How different is boomer dating from teenage dating, or for that matter, even twenty- or thirty-something dating? Think of it as night and day! What we looked for in a relationship 20-30 years ago probably bears little resemblance to what we're looking for now.
Let's face it, in school we were probably more interested in who the cutest guy or girl was, and with whom we could have the best time. Looks and "being cool" were at the top of a pretty short list! But now at our current stage in life, we have so many more things to consider - family circumstances and our past relationship experiences, our goals and values, and our own physical and social changes. Add to that mix children if we have them, our work status and sche- dule, household finances and property, and any other kinships and responsibilities that we picked up along our way. Times have changed and so have we!
For many of us facing boomer dating, these factors will all be major considera- tions, and possibly downright scary. For others, it may simply be the case that the "right one" has yet to come along despite our best efforts, or simply be- cause career, family, travel, or other circumstances took priority in the past. Boomer dating has its challenges to be sure, and many of us will find it exhila- rating and exhausting all at the same time. But to take the "scary" part out of it, we just need to take stock of our selves and our dating practice.
Boomer Dating - Ready for a Relationship?
Before jumping right into boomer dating, let's take a moment to get a good look at ourselves, including how others might see us. Is our timing right? How soon did our last relationship end, and what were the circumstances? Would others see us on the proverbial "rebound" and perhaps desperate, simply because we can't bear the thought of being on our own for too long? Do we honestly feel that our happiness depends on being with someone? Or is it better just to spend some time alone, getting fully reacquainted with our self and our feelings, before taking on boomer dating?
Not only is an emotional inventory helpful, it's also important to take stock physical- ly - do we need to shed some pounds, start a workout program, or just improve our health generally? To enter (or re- enter) the dating market, especially if we see boomer dating as competitive, we need to put the best product forward. Even if "marketing" is not necessarily a priority or even a concern, it's never wrong to focus on good health, exercise and eating habits.
The next key for boomer dating is to decide what we want in our next rela- tionship. Is it friendship, mostly for the sake of companionship for the occasions that we want it, or is it for something more serious and long term, perhaps leading to marriage? The choice here de- pends solely upon what's right for each of us. To help make that choice, we should identify the things that we liked - or didn't like - about being single or being married, as the case may be. Do we want absolute freedom to make all decisions (from the mundane to the serious) without having to meld with another? Or has our desire to share the details and values of our life with another, just gone unfulfilled and we can no longer set those desires aside? The "right" answer to these choices will certainly vary from one person to another, but in all cases depends upon being totally honest with ourselves.
Boomer Dating - A Readiness Checklist
Is boomer dating anything like shopping at the grocery store? Well, when we shop for food, we're looking for specific items, and we probably shouldn't go without a list. If we do, we likely end up with things we really don't need, don't want, and aren't even good for us in the first place. And we also know that if we go food shopping when hungry, we'll grab too much of the wrong stuff. So in that sense at least, boomer dating is no different - we need a list to make sure we're ready and we get only the things that are right for us.
Some items for our personal checklist:
- In my own mind, I have a clear idea picture of what I want for my next relationship.
- My personal values are important to me, and I don't want to sacrifice or compromise them for the sake of a new relationship.
- I have a plan for where and how I want to live (i.e., lifestyle with respect to house, condo, acreage, city, suburb, town, rural, etc.).
- The things I'm doing now with respect to job, finances, and retirement planning are consistent with where and how I plan to live.
- I know and feel strongly about the values that my relationship partner must have, to be compatible with my own.
- I know and feel strongly about the personal habits my partner must demonstrate, to be compatible with my own.
- I know we must have some goals, interests, and favorite activities in common.
- My attitude is consistently positive and enthusiastic, I've forgiven and have let go of all past hurts and bitterness from previous relationships.
- I am aware that I might have hurt another in my previous relationship(s), and I have sought their forgiveness.
- I have a clear idea of my own boundaries for what I can and can not tolerate in my next relationship.
- I feel confident in my ability to clearly express my thoughts, desires, and relationship needs to my next partner.
- I know that genuine love will bring true happiness to my partner and to myself, and that our relationship is the vehicle that we share equally to achieve and maintain that love.
