Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Am I too afraid to date?

Dear Dr Victoria, I am a 48 year old divorced woman with 3 busy teenage children and a demanding job.

During my 12 years as a single parent I have had one on-off relationship which lasted 5 years and ended because I was not able to make a commitment. I have been on my own for the past 4 years. I am a bright, slim, attractive and look young for my age.

Although I have lots of friends and interests and am seldom at a loose end, I never seem to get chatted up when I go out. With my girlfriends I am light-hearted and jovial but with men I am shy and introverted. I have read all the dating self-help guides about eye contact and body language etc. but it feels wrong for me. Also, I am from a generation that expects the man to make the first move.

I have dipped in and out of the internet dating scene but don’t really have enough spare time to spend checking out profiles and maintaining email communications. Also, I don’t find men of my age exciting and if I am chatted up when I go out, it tends to be by much younger men. Although this is fun, I would not go out with anyone more than 10 years younger than me. Why? Well, because I’m realistic enough to know that with a huge age gap one of us is going to get really crinkly before the other and I don’t want that one to me. So where do I go for here? Men my age don’t interest me and dating much young men are out. Am I just too afraid to date?

Dr Victoria replies:

You have a balanced attitude to life. You're not expecting perfection from a partner and you're not searching desperately for someone to transform your existence, so if you met the right man for you, there's no reason why you shouldn't have a relationship. When you're a single parent there are so many other things to consider that even when you do meet someone you find attractive it's not uncommon for a relationship to falter when it comes to the big issue of commitment. Living together, buying a place together or even remarrying are never to be taken lightly, but when you have young children to think about they will always be your priority. So maybe it's time to start putting the past behind you. You weren't able to make a commitment back then when your children were younger but you probably had good reason. This doesn't mean you'll always be afraid to make a commitment and it certainly doesn't mean you should be afraid to date.

You say you'd prefer not to date men more than 10 years younger than you and whilst it's always possible to think of exceptions, if you're looking for a serious relationship, this sounds fairly sensible. But you say men your own age don't interest you. Perhaps you're being a little harsh. Just as with women, there will be some 48 year old who seem much older but there will also be plenty of men who, just like you, are very much young at heart.

You've also recognised that you don't really think of yourself as shy or introverted yet that's how you end up feeling when you chat to men. Since you expect a man to make the first move, this is something you should tackle. Stop seeing men as potential partners, even if just for a short while and every day practice being more outgoing, approachable and chatty. Relaxed body language doesn't in itself lead to a date, but nonetheless, it is important. The point being that even if this approach doesn't lead to a date, when you do meet someone you find attractive, it will feel so much less daunting to strike up a conversation and chat naturally. You won't need to ask a man out on a date if you're chatting away and putting him at ease. If a conversation is going well and you sense there may be some mutual attraction, it's perfectly possible to drop a hint instead

Of course, chatting away, putting a man at ease and dropping hints are all very well, but if you're not regularly meeting the sort of single man you'd like to date you won't get very far. As you've noticed, the pool of suitable men has dropped compared to when you were in your early 20's. Recognising this is half the battle. You may well need to increase your efforts to meet new people. If you find internet dating too demanding, do it for short bursts – maybe a month at a time then have a break, but do other things too – ask friends for introductions, take up a new hobby or two, go on a singles holiday, get chatting to more people you meet through work. Even if it's just new friends you make at first this can all help as it widens your social circle. If you keep up the momentum and you keep an open mind, you're bound to meet someone sooner or later.

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