For lots of reasons, guys sometimes find themselves alone in their 40’s and 50’s. Whether it’s because they immersed themselves in their careers during their prime years and never paid attention to their intimacy needs, because they’re divorced or widowed after a long marriage, or for some other reason, they’re looking for ways to connect after being out of the dating game for a long time. They have the free time now, and feel ready. But they don’t know where to begin. They’re not used to talking to strangers, or they don’t know how to relate to women. What’s worse, they’re often unfamiliar with all the different ways people stay in touch with each other these days. They don’t use texting and they’re rarely online.
It’s easy to get discouraged. But it is never, ever too late to find love, for men in their 40’s and 50’s, or even in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and beyond. The digital revolution means people have changed their modes of communication somewhat, but people themselves haven’t changed. If you start slowly and gradually add more dating activities to your life, you’ll discover that dating isn’t really all that different from the way it was when you were in your 20’s. If you never had that opportunity, for whatever reason, that’s even better. You now have the opportunity to experience women as you never have before.
The good news is that there are very few rules anymore about who you can date. Women of all ages, races and cultural backgrounds are available now in a way that they weren’t 30 years ago. As long as you show respect, curiosity and genuine interest in a woman as a person, doors will open wide for you. Here are five key ways older men can find more of what they want when they start dating:
1. Get over your divorce first. Resolving pain and attachments from previous relationships is key before you even begin. If you’re still in love with your ex-wife; if you’re enmeshed in a power struggle with her over house and kids; if you’re still mourning your dead spouse, or have any lingering anger towards her; or worse, if your pain is finding expression in cynicism or bitterness, stop. You owe it to yourself, and to the women you meet, to resolve whatever it is that’s keeping you in pain. Getting a piece of arm candy to “show off” to your ex, sleeping with a bunch of women in revenge for her cheating; or dating someone because she reminds you of your dearly departed, are all setups for failure. They may feel good in the moment, but they will set you back if the issues fueling them are not dealt with, and the sooner the better.
2. Know what you want. I meet a lot of older men who crave a full love life. The kids have grown up and left the house, the wife is gone—maybe for quite some time now—and they’re finally able to create whatever kind of relationship they want. The problem is that, in the absence of family, they’re not sure what they want—sex, intimacy, or relationships. There is nothing wrong with not knowing what you want, but be honest with yourself, and make it your mission to find out what it is you want. Working with a coach or support group can help you answer this question if you’re not sure. Aside from the main benefit of helping you go after what you want with clarity, knowing what you want will also make you inherently more attractive as a man.
3. Own your age and be proud of it. As an inhabitant of this planet for four, five, or six decades or more, you’ve seen and done things that many other men haven’t. This means several things for you. On one level, it means keeping expectations realistic. I’ve seen men succeed at intimacy goals that initially seemed pretty far-fetched, so I’m confident in saying that, whatever your goals are, you can accomplish them. But you will be doing so as a man who isn’t 20-something anymore. This insight should inform everything about you, from the way you dress, to where you spend your time, to who you’re spending it with. If you feel as though your time on this earth has been wasted, talk with someone about it. An inventory of things you’ve accomplished will bring your age, experience, and value into sharp focus. Play to those strengths.
4. Develop your social circle. As single men age, it’s increasingly important to develop social networks, independent of any romantic involvements. You might find the love of your life within your extended social network, but your social life should stand alone, not be something you dial up or down depending on whether there’s a woman in your life. Midlife, unfortunately, is the time when many single men are prone to do the exact opposite: hibernate at home, lay on the couch in front of the TV, not participate in the world. Resist that impulse. It’s not enough to nurture your existing social network. You need to develop new relationships that parallel your changing interests.
5. Get into the best physical shape you can. Like #2, this has two effects: it simultaneously makes you more confident and more attractive, to say nothing of reaping important health benefits. After age 40, most men lose about a pound of muscle mass every year. Regular exercise slows that process down. Incorporate yoga or Pilates into your strength-training routine. Your body needs a combination of strength and flexibility. Feeling good about your body brings with it a glow and an authentic confidence almost impossible to overstate. A fit body also sends the message to everyone around you that you’re a man who understands his body’s needs, abilities and limitations.
These five steps are only a start to build the kinds of relationships you want. By beginning with where you are and taking small steps toward your goal, you’ll eventually create what you’re looking for. Let go of past attachments, know your value, develop your social circle, get into shape and take small, consistent, regular actions. You’ll feel good about yourself, and the women in your life will feel good too.
Originally appeared on The Good Men Project at http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/dating-40-five-ways-dump-despair-reclaim-love-life-h2l/#sthash.16OKqpL2.dpuf