When I was growing up, I thought dating ceased at approximately 25 to 27 years of age. Most “adults” I knew, like my older brother and cousins, were hitched by 27, so my theory made sense. By the age of 27, you are several years removed from college, likely already installed in a solid job, all those obligatory one-night-stands are out of the way, and you’ve had enough time to settle down and find “the one.”
The idea of dating after 40 simply didn’t exist. But while divorce rates have decreased, after a steady uptick, plenty of people re-enter the dating scene later in life. Here are the ways dating is different when you are 40 and over.
You have more responsibilities and distractions
Most people over 40 are established in their lives, with steady careers and families. When seeking a new mate, you have way more responsibilities and things that demand your attention at this stage than when you were in college or just graduating.
“Dating is going to have a different landscape after 40 because people are more likely to have been through a divorce or have kids,” relationships expert Jennifer Seiter told me. “It will be more challenging because you will have more external distractions from your relationship. For example, if you have kids, your new partner may feel neglected if you pay more attention to them, than her or him.” If you are diving back into the dating pool in your 40s, expect #adulting to be an obstacle, but not an insurmountable one.
You may have to deal with a former spouse
Former spouses may remain in the picture — in your life or theirs — thus, creating some drama. Or, at the very least, some degree of awkwardness.
“You or your new mate may have an ex that is trying to sabotage the new relationship,” Seiter said. “The disruption can manifest in subtle or passive aggressive ways, such as verbal barbs or dropping in under the guise of seeing the kids.” These realities make establishing a new relationship a little bit tougher, since there are a variety of emotions, feelings, and scenarios that come into play.
You make better choices
When you are in your 40s and re-entering the dating scene, it can be scary because you haven’t done it in a while and are a little rusty. There’s also a alot more at stake in this point in your life, since, let’s face it, no one’s getting any younger. But don’t panic. The fact that you are older, wiser, and more experienced means you will be more judicious when dating and considering potential partners. “The good news is you know yourself really well by 40 and know what you want, therefore, making better choices,” Seiter said.
As Roger Ziegler, a 15-year certified life and relationship coach, told me, “Hopefully, by now, you are looking for a connection that goes beyond the surface appearance of things. Kindness and good conversation are more important than looks or wealth.” He also pointed to what you may look for when it comes to online dating profiles. “You’re less impressed with the shirtless man standing next to a sleeping tiger and more interested in visiting a nature preserve for tiger viewing,” he said, referencing how social media postings on dating apps are designed to impress, and may be more about artifice than reality, with a younger generation.
You are all grown up
By the time you are 40, you’re a bona fide grown-up. That’s not to suggest that you are all business, all of the time. But you likely have moved past the messy, surface stuff that defines dating in your youth. Relationship expert Audrey Hope told me, “Not only have you grown in time, but you have also grown in your self-worth and experience, and can therefore magnetize a better love match through the law of attraction. You lived through and survived the bad boys (or bad girls), the ones who broke your heart, and so now after 40, you are ready for mature and lasting love.”
She continued, “You have probably deepened from experiences and are now looking more at the soul, the heart, and the inside of the person, rather than their hair and pant size. The superficialness has faded.”
It’s a whole new world
Dating apps and social media are relatively new constructs. If you were dating actively 20 years ago, you likely had to rely on actually going out and meeting potential mates in public places, like bars and clubs. Now, there’s Tinder, Grindr, Facebook, Twitter, OK Cupid, and lots of other ways to meet all sorts of people. That makes dating very exciting as long as you can sift through the ether.
Don’t be afraid to get online to find a mate, according to Laurel House, author and Celebrity Dating Coach on E!’s Famously Single. But don’t dive into it without having a plan. “Make sure that you have a strategy and you are smart about it. Ask questions, assert your needs, and have a confident ‘Here I am’ mentality,” she told me.
Hope also warns against being afraid of online dating. “Your dating radar will speed up,” she said. “You know what you want and don’t have time to waste. You are now more serious and looking for qualities that have long-term value, like a guy or girl with an interesting career and family aspirations. It matters now how he or she feels about the world and the state of humanity. ” If you are “old fashioned” and prefer offline dating, Hope suggested the gym, or business events and parties as the best places to meet a mate at this age.
Sex may take a back seat to commitment
When I was in college, dating was more about hooking up and the “now,” than it was about forging a long-lasting connection, or talking about the state of the world, or going super deep about shared interests. When you are in your 40s, great sex is still an important part of your life, but as Hope said, “It might not be number one on the list. Maybe now it has moved to the number two slot. Commitment might take the top slot.” If you are in your 40s and perhaps have never been married, you are likely looking for something more meaningful, especially if you hope to start a family.
Hope continued, “You enter a space where you know what you want, you are sure of yourself, and hold higher self-esteem. Your voice probably got louder too (spiritually and vocally), so you won’t ‘stay longer at the party’ than is necessary. You see and know what you deserve. You may demand a great life and a great relationship and know how to get it. You have stopped wasting time, finally!”
