Truth be told, being single in your 40s can be a wonderful thing. Let's face it, you’re braver, smarter, sexier and more discerning than ever. Using these qualities as your secret superpowers, dating can not only be fun, but you can be much more successful, and speedier, at finding your match than you ever were.
That said, there are nuances to be aware of that weren’t factors in our 20s—we weren’t as dedicated to our careers or financial responsibilities, and we hadn't had the experience of deeper relationships to learn from. To arm you with helpful tools for your best dating experience yet, we consulted with relationship experts and psychologists to glean their advice. Get ready to make your 40s even more fabulous.
Choose Wisely Because This Could Be It
The divorce rate has gone down by 18% from 2008 to 2018, with age as the number one consideration factor. Fewer people are “settling down” at a younger age in an effort to gain more life experience, financial stability, or a stronger sense of self.
Meaning, your 40-year-old dating field will likely have more players looking to get hitched, and if that’s the case, don’t enter into a serious relationship hastily says Kelly Campbell, PhD, Professor of Psychology at CSUSB. “Marrying in your 40s, especially if it’s for the first time, means you have fewer years till death do you part, so this really could be The One,” says Campbell. “As such, you’ll want to make the best possible choice.”
Learn Quickly If They’ve Moved Past Their Big Relationship
Once you’ve hit your 40s, chances are that you’ve had one major relationship (whether marriage or long-term). And chances are the person you’re dating has too. You’ll want to make sure that both you and your date have properly processed these relationships, as there is often work to be done on oneself before moving forward, says Campbell.
How can you tell if your date is living in the past? One red flag is if they are talking about their past partner in disparaging terms. “Pay attention to how the person you’re dating discusses the end of their previous relationship(s)—if they are unable to discuss it in objective terms or clearly seeing each person’s role in what went wrong,” says Campbell. “It may be a warning sign that they aren’t over the other person, are still holding a grudge, or are at risk for repeating maladaptive patterns in the new relationship.”
Besides, “Nothing turns off a new person more than hearing you rag about somebody else of their same sex,” says Fran Walfish, MD, Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist. Your new partner will suspect it was you who was the problem.
Be Certain It’s the Right Time to Introduce Your Kids
Kids are a major consideration when it comes to dating in your 40s—whether yours or your date's—as the emotional needs of children may conflict with yours. “Children need time to adjust to their parents’ split, and it can take at least two years for them to get over anger, sadness, and other emotions,” says Walfish. “Introducing a new love interest too soon may delay or damage this process. You owe it to your kids to take it slow when dating!”
To help your children adjust successfully, timing is essential. If you’ve been dating someone for at least four to five months and feel confident that you’re heading toward commitment, the time may be right to talk to your children, advises Walfish. Do this by encouraging them to share both negative and positive feelings about your new partner. Actively listen and validate them while having realistic expectations about their acceptance.
And if the time isn’t right? Have fun dating when your kids are with their other parent or family members. “If you introduce your children to someone who you are dating casually, this may create uncertainty and ambivalence for them about intimacy if things don’t work out,” says Walfish. Instead, inform your kids that you are going out with friends and that’s enough information, she adds.
Don’t Sleep Together on the First Date
In the heat of the moment, sometimes it can take all your willpower to say “no.” But according to Walfish, it’s well worth it, even as mature adults. “It takes time to get to know someone, and talking is the glue that holds people together,” she says. “Rushing into sex can derail talking communication and make it just a short-lived burst of lust.”
Having a good sex life is even more valuable than it was in your 20s. So in an effort to set yourself up for the best sex of your life, hold off on the hanky panky until you’re confident in the direction your relationship is going. Set your boundaries upfront by simply stating, “I don’t sleep with someone until I’m really ready,” or avoid sleeping altogether (which can add a nice effect of increased intrigue). The reward for meaningful and passionate lovemaking, in the long run, will pay off and then some.
Be Both Independent and Interdependent
A nice perk of being 40 and fabulous is that you’ve likely “worked” on yourself and are comfortable with who you are. If not, you’ll want to establish clearly identified dating values, preferences and goals, Campbell advises. Know your relationship expectations and deal breakers without being too rigid.
By doing this you can be both independent and interdependent partner, or, in other words, “You function well on your own and at the same time are comfortable fulfilling important needs for your partner and vice versa.”
Know How to Navigate Gender Stereotypes
Dating in today's landscape comes with sometimes controversial and confusing expectations of gender roles—many having differing viewpoints and philosophies. Especially when both parties are financially independent and set in their ways. Who picks up the check? Do you want the door opened for you, or do you want to open it yourself? Not being on the same page can lead to resentment.
