Love and romance need not be a thing of the past for those who’ve passed their 55th birthday. In fact, the adventure might be just starting, according to relationship therapist Jennifer Key, who gave a presentation titled How to Get the Love You Deserve Feb. 12 at the Scott Candler Library. The program was part of the library’s Seniors First series.
“Dating is different for those of us who are older. Your needs at this stage are different from your needs when you were 18 or 20. Maybe then you were looking for someone to settle down and raise a family with. Now, you may be interested in companionship—someone to go places and do things with,” Key said, adding, “The good news is you’ve lived long enough to know what you want.”
Knowing what you want and what you need—and not settling for less—is central to finding a happy relationship, Key said. “Sometimes women focus on what a man wants and don’t give any thought to what they want. Don’t hesitate to say what you like to eat or where you like to go. You have to love yourself first. If you don’t love yourself, you can’t expect anyone else to love you. Unless you love yourself, you’ll settle for whatever comes along.”
While no one is perfect, Key acknowledged, everyone should know which flaws are acceptable and which are deal breakers. “There should always be things that are nonnegotiable for you. You should never put up with things you really don’t like just to have someone around,” she said. “If, for example, the person is a smoker or a heavy drinker and that’s something you don’t do or care to be around, that’s not the relationship for you.”
She advised taking time to know whether the relationship should become serious. “I know that after a certain age, there are more unattached women than men, so women may be inclined to pounce when a man shows attention, but if he really likes you and values you, he’ll stay around even if you want to take things slowly,” said Key, who is the author of The Divine Makeover—8 Key Truths.
As a person gets to know potential romantic partners it’s important, Key said, to proceed with eyes wide open. “Don’t ignore even seemingly small things that could mean this isn’t the person for you. Some things are red flags that indict this person is a definite no, and other things are yellow flags that indicate you should pay close attention,” she continued.
At the same time, she advised presenting your best self as you get to know the person. “Be positive. Don’t complain about past relationships or even how your day went. If you go out to dinner, exhibit your best manners. Never be rude to the wait staff, it reflects poorly on you. Don’t shovel food in your mouth or talk with your mouth full.” She added, “And speaking of talking, don’t do all of it. You may be tempted to impress the person by telling him or her all about you, but take an interest in the other person. Ask questions and really listen when the other person is talking.”
Key also cautioned against giving too much information too soon. “Some may want to assure their dates that they are on solid financial ground by talking about how much money they have. But remember that there are people who are out to scam others—women and men—to take their money. Older women usually have some financial assets and there are those who may be more interested in those assets than in the woman. Never talk about finances early in the relationship,” she said.
Those who have not dated for a while should know that things are different from the way they were 30 or 40 years ago. “Don’t assume for example that the man will pay for the date. If this is a concern, discuss it before you go out and always have your own money. While it was once considered good manners for a man to pick up his date at her home, you should never allow this with a man you met online or a man you don’t know well. Meet him in a public place and have your own transportation,” Key said.
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