Dating After Divorce: Guide to Online Dating Over 40 (or 50, or 60)

Are you recently divorced, and curious about online dating?  Or, have you been at it for a long time and starting to wonder why it's not the dating wonderland that you thought it would be?

This post is based on the experiences of my divorce recovery coaching clients over age 40, and my opinion of your potential for online dating success depending on what you want from a relationship or an encounter with a man.

As a multi-year veteran of online dating sites, and someone who has informally crunched data on women's online dating experiences at a variety of ages, here's the best (and, I hope, the most helpful) of what I've learned.

The subheads below reflect the desires and mindsets that I hear most often from the women I work with, along with my subjective opinion on how successful online dating may be for each group of potential daters.  Some women have more than one of the following deep desires, but in most cases, there's one big one that motivates them to take their search online.

I can't stand to be alone.

Does this describe you?  You say things like, "I can't stand sleeping in an empty bed," and "It's so depressing to come home to an empty house."  You're an easy-going lady who doesn't ask much from a relationship, and you're happy that way.  You just feel you need companionship, and "need" is the important word.  It's not just a wish, or something that would be nice.  You don't feel right without a guy in your life.

Potential for online dating success:  You're the woman online dating was made for, and you have a wonderful chance of success with it, if you create a profile that draws men in your preferred age group.  (More on preferred age group later on.)

I just can't help but suggest:  If you're easy going and easy to please, that's wonderful -- and it's what most men are looking for.  But, please be sure that you're receiving what you need in a relationship.  If you tend to use the word "empty" to describe your life, try exploring other fun actvities to fill the void before turning to dating.  If you feel that any guy is better than none, I would love for you to know that you are special and you can ask for more, if you want to.   

I just want a sex partner.

Does this describe you?  You feel like you're going crazy without a sex partner.  Sex may not have been part of your marriage for a long time, and you wonder if you're still desirable -- and you may feel the need to prove this.  Or, maybe you have nothing to prove.  You just want sex, and are not afraid to say so.  Maybe you're not at the place where you're open to a relationship at all.

Potential for online dating success:  You can be having sex within 24 hours.  Say what you're looking for in your profile, in a subtle way, and men will be crawling out of the woodwork.  Be careful of being too obvious because this will bring out men who can be more than you bargained for.  I've never met a man online who wasn't upfront about sex as highly highly highly important to him,  so be ready for some messages in your inbox that might be pretty direct.  

I just can't help but suggest:  If you can have casual sex with someone who is already a real-life friend, this can be so much safer.  If you choose to use online dating for this purpose, please be very careful.  And, please don't pursue this, if you have children.  Do not allow any of these men to know anything about you:  No phone number, no address, nothing about where you work.  And, please use condoms every single time.  They won't want to use them.  Too bad.  So many women contract HPV and worse this way.  

So many of my clients tend to jump into bed on the first online date, and are crushed when the man rejects them or continues to use them as just a booty call.  Please be careful on all counts.  You may think you just want no-strings-attached sex, and find out that you develop feelings for someone who sticks with the original program.  This has happened to many of my clients and it ends up as a terrible hit to an already fragile sense of self-esteem following divorce.

I need someone who "gets" me.

Does this describe you?  Friends say you're picky simply because you want more than someone with a job and a pulse.  You need to share at least a few important interests in common with a man in order for the relationship to be fulfilling for you.

Potential for online dating success:  On the face of it, you would think that online dating is perfect for you.  You can get an idea of a guy's interests by reading his profile, right?  Then, all you have to do is find each other.  Well, yes and no.

In order to have a larger pool of guys who may respond to you, I suggest the following:

  • Don't wait for men with your interests to contact you. Do send them a brief message mentioning what you have in common.

  • When they reply (which they will, if you are physically what they're looking for -- looks are almost always #1 in the male mind), don't exchange emails forever, and don't get on the phone. Suggest a brief meeting for coffee. You don't want to waste your time getting to know someone who's just a voice and a fantasy, and after weeks of long phone conversations, find out that the man, in person, leaves you cold.

  • If you're over 50, consider using dating sites exclusively for mid-life daters, and also consider shaving as many years off your profile age as you can get away with. If you meet someone you like, do not talk about age until he has gotten a chance to know you, and when you do come clean, explain why you took that step with your profile. To learn why I suggest this, please keep reading the next section about women over 50.

