Note: This is the first of a two-part series. Click here for part two

If you are single, dating and over 50, you’ll most likely know that dating at this station in life has very little in common with when you were dating in your teens or 20’s. So much has changed since then about the mate selection process. For one thing, very few people look as good as they did in their 20’s, so if you’re meeting with new potential romantic partners now, you’re likely meeting far fewer people you’re physically attracted to.

The earth shaking magnetic chemistry that compelled people to couple in earlier years is largely missing after 50, and it gets even harder after 60. And even when you are attracted to someone else, s/he may not be attracted to you. It’s certainly not the way it once was. Of course, many people don’t know where to go to meet new people, or are uncomfortable with starting up a conversation, connecting, revealing their inner selves or deepening a potential relationship.

But even if you’re attracted to each other, you both still have to pass through a large set of each other’s criteria: does one or both of you have expectations regarding your children or grandchildren? Do either of you smoke? What religious and/or political affiliations are acceptable (or unacceptable)? What are your recreational interests? Food preferences? How close by do you live to each other? Do either of you have health issues or a history with health issues? Is either of you on any medications that interfere with your ability to feel or sexually function? Do either of you carry anger issues or unresolved emotional baggage from your past into the relationship? I could go on, but you get the idea.

Of course, it doesn’t help that the older we are, the more we tend to know what we like and dislike regarding our tastes, creature comforts, routines and ways of doing things. So we may be more resistant or intolerant in accommodating to alternative tastes and lifestyles. Also, some people are not well skilled or adept at communicating what they want or need, or in being accommodating to the wishes, needs, preferences or requests of others. And both people tend to have their own residences, furniture, artwork and so on, which can make blending together quite tricky.

The following is as extensive a list as I can create in a two-column series about how to choose a mate in the second half of life—and how to decide whom not to choose:

  • What do you consider romance to be, and how important is it to you?
  • How trusting of other people is your partner? What behaviors would violate trust for you?
  • How important is daily non-sexual affection to you? What is the right balance between the giving and receiving of affection?
  • What are your expectations regarding love-making, including frequency, what’s desirable, what’s undesirable and what’s forbidden?
  • What qualities and characteristics do you seek in a long term partner? Some examples are: acting with integrity, honesty and honor; being trustworthy; being kind; being able to resolve angry feelings without losing control; being financially secure and responsible; being emotionally mature; being genuine and real—and not superficial or artificial; being in charge of oneself and one’s behaviors; being willing and able to confront problems head on; and having a strong libido. Add any other criteria you choose, and then answer the question: “How well does my new romantic partner fit these characteristics?”
  • Do you like him/her? What do you like about him/her? Liking each other is essential when the going gets tough.
  • How evenly matched are your interests, values and lifestyles?

I will continue this list in next week’s column.

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