If you’re ready to find the relationship you’ve been wanting, it might be time to look online
Whether you’re recently divorced or have been on your own for some time, being single in your later years probably isn’t what you planned for your life. And although a fulfilling career, supportive children and longstanding friendships can bring much richness to our lives, most of us don’t feel complete without the closeness of an intimate relationship.
If you haven’t tried it before, internet dating is an increasingly popular way of finding love in mid-life. One-in-five relationships now start online, and the number of over-50s using dating sites has doubled in the past 10 years. Not only that, data suggests ‘using a bespoke service means you’re 20 times more likely to find a compatible match than if you leave things to fate or chance,’ says psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos.
One of the reasons online dating is so successful is that comprehensive profile matching means you’re only linked with people you’re highly compatible with. After being paired on Eharmony a year ago, Carrie, 57, from Chester, says: “This is the first time I’ve been able to share so many of my eclectic interests with a partner – from acupuncture and homeopathy, to yoga, old movies, horse riding and our (now-joint) allotment.”
And it’s not just shared interests that are taken into account, emotional and ethical compatibility is also a consideration. Bee, 52, another Eharmony user, from Brighton, says: “We felt so comfortable on the first date that our visit to an art gallery became a walk along the Thames, a meal and then dancing in front of a live jazz band. By the second date, I had the distinct feeling I’d known him for years.”
Perhaps the main advantage of online dating is that it enables you to connect with a huge pool of people you wouldn’t otherwise have met, and with sites offering a range of options, from ‘online friends’ and ‘activity partners’ to ‘let’s see what happens’ and ‘long-term relationships’, you can dip your toe in the water until you feel ready to take the next step. Many sites will also let you view up to 100 two-way matches before you sign up, meaning you can see whether the people you are paired with meet your expectations, and who has viewed your profile after being matched with you before you part with any cash.
If you’re concerned about safety, know that reputable sites take their responsibility very seriously, adhering to the ODA’s (Online Dating Association) code of practise. On the rare occasion someone does behave inappropriately – either on- or offline – their profile will be removed and members will be informed.
One thing that shouldn’t put you off, however, is your age, says love coach Persia Lawson. “You’re in a far better position now than you realise. You have more life experience, you know who you are and you know what doesn’t work for you.” Ready to give online dating a chance? Here’s what you need to know…
With more than 1,400 online dating sites, picking the right one will increase your chance of success. “First, it’s crucial to be clear on what you’re looking for,” says Lawson. “Is it a long-term committed relationship? Or is it to date lots of people and have some fun?” Some sites are generic, focusing on the type of relationship you are looking for (just friends or long-term commitment?), while others are more specific, for example, country lovers, artists or those in your age bracket, profession or political party. Once you are clear on your priorities, do some research on what’s out there and ask friends and family for their recommendations.
Set aside some to reflect on what you most long for in a relationship, then put it down on paper and use this as the basis of your profile. Don’t be afraid of asking for what you want. “Lots of people shy away from expressing what they’re looking for because they’re afraid of seeming too ‘keen’,” says Lawson. But you can’t really lose. “Either they’ll want the same things you do, in which case you can keep on dating and see where it leads. Or, they don’t, and you’ll have given them the opportunity to step back before you get too emotionally attached.” Choosing the right photos is also important. “Avoid too many group shots, photos with someone blurred out or extreme close-ups,” says Eharmony relationship expert Verity Hogan. “Members with these on their profiles receive half as many communications as those who zoom out a little.”
Trust your instincts and don’t feel pressured into anything that’s not right for you. If you’re getting on well online, but are not sure there’ll be any chemistry between you, don’t rule them out. Research from the State University of New York shows that after we get to know and like someone in the real world, they become more physically appealing to us. When you are ready to go on dates, meeting a few people for ‘practise’ can help ease you in. “Try to embrace as many opportunities as possible,” advises Hogan. “See each date as an opportunity to meet someone interesting, and make sure your date activities are enjoyable. This will take the pressure off and make the whole experience more fun.”
Just be yourself and be in the moment. It’s only natural to wonder if the person in front of you could become your next partner, but now’s not the time for overthinking. “When you’re on a date, the only questions you need to ask yourself are: ‘Do I like who I am around this person?’” says Lawson. “‘Do I feel like myself or am I ‘performing’?” It’s more important that you are honest and enjoying yourself than knowing what might happen next. And if, when it comes to the end of the date, you both feel you’d like to get to know each other better regardless of whether or not it develops into a romantic connection, you’ll already have the most important ingredient in any relationship – mutual respect. And after that? Well, that’s up to you…
Are you ready to give online dating a go? Here’s a selection of reputable websites for you to try
• eharmony.co.uk - ‘the brains behind the butterflies’, in-depth scientific/psychological profiling matches you with the ‘best possible’ partners.
• maturelove.com - youthful, fun and flirty. Chat rooms and evening events for the 40s and over.
• mylovelyparent.com - friendly, helpful site for older single parents where your child or a friend writes your profile. Includes brief articles on relationships after divorce and online dating tips.
• naturalfriends.co.uk - ethical dating site for healthconscious, country-loving, environmentally-sensitive and spiritually-aware singles.
• sagadating.co.uk - over 50s dating from the iconic organisation for the mature. Five minute profile set-up and two-way matching feature.
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