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Dating Mistakes Women Make in Their 40s

A woman in her 40s who's dating.

Just like women in their 20s and 30s, women in their 40s are looking for many different things when it comes to dating. Some are searching for a serious commitment, and they don’t want to waste their time on those who aren’t. Some just want to play the field. Others might be looking for a lighthearted rebound after a difficult relationship.

No matter what the situation, one thing women in their 40s have that women in their 20s and 30s don’t is experience. And that experience, while usually helpful, can also work against them. Here are some common dating mistakes women make in their 40s, and how to avoid them.

Being Too Needy…Or Not Needy Enough

If you’re looking for a serious commitment, reaching 40 without a partner might make you feel desperate for a companion. However, no matter how much you desire a mate to grow old with, you can’t let that desperation show. According to Ronnie Ann Ryan, a popular dating coach for women over 40, if you pursue a date too aggressively, you’ll make him run. She advises her clients to let their dates make the calls in the beginning, to avoid buying gifts early in the relationship, and to keep the first few dates short and sweet.

Of course, for some women the opposite is true. You have “been there, done that” so many times that you enter a date with your armor up. Not all people will intuitively understand that it’s because you’re protecting yourself from getting hurt. Instead, they’ll just sense that you seem distant and uninterested. Dating coach Robyn Wahlgast says, “You don’t have to play hard-to-get, because you truly are!” She tells women over 40 that if you’ve imagined a happy future in which you remain single, this attitude makes you more of a challenge to men, and therefore more attractive.

Dating Too Soon After a Divorce

It may be tempting to lick your wounds and hop right into the arms of another man or woman after going through a divorce. After all, what better distraction than a fresh new love? But divorce coach Terri Sloane warns against it. Sloane says that women (and men) need to work on conquering their personal demons acquired from a divorce— whether it’s damaged self-esteem or trust issues—before re-entering the dating scene. “Many women go straight to their girlfriends for advice on dating and relationships when a professional source is needed. An unbiased professional—someone who sees issues objectively— is a better choice. A coach will tell you the truth about your readiness to date. A well-meaning friend may not be so honest.”

Bonding Over Baggage

Speaking of personal demons, sharing them too early in the relationship is a major no-no. Ryan calls this “premature baggage bonding,” and she believes it’s the #1 would-be relationship killer for women over 40. It’s easy to fall into this trap: perhaps you discover you’re both divorced, and suddenly the conversation shifts into an ex-bashing marathon. Or maybe you both have health issues or are recovering addicts, and once you stumble upon this information, you find yourselves unloading painful memories in an effort to connect. While you might think these deep conversations have bonded you, what you don’t realize is that they ultimately paint an unattractive picture and usually do not lead to healthy relationships. Steer clear of dumping baggage on a new love interest and save the sharing for when the relationship itself deepens.

Judging Too Quickly

Most women over 40 know what they want and what they don’t want. That can make it easy to walk into a date and rattle off a list of likes and dislikes to get a read on whether you’ll connect with the person across the table. But this approach is less than charming. Instead of putting pressure on your date to fall in line, focus on what makes you stand out. Bring up a funny family story or an interesting tale about some of your travels.

But that’s just half the battle. You must also be open to paying attention to the positive qualities of your date. Ryan says, “The purpose of dating isn’t to get a man to like you or make a guy fit your expectations so you can finally say you found someone. Dating is all about discovering whether he has potential to be your guy as you get to know him.” So start slow, stay in the moment, and most of all, have fun!

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