Getting back into dating

Our need for closeness and intimacy doesn’t diminish with age. Even if you have supportive family and friends, it’s not the same as having a close relationship with someone.

You may worry that dating has changed and be unsure how to go about it. Technology has made it possible to meet more people now but for the most part dating is much the same as it ever was. It’s more likely that you have changed and it’s worth taking time to consider what you really want now.

Some people hold back from dating because of:

  • past relationships
  • concerns about health
  • worrying what children will think.

Only consider dating if you’re really ready and don’t feel pressured into doing anything you don’t want to do. You may still be grieving or need to deal with your emotions after a divorce before you start dating again. Your past experiences can influence how you feel about dating and you might be worried about rejection or feel guilty at first. Relate has some useful advice on getting back into dating if you haven’t dated for a while.

You might not be as confident with your body now but this is likely to be true of anyone you date. If you have health concerns, it’s up to you what you tell people and not everyone needs to know. You don’t need to tell someone straight away – wait until you feel comfortable. If it’s the right person, they will understand.

Your children could be more supportive than you expect. They may be able to offer you practical advice – for example, they may be more aware of potential dating scams than you are. It’s worth listening to their concerns and opinions but it’s your decision.

My advice to anyone finding themselves on their own in later life is that your life is your own to enjoy. Keep focused on the positive aspects of having the freedom to live as you wish, and decide what’s most important to you and just do it! Keep fit, keep positive, and most important of all – keep enjoying!

Ways to meet people

If you’re ready to start dating but not sure where to start, just being more social can help you gain confidence. You could try taking up a new hobby or activity that would bring you into contact with people, such as walking, singing in a choir or dancing. You could also:

  • take a course or join a special interest group
  • ask your friends to introduce you to people
  • try volunteering
  • look for events that are happening in your local community, in libraries for example, or through places of worship
  • place a personal ad in a local paper
  • go on a singles holiday.

The internet can be a great way to get in touch with people, whether through chat rooms, forums, dating sites or social media such as Facebook. If you want to meet people this way, make sure you take steps to protect yourself online.

I signed on with the nearest primary school to help with reading. I'm still able to do DIY jobs so also work with a local good neighbours scheme. I'm fortunate that I can still drive and can walk a few miles. All this helps but I still hate being on my own. I would love a cross between befriending and a sort of dating agency.

Online dating

Lots of people meet online now. As well as general dating sites, there are some aimed at people with a specific interest or background. There are sites specifically for older people, those who’ve been widowed, and people of a particular faith, sexuality or ethnicity for example. All you need is an email address, a profile telling something about yourself and internet access.

Before you sign up to a dating site, do some research. Look for third party reviews, check the registration process, the pricing policy, the people behind the site, and the safety features. You should look for:

  • a padlock icon in the address
  • blocking and reporting features
  • options to hide your profile from others
  • good customer service
  • the site’s safety information – the more of this there is, the better.

You’ll need to create a profile that communicates your personality, interests and values. This can be the hardest part and it’s worth taking some time to get it right. You could ask a friend to help you. When you create a profile think about the sort of person you’d like to date and try to write it with them in mind. Other tips include:

  • keep it short and try to be honest.
  • be confident – present yourself in a positive light without being unrealistic
  • don’t sell yourself short
  • choose the right photos – you’ll need more than one. Think about what you’re wearing and what’s in the background. They should be consistent (not taken ten years apart, for example) and look like you.

Many dating sites offer advice on creating a profile and it’s worth reading a few before you set yours up. You should also check any advice about online dating etiquette as this may be different to regular dating.

Staying safe online

People aren’t always who they say they are online. Scammers sometimes use dating websites to get personal details or money from people. Keep the communication online through the dating site until you can be as sure as possible that the person is genuine. You should also:

  • stay anonymous – don’t use your real name in your profile
  • take your time to get to know someone and don’t give out any personal details such as your address or date of birth
  • use blocking options if necessary
  • be careful when you’re arranging a date
  • never send money or give bank details to someone you’ve never met or only met a couple of times.

Be wary of anyone who asks you a lot of questions but doesn’t reveal much about themselves. A scammer may ask you to keep the relationship secret or quickly try to steer you away from the dating site and communicate by email, text or phone. See our advice about how you can recognise and protect yourself from scams. You can also find more information about dating fraud on Action Fraud.

If you have any concerns, report them to the dating site. The Online Dating Association has more advice about dating safely.

When you meet

When you decide that you’re ready to meet someone for the first time, you should follow a few safety precautions.

  • Choose a public place.
  • Don’t accept an invitation to be picked up from or dropped off where you live – make your own way there and back.
  • Tell a friend or family member who you’re meeting and where you’re going.
  • Keep in touch with a friend or family member while you’re out.
  • Trust your instinct – if it doesn’t feel right, leave.

It’s a good idea to limit the first date to about an hour, maybe over coffee. Don’t feel obliged to stay or meet again if it isn’t working. It’s better to be honest.

Dating doesn’t have to lead to sex or marriage. You might just be looking for friendship and companionship – someone to go out with or go on holiday with, for example. Don’t be afraid to date more than one person – just be clear with anyone you’re dating.

Beyond dating

If dating gets more serious, discuss this with your new partner and make sure you both want the same things. You may have different hopes and expectations of the relationship. One of you may be more interested in having a sexual relationship, for example.

You may decide you want a more formal commitment. If so, there will be practical considerations, such as where to live, and you may both have extended families to take into account. It can be disruptive introducing someone new into your life but it may also be worth it. See our advice on new partnerships and remarrying.

Next steps

For relationship advice, contact Relate - you don’t have to be in a relationship.

Stonewall can help you find LGBT community groups that are local to you.

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