If you're coming back to dating, it's only natural to think back to the days when you were last on the lookout for love – in your teens or twenties, perhaps – as your main point of reference. But, face it, it's not just your age and outfits that have changed since then...
What you want from a relationship
Then: You thought you knew what you wanted
Now: You know what you don't want
When you were younger, you may well have put up with a lot of nonsense in order to hang on to the man you thought was the love of your life. He might have cheated on you, disappeared for days on end or dragged you to places where you didn't really want to be. 'Don't you deserve to find someone who'll love you for who you are?' says confidence expert Jo Wilson. 'It's now time to relax and be yourself.'
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Your attitude to differences
Then: You looked for common ground
Now: You can embrace your differences
In the past, you may not have looked twice at someone because, for example, he didn't like the same music as you. But experience has taught you to acknowledge your own personal deal-breakers – and accept the rest. 'It's natural to look for everything you have in common,' says Jo Wilson. 'But it's also important to identify the differences – in values, beliefs, aspirations, hobbies and interests. Then ask yourself: do they matter to me?'
Find out about the common dating mistakes to avoid
Then: Your 'significant ex' was someone you'd dated for a year
Now: Your relationship history is a much longer story
You may be separated, divorced, widowed or coming back into the dating game after many years of single life. But chances are you have at least one significant ex-partner who's had a huge impact on your life. And it's the same for your date. Learning about – and accepting – one another's histories will be key to the success of your new relationship.
Then: You were anxious about meeting his parents
Now: You're anxious about meeting his kids
Another consequence of being older and more experienced is that one – or both – of you may have children. Their needs and feelings will likely need to be addressed, too, whatever their ages. This could impact on the amount of time you'll be able to spend together. Be honest: how understanding will you be if he needs to be with his kids every weekend? Is this really something you can accept in the long term?
Then: You swapped telephone numbers
Now: There are so many ways to keep in touch
Remember how you'd call your date's home or workplace to get hold of him – and be obliged to call back later if he wasn't there? Nowadays, you can call, text, email or use social media to keep in contact. But do stop and think before opening up new channels of communication, such as adding one another as friends on Facebook, especially in the early days of a relationship. Social media makes it much easier to keep tabs on one another and reveal more about your lives – which may not be what you want at this stage.
Then: Looks and status were crucial
Now: Body language and behaviour matter more
OK, we realise it's a broad generalisation – but looks do tend to hold less sway as we age. Experience has taught us that the handsome charmer with the swanky car and designer suits may not actually be the attentive, considerate man of our dreams. 'Step back and look honestly at how a potential partner behaves,' suggests Jo Wilson. 'How does he act when he's with you? How does his behaviour fit with your own values?'
Your sexual history
Then: You hadn't had many sexual partners
Now: You haven't had a new sexual partner for a while
Only you know if and when you feel comfortable becoming intimate with your date – and, now as then, you should never feel pressured into taking that step before you're ready. You may feel anxious, embarrassed, excited – or a mixture of all three. One more word of advice, though: when you were younger, the 'contraception conversation' came naturally if you didn't want to get pregnant. But being older doesn't mean safe sex is no longer a concern: recent years have seen a significant rise in STI rates among the over-50s, so you do still need to have that chat.
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