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Suzie Strmjiska, of Taylor, Texas, getting back into the dating game after 41 years of marriage at the age of 59, found that finding a man required an entirely different set of dating skills than she had mastered in the 1960's.

thumb_waiting_for_date.jpgLike many women and men over 50 and single, however, she was able to decipher the romantic code of 2010 and find love once again.

White lies don't work. A few months after her divorce and annulment, Suzie decided she would try a little harmless chicanery as a tool of seduction. In her work as an electrical engineer, she had many opportunities to meet eligible men of similar interests. So, keeping her employer's personnel rules carefully in mind, she invited a "safe" eligible man to lunch just to see if sparks might fly.

Sparks flew, but not the kind she wanted. Her date made it very clear that he was only interested in Suzie for her mind--her engineering mind. Unlike dating in the 1960's, dating in 2010 does not require people to be cute and indirect. It's possible to ask for exactly what you want, provided, of course, you are willing to take no for an answer. But if you don't ask for what you want, don't expect your date to call the psychic hotline to figure you out.

Modern dating isn't formal

Modern dating isn't formal, and there are no set expectations that "everybody knows" just from the context of the meeting. In 1971, if you asked someone to the coffee shop to spend some time just with you, it probably was because you had designs to spend a lot more time just with them. Nowadays, an invitation to a coffee shop doesn't even mean they will be drinking coffee.

When today's "gray divorcees" such as Suzie were dating decades ago, if you didn't want to risk rejection by asking your intended to the coffee shop or out for a malted, then you might meet them at a church social, on a blind date set up by friends, or at a single's parties. Although speed dating as a form of single's party is still around, Suzie quickly learned that the way to spare herself rejection was to do some research through online tools such as eHarmony and match.com.

The online dating game for the over-50 and single

thumb_group_dating.jpgAs a competent career woman, Suzie did not have any issues with using the Internet. Her only concern was that online dating sites might be the perfect venue for every troll, stalker, and con artist in the whole world to get her personal information. Fortunately, online dating sites take care to protect their customers from these situations. Nonetheless, Suzie did have to keep some rules for dating happiness in mind:

1. Don't get in a hurry. This is important for two major reasons. One, you don't have to date, or not date, to meet anyone's expectations. White lies about your dating status are probably more effective for dealing with meddling friends and relatives than they are for meeting new romantic partners! Two, you don't want to date before investing at least a little time in getting to know prospects.


2. Make sure you understand what went wrong in your marriage, and then set is aside. You don't want to repeat mistakes--but you also don't want your new partner to be burdened with your reciting of what your spouse did wrong or what you did wrong. Understand your personal history so you can control it, correct it, and move on from it, but not so you can find some total stranger to fix it.

3. If you want something, let potential partners know. If what was missing in your life was raw sex, don't tell potential partners you want to spend romantic evenings cuddling in front of the fireplace. If what was missing from your relationship was spiritual understanding, don't tell potential partners you are a sex machine.

4. Spread the news. This is also important for two major reasons. One is that you should let your friends and even family know you are available (although you may want to be selective about whom you tell this). The other is that you want someone to know your involvements with strangers just in case those meetings should go awry. The online dating services take care to avoid introducing you to, say, serial killers, but other methods of meeting new people may not.

5. Move forward. Be yourself--and don't sell yourself short. Making needed changes in your non-dating life can set you up for success in your dating life.

Dating and the TMI trap

thumb_first_date.jpgSuzie soon found her perfect potential mate on eHarmony, and he quickly asked her for a date. Unlike some overly enthusiastic online seekers of mates, however, Suzie insisted on speaking with him over the phone, several times, to make sure there was a connection.

The relationship clicked, but Suzie still exercised common sense. Her first date with her new male friend Sam was in a well-known, highly visible restaurant. It was the kind of place where she and Sam would have time to talk without being accosted by their friends, but it was also the kind of place where it would be easy to leave if necessary.

The TMI trap. Suzie and Sam both knew to avoid TMI--too much information. Although you can make a first impression in just a few seconds, you can't find out everything about a person in 20 minutes. Remember, your date is not your therapist!

By the end of the evening, however, you will know if the potential partner is well-groomed, very interested or somewhat interested or reserved about or disinterested in sex in general, financially responsible (declined credit card on a first date is not a good sign), and polite. If you get negatives in any of these areas, move on and try again.

Fortunately for Suzie, Sam was a perfect match. Since Suzie and Sam are both 59 years old, they don't refer to each other as boyfriend and girlfriend, but the term "partner" seemed a bit too generic and the term "love slave" not really something they want to use around the children.

After six months, Suzie and Sam are still getting to know each other and still finding out how to define their relationship. But because they both used a calm and commonsensical approach to getting the kind of love relationship they want, they are both happier than they have been in many years.

  • Kornblum, Janet. "eHarmony: Heart and soul", USA Today, May 18, 2005.

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