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Dating After 50: Maintain Your Friendships

Why do you need to maintain contact with your friends while dating? The people you know best are the people you've selected — and who have returned the favor — as your inner circle. This circle may be one or two people or many people spread across the country or the globe.

But among them are people whom you've told secrets to, who have confided in you, and, most important, who have demonstrated their love and loyalty to you over the years.

That's not to say that you don't have awesome new friends. But while all friends are valuable, friends that you've had for many years have the long view of you, your choices, and your best interests. They may feel possessive, and they certainly want to be included in the news about your new dating life.

Sometimes, their needs and reactions are hard to understand and even harder to attend to. That's why you need to think about how your dating life affects your deepest friendships — and how those reactions affect you.

If you don't make your friends feel important, they may feel dumped by you while you're dating a lot or when you become especially interested in one person. They may start to get angry if they feel you've left them by the wayside.

Friends know that love and sexual attraction are powerful feelings that deserve your attention, but they don't want to feel like they've just been placeholders when you had nothing better to do with your time. Here are three simple things you can do to reassure them they still matter — even if you're infatuated with and dedicating most of your time to someone you're dating.

  • Use media to keep them in the loop. Texting, e-mailing, and social media are great ways to keep your friends close when you don't have a lot of face time available. You can tell them who you're seeing, where you've been going, and what you've been learning. They'll be flattered and feel like you're not forsaking them, even if they're seeing a whole lot less of you.

  • Share your feelings about your date. If you're dating someone seriously, or even if you aren't, don't forsake the kind of conversation you used to have when you were checking in with your friends. Tell them a little bit about the person you're seeing and how that person makes you feel.

    Give them a sense of where your emotional life is so they understand if you're getting serious or if you're feeling down because you're not meeting anyone who truly moves you. Let them be supportive or happy for you, depending on what they know — and they won't know unless you take the time to tell them how you feel.

  • Ask their advice. Part of being a friend is being helpful. If you've been a very private person up to now, changing your stripes would be hard and perhaps odd. But you may feel out of your depth and unable to read someone's character or you may need help interpreting what happened between you and a date at a specific moment.

    If so, don't deprive your friends of a chance to really be a friend and to participate by giving you advice. If they don't feel comfortable in that role, they'll let you know either directly or by changing the subject. But for many friends, just being asked a single question lets them know that you respect them and want their opinion.

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