“Open, honest communication between two loving and solemnly committed partners is required to make all types of role divisions in relationships work,” says Walfish. Talk to your partner about how they view gender roles and what their expectations are to grasp a better understanding. And if you have differing viewpoints, you can then decide if it’s a deal breaker or if the both of you can be flexible and accommodate each other.
Trust Your Instincts
“Most relationship mistakes happen because a person does not trust their instincts early on and sticks around thinking it will change,” says clinical psychologist Ramani Durvasula, MD. By your 40s, you have logged some miles on your tires with a range of human encounters, so trust your gut, she advises.
Additionally, by listening to your gut, you’ll be able to look beyond type and move forward based on feelings and mutual values—true cornerstones of successful relationships. Types are for people chasing something that they think is good for them. Don’t put those kinds of limits on love.
Have a Clear Agenda
Dating agendas tend to be more consistent when people are younger, but by the time they reach their 40s, people may be looking for wide-ranging goals from marriage to casual hookups, friendships, or even children. All the while having varied lives with established careers, different kinds of financial responsibilities due to families, homes, and more.
“You are no longer a 25-year-old living with roommates and with few fiscal ties,” says Durvasula. “Because the range of reasons and expectations around dating may be wider, be clear on yours. If someone is not on the same page as you, knowing your hopes can help you make decisions that do not leave you resentful down the road.”
Celebrity matchmaker and relationship expert Carmelia Ray agrees. “Establish your deal breakers and don't compromise important values just to impress someone you like,” she says. “Don’t beat around the bush long-term—been there, done that.”
Manage Social Media Expectations
Young people are now brought into a world where social media is seamlessly part of their lives. But for an older generation, this can vary. The range includes everything from “the 45-year-old who is as plugged in as a teenager to the 48-year-old who has never been on Instagram,” says Durvasula.
Ask your date first if you can post a photo of the two of you together and be mindful, she advises, as “it may not work for the other person.”
Accept Scheduling Conflicts
People are busy with many responsibilities in their 40s that require more planning and sleep. A late Tuesday night may not work on a regular basis as fatigue can set in, says Durvasula. “Not to say that you need to get the blue plate special and call it a night at 7 p.m., but you are also no longer able to just skip morning classes after a first date.” Plus, if you’re a parent, you have to balance parent and couple responsibilities, “which could get tricky because it means a lot less time for dating and less alone time,” Campbell adds.
Don’t try to read between the lines if your date has to reschedule or call it early. Oftentimes, it is because of their personal responsibilities, and you'd likely expect the same kind of understanding from them.
Never Apologize for Being You
By the time we hit 40, we’ve had our fair share of trial and errors, but this needn’t be considered “baggage.” You’ve gotten through any mistakes you've made and learned from them, so remember this when you’re on a date. “Women, in particular, apologize for what they perceive are their shortcomings or to discount themselves,” says Durvasula. “You have lived a full life, no need for apologies. Own your mistakes and talk about them as life lessons.”
And offer the same respect to your date if they share a past mistake with you. “People want to be seen, validated, and accepted—flaws and all!” says Walfish.
Don’t Make Assumptions
You’ve been around the block or two when it comes to dating, and as a result, it’s easy to have existing beliefs based on your past experiences—more than you ever would have in your 20s, or even 30s. “If you’ve had negative dating experiences, often referred to as ‘baggage,’ you might assume the person you’re dating shares similar traits or behaviors as someone in your past,” says Carmelia Ray. “It doesn’t work to assume everyone you date is all the same.”
Before your big date, check your ego at the door, and try your best to be nonjudgmental (while still keeping your wits about you, of course). By doing this, you'll give your date the chance to surprise you, creating a more positive experience from the start.
Don't Turn the First Date Into Therapy
Conversation on a first date should be all about getting to know each other, finding common ground, and determining compatibility. But if you’re in the headspace of being fed up with being single, you may make the mistake of making your first date a therapy session and oversharing about past negative dating experiences; Carmelia Ray calls it “the TMI trap.”
“Being single over 40 can sometimes be discouraging, and your confidence might be shaken, “ she says. “If you lack self-esteem or are unhappy with yourself and your situation, it's not attractive to someone you’re newly dating.” You want to be the person you’re looking to attract. Be the best version of yourself in that moment and have fun getting to organically know your date. “Rather than inject your possible new someone with your life history and résumé, show an interest in them,” she suggests.
Speaking of being the person you want to attract, here are a few go-to favorites to get you feeling prepared and confident as you take on the dating world: