Dating After 50: Use Friends as a Sounding Board - dummies

Dating After 50: Use Friends as a Sounding Board

By Pepper Schwartz

You may never have needed friends as much as you need them now when you begin to date. Unless you’re dating just for fun, you need the opinion of your friends about anyone you’re really interested in.

If you haven’t dated in a long time, you may have trouble reading the people you’re meeting, and you may need someone who has your back and can give you real insight into the person you’re dating.

Here are several ways friends can be invaluable:

  • They can give you technical advice. For example, they can tell you whether you’re being too aggressive or too passive. It’s hard to judge whether you’re moving too fast or too slow if you haven’t moved at all in a long time!

    If you tell your friends how things are proceeding, they can get a different vantage point than you have and see whether you’re crowding this person or making the person feel like you’re barely interested.

    They can provide insight about when to step up the amount of time you’re seeing the person or even when things are ready to get sexual. They can give you the opposite advice, too: You may be suffocating a relationship by asking too much of it too soon. Friends can look at what’s happening, analyze the dialogue you pass on, and give you valuable insight.

  • They can tell you if they see things in this person you should but don’t. Sometimes, people are so bedazzled by someone that they miss things that other people pick up right away. If you can’t believe your luck, sometimes a friend can tell you that what you see as luck is really misfortune.

    You may find a person so attractive and sexy that you don’t notice that he’s bad with money and arrogant. Your friends may notice that he has never once asked them anything about themselves but that he tells story after story about his own successes and lifestyle.

    Perhaps you find it charming that your date is hapless about money or too intense to notice other people’s contributions to the conversation, but if friend after friend tells you that you have a world-class narcissist on your hands, you might rethink your attachment, despite your head-over-heels attraction.

  • They can tell you whether you’re making a mistake you’ve made before. Your friends know you. The friends that have shared a lifetime with you know that you go for bad boys or wild girls, and that every single time you’ve done that, it has ended badly.

    When you say that education isn’t everything, they can recall a past mate who had much less education than you and how you hated that he hadn’t read the kind of books you had read or couldn’t keep up with conversations around the dinner table.

    Your friends can remind you that the last time you dated someone 25 years younger, you were dumped and chastised for thinking you could hold the interest of someone the same age as your children. These aren’t pleasant memories, and hearing about them again may sting, but if you’ve made similar mistakes over and over, you need a friend to at least try and dissuade you from making them again.

  • They can support you on things you know you should do but are having trouble actually doing. If you’re shy, friends who go to parties with you and introduce you to people are essential for dating success.

    Yes, you have plenty of things you know you should do (eat less, exercise more, find a good relationship, and so on), but sometimes, fears and habits stop you from doing what you know you want to do. A friend who says, “No excuses. I’m picking you up at 7, and we’re going to that new singles group for people over 50” is of extraordinary value.

    You may have a friend who’s capable of being your dating guru but who may not think of it unless you ask him to take on this role. Most good friends are delighted to help you, but they may not consider doing so unless you make a direct request.

  • They can tell you things you don’t want to hear but need to hear. Onlookers may shake their heads about something you’re doing but never say anything. Or some friends, when you ask them, “How do I look?” or “Do you think being overweight will bother anyone?” may not want to tell you what you need to hear because they don’t want to hurt or anger you.

    That’s understandable, but you need at least a few friends who tell you exactly what they think — even if it hurts — because they know what they need to tell you the truth about is getting in the way of achieving your goal.

    For example, suppose you have bad breath but you’ve never noticed it. Somebody has to tell you or you’re going to offend every date you have. A friend may just bring over some breath spray and say, “Hey, use this to be more appealing,” and you may be embarrassed, but you should really be grateful that someone cares enough about your future to let you know you have a problem and also how to fix it.

  • Your friend’s honesty gets much trickier, though, if what he says concerns your date and not yourself. It takes a brave friend to tell you that he thinks someone you’re infatuated with is wrong for you. Prize that person’s honesty, even if you decide to disagree with him and proceed with the relationship.