I just can't help but suggest:  Don't leave your romantic future up to online dating.  Pursue your interests and find ways to meet, in person, men and women who share those interests and passions.  The women you meet may know someone perfect for you.  Plus, the more you date, the more you will understand that happiness in life can be a lot more about friendship and connection than about just one guy.

I'm age 50 or over, and I want to be with a man my own age (or younger). 

Does this describe you?  You spent the best years of your life (so far) taking care of your ex and being deferential to his wants and needs, and you really can't get too excited about starting over with a much-older-than-you guy who's not in good health, or prefers to watch TV every night.  You've noticed that even most men in your age group aren't as healthy and active as you are, and aren't sexually attractive to you.

Potential for online dating success:  Not so much.  Men typically search for women 10 to 20 years younger than they are because they don't feel they can be sexually attracted to women their own age.  So, if you create your profile using your real age, you'll tend to turn up only in search results of men much older than you.  And, if you make the first contact, men may take a look at your age and simply ignore you.

It's theoretically possible to find someone nice online to spend some time with, but how many hours do you have available to put into the search, and to meet problem guy after problem guy (economically struggling, chronic health problems, unsocialized, or with problem children who would impact your life as well as his)?

Across all male age groups, a successful, attractive older man has the most choice.  And sad as it is to say, he most most likely won't be choosing a woman remotely close to his own age unless she outdoes him in every department (looks, wealth, social position), and even then, he'll probably try for a woman 20 years younger who still outdoes him in almost all of those departments.

I just can't help but suggest:  If you're an older woman, it benefits you so much to meet potential dates through traditional channels -- church, meetup groups, volunteering -- because, this way, age doesn't even come into the discussion until you've gotten to know someone a little.  If you truly look young for your age or have a bright and happy personality, you get to play to your strengths when you meet the old-fashioned way.  No one is asking your age, profession, or income level up front.  Maybe you're not exactly the type he's looking for, but you're so friendly and nice that he can't help but like you.  Men get to simply meet the real you, and find out, in person, how great you are.

Meeting real, live people, the old-fashioned way, is the best-kept secret of the decade.

My advice for any divorcee getting back into the dating world is to gradually build into your life more ways to meet people -- new women friends as well as new men friends.  Get involved at your kids' schools, go back to church if you're a person of religious faith, volunteer where you're likely to meet men.  Get creative.

The advantage of doing real activities with real people is that it will make you feel like you're part of something fun and you won't feel so alone.  As a newly single woman, you'll get used to interacting with men and feel more relaxed about pursuing online dating (if you decide to do so).  It's so much better when online dating isn't the only game in town, and you can feel more "whatever" about it.

Odds and ends . . .

Don't try too hard.  Don't let your ears visibly perk up when you see an attractive man without a wedding ring.  Just be friendly and nice, and move on.  Lather, rinse, and repeat.  Always be friendly, but don't start delivering casseroles to his doorstep : )

Choose the right dating site for you.  Take care in choosing a dating site that attracts men who are looking for the same type of relationship.  Be aware that the big dating sites (Match.com, OKC . . .) work best for women in their 20s and early 30s and the power shifts to the men from the mid-30s and up (while the choice of quality men declines as age increases).  There are all kinds of niche dating sites for different age ranges, religions, professions . . . you name it.

Don't give in to more intimacy than you want.  Know that men (especially on dating sites) will often be relentlessly pushing you for sex as soon as they can get it.  If that's not your wish, too, have a conversation and explain what you're looking for in a relationship.  I read somewhere that men think of sex as trying to figure out whether you're a candidate for a relationship, whereas many women think having sex means they're in a relationship.  Don't be fooled.  Don't be hurt.  

You have the power to say no.  If he doesn't understand, you haven't lost anything important.  (Men want to make sure that a woman likes and wants sex.  But that doesn't obligate you to do something you're not ready to do.  Just because he's not as bad as the others you've met doesn't mean it's time to give in -- unless you're happy with that decision.) 

TMI.  Please don't give someone your phone number or address, or let him pick you up from home or work when you really don't know him (even if you know a little about him, for example, his address or where he works).  Sensible men will understand why you want to protect yourself.

Married men are on dating sites pretending to be separated or divorced, so do be aware of this.  It's another reason not to jump into bed with someone just to keep him around.  Until you have known a person for a while (a couple of months, at the minimum), he won't be letting his skeletons out of the closet (whether it's that he's married, or comes with some other deal breakers).

