Dating should be fun: The thrill of waking up next to a new lover—feeling their soft breath against your body—is fantastic at any age. But dating at forty-plus is too often cast in a sad light by the media, so for some, the thought of being single and forty (or older) brings to mind what one doesn’t have, or is losing, as opposed to what you do have—or are even gaining.
But what I’ve found with my clients is that being single “later in life” can be really glamorous in some ways: For many, there’s a freedom that hits at some point in your forties. Whereas more women in their twenties and thirties are looking for a partner to have children with, this becomes less the case as we get older. What many of my clients are looking for in their forties and beyond is love and/or simply fun, often less-freighted by needs surrounding building a family, financial stability, etc. Another benefit of dating at forty is that you have the confidence that comes with experience. I see a difference in how women in their forties walk into a room, the way they can make heads turn and pulses race. It’s a radiance, a power from within. Call it a sexual glow, or just plain sex appeal. Whatever it is, it’s alluring.
“Being single ‘later in life’ can be really glamorous.”
Still, you might think, the on-again, off-again dating game is overwhelming—which is true, it can be, at any age. For many of my single clients, examining and re-setting their fears and intentions around dating helps them to find enjoyment in it that they might not have felt before. What we project and how we attract others has everything to with what’s buried beneath, whether curiosity or fear. Dating can be both perplexing and hair-raising. But it can be wildly exciting, too.
I sometimes use word association techniques with clients to bring awareness to the role that perception plays in their dating life—it illuminates how vital it is to check in with yourself.
Coral, forty-two, explained that dating had left her feeling abandoned. She felt manipulated to please her (male) partners, and felt overly needy herself. The first word that came to mind for her when I asked her to think of the word man was power. When I asked her to think of the word, woman? Soft. For Coral, this revealed how polarized she was going into dating and relationships.
Another client, Jennifer, age forty-six, described the people she was dating as shallow—players who valued looks over connection. Like Coral, Jennifer associated men with strong words (albeit negative ones like a$$hole). In contrast to Coral, though, Jennifer herself also identified with the word power. What Jennifer came to realize was that she liked to have control when dating and in relationships, and so, too, it seemed did the men whom she’d been involved with in the past. It was no wonder she demonized her exes—she didn’t perceive any harmony or balance when it came to dating.
A Word Association Trick
Imagine you’re flipping through a deck of cards—shuffling, shuffling, and then pulling out a card. On the front of the card is the subject you want to examine: self, dating, a particular someone’s name, etc. When you flip it over, there will be one word on the back. Close your eyes. Flip over the card. Open your eyes. What’s the word you see now? Say out loud the first thing that comes to mind.
For clients like Coral and Jennifer (and other clients like them), reflecting on how they view themselves helps balance their approach to dating. What you think, you project and, in turn, attract.
“We are pre-programmed to feel desire, to connect with others, to fall in love (and I don’t just mean one time, with one person).”
While this self-work can take many forms (from therapy to meditation, etc.), and can be difficult, it’s actually surprising how relatively straightforward it is for many to tap into the power of their own desires—and to harness that energy toward their dating experiences. We are pre-programmed to feel desire, to connect with others, to fall in love (and I don’t just mean one time, with one person). This doesn’t disappear with age.
When it comes to romance, we’re often enticed to follow fads or fit into social norms—to think of dating later in life as unnatural (there’s something wrong with me). Our drive for perfection can override our sense of self-worth, and obscure our desires, even to ourselves. Our desires can drive us at every age if we let them. The benefit of being guided by desire at forty, as opposed to twenty, is that you have more freedom, plus the wisdom of twenty more years of life to accompany you.