The rules are different these days, and you may have to take a reality check on your expectations
Ailín Quinn, The Irish Independent: Thurs 12th December 2013
Ouch! Hollywood has done a number on you alright; over 50, divorced — and devastated that the fairytale romance you’ve been waiting for hasn’t materialised. But there’s always a happy ending in the movies, so what are you doing wrong?
Possibly quite a lot of things, says dating guru Rena Maycock.
It may be time for a strong reality check along with some tips on how to re-calibrate your expectations and sharpen up your act. Especially if you’re a woman because, warns Maycock, of the Intro dating agency, the odds are stacked against you from the start.
Statistically, she believes, men in their 50s or 60s have a better chance of finding mature romance than their female counterparts. Maycock points to the CSO figures which show 89,000 separated and divorced men in 2011 — and 115,046 women.
While the rates tend to be similar for men and women up to age 45, it seems that by the late 40s (the divorce rate peaks at age 48) the number of separated and divorced women outstrips their male counterparts.
One explanation, she says, is the higher numbers of men who re-marry following divorce.
“The figures show that men are moving on very quickly. They are marrying single younger women,” says Maycock who reveals that Intro has a substantial waiting list of women in their 50s and 60s because there are not enough men to go around.
Based on what she admits is “educated guesswork” she believes that increasingly, single women in their 30s and 40s who genuinely want to settle down and have a family, are marrying older men in their early to mid-50s.
Men are agreeable to this, she says, because many bachelors who have turned 40 and are thinking about settling down tend to become very fussy about age.
“They want women who are significantly younger and they know they can get them,” she says.
Some over-50 males are seeking women their own age, Maycock acknowledges, but, she observes, they’re a hot commodity in pubs, clubs and golf-clubs — and they know it.
However, she adds, many women make things unnecessarily difficult for themselves through a combination of unrealistic expectations and blatant snobbery.
“Women can be funny about education and profession,” she says.
“Women in Ireland tend to stay longer in education and do better than men, so for every one professional woman there’s only 0.6 professional men.
“Therefore, women over the age of 50 who are educated and professional and want a professional man their own age are facing a challenge.
“It’s actually a numerical challenge as there aren’t enough men to go round.”
To begin with, she points out, there is about one-third less separated or divorced men in that age group than women.
Add to that the fact there are 40pc fewer professional men in Ireland than women anyway and you’re facing some grim statistics — so women who insist upon a highly educated, professional mate are automatically excluding some potentially great partners.
Just because a guy left school at 15 doesn’t mean he’s stupid, Maycock says, but she finds some women frustratingly snobbish about education and profession — although a man may read the ‘Financial Times’ and be a successful businessman, if he doesn’t have a degree, she says, a lot of women aren’t interested:
“As a dating agency catering for this sector, this is a major challenge for us.
“We’re trying to bridge the gap between men who want women 15 years younger and women who only want a university-educated man.”
And, sometimes, even a degree isn’t enough — geographical location can be sticky.
“We had a professional lady recently who wanted a university-educated boyfriend,” she explains.
“We called her with details of a well-educated man with his own business, but she didn’t like where he lived, so she turned him down.”
Even seemingly insignificant things pose obstacles to some women in search of romance.
“We’ve had women in their 50s complaining that their date’s shoes didn’t match his belt!”
Unrealistic expectations are at the root of many problems for both men and women in search of mature romance, she says — with men it’s often about age and status.
Some won’t consider women their own age, while others may refuse to consider women who are separated or divorced, insisting on only dating widows. Both can eliminate an opportunity to form a relationship with a “fantastic” woman, says Maycock, who believes that men who insist on only dating widows may also actually be subconsciously looking for a shoulder to cry on rather than a romantic partner.
This is a deeply unhealthy point at which to start a relationship,” she says.
“We’ve had a few awkward conversations with people about this.
“We had one guy who spent a lot of time on the first date talking about his dead wife.
“Before he went out on the second date we decided to advise him against doing this and explained that when he was talking about the passing on of his wife he was essentially talking about another woman.
“The next date he went on he followed our advice and
started a very good relationship!”
It’s crucial to ensure you’re ready to launch on the dating scene as a divorced/separated or bereaved individual, says Mary Kenny, a counsellor and psychotherapist.
Before you even think about dating, deal with the fallout of the emotional trauma you’ve suffered.
“Take time out to deal with the loss of your partner or the breakdown of a long relationship.
“Otherwise you’ll repeat the pattern and bring a lot of issues from the old relationship into the new one.”
This can lead to bitterness and resentment, she warns; unattractive things to bring on to the dating scene or into a new relationship.
“They leak out and it’s obvious to the person you’re engaging with,” she says.
However, Kenny is more optimistic about the opportunities for women in their 50s.
“This age is a classic time to break up and it can be easier for people in this age group to meet people.
“I’ve seen a lot of second romance success stories among people in their 50s. There’s plenty of hope out there for those dipping a toe in the waters at this time of life.
“I’d prefer to be 50 and looking for love than 30 — you’re not looking for children or financial support, you’re simply looking for a compatible person to enjoy life with!”
Jennifer, a 50-year-old mother-of-three, successfully found love after her husband left her for a work colleague.
“I found there were loads of guys out there my age who were genuinely interested in meeting someone their own age — they were not all looking for younger women,” she says.
Before launching on the dating scene, though, she had to come to terms with the cataclysmic shock of her husband’s betrayal — and some unexpected fallout.
“I found that I’d lost some of my married friends who now saw me as a threat to their marriages.
“I developed a new circle of friends. I joined groups.
“I went out with friends and relatives because I was totally determined to make a new life.
“About four months after my husband walked out I joined a free online dating agency and I chatted to different guys.
“I met some really nice genuine guys and went out on a few dates.
“If any of the men I met online were rude or inappropriate, I immediately blocked them. I wasn’t interested in getting tacky.
“I met loads of really nice guys in pubs as well.
“I believe it’s what you put out there that determines who you meet.
“I was out to have a nice time with my friends and men would come over and we would chat.
“One night I met a guy in a pub in Temple Bar. He’s now my partner.
“I’m going out with him now for nearly a year and it’s going great.
“He’s in his early 50s and we get on very well. My tip is not to go out looking to meet a man — it’s when you’re not looking that it will happen.
“Get out there, enjoy your time with the girls without looking over your shoulder all the time to see if there is a man in the vicinity.
“That’s just desperation and they sense it and it turns them off.
“A man likes a chase and if you respect yourself the guy will have respect for you!”
Don’t cave in to pressure from well-meaning family members and friends to date — make a point of waiting until you’re ready, says dating consultant Anne-Marie Cussen of possibledate.com and author of the ‘The It’s Just Lunch Guide to Dating’.
Once you’re comfortable with the idea, be prepared to invest time and money in a new you.
“It’s a good idea for both men and women to invest in a stylist and get advice on clothes and hair.
“Get a makeover and learn how to keep it up,” she advises. After a marriage of 25 or 30 years you may be in a style rut.
Adopting a smart new look boosts your confidence and makes you feel good.
Many men will have been dependent on what their wives told them to wear, she explains, so they will need to seek style advice.
And above all, she counsels — when you set out on your first date post break-up or bereavement, accept that it’s not your romance be-all and end-all. There are plenty more opportunities out there!