Keep it casual.  If you are looking for a serious relationship, do wait as long as you possibly can before getting physical with someone.  Don't allow him to turn up the heat, or to see you more than a couple of times a week.  If you keep it casual, over time, he'll allow you to see sides of him that weren't in the dating profile:  He may be married, he may be involved in another relationship or two, he may have a very serious health issue, he may be heavily in debt, or he may have a mental, emotional, or substance abuse problem.  Or, he may just be a perfectly nice man with just the average, garden variety pros and cons to him that we all have.

Treat each person as a potential friend.  If you keep it casual for at least a couple of months, you can get to know each guy as a potential acquaintance and friend, and not worry about whether or not he's a potential life partner.  This way, you have no need to grill him about your deal breakers and scare the heck out of him.  Just as with people you meet in real life, you do get to know who they are over time, in a natural way, and you don't need to emotionally and physically involve yourself in a hurry.

Be ready for this to be a part-time job.  There's someone for everyone, and what's a red flag for one woman will be perfectly acceptable for another.  All I'm saying is, please be ready for a long slog, and many first meetings that go nowhere. That's why what I'd really like you to take away from this post is:  Don't pin all your hopes on online dating.  Get out and meet people.  Practice talking with guys -- without the pressure of a first date.  

Just be your own beautiful, human self and start feeling great about meeting new friends.  This way, your social life will bring you an ever-widening circle of fun and like-minded friends.  No stress.  No fear.  Just fun -- and maybe a new man or two in your life.

 

22 things that make a woman attractive to men

I'm always looking for useful news articles, blogs, and videos to share on my Dynamic Divorcée facebook page.  In pursuit of this, I view a lot of awful dreck, and the other night, I couldn't help myself.  I watched a creepy video sales pitch called "How to Be an Adorable Woman."

It was so awful that I scrolled down to read the comments to see if anyone had uncovered what sort of scam this was.  There I read a couple of long comments from a guy called 1971SuperLead.  He decided to fill us women in on what a real guy thinks would make a woman adorable.

[Warning:  You may find some of this offensive, but it's not often that a regular guy tells you the truth about what men want, and I think a lot of this stuff is what men think across a broad range of demographics.]

Here's what he had to say (and, of course, these are his words, not mine):

1. Be confident
2. Smile a lot.
3. Sit up straight.
4. Don't be needy.
5. Show interest in what he does.
6. Don't talk his ear off.
7. If you need help, see a shrink. Don't ask your boyfriend to be your shrink.
8. Watch the movie Simon Birch. Ashley Judd plays what every man wants.
9. Never complain. Just be grateful for every act of kindness he displays.
10. Don't dress like a whore. Don't wear baggy clothes either. Wear make up that makes it look like you're not wearing make up.
11. Part your hair on the side. The shy playful hair in the eye look is irresistible.
12. Never be manipulative.
13. Be a cheap date.

Follow my instructions and you'll land nearly any man you want.
Was I helpful? Do you want more tips?

14. Go easy on the perfume. We shouldn't be able to smell you unless our nose is less than a foot away. 
15. Sorry, but we really don't care about shoes at all.
16. Being able to cook scores a lot of points.
17. It's okay to be smart. Smart is sexy.
18. Be mysterious. Don't show him your photo albums, all your clothes, all your awards, all the things you got on trips, etc. The less he knows about you the better.
19. No guilt trips! Ever! If the guy is a creep:  Leave him! Don't try to fix him. Don't try to change him. Don't make deals with him. He's not your project. He is what he is. Love what he is or split.
20. Contrary to popular belief, guys don't like big boobs any more than small ones. So don't ever think about implants.
21. Keep your apartment clean.
22. White teeth are important, but not too white. They gotta look somewhat natural.

Shoot, I can go on and on, but what is surprising to most women is that what is really attractive to a man is a woman who sits up straight, doesn't talk more than he does and smiles a lot.

Smile when you look at him. That smile is what's gonna win him over. You know what a man wants when he comes home from a hard day's work? He wants to come home to a decent woman who's happy he came home, and shows it with her smile. That's really all we want.

We just want to be appreciated by someone we can respect. If we can get that we're happy! You know why? Because we can't get that!

Instead we come home to women who aren't happy and who can't wait to tell us about their day and all their drama and problems. Guess what?  We don't want to see that or hear it.

