Dating in one’s forties is not the same as dating when one is younger. The idea of dating after the age of forty sounds like a daunting task to those who dated in their twenties—and it is. The effects of dating after forty are also different from the effects of dating when one is younger because psychologically people are more mature and have a different set of needs as age increases. New wave relationships are relationships that differ from one’s past relationships. Dating in one’s forties can be a great experience for those who embrace these new wave relationships, however one must be prepared to cope with different emotional stresses associated with new wave relationships after forty. This essay examines the psychological and emotional differences of dating in one’s twenties compared to dating in one’s forties in order to better understand the potential for thriving new wave relationships post-forty. Therefore, given the right mental attitude and the right expectations, dating in one’s forties has positive effects on one’s life.
Main emotional and psychological differences. Emotionally, people in their twenties are inexperienced at handling life’s ups and downs. People in their twenties are still developing an idea of self, whereas people in their forties have a fully developed conception of self (Porter-Brown, 2009). The effects of dating in one’s twenties are much different that the effects of dating in one’s forties for the singular reason that by age forty, one is set in one’s ways. A post forty dater will be looking for different things in a potential mate than a dater in the twenties: “Those in their twenties and thirties look at potential—to hold down a job, earn money, be a good parent, evolve” (Porter-Brown, 2009). Someone in their forties is not looking at potential, but rather at a finished product. Therefore, a main difference between dating in one’s twenties compared to dating in one’s forties is that the basis of one’s decision is not hypothetical but has become real. The bottom line is that in one’s forties, a dater knows what is on the table because things are permanent at age forty as far as lifestyle, earning potential, behaviors, and future plans. In order for dating in one’s forties to be a positive life experience, older daters need to recognize that they have a different set of dating needs and expectations than when they were in their twenties. Furthermore, daters must accept that dating at forty is harder only because everyone is set in their ways. This does not mean that it is less rewarding; it only means that daters must realign their expectations with being older and ensconced.
Life experiences. After age forty, many daters have already had families, been divorced, widowed, or have never experienced a positive relationship. These life experiences contribute to the frame of mind of daters over forty. People in their twenties have not had the life experience to become jaded like one has by the time they turn forty (Rossi, 2016). People are a “known quantity” and must be evaluated based upon how they are presently, not in anticipation of how they might develop (Porter-Brown, 2009). The difference between dating in one’s twenties is that one looks forward to sharing the prime time of life experiences with a prospective date—having a family, creating a home, investing in a future—are all concerns of a twenty-year old dater; however, a forty-year old will be concerned with the compatibility of existing families, the home that already exists, and will accept or reject the financial security of a prospective date (Rossi, 2016). Therefore, forty-somethings are affected differently than twenty year olds when dating because they “have to find someone who not only meets all the 20-something requirements but is not all the things that decades of ex-lovers were” [italics] (Rossi, 2016). Life experiences establish one’s taste, and it is less likely that a forty-year old will compromise on established choices and preferences than a twenty-year old.
New wave relationship potential post-forty. There is a great potential for daters over forty to have a successful relationship; part of it comes from not looking and trying too hard (Rossi, 2016). In a study of 3,005 participants ages 45-85-year-old, it was shown that the criteria that is most important when evaluating a dating prospect is education level and financial status, i.e., economic resources (Brown & Shinohara, 2013). The criteria for dating is also related to the fact that most older adults who actively date are divorced (Brown & Shinohara, 2013). The study reveals that older adults who are widowed or have never been married or in a significant relationship are less likely to try dating as an older adult (Brown & Shinohara, 2013). This means that daters are experienced in relationship behaviors and have an expectation of how their significant other should behave.
In conclusion, dating when one is in their forties is different from dating in the twenties for the primary reason that one has established oneself and is set in one’s ways. In the twenties, dating is a prospecting search in which two people are willing to grow and change together; whereas in the forties, dating is an acceptance of the way that two people already are and how their composite personalities will mesh. Dating is a way of finding a soulmate, and if done in the right mental frame-of-mind, meaning not expecting to change someone as one may have in their twenties, dating in one’s forties can be a positive life-changing experience.