When you were younger the traditional path of dating was straightforward: fall in love, get married, have children. How does finding love work when you’ve gone down that road, or some version of it, already? The dating field has changed, who you are and what you’re looking for has changed; you’ve changed.
You take with you into first dates and new relationships all the things that have made up your life: career, children, grandchildren, memories of loved ones, heartache from past relationships, a home, a lifestyle, hobbies, and more. With all this life you’ve lived still with you and all the life you’ve left to live ahead of you, how does one date, fall in love, and tie the knot during or after middle-age?
1. Let go of the past with self-compassion
Whether your former partner passed away or you separated, when you lose a loved one, you lose several things at once: the person, the relationship, the lifestyle you shared, the help they offered you, and the plans you made together. Replacing what you lost isn’t easy, but it’s necessary; you’ve still got a lifetime left to live.
Moving on from loss doesn’t happen instantly, nor should it. It requires allowing yourself to fully grieve and let go of the expectation that you’ll find an exact copy of your past love. Your partner was unique, and your relationship was too. No new person will be able to fill your old partner’s shoes in the same way. Let yourself be sad about this, feel all those feelings, recognize what you’re leaving behind, and then once you have, move on to step 2.
2. Decide what you want out of a new relationship
You can’t find new love if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Write a list of all the things you hope to find in a partner. Think about what you want the next decade or decades of your life to look like. What kind of partner would be a suitable companion on that journey?
If you love to travel, you probably want to find someone who is up for adventures. If you’ve always dreamed of retiring to a cabin by a lake, you’ll want to find someone who is outdoorsy. Also, think about the qualities you’re looking for in the person — sense of humor, kindness and compassion, thirst for knowledge.
3. Look for love using the tools of today
Dating has probably changed a lot since the last time you did it. It can seem daunting at the outset. But being proactive in replacing what you’ve lost will help you build resilience. You can take help of the dating apps to find new love.
When you write your profile and upload your photos in the apps, be honest and authentic. The whole point is to meet someone in person and try to forge a connection. What’s the purpose of deleting years from your age or inches from your height if you’re looking for someone who will love you for you? Be yourself. You’re wonderful and amazing and worthy of love, and you deserve to be with someone who you can be your true self with.
4. The fastest way to fall in love
Activities are almost always a better, and faster, way to get close to someone than conversations are. When we’re doing something that triggers feelings of happiness or fear — like going to a comedy club or riding a rollercoaster — our brains release oxytocin, called the “love hormone” because of its effect on pair bonding. Instead of going out for dinner with someone you’re interested in, do something fun or scary (in a good way) with them. You’ll get closer, faster, that way.
5. How to keep love once you’ve found it
When people say that the best relationships “take work,” they don’t mean those relationships feel like hard work. What they mean is: good relationships don’t happen by accident. It’s not an accident when two people create a safe, nonjudgmental space in which they can share themselves with one another; it’s a choice. Healthy communication skills — honesty and openness and the willingness to listen and understand — takes practice.
To keep the spark of romance alive, make a choice every morning you wake up to do something that will enhance feelings of love between you and your partner, and thus increase oxytocin. When the hormones that drive sexual urges decrease as you age, it’s the love hormones that will keep the passion going. Use both words and deeds to show affection, and plan and do fun activities together to keep things vibrant.
Finding new love requires a self-awareness of your needs and the willingness to reach out to others to take part in fulfilling them. And it involves self-compassion, patience, and an open mind as you find your new way forward.