Your drama doesn't interest us in the slightest and, even worse, it makes us feel inadequate, because we can't solve your problems and it's ingrained in men to solve problems, and so you become a source of frustration, because if you aren't happy we feel it's our duty to fix things for you. Don't ask why this is.  Just accept it as how men are.

So, you need a girlfriend, so you have someone to talk to, because men don't want to talk, unless it's about going to Las Vegas or what's for dinner.  Keep your drama away from him. That's what you have friends for.

Even if he says he wants to hear your problems don't tell him, because a girl with problems is not attractive. We like healthy women. We are biologically attracted to healthy women. Physically and mentally. This is what turns us on. It's just our nature.

So never let him in on your problems, because every problem makes you uglier to him. Discuss your problems only with your friends and your doctors. He doesn't need to know them. He can't help you anyway with your problems, so why discuss them with him?

Oh yeah, if you have a flat tire he can help you with that, but that back-stabbing bitch in the office you work with? No, never mention her to him. Got it?

Now spend some hours looking in the mirror and learn how to smile. I did this with a few girls. I had to teach them how to smile. You girls don't know how to smile. I've seen some homely girls turn into angels just by looking in the mirror and learning how to smile.

You have to practice looking happy, loving and confident. You have to practice FEELING happy, loving and confident. THIS is what men want! This is the Secret! I've fallen for fat ugly trolls because when they looked at me they looked me right in the eyes and smiled with a happy, loving and confident smile.

It was like they were filled with goodness and could see my goodness. What a turn on! Again, watch Simon Birch. Ashley Judd walks around happy, smiling, confident and seems to see goodness in everyone.

It's all about attitude. Fall in love with yourself and everyone around you. Be thrilled to be who you are and be thrilled by the people around you. Never complain! Never! It's so unattractive. If you run into Charles Manson, don't hate him. Pity him and say something nice about him. That's sexy! That's irresistible. Don't be a bitch. Be an angel. If you can't say something nice, don't say anything. Men will kiss the ground you walk upon, and why?

Because most women are unhappy, angry, unsatisfied, judgmental nags who actually think they are helping you and themselves by trying to change you. All you're really doing is telling us we are inadequate. We feel inadequate enough without your help! LOL, but seriously, we do. God, what we wouldn't do to have someone so lovely tell us that we're wonderful as we are!

We are wonderful! People are wonderful, but who wants to hang out with someone who is blind to this truth? Certainly not me. Life is wonderful! People are wonderful! Never forget this and you will have men begging just to be in your presence. So simple! Just smile when you look at people! Nothing is more attractive! Smile like you are looking at something surprisingly precious and sweet. Is that so hard? You have no idea the power that you'll have. You'd never have to work another day in your life.

I couldn't find a woman like that, so I have a cat. She's thrilled when I come home. That's all I want: Someone who's happy to see me come home! That's what men want! To be appreciated! That's it! If we have that we are happy! We'll do anything to have that! Nothing else really matters. Just love me.

You don't even have to have sex with me. Just be glad I'm alive. What the hell? Why is that so difficult for women? Why are we instead seen as the cause of all your problems? We don't cause your problems. You cause your own problems.

If you're not happy with us, it's because you're killing us with all your complaining. If you'd shut up and smile, we'd smother you with gifts. It's what we do. We just want to provide for the woman who is happy we are alive. It's so simple. Your nagging accomplishes nothing productive. Your appreciation for even the smallest things will turn your man into a superhero who will kill himself to make you even happier.

If you can just remember that your man is good, no matter how bad he messes up, he will serve you. But as soon as you accuse him of being rotten, you have killed the drive within him to serve you.

We just can't be loyal to someone who doesn't see the goodness in us. How many times can you kick a dog before he bites you? Men are no different. We don't improve by being beaten. We only improve when we are rewarded.

Reward us with your faith in us and we will kill to protect you. Yes, men are dogs. We are very simple beasts. All we want is to please our kind masters.

So if you are kind to a man and he bites you. Leave! You found yourself a sick dog. You aren't a veterinarian. Get the hell out of there and find someone else. Never try to heal a man. It's not your job. It's his. Wish him luck and go find a healthy man.

So, just who is 1971SuperLead?  You can check out his youtube channel here, where you'll find this bearded, 60-something gent playing some great bluesy guitar solos.

Post-divorce dating mistakes: Why only the bad guys seem to stick around.

