Photos by LG Patterson
The Cupid who targets middle-aged and older adults may be gray-haired and a bit out of shape, but he’s still a good shot.
Although not everyone who is single and long past their 40s is interested in finding a partner, those who make the effort can — and do — find new relationships that may begin with a date. In fact, older people have an advantage in the dating game: They know themselves better and have years of experience relating to others.
“I think that younger adults are sometimes too idealistic and seek too much from a single person,” Christine Proulx, associate professor of human development and family science at the University of Missouri, says. “Older adults might be accustomed to having their needs met by multiple people, and their goals in the dating world might be more realistic.”
Goals for dating? Absolutely. Love at first sight might be a plot line for a Broadway musical, but in real life love is more likely to begin with mutual interests and compatible personalities. Proulx, who studies the science behind intimate relationships of middle-aged and older adults, believes that love in all its manifestations is a gift regardless of the age or gender identification of those lucky enough to have been struck by one of Cupid’s arrows.
Angie And Marty Siddall
Angie and Marty Siddall are a retired couple that married about a year and a half ago. Both had previous families and have children who are now independent or soon will be. Both had been dating others: Marty was definitely not looking for a marriage partner; and Angie was content living her life by herself. But Angie had a playbook for dating. “I had created a list of very specific things I must have in a relationship and things I wouldn’t put up with — must-haves and deal-breakers,” she says. “I know my own limitations, and I was fine to be alone, at peace. I was all teed up for the right person if he walked into my life, but I was OK if that didn’t happen.”
In walked Marty. He started a conversation with her while she was at a restaurant with friends, and they haven’t stopped talking since. Within a few weeks of meeting each other and going out, Marty realized there was something special about their relationship. “I was so taken back and so sure we were on the same plane,” Marty says. “I told Angie that I have this feeling about us and I’d like it if we could approach it from the get-go as if it’s a long-term relationship.”
They continued dating and got to know each other better, taking rides together on Marty’s motorcycle, dining and having a few drinks with their friends, fishing and golfing. They liked a lot of the same things, which is important for older couples. “If you’re very active — a cyclist or a kayaker, for instance — you’re not going to be attracted to someone who prefers to never leave the house. That’s just not a very good match,” Proulx says.
Mutual interests can, but not necessarily do, lead to a deeper relationship. There’s no step-by-step process that intimate relationships have to follow. “There are some older adults who have quick entry into a romantic relationship,” Proulx says. “But that’s a more typical pattern of a younger adult where romantic activity begins within days or hours of meeting each other. There’s no one pattern that couples follow.”
But one thing is certain. Those who wish for a life partner but don’t make any effort finding one will never change their circumstances. Mature adults meet each other in any of a variety of ways. “There’s church, friends, online services specifically geared to adults 55 or older. And there’s always the tried and true method of going through a mutual friend,” Proulx says.
Putting himself “out there” was easy for Marty, who liked dating and is outgoing. But he recognizes that some of his friends find it intimidating to leave their comfort zones behind and try new experiences. “You’ve got to put yourself in a position where you are going to meet like-minded people,” Marty says.
Taking that first step into a new relationship can be easier for mature adults who feel confident about their own self-worth. “If you know yourself, when the right person gets in front of you I think you will be able to figure it out from there and feel very comfortable moving forward,” Angie explains. “It’s wonderful going into life at this age and sharing it with someone.”
On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with remaining single. “Not every middle-aged or older adult is looking to date again or have a new partner or marriage as a goal,” Proulx says. “There are so many other relationships that can fulfill our social needs, such as friends, family, even more casual relationships — the people who are your gym buddies, people you see in your aerobics class or who you see in your neighborhood.”
Older individuals who seek and then find someone for a more intimate relationship may experience a deeper appreciation of each other and the new life they share as a couple. “We have the luxury now of focusing just on each other. We don’t have a lot of other responsibilities pulling on us right now,” Angie says.
With more time to focus on each other, the couple is committed to doing whatever they can to stay healthy. “We ride ebikes,” Marty says. “We have a rowing machine and an elliptical — so we workout together, and, for us, golf is great exercise.”
Which is where the couple began. The restaurant where they first met overlooked a golf course, the same one they look forward to playing together and enjoying for years to come.
Marty and Angie had mutual friends, but they didn’t wait to be set up. Marty made the first move, starting a conversation with her at a restaurant where Angie was sitting with friends.
Best Advice To Make A Relationship Work
Marty: Know yourself. Understand what you like and don’t like, what’s compatible with your personality.
Angie: First, you cannot be desperate. You’ve got to be able to live by yourself and to be comfortable with yourself. You can’t start from a vulnerable position and expect a good result.
