Midlife boy meets midlife girl: Is there a happily ever after?
The good news for midlife adults is that the rules of the dating game haven't changed. What is different is the emotional baggage men and women looking for romance bring to the forum.
"Some of the biggest issues in this age group have to do with money, children and grandchildren, work and/or retirement issues and the whole sex and intimacy issue," said Mary Berney, MSW, an author, speaker and creator of the new Dating Cafe, a personal connections experience especially for those over 40. "One of the most significant issues is having the self-confidence to be out there."
Jessica von Buelow, a 60-something La Jolla resident, has a lot of experience with the dating scene. In addition to being single, she works at The Riford Center organizing tea dances and other social events.
"(Dating) is very difficult," von Buelow said. "(At this age), most good men are married and have a family."
In addition to a shortage of suitable candidates, von Buelow said she believes there is a definite shift in the attitude of midlife adults: "When you're younger, you'll risk anything. When you get older, you become more conservative about who you're going to meet and who you're going to end up with."
anything. When you get older, you become more conservative about who you're going to meet and who you're going to end up with."
According to Berney, many individuals sabotage their chances of successfully connecting with others because of this tendency to become set in their ways or limit themselves to a checklist of requirements.
Sexuality is another big issue for women — and men — over 40. For women, it's body image; for men, it's performance.
Recognizing the need for a resource that would assist midlife adults with their re-entry into the social arena, Berney created The Dating Cafe. Through it, she offers education, coaching, support and a comfortable way to meet others.
"The Dating Cafe gives people over 40 a chance to learn and practice these new skills," she said.
First rule for romance is to re-engage — with everybody
Berney said many times midlife adults become isolated or withdraw from their community because of changes in marital relationships, children leaving home or retirement. In order to rebuild their social skills, regain confidence interacting with others and learn how to have fun again, she suggests that individuals start out with the goal of meeting new people and making friends rather than seeking a soul mate. A good way to do this is by participating in activities that offer opportunities to talk and mingle.
"The focus is not on things like knitting, but things that require a great deal of social interaction and adventure," Berney said. "You want to have a social life before you start looking for romance."
That approach has worked well for Rae Newoman, an over-55 single who loves contra dancing, traveling and outdoor activities with the Sierra Club.
"It's a pretty fabulous way to get exercise and meet new people," Newoman said.