Dating As Older Adults

Walker Thornton

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Dating as older adults isn’t easy..

Having recently seen the unexpected end of a relationship that seemed to hold potential I am again wondering how we can do it better.

If we want to be in a romantic relationship with someone we have to go through all the stages—the awkward meet and greet, the initial euphoria, and the adjusting phase. That moment when one or both parties stop being on their best behavior and it’s time to figure out the practical aspects of building some form of a partnership with this other person. Or walking away.

Before dating again it might be useful to think about the kind of relationship you want. And see what they want? Are you both committed to spending time getting to know each other?

What mutual likes and interests do you share? Where do you disagree and how significant is it? Do they listen to you? Are they supportive and interested in your life, or expecting you to be there when it suits their schedule?

These basic questions will help you decide.

We assume that both parties looking to meet a potential partner are eager to have conversations about what a future might look like together. But, if we don’t ask the questions because it feels ‘forward’ or too direct we risk disappointment if he/she isn't what we had hoped for.

A more nuanced problem arises if we try hard to make ourselves seem desirable, trying too hard to be the 'right' kind of woman, not who we really are. It's challenging to keep our wants and needs in mind as we start new relationships.

We try to be pleasing; it’s what we are taught to do as women. That’s one of my challenges.I would play small. I would try to be who I thought they wanted me to be. And as a consequence I tolerated things I really didn't enjoy or want in a relationship.

How do we fully show up? Being aware of our tendencies is a good first step—and catching ourselves when we fall back into old ways. We want to find the balance between being too quick to judge and allowing room for possibility.

I think that’s part of the problem many older women experience—a sort of panic at being passed by, at feeling not pretty enough, or young enough, or thin enough. As a result women may feel pressured to grab what’s presented to them, even when that person isn’t what they wanted.

We need to figure out what works when it comes to character traits and emotional availability. By the time we begin dating as older adults we have probably developed fairly entrenched patterns.

Compromise and conversation help us find middle ground. We have to know what we absolutely will not tolerate and where we are willing to give a little.

I suggest being open and honest about what you want, right up front. Talk about the things that matter to you. Ask questions. Go beyond the meaningless chatter.

What would that look like? Each of us will go about this differently, but I do think it’s important to have these conversations. It feels a bit pushy to ask about their relationship goals on a first date, but it’s important to be clear on what you seek.

Their level of comfort and willingness to be open will tell you a lot about who they are. Defensiveness, evading your questions, or being uncomfortable with an outspoken woman provide additional hints at future behavior. And the more one knows the easier it becomes to move forward.

The best relationships are ones in which we feel heard and supported. The ones where we can be ourselves, show our vulnerabilities,, and know that our partner is able to care for all the parts of who we are.

Remember: not everyone can handle who we are and that's OK too. Who wants to be in a relationship with someone who isn't fully committed to supporting us in our quest to live our best lives?

Benjamin Hotel
Benjamin Hotel


Walker Thornton

Walker Thornton is an author and public speaker advocating the idea of Aging Unapologetically™.

She helps women embrace the next stage of life with joy and abandon and a touch of practicality. Her approach to talking about sex and aging is refreshingly positive.

Her book, Inviting Desire, a Guide for Women Who Want to Enhance Their Sex Life, can be found at Amazon, and other online booksellers.