Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

40 something dating disaster

Dear Dr Victoria I'm a women in my early 40`s and to date my love life has been a series of disasters.

I have had 4 serious relationships in my 20`s- 30`s and have a beautiful daughter, whom I have brought up myself since the relationship with her dad ended 15 years ago.

In that time I have forged a career, and bought my own home, but have an awful fear I'm destined to be alone and this is compounded with the fact my daughter will be possibly going off to university next year.

I have tried dating of all types within the last 5 years, however all attempts have been futile and I'm currently feeling so low, and any grains of self esteem that I have, had been eroded.

Any sites I have tried I have posted an honest profile ,however the few men I have met have had different intentions as they all just seem to be interested in me for casual sex.

I have integrity and respect for myself and have not taken up their offers, but this has made me feel worthless.

My social network is very limited as all my friends are married or in relationships, instead of feeling vibrant and confident about my future, I feel terrified and lonely.

Any suggestions will be greatly received. Many thanks

Dr Victoria replies:

When you're young free and single and enjoying yourself, it can be great fun. You don't have to answer to anyone, you're free to do what you want, go where you want, even eat ice-cream for dinner if you feel like it. But eventually, most people want to meet someone and have a relationship. The trouble is that we're so bombarded by stories of how great life can be for single people, it can almost feel like an embarrassing problem to admit you actually want to meet someone.

It can be a fine balancing act: wanting to meet someone yet not allowing yourself to feel like you're just waiting and still getting the most out of life. You need to have another focus besides searching for a partner but if you are serious about meeting someone, you need to be proactive and put some effort in.

The key lies in getting the balance right. Balance your free time so all your time isn't spent in pursuit of a partner. And keep your mind balanced. You need to stay positive about things. If you see meeting the right man as a long-term goal – say something you'd like in the next year or two, you'll be able to pace yourself rather than expecting each and every date to be “the one”.

Being in your 40's and having a daughter has naturally meant that most of your social circle are married or in relationships. You need to look outside this circle of close friends if you want to find a partner. You've already tried internet dating, but I don't think you should write it off on the basis of meeting a few men who were players. As I've said many times before, choose your dating site carefully and if it's not right, switch dating sites. Always make sure there are like-minded men, in the right age range and in sufficient numbers before you bother writing a profile and check there are people you actually want to contact before you part with your cash. Be proactive, for if you passively wait for men to contact you, you have no control over whether they are the right sort of man (unless you're inundated with contact requests and you're just sifting through which ones to reply to).

When it comes to writing a good dating profile, get a dating savvy friend to check your profile. Never say anything negative, apologetic, needy or sexual in a profile. It should be positive and up-beat.

And how do you avoid players when internet dating? In addition to the above, you need to go into it with your eyes open. Know that there are players out there – whether it's online or in the real world. Excessive flirtatiousness or sexual comments, especially before you've even met or on the first date hint that a man may be only after one thing. Equally, there will be men who aren't interested in asking you about your life or your interests. Men who start emailing but who go silent for days or weeks, then after a date, don't follow up for days or weeks to check you got home safely, to thank you and to ask to see you again are often seeing other women or aren't interested in a relationship with you.

Try to see your experiences so far as a learning curve. If you haven't dated for a long time, it takes a while to figure out the dating scene again. Don't take it personally if a date doesn't work out. It takes an average of 7 dates before you find someone to have some sort of relationship with. Don't get disheartened.

I have come across a lot of women your age, in similar circumstances who have gone on to have successful long-term relationships. The worst thing you can do is either give up or tell yourself negative things like “I'm going to be single forever”. It's not helpful and it saps your self-confidence.

Instead, do everything you can do to maximise your chances of meeting new people and don't just rely on one method. Think laterally. In addition to internet dating, ask friends for introductions to suitable single men. You could meet someone through work – so be chatty and sociable, attend work functions and conferences, network and go to parties if you're invited – yes, even on your own. Get active, join the gym. Not only will you look and feel better but you'll meet new people. Take up a couple of new hobbies and chat to people when you're there. Think about occasionally doing some voluntary work at the weekends. Enlist a couple of female friends to go on a girls night out every month or so and go somewhere sophisticated, even if it means having to travel further afield, rather than the typical bar full of 18 year olds. Join a singles club that arranges daytime and dinner events and think about going on a singles holiday.

If you manage all that, it's hard to imagine you'll still be single in two years time.

Accept that it can be harder to meet suitable single people when you're in your 40's than it was when you were 20, but also recognise that you're not alone, so don't take it personally. It might just require a bit of effort to meet the right person.

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