- I have learned from past relationships what has and has not worked for me.
- I'm aware of my own desires and personality characteristics that drive my choice in a relationship partner.
- I understand the key roles that I must play, and the roles that my partner must play, in order for our relationship to be successful and lasting.
- In addition to my partner, I treat all others outside of our relationship with the same courtesy and respect, knowing that they deserve it.
- I demonstrate patience and calm as issues arise in my daily life.
- I know that it's essential that my partner and I agree on the means we must take to resolve any and all issues that arise in our relationship.
- I take full responsibility and am accountable for all of my actions past and present, without assigning blame to any others.
- I have positive relationships with family and friends.
- I am satisfied with my working career and my prospects for financial security in the future.
- I take pride in maintaining a healthy body and mind, together with a Godly spirit.
- I portray myself as the person I am, with no pretenses to enhance my dating prospects.
- I am not sexually promiscuous, and fully understand the role that sincere love-making plays in a relationship.
- My heart and my head are in balance, and I understand the differences between love and infatuation; further, I understand the laws of "like attracts like".
- I understand that when all else fails in a relationship, commitment to each other is the ultimate bond.
- I am free from any social, financial, or legal issues that would otherwise hamper my next relationship.
- I have no prejudices, temper tendencies, abusiveness, self-control issues or other addictions.
- I am ready to support any family obligations that my partner may have from previous relationship(s).
- I am fully aware of my own family obligations should I have them from previous relationship(s), and I am willing to balance them with allegiance to my partner.
- I am willing to take all steps reasonable to maintain my own desirability to my partner, and all steps necessary to improve myself mentally and spiritually.
- I have determined whether my relationship goal is for friendship or for long term commitment, and I am ready to clearly communicate those intentions to my prospective partner early on.
- If my goal is for a long term relationship, I am committed to my partner's happiness and satisfaction every bit as much as I am to my own happiness and satisfaction.
While no list is necessarily ever complete and of course depends a lot on our own unique circumstances, may the above items at least get our boomer dating off in the right direction!
Boomer Dating - What Should We Be Looking For?
Boomer dating means that we look for things inside the person, things that go well beyond cosmetic appearances. That's not to say that appearance and physical chemistry aren't important - clearly they are, but now we know there is so much more to a solid relationship. Each of us will place greater or lesser importance upon certain qualities, but it seems like the most successful - and lasting - relationships we know have a lot of the following traits:
- Common Spirituality - partners that share the same faith have the greatest chances for success, thereby avoiding the challenges and frustrations of one partner conver- ting the other from long-held beliefs.
- Common Life Goals and Values - makes achieving them and celebra- ting them so much more meaningful.
- Emotional Health - not given to temper, moodiness or addictions; a positive attitude day-in/day-out.
- Communication through Words and Deeds - the ability to identify and relate to things said and done.
- Social Skills - treats others outside the relationship, e.g., children, el- ders, friends, neighbors, coworkers, even pets, with kindness and respect.
- Balance - personal goals and values are reasonably prioritized according to importance, but with no obsessions.
- Common Interests - pursuit of objectives, projects and activities that give joy and satisfaction to each partner.
- Intellect - mutual interest, thought and conversation given to issues of the day, providing stimulation for each partner.
- Connection - each partner can look the other in the eye with comfort.
- Passion - zest for getting up each morning and appreciating the results each day.
- Contentment - satisfaction and happiness with things accomplished and place in life; realizing happiness is an attitude that comes from within.
- Sincerity - asking "how do you feel?" and caring about the answer.
- Pride - non-obsessive interest in looking their best.
- Respect - boundaries are set and understood.
- Non-aggression - acceptance and patience with others.
- Sense of Humor - ability to laugh and have fun with others but not at the expense of others.
- Ethics - sense of fair play and rules to live by, at home and work and all places in between.
- Energy - getting off the couch and putting words into action each day.
- Touch - touching another person is gentle and sincere, matching the situation at hand.
Just as the above items might be considered the "go signs" in boomer dating, we also know there are stop signs. In fact, we can easily take the above line-up and look for the opposites, as things to avoid:
- Little or Nothing in Common - dissimilar interests in spirituality, life goals and values, and daily activities.