What You Wish You Knew When You First Started Dating
Angie: I used to be a fixer, walking through life with rose-colored glasses. I thought I could fix anything, but my approach was wrong. I needed to fix my own attitude and be more honest about what I needed.
Marty: I always knew Angie was a beautiful woman, but I just wish I had known what a truly wonderful person she was and how many interests we had in common.
Ali Hamrah And Amy Greenwood
Amy Greenwood and Ali Hamrah can barely remember a time when they didn’t know each other. During their first marriages, both had children attending the same school; they knew of each other but were both focused on their own families. Neither had any thought that one day circumstances would change and they’d be more than family friends. They’d become life partners.
Those circumstances changed about six years ago. “My sister said, ‘You’re not going to believe who is on the market and you really need to go out with him because he is such a nice guy,’” Amy says, who was at the time divorced herself, co-parenting her three children with her ex and managing a career in real estate. She didn’t have much time for a serious relationship and wasn’t looking for one. “I was looking for a plus-one,” she says.
So, it wasn’t such a big deal when she asked Ali whether he’d be interested in playing a game of golf with her. She envisioned nothing more than two friends, out together, enjoying a sunny afternoon on the golf course.
“The rest is history,” Ali says.
The couple now share a home and life together. Amy still works as a real estate agent. Ali serves as a restaurant and catering consultant after many years in the food business in various capacities. Ali started Peachtree Catering 25 years ago and now his son Benjamin owns and runs the business alongside of his own restaurant, Beet Box. Both Amy and Ali agree that being older and more mature is a definite plus for their relationship.
“I always said you get wiser as you go through your life, especially as your experiences grow,” Ali says. Reflecting on the experience of being in a loving relationship in his 60s, Ali says, “It’s not that you didn’t have real love when you were younger, but you took it more for granted. At my age, I don’t take it for granted any more. Not every day is a glorious day, but we get up in the morning knowing that we love and respect each other.”
“There are so many differences in finding love later in life than when you are young,” Amy says. “I think when you get to the post-divorce stage of life and your kids are almost grown that you have a better understanding of who you are as a person.” It helps if your partner also has a good sense of who you are. “We get each other,” she says. “There are times when I accuse him of reading my mind.”
Although love in midlife and beyond is less dramatic than the young love of a Romeo and Juliet, it can be more rewarding. “I think about the quality of love as distinct from the goals you might have in a relationship,” Proulx says. “If love is a feeling of tenderness, of admiration and desire to be with someone, I think love ought to be as fulfilling and exciting at age 65 as 25. The goals of that relationship are different, but love is so exciting that it has to be as spectacular at 65, 75 or 85 as it is at 20.”
Thoughtful and serious when discussing their life together, Amy and Ali find time for golf, traveling and socializing with friends, including Marty and Angie Siddall. As a restaurateur, Ali knows the perfect ingredients for a great night out — a pleasant ambiance, excellent food and the warmth of friends and family. At parties and other gatherings, they may each go their own way, enjoying the company of others, but they have their own private signal when it’s time to stop mingling and start paying attention to each other. “We came up with a system early on,” Ali says. He’ll make his way to Amy, then exchange a quick hug, or a gentle tap — just enough to let her know he’d like some attention.
When asked what they would like to be doing in the future, they don’t hesitate in answering. “We want to grow old together,” Ali says. “One hundred percent,” Amy says.
Ali: I’d known her family for years. Our kids went to the same school. There was never any intention for a relationship like we have now.
Amy: We ran into each other four times in eight days, and every time we would talk, we had a hard time pulling away from each other. Actually, I asked him out to play golf.
Best Advice To Make A Relationship Work
Amy: Love and respect each other. Let that person be himself and always being open and honest.
Ali: Understand who you are and don’t try to change each other.
What You Wish You Knew When You First Started Dating
Amy: Where he was when I was 22 years old!
Ali: I wish I had met her many years back. It’s one of those things where you’d say, “Where have you been all my life?”
12 gestures and habits to fall in love all over again
It likely comes as no surprise that keeping the romance alive in a relationship requires effort. But when women feel their romantic relationships becoming stagnant, they often blame the man in their life for not being romantic enough. Yet 44 % of men say it bothers them “a lot” that their wife or girlfriend isn’t more romantic, according to a study of 80,000 participants by Chrisanna Northrup.
So why not take the first step, and give your partner or spouse the romance he or she is craving? Try the following to reap the reward of falling in love all over again.
- Be spontaneous
- Write a love note
- Laugh at jokes and be silly together
- Hold hands and show affection
- Prepare your partner’s favorite dinner
- Go on a date
- Give compliments
- Initiate sex
- Give a thoughtful gift
- Show unconditional love
- Verbalize your love
- Give a massage
- Read a book on keeping the romance alive