As a therapist, I do a lot of work with relational issues. And some of that work is helping people actualize their dream of being in a healthy, fulfilling, loving life-        partnership, sometimes later in life. Many have experienced dysfunctional, failed, abusive, horrible relationships wondering if they will ever finally find someone appropriate for them. What is particularly daunting is that when they are past what they believe to be their “prime,” they sometimes feel that they are pretty much “too old” to find someone whether for the first time or once again. Of course you can meet and fall in love at any point in your life. As I write this, I’m thrilled to share that I have recently attended several weddings of “older” friends and family members.  Loving again after bitter breakups, difficult divorces, abusive partnerships, and financial disasters does happen. So how do you find love when you’re older?

It’s been my experience that if you want to be in a relationship you will be in a relationship regardless of age. But that requires dating and many are profoundly adverse to the idea of dating. Many have visceral reactions to the idea of putting yourself “out there” in the dating arena. But you do need to be present to the possibility of meeting someone and dating is the means to an end, not unlike searching for an apartment or looking for a job. I’ve had patients as well as friends rattle off depressing statistics associated with dating and marriage, but statistics do not represent everyone everywhere. You’re looking for “one person” not a harem.

Most people don’t enjoy dating and that’s understandable—dating is a series of “failures” before you actually meet “the one.” As I’ve often said in my office, dating requires stamina and “you need the stomach to date.”  In my experience, it’s more a matter of opening yourself to the possibility of partnership, which, for many, is the problem. Many say that they absolutely do want to meet someone but sometimes are unaware of underlying reasons for feeling that love is unattainable for them

The following are a few of the things I’ve found in common among my patients and single friends that get in the way of dating:

  1. They feel as if they failed when first dates don’t automatically click. They immediately get sad and discouraged when “living happily ever” doesn't happen right away.
  2. They express feeling that everyone else has “luck with relationships" but they are the exception.
  3. They easily give up on dating.

Not unlike dating at any other age, it’s about a willingness to put yourself out there and patience with the process necessary to meet someone who potentially could be your life partner--your own personal journey necessary to lead you to the person who is right for you.That can take time, patience and discernment. It takes a willingness to stay the course and not give up.  

And I suggest 3 important tips:

  1. Know who you are.
  2. Know who you’re looking for.
  3. Have patience with the process—particular emphasis on this point: Have patience with the process.

To that end, I suggest working with a therapist who specializes in relational issues to do the emotional work necessary to prepare yourself for dating.  You need, for example, to understand your “baggage” and know what are your “triggers”, what is your “type” and how wrong your “type” might be for you and how to recognize your sabotaging behaviors. It might require hours of therapy work to uncover what it might have been that has made dating and forming healthy relationships unattainable for you in the past. Sometimes it might be an inward stubbornness that might have made it impossible for you to appreciate someone you might have rejected in the past and instead ended up with someone who probably was just about the worst possible partner you could end up with. We don’t always know what’s right for us and doing the emotional work necessary to find out might be the key to meeting someone wonderful. Sometimes, dating the wrong person is just what we need in order to learn what we really don’t want in a life partner and what to steer clear of in the future.

Dating and love don’t have age limits. I have a framed photograph in my office of an elderly woman in a bridal gown walking down an aisle toward an elderly gentleman. Patients have commented about it for years—oh how cute!  Love is indeed ageless and the journey to love just might take some time!

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