When you’re in your 40’s, dating can be a little bit tricky to navigate. Many of us are getting back into the dating scene after taking a break (or yes, even going through a divorce) and aren’t used to the rules and subtle etiquette that goes along with meeting and getting to know people. And when you’re older there are different things to consider that just don’t come up for younger people—when to bring up finances, how much importance to put on physical chemistry, or whether or not you should give someone a chance even if they don’t check off all your boxes.
In order to help you out, I outlined a few of the do’s and don’ts of dating in your 40’s that you may not have thought of—the little things that go a long way towards changing your experience and helping you find that one person who just may be the perfect fit for you.
1. Don’t Make It All about You
When you’re getting to know someone, it’s important to share details about yourself. But it’s one thing to talk about yourself and another to do all the talking. Being over 40, we all have a lot of life stories to tell, but being a good listener is just as important, if not more, than being a good conversationalist. Sometimes when we’re nervous, the words just keep pouring out in a verbal barrage. That’s when it’s wise to remember the quote, “The quieter you become, the more you can hear.” When you talk too much it becomes boring for the other person, is a turn off, and prevents you from learning about him or her and assessing how compatible you are. Remember, conversation is give and take. It can’t all be about you. There are two parties involved who want to learn about each other.
2. Do Look Past the Physical
Everyone, both male and female, likes to look at some eye candy or have a trophy on their arm. We can’t deny chemistry and physical attraction are important. However, as we mature, looks change and we must realize that an amazing, loving person may be inside someone whom you would never have dated if you were still in your 20’s. In your 40’s, are you still looking for the same kind of look that you were searching for in your 20’s? Of course, cleanliness and hygiene are non-negotiable, but don’t immediately rule people out because they haven’t aged like Paul Newman or Raquel Welch.
3. Don’t Forget Proper Table Etiquette
Thankfully, we are not in Victorian times when it comes to table etiquette, however there are standard and respectful table manners everyone should follow. Gentlemen, what is wrong with pulling out a chair for a lady or allowing her to sit first? What happened to putting your napkin on your lap so your date does not have to look at your dirty napkin? Try keeping your cellphone off the table and on vibrate to show your complete attention is on your date. Ask your date if she would like you to order for her or if she’d prefer to order for herself. If you’re eating family style, serve your date before yourself. If you’ve ordered a bottle of wine, pour her glass before yours. Please sit up straight while eating to keep your face out of the plate or bowl and use your utensils properly. Never talk with your mouth full and keep your mouth closed while chewing. Excuse yourself if you leave the table for any reason.
Ladies, the same standard and respectful table manners apply to you, too. Also, never check or apply makeup or fix your hair at the table. Excuse yourself and go to the ladies room if your need to check your appearance. You might want to avoid ordering food items that can be difficult or messy to eat on a first date, such as spaghetti-type pastas, raw clams or oysters on the half- shell, or whole lobsters. I’m guilty of ordering lobster and clams on the half-shell, but my date did as well. If you’re not sitting down for dinner, but are meeting your date at the bar, please do not dip your hands into the peanut or pretzel dish, lick your fingers, and stick your hand back into the bowl. This is double dipping! These are all standard things we should know before the age of 40, but unfortunately I have witnessed horrible table manners while dating in my 40’s.
4. Do Take the Time to Get to Know Someone before Passing Judgement
Sometimes in life, we prejudge or judge too soon without any valid evidence to justify our decision. As the saying goes, you can’t always judge a book by its cover. I’ve heard of too many situations where people dating in their 40’s have immediately rushed to judge someone only to realize that they may have let a good person pass them by. We talk about first impressions being valid, but there’s also the flip side of rushing to judge someone and being too critical because we have preset criteria by the age of 40 of what we deem to be the “right” person for us. The person you think may be wrong for you might actually be the exactly right person for you. Sometimes we’re pleasantly surprised when we give someone a chance. It’s one thing if your inner voice is telling you to run for the hills, but if you’re crossing someone off your list because he or she doesn’t match who you think you should be with, you may doing yourself an injustice.
5. Don’t Show Your Hand Too Soon
If you’ve ever played poker, you know not to show your hand too soon. The same rules apply while dating in your 40’s. Unfortunately, I’ve heard too many stories about people who have married for monetary gain rather than for love. I’m not saying not to show your true self and your financial place in life, but I do feel that it’s nice to know that the person likes you for the true you and not your wallet. It’s not necessary to discuss your bank account, 401k, life insurance policies, and status of your mortgage on your first few dates. Showing off can end up backfiring in the end. Be smart and cautious when discussing finances.
Keep these suggestions in mind while making your way through the over 40 dating maze and hopefully you can come out the other end with a partnership based upon mutual love, respect, and admiration.
Written by Tonia DeCosimo