Being a dating buddy to my friend turned out to be one of my best acts of friendship.
A year after a divorce she didn’t want, or expect, she was convinced she was beyond her sell-by date. But I coaxed the 54-year-old mother of two into going online. We spent hours surfing dating websites together, drinking wine, giggling, groaning and honing her profile.
On her first date, she was so nervous I had to sit in the car park outside the pub with my mobile phone, waiting for an SOS that never came.
After an hour, I texted her. ‘Sooo sorry,’ she buzzed back. ‘I completely forgot you were out there.’
A year on and she is ‘going steady’ with a deputy head in his late 50s whom she met online.
If you’re over 50, single and looking for love, the internet is an obvious place to start your search.
Women in this age group are the fastest-growing subscribers…perhaps no surprise given there are 2.4 million between the ages of 45 and 64 living alone, up a third in ten years.
Type the words ‘dating over 50’ into a search engine and scores of sites pop up.
Yet for every woman I know who signs up to internet dating, at least three refuse to consider it and are convinced it’s a jungle populated by toxic lotharios. Who’s right?
The internet is a great matchmaker…if you go about it in the right way.
But the fears people have about it are so great that she has developed a series of courses in online dating to help dispel them.
Here, she addresses what she believes are the five most common misconceptions. Overcome these and you might just find the love of your life . . .
FEAR: No one online is interested in dating women over 50.
REALITY: ‘If you’re a woman over 50, you do have to work harder and be more patient. ‘But I promise you one special man is out there and just as much in need of love as you.’
It’s a numbers game. In your everyday life you’re unlikely to meet as many available men as you did when you were 18 or 28, but the internet hugely increases your possibilities.
FEAR: Everyone lies on their profile and doesn’t look anything like their picture.
REALITY: Research in the U.S. found that older people market themselves differently than younger people when it comes to online dating.
They tend to focus less on appearance and status, and more on honest self-representation and compatibility.
In any case, you have to look at lies on a spectrum. There are blatant lies (pretending he’s single when he’s not), fibs (shaving a couple of years off your age and posting a flattering photo taken a while ago) and presenting yourself in the best possible light.
FEAR: They’re all washed-up rejects. If I sign up I’ll look like a loser, too.
REALITY: ‘The reason you’re dating online is because you don’t meet enough available people in the course of everyday life
FEAR: All the older men online are only in it for sex, desperate to prove they can still do it.
REALITY: Quilliam believes this is nonsense. ‘If he says he’s looking for a long-term relationship, he probably is.’
But sex, just as it was when you were 18, is negotiable. Of course, it’s OK to say no if you are not completely comfortable. If he throws a wobbly, he’s not who you’re looking for.
You shouldn’t forget that older men are often as nervous about their sexual prowess as older women, and may be secretly wondering if they’re going to get it together without a prescription for Viagra.
FEAR: I’ve been signed up for three months, but still haven’t found anyone. I’m in my 50s and time’s running out.
REALITY: ‘You have to be in contact with 100 men and meet at least ten to find one you might want to start a relationship with.’
By the time you’re in your 50s, you should know what you’re looking for in a relationship. Refusing to compromise is a sign you’ve learned from past mistakes.
But neither should you be feeling like a failure because you have been rejected. Usually, it’s in the early stages and, given that the person doesn’t know you, it can’t be personal.
Plus, if you’ve been online for three months, you’ve probably done your share of rejecting, too. Just as you may find yourself saying no to men, you have to be prepared to get a similar response and move on.