✨ Anxiety ✨

Dating In Your 40s: How The F*ck Do I Even Do This?

These three steps are crucial, according to love and relationship experts.

A woman in her 40s goes on a date.
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Dating can feel tricky after turning 40. Not only do women deal with the stigma of being single after a certain age, but whether you're newly divorced, a single mom, or never married, you're likely carrying some self-criticism, too.

"Dating in your 40s can be both thrilling and nerve-racking, especially for women who are recently divorced or single moms," Chantal Landreville, certified love and relationship coach and author of Raise Your Love Signal: A Guide to Attracting and Keeping the Love of Your Life, tells Scary Mommy. "Things like having to start over, dealing with emotional baggage, and fear of repeating past mistakes can take over."

For single moms, Landreville says there's the added challenge of juggling dating with parental duties and anxieties about how potential partners will view their children and respect their family dynamics.

And women in their 40s who haven't tied the knot? Landreville says they may feel the weight of societal expectations and self-doubt creeping in. "They might question their relationship status, wondering if they've missed out on society's conditioning on life experiences or if there might be something wrong with them. These feelings can stir up fear of rejection or not feeling worthy or good enough," she says.

After all, society often tells us we're supposed to have found "the one" when we're young, and checking off the single status box when we enter middle age is often deemed a failure. However, the truth is, there is no wrong or right time to find love — even if you feel like you've fallen a little behind in the dating department.

Below, love experts dish out their best advice to help you put yourself out there.

There are benefits to dating in your 40s.

Before you throw yourself a little pity party for being single at 40, according to Landreville, there are numerous benefits to dating at this stage.

  • Life experience and wisdom: "The beauty of age is that it comes with wisdom," she says. "We have likely experienced various relationships and life challenges, giving us greater insight and maturity. We are more adept at communicating, resolving conflicts, and identifying red flags in potential partners."
  • Clarity: "We usually have a pretty good handle on what we want from a relationship," Landreville explains. You know what you want or don't want. You've explored what really matters to you at this point in life, which helps to ensure you do not compromise your needs. You can clearly communicate your boundaries and stick to them."
  • Self-confidence: "We really have a solid grip on who we are, what we want, and how much we're worth," she says. "And let me tell you, self-assurance is like a magnet for potential partners."
  • Independence and stability: "We typically have careers we've built, financial stability to lean on, and a stable squad of supportive friends."
  • Emotional availability: "We've had time to work through and deal with our past traumas and emotional baggage," Landreville says. "We are more emotionally available and ready for something real and committed."

Now that you’ve been reminded to love and embrace yourself (because you are a total badass), try these three expert tips for dating in your 40s.

1. Identify your vision and goals.

Before diving into the dating pool, Landreville says it's crucial to take some time to reflect on your own wants, needs, and boundaries. "Knowing yourself well will help you navigate the dating jungle with much more clarity and confidence," she explains.

  • Keep an open mind. "When meeting new people, stay open to the possibility of unexpected connections and new experiences," Landreville says.
  • Trust your instincts. "Make sure you listen to your gut feelings when interacting with new people. If something feels off, don't ignore it."
  • Take things slowly. "Resist the urge to rush into a relationship and skip important steps to get to know someone," Landreville cautions. "You will have all the time in the world if you are with the right person."
  • Have fun! "Dating is part of the process of finding Mr. Right," she says. "Stay out of wanting an outcome; instead, date to put into practice everything you have learned through your experiences, hopefully as a way to avoid repeating the same mistakes."

2. Date with your head, not your heart.

Getting clear about what you want in a relationship and who you want in a partner — long-term or casual — is the first step to making dating work effectively for you. According to Laurel House, eharmony relationship and empowerment coach, you also need to be a little less romantic about the whole thing.

"Many women in their 40s date heart-first instead of head-first," she tells Scary Mommy. "Dating heart-first is focusing on immediately gratifying feelings. Dating head first is looking at the 'could we be good life partners' facts."

For example, House says someone dating heart-first might have a great date, and they can't stop thinking about them. "She feels giddy and needs to see them again. She even thinks that she could fall in love," she explains. "But she's intoxicated by chemistry, which actually hits the brain in the same location as cocaine, creating a drug-like effect that can trick her into thinking she's falling in love. It also blinds her to the reality of who their date is, including potential red flags and a mismatch of personalities and values."

On the flip side, when dating head-first, House says she's looking to see if her and their values and needs align and could possibly be met: "Dating head-first gives clarity and helps maintain dating purpose."

3. Don't be afraid to go slow and date with intention.

After a long-term marriage or relationship, House says it's natural to fall into a certain rhythm and develop habits that support it — for example, like having someone to say good morning and good night to, using terms of endearment like "honey" and "baby," or even saying "I love you" even when you're not really feeling it. But, as House points out, dating is different.

"It takes time to develop that level of knowing and intimacy," she says. "People who are used to being in a relationship easily fall into a relationship mindset when dating someone new, and that can quickly be a turnoff for many."

In addition to turning others off, activating those habitual motions and expectations can mislead your heart and head, House says, which causes you to settle into a feeling of comfort, knowing, and intimacy, even though you have no idea what they are doing on the other end.

"And if it's not reciprocated, you might start acting out and living in fear, become needy, insecure, and feel not good enough," she explains. "And that can be personally damaging long after the relationship ends."

This is why House stresses to ask yourself: Would I date me?

"Take an honest look at who you are, how you act, what issues from your past linger in your present, do you engage in self-sabotaging activities, is your inner voice your best friend or worst enemy, are you comfortable being you, what do you stand for?" she says. "Before being ready to be in a healthy relationship, you have to focus on you first. Accept or fix your issues. Embrace your baggage. And work on becoming your best self. Once you are able to look at yourself and think, 'Yeah, I'd date me. I'm a pretty fantastic catch!' then you're ready to really date."