From my column in Body+Soul
Question: I am 45 years old and have been single for 8 years since my marriage ended – I’ve been so busy raising my two kids and working it wasn’t really an issue. But now I want back in the dating game. I hate the fact that if I died tomorrow my ex-husband would be my last sexual partner. Question is… how on earth do I do it? Dating sites just don't do it for me, they seem too risky. I don’t have any physical issues, but I’m aware my body isn’t what it used to be. So how do I get my confidence back? I’m not necessarily looking for a relationship - just some action!
Answer: I had a client once who said she felt “like a very experienced virgin”. She’d had lots of sex in her life, but so long ago that facing the prospect of getting sexually active felt like being a virgin all over again.
With more people having serial relationships these days, the challenge of finding new partners is common. And as you point out, the two key issues are: how to feel confident and how to actually meet someone.
First up, the confidence issue. That’s a big one for women in our society where we’re constantly bombarded with unreal expectations of beauty. There’s an impossible quest for perfection, for an eternally smooth, taut youthful body. Yet, what men find the most attractive in a woman is less about the ‘perfection’ of her body and much more about how she feels about it. I run women’s workshop where I have a panel of men. Inevitably there is the question of “what do you find the most desirable in a woman?”. The immediate answer from all the men is always ‘confidence!’.
Keep in mind too, that the men you’ll be seeing are also aging – losing their hair, getting paunchier, more wrinkles. It happens to all of us! Yet our bodies have also lived, birthed children, had adventurers, carried us through life this far and will continue to do so to the end of our days. That’s a pretty miraculous thing and something to be always grateful for. Tapping into that appreciation of our bodies is what brings confidence. We can always decorate the outside with clothes and make-up and hair-styles if we want, but it’s on the inside where the confidence lies.
Now, with confidence (reasonably) intact, what about the vexing question of where to find a man? Well, you could walk into any pub in the land and call out “I want sex, who’s willing?” and no doubt you’d get laid pretty quickly! But I’m assuming you’re more discerning than that, and want to meet men who you actually like.
These days online dating is a good way to meet people. If risk is your biggest concern, then make sure you get to know a man through texting and phone calls. You only meet once you have a good feeling for him, and that’s less a ‘date’ and more a low-key catch-up to see if you click in real life. Meet for a coffee, a walk in the park, check out an art exhibition – whatever you find appealing and not too intense.
If you’d prefer to meet someone IRL (dating lingo for ‘in real life’), then the important thing is to get out and meet new people. The best way to do that is to do things that you enjoy. If you meet him doing things you enjoy then it means he does too, and that’s a good basis for a relationship. At the very least you’ll make new friends through the activities and potentially meet someone through the new friendships.
Before all that though, here’s an exercise you’ll find invaluable: draw up two columns, one for ‘him’ and one for ‘me’. In the ‘him’ column write down all the things you’d like in a man. This is not a check-list, it’s so you can get a felt sense of the kind of man you want to be with. This way you’ll be much more likely to recognise him when you meet him! And the ‘me’ column is important because you need to know what it is about youthat is going to make you a good match for him.
Then, the attraction can begin!