A Guide to Finding Love Later in Life

 
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As humans, we all crave the need to be loved. It’s one of our most basic instincts, something that’s been with us since the day we were born. However, enduring the loss of a spouse later in life can be even more devastating than a breakup when you’re a young adult, as now you’re not only without your best friend, but have to relearn life alone at an older age. That still doesn’t change the fact that we all yearn to be loved unconditionally by another person, as a study in the UK has found that two-thirds of seniors aged 65+ place importance on growing old with a romantic partner and 12% of them are looking for a new relationship. Dating as a senior is quite a bit different than when you were a teen, and we take a look at finding love later in life.

Understand Your Reasons for Wanting to Pursue a New Relationship

Typically, the most common reason for wanting a new romantic relationship as a senior is because of the death of your spouse. Divorces in seniors are becoming seen more, but they’re still a pretty rare entity. It’s important, though, to really know exactly why you want a new romantic relationship after the death of your wife or husband. Are you looking for a replacement? Someone to fill the hole of loneliness? A new start in life? Talking to your kids about it, as awkward as you may find the possibility, may actually be a terrific idea because who knows you better than your own kin? Just be honest with them, and don’t push the subject if they seem squeamish about it.

Some reasons are better than others for starting a relationship, but the root of any successful one is to be completely honest with yourself and your partner. The only thing you’re setting yourself up for is failure if you don’t understand 100% your reasons for finding love again; relatedly, it’s unfair for the other person to be an unwitting pawn in your quest for something you don’t wholly know. Be honest and fair, not just to yourself, but to your partner, too.

Loosen Your Expectations

There’s never been as big a dating pool as when you’re in your teens and 20s, as the mid-20s is roughly when people start pairing off and marrying. Some make it through the decades and others don’t, but the availability of prospective mates noticeably thins by the time you reach your 60s.

This isn’t to say there still aren’t quality people available, or that you should lower your standards so much as to accommodate everybody, but to be realistic about what dating as a senior will be like. You — and everyone else — don’t have swimsuit model bodies anymore, there are health matters to deal with, and mobility (or even senility) may start to become an issue. Your kids may also feel that you’re not at the proper age to be wooing another like a teenager, but it’s your life and love interest, and you have to explain to them that you feel right about it.

A common refrain of seniors is, “I feel like a 20-something on the inside, but see a senior looking back at me in the mirror”. It’s easy to get caught up in this mindset and forget that other seniors feel that way about themselves, too; as corny as it may sound, age truly can just be a number and it’s what you make of life where you are that matters.

Open Yourself up to New Ways of Dating

The dating landscape has changed immensely since you first dipped your toes in the water, and this can be both the most thrilling and daunting prospect in the world. Now, there are things like online dating and open acceptance of same-sex dating, two things which just weren’t around a couple of generations ago.

With online dating, this can be a fantastic way of meeting people of all ages and interests, and there’s no shortage of sites to choose from. All you have to do is set up a profile that outlines a bit about who you are and what you’re looking for, add a couple of pictures, and you’re good to go.

Same-sex dating is something that obviously won’t apply to all readers, but an interesting trend is people coming out later in life because they either didn’t understand themselves earlier on, or didn’t feel they had the right surroundings in which to do so. For example, George Takei didn’t come out until he was 68, saying, “The world has changed from when I was a young teen feeling ashamed for being gay”. And if you think there aren’t many same-sex partners available as a senior, think of this: there are roughly as many queer people as there are Jewish people in the United States, so you have the same chances as a Jewish senior finding another Jewish mate at your age.

Keep Room in Your Heart for Your Former Spouse

Just because your spouse died doesn’t mean you have to move on as though they never existed. They did, and you spent the better part of your life growing with that person. Their life and personality are big reasons why you are who you are, and to ignore that would be disrespectful to both yourself and their memory. Remember them as a vital part of your life, as someone you loved deeply for a long period of time.

At the same time, though, don’t hang onto them as though they’re still in the present. They’re not, and it’d be disrespectful to your current partner to keep your former constantly in the picture. They understand what you went through — possibly having experienced the same — but they don’t want to feel in constant competition with a ghost from the past. It’s something nobody can win at, and it can make it very difficult to maintain a strong, healthy relationship.

Your children may have difficulty accepting your new spouse into your lives, but gently reinforce the fact that your new flame is not meant to replace their parent. Say something along the lines of, “Marcy and I are very fond of each other and we’re going to build a life together. We’d love you to be part of it to the degree you’re comfortable with, but we’re not going to pretend we’re anything but partners.” They may or may not like the truth, but that’s for them to adjust to, and you can help them along with that process.

One of the characteristics about dating is that it never gets easier when you’re older, it’s just different. You’ll still wonder if he or she will call, what they’re up to, feel the pangs of jealousy, and question your futures together. But one thing you do have on your side, as a senior looking for love later in life, is wisdom. You’ve seen patterns in dating before that you’ll see again, only this time you’ll recognize them more quickly. And while it can seem scary to start dating at an age when most people retire, never let that stop you from wanting to be loved by someone else.