While you would think your age would translate into mature dating experiences, many women (and men) find themselves reliving their teen years when it comes to the dating world. Unreliability and confusion do not have to be a part of your dating-over-50 experience, dating coach Bobbi Palmer told Huff/Post50.
"A lot of people who are dating in their 50s probably haven't dated since they were [in their 20s] -- they're paralyzed, they still have the old vision of themselves and the old vision of the boys they were dating," Palmer said. "We all mature -- most of us -- and this is the best time for anyone to date."
Though there are new realities to deal with if you're dating after 50 (illness, sandwich generation concerns, menopause or impotence), it shouldn't dampen your love life or make you settle for anyone less than who you deserve.
"It's about undoing 35 years of thoughts, beliefs and truths that don't work anymore," Palmer said.
The relationship expert shared her six-step plan to help women start dating like a grown-up. Tell us what you think of her advice -- and your own experiences dating after 50 -- in the comments below.
1. Fall in love with yourself.
If you find yourself dating again in your 50s, chances are a major life event -- whether it be divorce or losing your loved one -- has given you quite the beating. So before you rush out looking for love again, it's important to be ok with who you are, said Palmer. "It's about reacquainting yourself with who you are today and what value you hold in a partnership," she said. "A lot of people are still holding on to the old vision of themselves."
2. Getting past your list.
You know what Palmer is talking about. The internal list we all have that makes finding your perfect partner as hard as lassoing a unicorn. But holding on to that impossible list isn't fair to you or the men you date, Palmer said. Instead of focusing on things like appearance, the type of car he drives and "all the adjectives you've had since you were 24," she says, "really [figure] out the feelings you want to feel in a partnership and what that looks like in real life. Women of maturity learn that there are so many different attributes of a man that count so much more."
3. "I'm fabulous, so what's the damn problem?"
There's still more "me work" to be done when dating like a grown-up. There's still the matter of erasing "those recordings that play in your head about men and relationships," Palmer said. "'Men only want sex, men don't want relationships...' It's about getting past your limiting beliefs."
Palmer acknowledges that these beliefs can become as automatic as "blinking," but said it's a matter of first recognizing that those beliefs exist and working through why you feel that way. "It's about being intellectual with your beliefs and realizing they aren't true," instead of being completely emotional, she said.
4. Casting the net.
"Make a plan of where and how you're going to meet the right men and how to get a date," Palmer advised. Whether it's getting online (which is how Palmer met her husband), classes, or social meetups for post 50s, "get out of your house, because a lot of us do the same routine everyday at [this] point in our lives," she said. "We need to be proactive in going places where you're going to potentially meet eligible men."
Once you've reeled in a man of interest, there are a few things the mature woman dating over 50 needs to know.
"Men don't want to chase women," Palmer said, laughing. "The whole Rules thing ... men in their 50s and 60s know what they want, they know how to get it, so they don't go for the hard to get stuff."
That doesn't mean you have to take the lead, Palmer said, but it does mean it's ok to show you're interested in the person. "Men love that," Palmer said. "They've been rejected since they were 14 years old at the dance. We think we have to deal with rejection, but they've had it 100 times worse. Compassion is the key to having an enjoyable time when you're dating. They're just like us and we're all people."
5. "Rendezvous to romance."
So you've fallen in love with yourself, created a more realistic and flexible list of the traits you'd like in a partner, broadened your social circle and got the date with a man you're attracted to... now what?
"On a first and second date you're not trying to figure out if you're going to marry him," Palmer said with a chuckle. "You want to put your best foot forward [and] you want to show personality."
And putting your best foot forward means knowing what "baggage" needs to be checked at the door.
"You don't need to share about your kids who are ungrateful, your bankruptcy case from five years ago or your gout," Palmer said. "And never talk about exes or previous dates. Don't even go there."
6. "Should I stay or should I go?"
Fast forward to a future version of yourself who's a few dates in with this new man. You've reached the final step of dating like a grown-up: after all the self-reflection and open conversation "[apply] that to making the decision if they're still a good partner," Palmer said. "Is he giving you the feelings that you've identified [are important to you] in your list? It's about getting that intellect back and making good choices."
If the person you've found continues to hit all the new and approved adult checkmarks you've made for yourself, great! See how the relationship unfolds and revisit that list often. But if not, don't be afraid to start all over again.
"You're really special and you have a lot to give," Palmer said. "The right man will totally dig it and the wrong man won't but that's ok."
It'll be easier this time around -- now that you know how to date like a grown-up.
New Blood At The Party
Sometimes it feels like the foundation of your social life is so strong that you no longer find the opportunity to meet new and exciting people. Throw a barbecue or party in which guests bring a friend that no one in the group knows. Alternatively, tag along with a friend the next time their office has a company picnic or function -- this is a great way to meet somebody who you know is responsible enough to hold down a career and who you can 'check out' with an acquainted friend before you agree to a date.
Break The Gender Divide
There's no longer a stigma about a woman learning to golf or a man taking a Pilates class, though such activities are still gender lopsided enough one way or the other to open up the dating options for the minority sex. In time you'll be able to go to a local public course and complete someone else's foursome, or cap off an exercise class by going for coffee with some of your fellow students -- both of which will give you the opportunity to meet a host of new people (most likely of the opposite sex). Just make sure you're doing something you want to do -- it would be a shame to begin a relationship under false pretenses.
Organizations such as "Habitat For Humanity" allow you to come into contact with people of all ages and from all walks of life, all of whom have strong, respectable values. And it's not just a great chance to meet a prospective date -- volunteering attracts interesting, good-natured people who themselves are excited to meet new faces and make friends.
Join A Club
Book clubs are great places to meet well-read, like-minded adults -- you can usually find one by calling your local library. Similarly, wine clubs, outdoors clubs and gardening clubs are good options as well depending on your interests. Joining a club allows you to grow as an individual and sets up the opportunity for you to meet someone who shares a common interest.
Singles over 50 are flocking to the online dating world more than any other demographic. It would be a shame to let 20th century prejudices about online dating spoil the opportunities that could await you with a membership. The perception that dating sites attract eccentrics or shut-ins is a dying one, but if you need convincing, just see for yourself the array of adults turning to sites like "Match" and "eHarmony" to help them begin meaningful relationships with interesting people. Here are the top five most popular dating sites for Post50s.