.
To be successful, you need to get out of the house.
• Have fun and keep your expectations in check. We’ve all suffered the occasional bad date or rejection. Try not to let that stop you from meeting new people and pursuing that special someone.
Dating, just as networking for a new job, can put you in the company of interesting, stimulating people. Even if your heart doesn’t go pitter-patter, you’ll be out in the world and expanding your experiences and circle of friends. So give it a whirl. Muster your courage and pick up the phone, sign up, or show up to fulfill your heart’s desire.
Gwenn Voelckers is the founder and facilitator of Alone and Content, empowerment workshops for women and author of “Alone and Content,” a collection of inspiring essays for those who live alone. For information about her workshops, to purchase her book, or invite her to speak, visit www.aloneandcontent.com