Love Matters: Be Mine or Thine (Valentine’s Day 2019)

In 2014, an inspiring article about our matchmaking for older adults appeared in The New York Times. It featured a wonderful 73-year-old woman who found a loving, lasting relationship. Dozens of older adults continue to tell us that they kept this article in their desks waiting until they were ready to take action. The Times article motivated countless singles, whether never married, divorced or widowed to find love and companionship.

Here we are on February 14, 2019, awash in the Valentine Tsunami.  The seasonal aisle at the grocery store is packed with heart-shaped candy and cookies, the greeting card stand is overflowing with romantic and flowery sentiment for lovers (would-be and actual), parents, and grandparents, while second graders make their precious Valentines for their parents, caretakers, and classmates. Love is advertised on all media portals and even the most Scroogiest among us has something picked out for Mom, boyfriend or girlfriend. Conventional wisdom claims that no one writes cards or letters anymore – there is only text, email, and WhatsApp. But the lines at the gift card counter would argue otherwise and suggest a different driving force.

  We see the desire for love and companionship up close and personal. Singles of all ages, looking for love, connection, and completion. Men and women who are divorced, widowed, or never married are all motivated to overcome loneliness. Their Valentine’s Day hearts may be full, bruised, or broken, but never empty. After hurts, setbacks or traumas, millions of single men and women choose to change their lives from isolation to interaction and from despair to hope. They ask, “Am I too old, too unattractive, or too desperate to find love?” Research demonstrates that human beings are ready for love at any age, “from age 2 to 92” says noted biological anthropologist, Dr. Helen Fisher.   To find love, you need to be proactive with an optimistic and positive mindset. Waiting for your special someone to appear “naturally” is unlikely to succeed. If you were looking for a job, you would design your search, “dress for success,” and tell everyone you know what you are looking for. You might even post your search on LinkedIn.

Or, if you’ve decided to buy a new condominium, you would interview brokers and begin a deliberate search. When we asked a client how many condominiums she had seen before she chose her dream condo, she replied, “Nearly 100!”  Her persistence and patience to find what she needed paid off.  The same approach applies to your romantic life. Finding love is a marathon, not a sprint. An incremental step like greeting at least one person every day you don’t know with a warm smile and saying hello can jumpstart an effective strategy for your success. And it will make you feel good. The better you feel, the more confidence and optimism you will project.   Finding love also requires courage – the courage to take risks and be vulnerable. Mary, age 60, was unhappy about attending her friend’s second wedding by herself. Mary had been looking for love for over two years online and her friend met her special someone at a concert just several months ago. We urged Mary to make this toast at her friend’s wedding: “I’m so happy for my friend, Sarah, and I hope someday I can find someone as wonderful as Mike.” Giving this toast was a big risk for Mary, but she did it. Near the end of the afternoon wedding, a gentleman introduced himself to

Mary. He told her that he appreciated her toast and although he was happily married, he had a single cousin. He asked Mary if she would like to meet his cousin. Mary met John and… they clicked.  
Ralph, age 60 had a first date with Emily. Ralph lacked confidence in himself as a dater and, even though he liked her, was reluctant to call Emily again. With some encouragement, Ralph bravely decided to call Emily to arrange a second date. Their second date went so well that Ralph asked Emily out again. Ralph’s vulnerability and honesty with himself and his courage to call Emily are just what he needed to find love.

A recent study of 5,000 singles demonstrated how important first dates can be. Most people get nervous on first dates. First impressions have a strong bearing on perception. Breathe, and smile to help you relax.  Give a compliment. Listen. Be honest. Be smart and put your smartphone away. Take your time. If you don’t take the time to get to know someone, you might miss important details. It is also useful to notice if you’re looking for faults and quickly eliminating your dates instead of looking for and appreciating their positive qualities. 

