11 Lessons Learned While Looking For Love After 40

09/18/2017 11:41 am ET Updated Sep 18, 2017

1. You’re not unlucky in love, you’re just on a different timetable.

When you’re in your forties and your life isn’t the (coupled) way you thought it would turn out to be, don’t believe that you’re unlucky in love or that there aren’t any fish left in the sea. Sometimes life just doesn’t go the way we want or plan. You may not have reached the same milestones as your peers, but you haven’t failed or “missed your window.” Keep the faith, stay optimistic, and don’t give up—the love of your life is out there!

2. The number of relationships you’ve been in before 40 is not a status symbol.

In our forties, frequently asked first date questions from a potential mate include, “How many relationships have you had?” and “Have you ever been married?” The implied assumption is that you’re “normal” if you’ve had many relationships by now, and hopefully a committed one; if not, something must be wrong with you. Don’t let the question shake your confidence. A lack of romantic relationships isn’t an equation of your relationship worthiness. Keep in mind that your relationship history is not a predictor of your relationship future. 

3. Take the dating advice offered by married friends—sometimes.

Married friends mean well but they have no idea what it’s like to still be unattached and dating in your forties. They’ve reached the goal of finding a spouse, so be open to their suggestions about how to find a mate, but don’t take their advice as gospel. For example, if they recommend you take a whiskey-tasting class because they believe that men your age are into whiskey, but you hate whiskey and have low tolerance to alcoholic beverages, maybe don’t do it?

4. Sometimes you just have to laugh about dating.

Dating in your forties can sometimes just be so absurd that it’s important to take some time to laugh about it—for example, the date who lied about his age by fifteen years or the date who practically had an orgasm at the dinner table discussing his love of scallions and caramelized onions. 

5. Baggage isn’t a bad thing.

By the time we’ve reached our forties, we have all accrued baggage from life experiences. Look at your baggage—and that of your potential partner—not as a weakness but as a strength that can make you more successful at vulnerability, authenticity, and partnership. Managing your hot-button issues is important, so that you don’t sabotage a potential relationship.

6. Let go of the past.

Your date is not your ex. If you’ve had bad relationships that color your perspective in the dating arena, you might consider getting professional help so you can let go of the past. When we stop repeating old patterns, can we make ourselves available for the right partner.

7. There’s no shame in the bedroom.

In your forties, it’s the perfect time to let go of your inhibitions and get to know your body (and heart) on a more intimate level. Take confidence in your sexual preferences. Some people prefer hookups while others want to wait until a relationship develops before having sex—do what feels right for you. And if you haven’t been with someone in a while, remember this: contrary to what you hear in the locker room or read on the Internet, you’re not the only one who isn’t having sex right now or the only one who hasn’t in the last several months…or years.

8. Disregard labels and stereotypes about “still being single.”

In your forties, you know yourself so much better than you did in your twenties and thirties. Celebrate that. The word “spinster” has no place in your vocabulary; it’s a label used to shame 40-something-year-old single women into feeling bad about themselves for no good reason. Your forties are the time to stop taking what others say or judge about you and your relationship status as the truth. And if you have a cat or two (just be sure you don’t have six), you’re not a “crazy cat lady”—you simply value companionship. Reshape definitions of love and happiness to better serve your life.

9. “You complete me” (not).

You’ve reached your forties without a life partner and have, in the process, learned to do everything on your own—you’re self-sufficient and now you want to be in partnership, which is very different than needing him to “complete” you: you are already complete without him. Embrace a life that isn’t the traditional and socially expected path of marriage and kids in your twenties or thirties. Be open to possibilities.

10. “Mr. Right” is not Mr. Perfect.

In our forties, we’re more realistic about potential partners. We’re more mature and can let go of some of the superficial aspects of a desired mate, such as height, baldness, profession, money, or social status. We’re more open to dating someone who’s divorced or who already has kids, whereas in our younger years we might have been opposed to such a potential mate. We also realize that the perfect mate is not perfect at all, and in fact we don’t want perfect. “Real” is of greater value than “perfect.” 

11. Being alone is part of the journey.

If we haven’t found a life partner by our forties, we are forced to come to terms with the possibility of being alone for life. Finding a life partner becomes a journey in finding your strongest self. And when you do, it’s at that very moment that you become truly ready to meet the love of your life.

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