When Denise Robinson (50) returned to dating after her divorce, she thought it would be easier to meet someone new – but she was proven wrong.
After moving from Northern Ireland to Dublin, with her new-found single freedom she decided to give every method a whirl, from speed dating to websites and apps.
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She remembers how one bad date left her feeling upset to her stomach. “To cut a long story short, he got annoyed after I told him he wasn’t coming home with me, told me to have a nice life, walked out and left me with the €70 bill.”
The modern dating world is tricky to navigate no matter what age you are, but for people over the age of 50, it can strike fear in those trying to find a match for the second, third or tenth time.
Even former TV presenter and model Ulrika Jonsson (52) admits that she has found dating in her fifties a struggle. Jonsson appeared on Channel 4’s First Dates Hotel recently in a bid to find love again after not one but three divorces.
She spoke of how her confidence hit rock bottom approaching her 52nd birthday as a single woman.
Those in that bracket have a whole life behind them, possibly an ex-partner, maybe kids, and finding someone to spend the rest of your life with can feel as daunting as it did 20 years ago.
The peak age for separation and divorce in Ireland is 53; and there are 32,225 more separated and divorced women than men, according to the 2016 census.
Not only that, but there was an increase of nearly 30,000 separated or divorced people between 2011 and 2016.
With so many people flying solo, why is it so difficult for people in their 50s to face the thought of finding love again?
Denise doesn’t feel pressure to re-marry and emphasises that single life in your 40s and 50s can be a great experience, but says that returning to the dating world was completely different to when she was younger.
“When I got back into dating, I thought it would be no bother, but I’m still single. It’s difficult to meet the right men, the dating world has changed with apps and social media; it’s like Netflix, there are too many options,” she said. “At this age in life you know so much, you’ve lost your past insecurities and you want company and companionship. You don’t need someone solely to make you feel good when you feel good yourself, that’s how I feel about it.”
Denise, who also once featured on the Irish version of the dating show, says that while her experience has been mostly positive, one disaster date sticks out.
“I joined the app Bumble at the start of the year after a friend recommended it, but after two weeks of matching and some messages I deleted it as it wasn’t for me,” she said.
She then got a message on Facebook from someone asking where she disappeared to on the app – and after some convincing they agreed to meet for a drink in Dublin.
“I met him in a wine bar where he ordered a bottle. I noticed he was a bit arrogant but thought I’d feel it out. Two bottles of wine later he wanted to order a third, but I wanted to move to somewhere livelier and wasn’t drinking as fast as him.
“We moved elsewhere, and he had three gins when I had one. He left after I corrected his presumptions that he was coming home with me. I remember feeling so upset that he thought it was okay to treat a woman that way.”
In the last two years alone, matchmaker Hugh Redmond of 2Connect.ie has noticed a 60pc increase in attendees at his speed dating events across Ireland that are either divorced or separated.
“There’s a lot people coming out of relationships that are clueless and figuring out how to meet people. Most of them aren’t interested in online dating,” he said.
“My goal is to coach people and get them date-ready – a lot of people make mistakes on a first date which is a shame. Many people are nervous and take it all too seriously.” One of Hugh’s success stories, 53-year-old Mary from Dublin returned to the dating world two years after separating from her partner, and found success after attending a face-to-face dating event.
“I was unsure about approaching the dating scene today especially as a more mature woman. As a younger single girl, the ‘pool’ was obviously bigger – I was socialising on a regular basis with friends and the places to meet someone of the opposite sex was a pub, club or disco ‘slow set’.
After a successful evening at the dating soirée, Mary signed up to their website and quickly connected with a man who contacted her profile. The pair are currently dating and see each other on a regular basis.
“My only other dating experience was a blind date. He was a very nice guy, but we had no chemistry and therefore the chat was a bit laboured… so it was a sweet but very short evening,” she said.
Mary isn’t the only one to meet her new boyfriend on a dating app, something that wasn’t around when she was dating in her 20s. Kerry Manning (53), originally from South Africa but living in Galway, met her partner on a dating website and the pair have been together for two years.
Kerry believes that any divorcees getting back into dating should give modern technology a try – “What have you got to lose?” she said.
“Every ‘no’ is one step closer to a ‘yes’. You could meet people who are just friends for life and not relationship material.”
Kerry, who decided to start writing about her everyday life on her blog Fabulicious Fifty, found that chatting to people on dating apps gave her the boost of confidence she needed.
“I tried Tinder for a short amount of time. One date I went on, when he arrived I realised he was 5″1 and I’m 5″8 – so that one didn’t work out.
“But when I came out of my marriage, my confidence was on the floor. I thought to myself, how am I supposed to meet someone? Yes, there are weirdos on dating sites and you have to be careful, but it did help my self-confidence.”
When returning to dating, occupational therapist Peter Connolly from Lifestyle Awareness advises daters to leave their baggage at the door and to have patience with the dating game.
“We focus so much on the work of how to meet that we can neglect the inner romance of rediscovering who we are and what we want our lives to look and feel like. Energetically attracting the people we desire to meet, whether online or offline, can require some inner work and guidance.
“Dating a lot may not be the answer either. Relationship coaching, exploring Tantra or even therapy can be helpful options to consider reconnecting with ourselves, our desires and bodies.”
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