After her marriage broke down, mother of three, Sarah Hughes was horrified of the idea of dating again but discovered that actually, dating in your forties is much for fun than dating in your twenties...
By Sarah Hughes
Before my marriage broke down last year, I was horrified at the idea of dating again. I was one of those smug (unhappily) married people who looked around at parties, noticing the middle-aged single person and immediately thinking, ‘Gosh that must be awful. Poor soul. Imagine having to start again and try to find a partner at that age!?’
I look back at that version of me now and I cringe. Firstly, because I sounded so sanctimonious and secondly because, well, I did not have a clue what I was talking about; it turns out being single over 40 can be pretty darn fun.
I realise I’m in a privileged position in that I was the one who ultimately chose to end our marriage. I’ve seen several friends go through the heartache of being left when they wanted to continue to work on the relationship, and I am well aware that approaching dating coming from a place of pain, hurt and betrayal, would be far harder. However, whichever way life has thrown that curve ball at you, I want to give some hope that there are great things coming up. In fact, maybe it’s time to stop thinking of it as a curve ball… maybe it’s a get out of jail free card.
I’ve had almost a year back in the dating game and although the very first one had me so petrified I almost stood the poor fella up, I’ve got to the point now where I actually love dating! Who’da thought it!?
Here’s why dating in your 40’s is way more fun than it was in your 20’s…
You know yourself
No more trying to fit the mould of what that hot guy wants you to be. No more pretending to be into his weird music or blithely agreeing with his questionable politics.
Most of us in our twenties don’t have the confidence to voice our opinions and stand by them with someone we’ve only just met. By our forties however, we’ve had time to work out what we like and more importantly what we definitely don’t like. By middle-age we’ve amassed enough information about what makes us tick to be able to make sound judgements. Which leads me to my next point…
You won’t stand poor treatment
I spent my teens and twenties dating a succession of bad boys who broke my heart to various degrees. I did worry that I would revert to type and go for that same type of guy again. But it turns out one of the blessings of getting older is knowing your own worth. The insecure 20 year old version of me didn’t see it, but the 41 year old version knows what I deserve… and thankfully there’s nothing appealing these days for me in the prospect of dating a guy who makes me cry.
Everyone has baggage
This was one of the issues that really stressed me out pre re-entering the dating scene. I told myself nobody would be interested in anyone with three young kids (especially ones as wild as mine are), that men would judge me for being divorced and not being able to salvage my marriage.
Well, spoiler alert: unless you’re going to date people way, way younger than you, it turns out that everyone will have baggage. Whether that’s tangible but beautiful baggage like my kids, or emotional baggage carried through hurt and insecurity, you’re unlikely to meet a 40+ dater who’s not dragging a ten tonne suitcase of baggage behind them.
But what nobody tells you is that in your forties you get kinder, more understanding of other peoples situations and issues, and moving into a relationship after seeing what’s inside the other persons ‘suitcase’, is a really beautiful thing.
Your friends will be secretly (or openly) jealous
There’s nothing like the buzz of getting dolled up to go out and meet someone you’re really attracted to. Except maybe the prospect of first kisses. That electrifying ‘will we, won’t we’ moment right before it happens. The thing is, when you’ve been married or in a relationship for a long time, you kind of resign yourself to the fact that there will be no more firsts. Sure, there might be romance (if you’re lucky enough to have found one of those guys), but the stomach flipping excitement when they look at you has usually long vanished. It’s been a gorgeous, unexpected part of the journey for me; the rediscovery of the excitement I’d consigned to history.
And yes, even though I hate to be smug (again), I know my married friends are pretty jealous.
The possibilities for happiness are endless
This is my favourite part. And it’s the bit I hope all newly single people can hold onto:
There is a huge, beautiful new world out there waiting for you. Fill it with your friends rather than channelling your energy into how important having an ‘other half’ feels. Dating should be a fun add-on to an already fulfilling life.
I really believe that reframing how fun, how exciting, how downright silly dating can be is the key to doing it successfully. Rather than seeing it as a chore to endure in order to find ‘the one’, look at dating as a way to have new experiences and meet new people. Drop the societal pressure to have an other half and date for dating’s sake, rather than seeing it as a means to an end.
Sure, this new landscape is filled with uncertainty and more than a smidge of trepidation; but the possibilities for finding happiness are truly endless. Whereas life was once seemingly mapped out; it’s now wild and free. Grab it with both hands.