Just a little over a century ago, in 1900, the average human life expectancy hovered just over the age of 40 for men, and around 45 for women. Back then, you could reasonably expect to get married right when you finished school, have a few kids, and look forward to around 20-25 solid years of marriage before you and your partner rode off into the proverbial sunset. Even though divorce did exist back then, since life was so short, most people didn’t have to worry about the possibility of “growing tired” of their partners, or falling out of love, since 1) Far fewer marriages in 1900 were based around love, but for more economic and status based reasons (some say this still happens a lot in our modern society, but that’s a subject for a different post), and 2) There simply wasn’t as much time for that to happen.
In 2018, our average life expectancy has nearly doubled, and the vast majority of our marriages are based around how strong our emotional, chemical and hormonal based feelings are when we’re around our partners. People getting married at the average age of 29 for men and 27 for women can expect to be married for an average of 48 years in Western countries, if they take the “till death do us part” of the marriage vows seriously. For many, this amount of time is too great to fathom, as it leaves loads of time for unexpected changes in both one’s overall personality and outlook on life, as well as one’s individual tastes. Add on the fact that, when you base your long-term relationships and marriages primarily on chemical attraction, you run the risk of having that change fairly quickly after marriage. When couples realize that they don’t want to be together anymore because they “don’t feel the sparks,” and they still have 40 or so years in which to live, it should come as no surprise that you will eventually see a massive, unprecedented trend of newly single people popping up in their late 30s, 40’s and 50’s, many of whom are looking to find romance again. If people are realizing that the partners they originally got hitched to are no good for them, and they want to get out of an unhappy marriage and start over, shouldn’t that be a good thing? Shouldn’t we be praising these people for their heightened self-awareness and the desire to ultimately be happier in life? What about the people who choose to be single until a more advanced age, because they want to make absolutely sure that they find the right partner? Shouldn’t they also be praised for their foresight and unwavering commitment to finding someone who shares their values?
The reality is that in many respects, society is not prepared for this “new normal” of newly single middle-aged people. Despite our increased life expectancy and increased health span (50 today on average is significantly kinder to us than it was fifty years ago), we still view the ideal time to find a partner, get married for life, and settle down to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 25-30. With media images, advertisements, friends and family reinforcing the idea that finding love and romance is a game reserved only for the young, and that being single past a certain age makes one an “old maid,” “confirmed bachelor, or “X-year-old Virgin,” why should we be surprised that there is a bit of trepidation and hesitancy from older people who are looking to date? Is there really a maximum age for dating, beyond which just looks plain silly, sad, and pathetic? Should single or divorced people past a certain age simply settle for the idea that love and romance are just not for them, and learn to accept the notion of being alone forever?
In my personal view, there is no ceiling on age when it comes to romance. The biggest determiner as to whether or not you will be a successful dater in your later years is you, not any arbitrary societal expectations or “rules.” Take my own life, for example. As of July 10th, 2018, I am just under 3 years away from turning 40. Talking to many of my old high school and college classmates who are still single recently, it’s interesting to hear how they are all handling the realization that they are about to undergo another crucial decade change fairly soon. When asking them how they felt about it, roughly half of them viewed the inevitable with a sense of dread and fear, worrying about the decreased energy, fading sexual vitality, hair loss, fading looks, and fewer romantic prospects. The other half of my age cohort looks at this upcoming event either in a neutral tone, or even as a positive. Some of them look forward to age 40, where they expect to have more money, an advanced career, more free time to spend with their partners and friends, more vacations, more opportunities to give back to others, and to do the kinds of things they have always wanted to do, both professionally and personally. Something that I’ve noticed with the latter category of my peers, is that those who seem more upbeat about turning 40 are generally happier people overall. They tend to be smiling more, friendlier, they are more willing to give of themselves, and generally are not bothered by the small, minor setbacks of life. Not surprisingly, these are the people who are the most successful in the romantic arena, often having multiple dates per week, and some have entered in to successful long-term relationships. Contrast this with the other group of my peers, whose negative attitude about getting older seems to overlap with a more negative, cynical belief about life in general. These people tend not to trust others as much, are less likely to help out, and they do not have as favorable an outlook on the simple pleasures of day-to-day life as others do. Again, no much surprise here, these people’s romantic lives are a proverbial desert at this point in time. Perhaps there is something to this? Perhaps there is something to the idea that your attitude about getting older is related to your attitude and outlook about life in general, and that this will ultimately have an effect on your single-dom? Maybe. I’m not a social scientist, and the only data I have is with my own circle of friends and acquaintances. Regardless, I think there is a strong correlation to your attitude about getting older and your ability to date successfully. If you believe your age will be a problem, then others are more likely to believe so, too.
Consider also, the idea that the older you are, the wiser you are, about dating as well as in general. When you hit 40 (or 45, or 50), you will most likely have a lifetime of past relationships (even marriages) that did not work out. Wise people will analyze those past relationships and learn from any mistakes made. If you do, and you can avoid repeated errors, you will be in much better place to have a fulfilling relationship with the right person.
What about dating someone with a significant age gap? If you are in your 40’s or 50’s, it may be harder to find suitable people your age to date, as many of them will be in marriages or otherwise not available to date. It may be that your best choice is to date someone outside of your age bracket, either younger, or older. Many people have a problem with others dating outside of their age bracket, but I encourage people to be a bit more open-minded. At the end of the day, what we ultimately need to look for are shared values, not necessarily similar quantifiable numbers (like age or height). If it turns out that the person you have the most shared values with is someone 10 or more years younger, than why would you want to throw something potentially great away because of time spent on the Earth? This works also for someone 10 years older, too. Find someone with the most similar values to yours, and your life will be more fulfilled, regardless of age.
I plan to release more posts related to dating and romance at an advanced age very soon. As usual, I hope you have found these insights helpful.
Till next time.