- Dishonesty - lying or misrepresenting one's background to enhance dating prospects; a likely harbinger of things even worse.
- Self Control Issues - given to temper or outright anger, moodiness, abusiveness or addictions.
- Incommunicable - unable to relate and talk things through.
- Rudeness/Sarcasm - treating all others shabbily, without regard for feelings or well being, or finding humor at the expense of others.
- Obsessions - one or more areas out of balance with all other areas of life.
- No Meeting of the Minds - each partner has a different level of intellect and/or a different set of interests, making conversation difficult; no stimulation.
- No Eye Contact - uncomfortable for any reason looking their partner in the eye.
- No Passion/Energy for Life - a couch potato.
- Discontent - unhappy with their life position or circumstances, casting a negative light on prospects and possibly wanting to blame others.
- Insincere/Selfishness - more interested in their own well being than any others.
- Lack of Pride - little or no interest in their appearance, even when with their partner.
- Disrespectful - unaware and not caring about boundaries set; little or no regard for the feelings of others.
- Aggressive - exerting pressure, wanting to show dominance or superiority over others through any means; touching others roughly.
- Unethical - willing to cheat or deceive to achieve their desires.
- Needy - believing that their happiness can only be achieved being with another.
Boomer Dating - Where Do We Start Looking?
So once we find ourselves ready for the world of boomer dating, where do we look? Any chance that our next partner will simply knock on the front door, or is as close as our next trip to Safeway or Home Depot? Well, we can never say never, but no, not very likely.
As boomers, by now we've likely seen and heard all the different ways of "getting out there" and "making ourselves available". In some respects, those opportunities seem to expand almost daily, for example:
- Networking through friends and co-workers; let them know that you're open to the good ol' fashioned blind date.
- Singles groups or activity groups sponsored through our workplace, church, or the general public.
- Self-improvement classes for a wide variety of interests offered by schools, community colleges and local government agencies.
- Charity events and services provided by community groups and volunteer agencies.
- Performing groups for drama, art and music festivals.
- Marathons and sports tournaments.
- Group tourist trips, cruises and excursions (boomers love to travel).
- Membership in a fitness club.
- Regular trips to the local bark park.
- or when all else fails, regular trips to our home computer - internet dating (see the next section to gather some thoughts on this option)!
Boomer Dating - After We've Met Someone
Back in the day, we might not have appreciated just how challenging it would be to meet the right person. Whatever came along, came along! But now that we're into boomer dating, we can be just a bit more methodical, without taking the "thrill of the hunt" out of it. For example:
- Keep that list fresh of qualities and characteristics we're looking for; how does this person measure up?
- The first date doesn't necessarily need to be elaborate or expensive; meeting for coffee of a drink can be a good starting point and can re- lieve a lot of first date pressure and jitters; have a predetermined exit strategy (excuse) handy should you need it.
- It's important to give the first couple of dates a fair chance, but it likely doesn't take long to deter- mine if the chemistry is there for both partners, or if there are some insurmountable hurdles; we can't be afraid to move on if we need to.
- After the first few dates and each has a sense about the other person, we shouldn't be afraid to talk about where and how things are going; it might be the first good test to try our communication skills, since a real relationship will need lots of that.
- We know that it's OK to be meeting more than one person starting out, and to be honest about that with each of the people we're meeting; becoming exclusive is a mutual decision made later.
- When we feel that a partner may have some potential, it's good to introduce that person to friends, family, and other social settings to get a feel for their comfort level and how they relate with others.
- Spending any time with the children of either partner is best reserved for later in the relationship, after each partner is comfortable with where things seem to be heading; it's also a way of avoiding premature expectations (or fears) from children.
- Advice from family and friends can be helpful, but only we know what truly does and does not work for us; at the end of the day, we need to make our own relationship decisions.
The bottom line - boomer dating should still be fun! Finding a relationship with the right person should never be so business-like and stressful that we don't enjoy our time along the way. Even when things don't work out, we hope we can honestly say, "Hey, I enjoyed meeting you!"
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