Many older people start dating again in later life. You may be lonely after bereavement or divorce and want to find a new partner. Or you may just want someone to go out and have a good time with. Dating can be daunting if you haven’t done it for a long time, but it can also be fun and exciting.
Wait until you're ready
Only consider dating if you’re really ready. Don’t feel pressured into doing anything you don’t want to do. 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 too. If you have health concerns, it’s up to you what you tell people. As long as it won’t put them at risk, you don’t need to tell someone straight away – wait until you feel comfortable. If it’s the right person, they will understand.
You may worry that dating has changed and feel 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. Before you start, it’s worth taking time to consider what you want to get out of it. 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. If you do meet a potential new partner, make sure you both want the same things.
Ways to meet people
If you’re ready to start dating but not sure where to begin, just being more social can help you gain confidence. Look for activities that bring you into contact with other people, for example:
- starting a new hobby, such as walking, dancing or singing in a choir
- taking a course or joining a special interest group
- asking your friends to introduce you to people
- going to events in your local community
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.
Lots of people meet online now. As well as general dating sites, there are some aimed at people with specific interests or backgrounds. For example, there are sites specifically for older people, those who’ve been widowed, and people of a particular faith, sexuality or ethnicity. All you need is internet access, an email address and a profile telling something about yourself.
Before you sign up to a dating site, make sure you’re aware of the risks. Remember that people aren’t always who they say they are online. Scammers sometimes use dating websites to get personal details or money from people. Visit our webpage Different types of scams for more information. You can also find more information about dating fraud on Action Fraud, or take a look at this Guide to Spotting Romance Fraudsters published by Thames Valley Police. The Online Dating Association has more advice about dating safely.
Do some research when searching for a dating site. You should look for:
- how to register and the pricing policy
- a padlock icon in your web browser address bar, to make sure it’s secure
- blocking and reporting features
- options to hide your profile from others
- the site’s safety information.
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. Think about the sort of person you’d like to date and try to write it with them in mind. Try to keep it short, be honest and be confident – present yourself in a positive light without being unrealistic. The photos you include should look like you. Think about what you’re wearing and what’s in the background, as well.
Many dating sites offer advice on creating a profile and it’s worth reading a few before you set yours up.
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!
Sex in new relationships
It can be very stressful having sex with a new partner. Only do what you feel comfortable with and tell your new partner about your anxieties if you feel nervous. They probably feel the same way and open communication from the start can lead to a better sex life in the long run.
Changes to your appearance as you age, such as hair loss or weight gain, may affect your confidence and self-esteem. Changes in your body and hormones may also affect your desire. Intimacy is important to our physical and mental health and wellbeing, so try to accept and adapt to the changes and try different ways to enjoy intimacy and sex. There’s no reason why you can’t be more adventurous in later life and try new things or experiment. For some people, that may include having a same sex relationship for the first time. If you need support and advice, contact Stonewall.
It’s important to practise safe sex with a new partner. Pregnancy may no longer be a concern, but you can still get or pass sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Condoms are the only method of contraception that can help protect against STIs, which include genital warts, chlamydia and HIV.
You can get confidential help and advice from your GP or, if you prefer, at a genitourinary medicine (GUM) or sexual health clinic.
For more information about sustaining a healthy sex life, see our webpage Coping with a changing relationship.
Don’t expect your old ‘rules’ to apply in a new relationship. Your new partner has a set too! You will both bring all your history of previous relationships into your new one – tell each other what your hopes and fears are.
Couples who marry in later life often have a much better sense of what they want from a relationship. If you’re marrying again after divorce, you may be keen to get things right this time. If you’ve been bereaved, it can be another chance to enjoy love and romance. But starting again can be difficult.
Managing your money
When you marry or enter into a civil partnership your financial position will change. It’s up to you how you manage your money but you’ll need to think about whether you’ll organise your finances jointly or separately. You may have very different approaches to money so it’s important to be clear from the start about how you want to pay for things and make decisions. Try to avoid a situation where only one of you understands your finances.
You could consider having a prenuptial agreement (a prenup), which is a legal document setting out what you’ve agreed. You can also have a postnuptial agreement (postnup) after you’ve married or become civil partners. These agreements aren’t legally binding but will be considered by the courts if you later get divorced or dissolve your civil partnership.
If you’re living together but not married or in a civil partnership, you have fewer rights so it’s a good idea to draw up a living together agreement. You should also make a legal agreement about how you will share your property. This is called a declaration of trust (or deed of trust). You can find more information on the Citizens Advice website. You should get legal advice if you do this (see below).
If you’re getting Universal Credit or any other means-tested benefits, including Council Tax Support and Pension Credit, your new partner’s income, savings, property and investments will now be taken into account. You’ll need to tell the relevant benefits offices, local council departments and the Pension Service that you’ve remarried or you’re living with a new partner, as soon as possible.
If you’re receiving Pension Credit and your new partner is below State Pension age, you could lose your entitlement to Pension Credit. Call our Helpline to arrange to speak to an adviser if you think this might affect you.
If you reached State Pension age before 6 April 2016, you may be able to use part of your former spouse or partner’s National Insurance record to count towards your State Pension.
The new State Pension is based on your own national insurance record and you can’t usually use your former partner or spouse’s National Insurance record. Contact the Future Pension Centre helpline for more advice.
Other pension schemes have different rules about your rights to a former partner or spouse’s pension if you remarry. You should check your position with the pension provider.
If you belong to a pension scheme, you may want to change your nominated beneficiary. This is the person who receives any benefits from the scheme when you die.
As soon as you remarry or enter into a new civil partnership, any will that you’ve written is normally no longer valid. You’ll need to write a new will if you want to make sure that your beneficiaries get what you intend, for example your children from your first marriage. If you’re only making minor changes, you may just need to add an additional clause, called a codicil, to your previous will.
If you receive maintenance for yourself from your ex-spouse, this will stop when you remarry. It can also stop if you live with another person as their partner or civil partner. It's a good idea to get legal advice if you're in this situation.
Setting up home with a new partner can be stressful because of the many changes involved, such as moving to a new home and getting used to a different way of doing things. You may have become set in your ways and some of the problems you faced in your previous relationships can influence how you relate now.
It can be hard to change habits but try to approach a new relationship as a fresh start. Talk to your new partner about your hopes and expectations. You could consider relationship counselling to help you prepare for your new marriage or civil partnership.
Although many people will be happy for you, it’s worth bearing in mind that there could be some tensions. Telling your children that you’re getting remarried or entering a new partnership can be a difficult conversation no matter how old they are. They may find it difficult to accept your new partner because they feel it’s disloyal to their other parent. Or they may struggle to accept your new relationship after a bereavement. There could also be some resentment if their inheritance is affected. And your new relationship may mean making changes to existing arrangements with grandchildren.
Your friends may also feel disloyal to your former partner and your new partner may not like being around your old friends, especially if they feel that they’re being compared.
You can find legal specialists through the Law Society.
You could also contact Civil Legal Advice to find out whether your situation is covered by legal aid.
Cruse Bereavement Support has information about starting new relationships after a bereavement.