Think of every date as a story
My first date back out there after 14 years had a noticeable limp, drooled when he talked and knocked a glass of red wine over my white shirt before leaving me to search for a napkin to mop up the mess. I could have left that pub in tears of despair about the dire pool of middle-aged men out there but instead I called my sister, told her what happened and had to pull the car over on the way home because I was crying so much with laughter.
Don’t stress about your picture
Millennials take selfies as easily as we pour ourselves a cup of tea. Angle, smile, pose, filter: done. I spent an entire day in my back garden trying to craft the best picture for a dating profile – whether it should be close-up, long-length, with background, sunglasses on or off and so on and so on – until I realised how stupid I was being and did a quick, “eeny meeny miney mo” and put one up. In the words of The Greatest Showman soundtrack, This is Me. Like it or swipe left.
Multi-date with caution
Dating exclusively just isn’t a thing these days, not until you’re halfway up the aisle or about to sign a shared lease. But while multi-dating means you’re free to get to know as many people as you want at the same time, the downside at our age is trying to remember their names, jobs, interests and what you’ve said to who. At one point, I was multi-messaging a Sam, Simon and Stuart, completely lost track and ended up offending them all. Perhaps stick to the only-two-men-at-once rule (whose names, ideally, don’t start with the same letter).
Take all the time in the world
What many people don’t realise is how fun dating in your 40s can be, especially once you’ve had children. You’re not looking for The One, the father of your children or even the love of your life. The objective is to simply to find a companion who makes your life better, happier, more fun; someone to share experiences and adventures with. There’s no time limit or biological clock ticking and this is what makes the whole experience so liberating. Without the usual pressures, you end up being the most confident, truest version of yourself, something your dates will find irresistible, whether intentional or not.
Get ready to fall in love
In the short time I was dating after my divorce, the person I fell for most wasn’t any of the men, but me. I’d listen to myself talk and be blown away by some of the things I had to say. I was a mother of two boys. I’d been bereaved. I’d been working for over 20 years. I had opinions and wasn’t afraid to share them. Dating in my 20s and 30s, I was uncertain, less sure of myself and would often mould my thoughts and opinions like clay to those of my boyfriends; pretending to like jazz for one or reading newspaper obituaries for another. Seeing yourself through the lens of strangers can be refreshing and life affirming.
I had many divorced or separated friends who had been dating for years on apps such as Tinder or Bumble who were thoroughly jaded and fed up by the time I joined their party. They decried the lack of decent men and wished me luck with a cynical eye roll and it did, I have to admit, unsettle me. But I was determined to enter this new world of dating with optimism and a light heart, and was pleasantly surprised by the number of men seemingly looking for genuine connections, and not the well-documented hook-ups. Eighteen months into this very happy, new relationship, it’s certainly paid off for me.
Lauren Libbert, who co-hosts It’s a Grown Up Life!, a podcast for midlife women.