There are more people seeking the same things
One of the perks of dating in your 40s is that you may easily find people who are seeking the same things in life that you are. Alisa Ruby Bash, PsyD, LMFT in Malibu told me, “Although there certainly can be players, liars, or sociopaths out there — and everyone should always keep their guard up when getting to know someone — there tend to be less options in the dating pool,” she said. “Most people are settled down. Therefore, people tend to value each other more, and give each other more of an opportunity.”
She continued, “After 40, people are usually able to connect more and experience authentic relationships because they are willing to give it more of a chance. Therefore, the physical intimacy can be a lot more fulfilling than the shallow, less intimate sex people tend to have in their 20s, when dating.”
You will spend less time looking
When you are more well-adjusted and self-aware, you will require less time actually dating if you trust in your own experiences. “You generally have a much better idea of what a good relationship looks like. No? Well, here it is. You see yourself in good, pleasant conversation with this person for 20 years or more,” Ziegler said. “Every other good thing flows from that.”
You get serious more quickly
Once you hit 40, chances are, you have already been in a long-term or committed relationship — or several — and you know what you want, what you like, and what works, or doesn’t.
Bash told me, “Because of the wisdom age brings, and life experience, relationships can experience deeper levels of emotional intimacy sooner than in those of younger people who do not know themselves, or feel truly comfortable being themselves. Therefore, people tend to get more serious quicker after 40. They realize how precious and rare true connections are, and probably are very sick of being alone.”
The love can be deeper
Dating later in life becomes more critical since people approaching midlife may be more eager to settle down and perhaps remarry, according to Bash. “Usually, people do not want to waste time dating a bunch of others,” Bash noted. “People tend to be more settled and advanced in their careers, and have more security. So, usually they want to enjoy life with a partner, and travel, etc. Instead of seeing what is out there, or being afraid to commit, people usually want companionship, and to build a new life with someone. It can be so refreshing for those people to start their new lives with a clean slate, and not waste time.”
“The love couples experience after 40 is usually deeper,” Bash said. “Since it’s not a first love, and not their first rodeo, they have to accept each other with their baggage, and usually grow in their own self-acceptance as well. Seeing themselves through fresh eyes — through the eyes of another, after 40 — can give them a new perspective and change their entire understanding of life.” She also noted, “As the human lifespan increases, and people generally have more than one life partner, dating over 40 can be some of the best dating, and healthiest relationships people experience.”
Your online dating profile is the real deal
Samantha Daniels, Relationship Expert and Founder of The Dating Lounge App, noted that someone in their 40s would craft a dating profile that is more seasoned. “Your dating app profile is your resume,” she told me. “For 40-somethings in the dating world, strong online profiles are essential to making a solid first impression. For younger generations, profiles can be filled with fun tidbits and quirky details. Anyone dating past 40, however, is looking for a serious, substantial relationship and does not have time to waste on cutesy descriptions. Build an appealing profile with an attractive photo and an interesting, honest description, since this is your first chance to make a strong first impression.”
Need a little help editing yours? Daniels suggested selecting one or two sites and apps “that will allow your personality to shine and help you to focus on finding dates who match perfectly with your interests. You can use your valuable time to focus on your dating deal breakers and initial attraction parameters so you can find the right match.”
Your date night outfit sends a message
Date night outfits for twentysomethings are very different than those of someone in their 40s. Daniels suggested that a go-to date outfit in your 40s should have a “hint of sexy.” Since “dating in your 20s and 30s often involves a lot of low-cut tops and tight-fitting outfits, the rule to follow in your 40s is a hint of sexy.” That’s because you want to project a different, but equally important message.
Daniels says, “You want to appear classic and put-together…The proper outfit will emphasize the fact that you have your life together and are not looking to play the field any longer. By putting together an attractive, presentable outfit, you communicate to your date that you are serious about pursuing a longterm relationship and are not interested in short-term hookups.”
The conversations change
Your topics of conversation shift when getting acquainted with new people at this stage of your life. But you also want to be mindful of how you voice what you want, so as not to scare off a prospective partner.
“Young people dating tend to stay away from complicated topics like marriage, kids, and finances until their relationship progresses,” Daniels said. “As a 40-year-old in the dating world, such conversation points are always on your mind. However, you need to be careful how and when you bring up these more serious topics while you are dating. You need to err on the side of bringing up serious topics more slowly, while at the same time garnering enough information from a potential future partner to understand if your beliefs and desires are in sync.”
You got this
Yes, dating in your 40s is new, different, and challenging, thanks to the digital world in which we all reside. But the reason humans seek each other out is the same regardless of age or generation, and that’s because of the fundamental desire to connect. While it might take some adjustments to navigate a whole new online world, if you always offer your best, most authentic self, you’ll attract the partner who suits you best.