When Picasso was asked how he chose what to paint, he said, “I don’t look, I find.” This approach means giving up expectations and setting aside judgments. If you are searching for love online – or offline –

you need to be aware of not letting one comment or unfamiliar hobby send you off to the next choice. In 2018, over 40 million Americans used online dating sites. There are, literally, millions of choices of people online. But science tells us that when human beings have too many choices, we often end up not choosing at all. A Pew Research study found that one-third of people who date online (actually, we prefer the word “meet”), never actually go on a date. Why? Because they find almost any reason why he or she isn’t the right one. Sam, age 58, complained that although he enjoyed his first date with Barbara, and that she was pretty and smart with a good sense of humor, he’d like to continue to meet other women. Thinking there was always someone better was in Sam’s way. It’s important not to let technology and countless choices prevent you from making a decision to go on a first date or to continue to date someone you like.

Back in the day, you might have gone on a first date simply if a friend called you because she met someone and liked him. She didn’t really know anything about him (or her). Or you may have met someone at the airport, on an elevator, at class in college or at a coffee shop.  Even though you knew very little about each other, you spontaneously decided to arrange a first date.

Dating in 2019 is different. By the time first dates happen, assisted by online profiles, Google or LinkedIn, you know more about each other’s background and achievements than you could have learned from weeks of dating. All that information creates expectations that can influence meeting someone for the first time unless you keep an open mind and check out any concerns you may have in real time, in a face to face conversation.

Meaningful conversation on the first – and subsequent dates is the best way get to know someone – who he really is, her character, and his passions. What makes a conversation meaningful?  Being open and vulnerable about who you are, how you feel and what you care about.  Use “I” statements and “because” and “why.” For example, “I love living on Cape Cod because the ocean can make me feel calm and sometimes adventurous. How about you?”  Or, “Why did you decide to become a surgeon, and what do you love about your work?” Maybe you and your date have both been to the Grand Canyon, if so, consider talking about how the experience made you feel. Not only what you liked but why you liked it? Ultimately, your dating is driven by who you are, so rather than make choices solely based on chemistry, look for the qualities that will ensure your future happiness like kindness, dependability, strength of character, and shared values. Chemistry can grow or fade. There’s no question attraction matters, but recognizing the kind of life partner you need, and then focusing on those qualities matters most of all.

For older adults, finding and creating a loving, lasting relationship is different from when you were in your twenties. Your wisdom and experience can enrich your search for love and be a foundation of a new relationship. After a first date with Rachel, a widowed gentleman, Gene, age 82, said he wanted a woman more like his wife of forty-five years.  It turned out that what Gene thought he wanted was not what he actually needed as he considered how a new and different relationship could feel.  After several dates, Gene and Rachel decided to form an official companionship, without living together and without marriage. They weren’t trying to replicate their former marriages. Instead, they appreciated this new chapter and were thrilled to have each other to enjoy their shared interests, especially travel.
  The topic of age is ever-present for singles over 40. Be honest about your age online and offline. If it’s the deciding factor for someone, then he or she is not the right person for you. Imagine meeting someone at the library, at the gym, or at the Apple store (all good places for meeting), would your first question be, “How old are you?” Don’t let someone’s age dictate whether you decide to

meet or continue dating.  About five years ago, Linda, age 69, met Peter. After a few dates, Linda worried that Peter didn’t realize that she was six years older than he was. Should she tell him on their next date? The answer was straightforward, “If Peter asks your age, tell him.” Apparently, Linda’s age was not an issue for Peter. They’re still together.

Diane Rehm, the beloved and widowed NPR radio host, recently remarried at age 81 after 54 years of marriage. She told us she had thought that there would never be another significant meaningful relationship in her life. Now she says, “Never say never. I am blessed.”   

No matter your age or whether you are never married, divorced, or widowed, if you have a positive mindset, courage, are honest, and kind – you can find love and companionship. With an open mind fueled with the hope that you will succeed, you will broadcast to the world that you are available and have much to offer to any man or woman lucky enough to meet you and get to know you.

Have a Happy Valentine’s Day!