Well, unless you're just addicted to the glamour and danger
of the bad guy . . . but that's another story.
"I'm treated so badly by bottom-of-the-barrel men, so what hope can I have of a chance with someone better?"  Statements like these have been coming up a lot as I coach my clients, and it goes straight to my heart, because I used to believe this, too.

My advice is:  Don't judge the good guys by the kinds of men you may have been meeting lately.  Don't think that if guys who should be lucky to have you treat you badly that you don't even have a chance with someone better.

And, with compassion for yourself, please just notice that the men you have been meeting and sticking with have a lot to do with who you are at the time they meet you.  Let me explain.

When I was first divorced, and starting to date, I was already feeling pretty worthless and shaken up because of what my ex-husband had put me through.  First, I dated a mentally unstable man who was spiraling out of control.  I stuck with him for a while because I remembered him from years ago, before he was diagnosed as bi-polar -- back when he was a charming, successful businessman.  I held on to that fantasy of who he used to be until I was hit on the head with a virtual brick of recognition that this guy was quickly headed down the drain.  But, it took a couple of months for me to see past the mask to the reality.  Once I did, I was shocked at my self-deception.

Next, I became engaged to another relatively successful man, and even before I said "yes," skeletons were coming out of the closet.  But I continued to sweep his skeletons from the closet to under the carpet.  Because I kept in front of me the image of who I thought he was, and not the reality that he was showing me.  I wanted to live the life of the socially respected wife of a man who wasn't an under-achiever like my ex.  So, I stayed with this guy as he tested me more and more.  I finally had the courage to break off the relationship, but when I didn't find anyone else whom I really loved, I allowed him back in my life.  More than once.

It took me awhile to learn that, not only has the dating game changed a great deal from when we were young, but there's another important factor as well.  (Actually, I could write a book here, but, let me just pick one point to share.)

We've all heard the adage, "We teach people how to treat us," but many of us don't pay attention to how we present ourselves to potential dates.  (And, how we present ourselves tends to reflect the agony and self-doubt that's on the inside.)

When a divorce is still fresh, and we're still feeling off-balance, we tend to attract partners who are similarly out of control in one way or another.  We may be meeting good guys as well, but they don't stick because they see red flags on the very first date with us.

Here are a few of my post-divorce dating mistakes.  Do any of these sound familiar?
  • I realized that I had regaled men with stories about what my ex-husband had done to me.  (Male-think:  Wow, wonder why her husband cheated?  Maybe she wasn't good in bed?  Or maybe she has a terrible temper, or . . . ?  There must be something wrong with her.)
  • I would mention how I had been determined to be so fair in my divorce that I left with practically nothing.  I wanted men to know that I wasn't a money-hungry barracuda. (Male-think:  What an idiot!  She gave her ex an easy out, and now this woman would be my financial burden?)
  • I had also talked about the valiant struggles I was going through with my business at the time -- actually making wry jokes about how one thing after another was failing in my life, and how brave and strong I was to keep going in the face of all this.  I wanted them to know that I was a person of character.  (Male-think:  This girl's trouble.  I'm a man, so I have lots of choices at this age.  I can easily find a better deal.)

I could go on.  It sounds pretty harsh, but this is how guys talk and think -- even the good ones.  I know, because I have many men friends, and I've been the only woman in the room enough times to hear what men really say.  All I have to do is bring up the topic of dating, and then sit back and listen. 

A man can be a knight in shining armor.  For the right woman only.  And he's not looking for the damsel in distress -- beware if he is.

Here's my point:  In so many of my coaching calls with clients, the number one thing they need is to be taken step-by-step toward getting their lives in order to become (and own that they are) attractive, loving, powerful women who are easily able to see their beauty and embrace it.  No apologies for being the prize that you are.

I say to my clients:  Sure, keep dating, but you'll be hitting the same kinds of walls until you become the person who naturally attracts the kind of man you want to have.  In fact, you'll know that your radiance is shining brighter as the men you meet rise in quality.  When you recognize a good one, he'll stick around, wanting to show you that he is worth your time.  (Learning to recognize the good ones is the subject of another story, but I often assist on this in my coaching, too.)

But, I'm not a dating coach.  I'm a divorce recovery coach, who gets you to the place where you're ready to meet the man of your dreams.  My job is to assist my clients in feeling better and more confident every week.  When that starts to happen, topics of conversation on dates won't betray you as a pushover or victim.  Because that pushover won't even exist anymore.