Disclaimer: I have not dated in over 15 years, as I have been with my life partner all this time. However, I often meet with different friends for brunch, lunch or dinner and learn about their dating adventures and crazy, sometimes even horrific dating stories. It’s actually really fun and I get to ask tons of questions, while learning so much. One friend, age 46, told me about a first date with a man who was too lazy to go to the bathroom, so he urinated in the glass at their table!! While that is really gross, it’s also quite comical that he thought this behavior was acceptable.
Recently, I had lunch with my friend Elena, who I’ve known for a very long time. She and I met in high school and kept in touch over the years, and we would always talk about boyfriends, dating and all the ups and downs. We have always been able to share openly and talk about things in detail, even sex, with no reservations or judgment. I have always valued her friendship, especially as a fellow Latina with the “no judgment” mindset. She keeps me updated and reminds me that dating is harder in the 40s.
Elena got divorced some years ago, and has been actively dating for the past few years, mostly using dating apps. She is 42, has no kids and regularly updates me on her dating life every time we meet. At lunch, we discussed the current man she is seeing—also divorced, a dad and a workaholic. They have been dating for about a year, but have not become official or exclusive and for the past few months, she has started to swipe on the apps again, which I fully support.
She just started seeing someone new. He’s exciting, he’s charismatic and successful, evidenced by his nice car and boat (not going to lie, I was a tad envious about the boat, but at the same time, thrilled for her, even if dating is harder in the 40s). They have gone on a few dates, he is super adventurous and loves to travel, so they seem super compatible.
Ultimately, the conversation led to us discussing how she should act next. Should she text first after their last date? Or wait until he texts her to make plans again? And with the first guy, should she break it off? It is clear that they are becoming more distant, so I outright asked her if the new guy were to ask her to be exclusive would she let the first one go, to which she answered YES with no hesitation. Right after, she acknowledged that she even surprised herself with how quick she responded that way.
Isn’t it crazy that even in our 40s, we are still wondering what men are thinking? I did remind her that men in this age bracket know better. I can’t speak about how men function in their 20s and 30s, but men over 40 know they have to pursue women. They have to initiate conversation, be the first to text or call and make plans for the first dates. This is how we all grew up when we started dating as teens in the 90s! I made her promise me that she would NOT contact him first, even if she didn’t hear from him by the day he suggested for their next date. I believe if men our age perceive that women are doing all of the dating work, they will take it for granted, or even get turned off.
Dating is harder in the 40s than it was in our earlier dating years. By this point, many people have already been married or living together or in long term relationships that ended for various reasons, with kids or other baggage that can complicate the new relationships. Men and women are (possibly) emotionally scarred, maybe even traumatized from prior dating experiences. Some may even be on a quest to live a whole new lifestyle of being single and NOT settle down ever again, a lifelong bachelor!
At this point in our lives, merging lives with someone else can be really challenging. Not only are we set in our ways, but now we have to figure out finances and living arrangements that may involve kids or other family members. Some people move really fast because they just want to settle down or some move ultra slow because they are scared to be disappointed again. Latinas have the added pressure of navigating the world single, likely being judged or questioned by family members, “y el novio?” As if dating isn’t hard already, these types of questions do not help.
I love that my friend is actively dating and not worried about what anyone else wants or thinks about her being single with no kids. It’s her life and not for anyone else but her. Do we question men the same way? Why do we do this to women? Why do we do this to ourselves? Dating is harder in the 40s for women, but it can still be fun, as long as she is clear about what she wants and has opportunities to discuss her dating adventures with supportive friends.