Just be yourself when dating after middle age
by Tim Smith
Don’t stress out trying to prove you’re the perfect partner when dating after middle age: just be yourself.
According to relationships counsellor Cathy Sousa, companionship is the number one goal for people in their 50s and 60s seeking that special someone to share the next chapter of their lives.
Life experience has taught most mature people that the Prince Charming story doesn’t always work out like it does in the movies.
So instead of dreaming of a fairytale romance as you embark on a new relationship, Ms Sousa advised to simply focus on exploring whether your personality is compatible with your new potential partner.
“In their 50s and 60s, people are often more aware of the importance that compatibility and companionship play in a relationship,” Ms Sousa said.
“Maybe they don’t have that vision of the perfect romance that younger people might have, but often that’s because they’ve learnt to be realistic. So, in addition to physical attraction and intimacy, they’re looking for a compatible partner that can provide easy companionship.”
Presenting your true self does not have to be a complicated task.
“By the time we’re in your 50s or 60s, we are generally more comfortable with who we are, and become more realistic about ourselves, more accepting of ourselves,” Ms Sousa said.
“I think if we are more comfortable with ourselves, as we mature, there’s not so much effort when it comes to presenting our inner self. It’s easier just to be yourself.
“We are looking for that partner, and we want to be sure that our personalities are compatible.
“If you are not presenting your real self, you are not generally going to find that good match.”
The idea of dating can be daunting for people who may be recently divorced or lost their spouse after many years of marriage.
Ms Sousa suggested: “Go into it as if you are meeting a new friend. Let go of that idea that you have to find the perfect person.
“I wouldn’t advise going into it with the mindset that I have to attract this person to be in a long-term relationship. Let go of that agenda. Just be natural. Let the conversation flow naturally.
“Once you interact with that person, sometimes you recognise it’s not a good match in personality. The intentions may not be the same. You might be looking for a more long-term partner, looking towards marriage and then find out that actually this person is not looking for the same thing.
“But if you can be yourself, and the other person can be themselves, and if you are compatible – then yay!”
This does not mean, however, that you can neglect taking care of your physical appearance.
Ms Sousa said: “We know there is an expectation that we have gone to some effort to present ourselves as well as we can. If we are talking about women, presenting a good external image is important. We like to look nice, but then because we are more generally comfortable with ourselves it tends not to be the overriding factor.”
Beauty specialist Samaela Darrell, owner of St George’s salon Crowned, said many of her clients are trying to start dating again after a divorce.
“You want to look at your best at all times,” she said.
“When we look good, we feel good. People love to sit up and look their best so they can face the world. We have so many stresses in today’s world, looking good shouldn’t be one of them. It’s really important for your mental health as a woman.”
As far as looks are concerned, creating a good first impression is as crucial in your 50s and 60s as it was in your 20s.
“We have to understand our appearance is something people look at first,” Ms Darrell said. When you walk in the door, that’s immediately what people are looking at,” she said.
“When we look at a guy for the first time, we analyse him straightaway. So, we have to make sure we are looking our best from head to toe, from the first time he sees us. Everything has to be all together – the complete look, the hair, the nails, the outfit.”
And while there’s more to making a relationship work than physical appearance, Ms Darrell added: “You are trying to find someone compatible, not someone who looks like they’ve been sweeping the streets. So you want to make sure you are attractive to the right person.”
Some women struggle with hair loss after menopause, but Ms Darrell said: “I deal with clients with hair issues and there’s nothing we can’t handle in this particular storm to give them what they want.”
Her top style tip is to keep up with your colour appointments.
“Nobody wants to see grey hair sneaking through,” she said.
Fashion designer René Hill, the owner and creative designer of René Hill Originals, encouraged people to dress elegantly – without showing too much flesh – when dating after middle age.
“It’s important to look the best you can, but not go over the top,” Ms Hill said.
“Be sexy, but be elegant. When he’s cutting his steak, he needs to be able to focus on what he’s doing!
“It’s important to make an effort and it does make a difference.”
Ms Hill said some women like wearing comfortable shoes as they get older but advised: “You haven’t got to always be in heels, but you should have a pair that you can wear sometimes so you can show off the tone of your calf. You hold yourself differently when you’re wearing heels.”
There’s no hard and fast rule for looking your best.
Ms Hill said: “If you are a larger lady, then maybe just highlight your best point. If you’ve got great legs, then maybe go with a short skirt instead of having a maxi dress.
“If your upper body is your best asset, maybe show a little bit, but not too much.
“If you are short and stumpy, just try to find something appropriate that doesn’t make you look like you’re wearing a sack.
“If you’re a guy, make sure your pants fit correctly. Don’t be wearing something that has more than two breaks, so the bottom of the legs look like an elephant leg.
“If you are wearing a jacket, make sure it fits.”
Ms Hill has helped prepare many of her middle-aged clients for their wedding day, underlining that Bermuda’s dating scene is alive and well for over 50s.
She said: “So many people who are single say they just can’t find anybody. But there are so many people out there looking.”
If you can’t seem to find anyone, the advice is simple.
“Put yourself out there,” Ms Hill said. “Talk to people and make those connections. Don’t just talk to your girlfriend when you go out.
“Be more confident in yourself. Accept that you have to love you. It could be something very, very simple, like you are a friendly person, or a decent person, or loyal, or a good mom. Find something about yourself that you really love and let that be your rock. Then your confidence will grow.”