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Dating After 50: Updating Your Criteria

Copyright © 2014 AARP All rights reserved.

Dating after 50 requires a change of perspective. When you felt it was time to make a commitment the first time around, you may have had a specific list of characteristics this person had to have.

For example, it may have included whether the person was going to be successful in life (money, career), what kind of mother or father the person would make, how much you liked the person's looks, how deeply you wanted to be with the person, and whether your parents approved of your choice.

You probably met or exceeded some of these expectations, but some were woefully off-course. Here are a few ways you might want to adjust your expectations now.

Recognize that people change over time

Though people try to beat age as much as they can, the facts are the facts. Even if you look like you're 35, you're not. All those years have taught you a lot, and chances are they've brought other people a lot of insight and maturation as well.

This means that people are often a much better version of themselves than they were 25 years ago, so if you run across an old high school or college chum, you shouldn't jump to the conclusion that the person is the same.

People change through personal crises, career ups and downs, job changes, parenthood, the loss of those dear to them, bouts with alcoholism and other addictions, overeating, medical difficulties, and more. Don't jump to conclusions when you see an old acquaintance on Facebook or at a reunion and the person is interested in getting to know you again.

Quite a few people do find a partner at reunions, on Facebook, or by chance encounters with old friends or even past dates. Don't rule them out.

Look beyond a potential parent for your children

When you're young, marriage or commitment often includes an assessment of your partner as a potential parent. Men may have chosen someone whose ambition was to be a great mother or someone who was willing to put her career away or on hold for the child-raising years.

Women may have focused on a man's desire for kids, his desire to be involved in their daily life, and his capacity to make the kind of money that they'd like their family to enjoy. A couple may have made many sacrifices, no matter what kind of couple it was (cohabiting, same sex, and so on), in order for the children to be well taken care of.

However, you may have kids who are grown up or almost grown up, out of the house, pursuing their own careers, and raising their own families. If you do have kids at home, then a partner's willingness to be involved in their life and his ability to relate to children matters a lot. In fact, how a partner relates to even adult children is important to most parents.

You don't need to worry about discipline or education. You don't need to pick people based on how they would do these jobs. You can even differ on parenting philosophy because you're not going to be practicing it together.

Let go of the need to please your parents and friends

If you were close to your parents when you were young, you probably wanted them to admire and accept your partner. You wanted their approval. Maybe now, however, it's time to give that up. If it was ever your own life to live, it certainly is now.

And this time around, if you hanker for a cowboy, why not go for it? If the racial, religious, or class boundaries you observed so carefully no longer matter to you, don't continue along those old paths. A lot of the world opens up to you if you take all those tight strictures off and allow yourself to meet and enjoy different kinds of people.

Update your economic considerations

If you've done well and are quite secure in your future ability to live the kind of life you want, you may be able to disregard how economically independent your date is. If you think your date is great but not high earning or even economically stable, it may not matter to you.

On the other hand, if you have a tentative hold on your economic future, you may need to think about the fiscal as well as the physical attractiveness of your partner. As you face the future with retirement or less earning capacity in mind, money becomes a different kind of consideration in how you choose people to date and how you think of them as serious partners.

Think about health when dating

Youth and optimism go together. When you were young, you may not have experienced disabling disabilities or had to cope with a partner's significant health problems. But as people turn the corner at 50, many more health issues surface, and some of them are quite serious.

If you have serious medical issues, you need to disclose them at some point, and so should the person you're dating. Health becomes something that you can't take for granted. As age progresses, some people radiate health and vitality and many don't.

Think about how much you're willing to love someone who may need some caretaking or who has the emotional depth and character to be there for you with whatever health issues you're facing or will face.

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