If you’re newly single and over 40, the idea of dating can feel pretty daunting. Meeting new people in our 20’s was relatively easy; there were concerts, bars, even the grocery store! But these days, especially in the middle of a global pandemic, it can be…complicated. 

There are dating sites (so many dating sites!) but which ones are best? Are there any decent ways to meet people anymore? Is it even worth it to try?

The good news is, while the face of dating has changed somewhat, there are still plenty of ways to get out there and meet people. Whether you’re more comfortable with signing up for online dating, going on blind dates through friends, or hanging out at places where you might find other like-minded singles, there are lots of options for getting back into the dating scene.

Digital dating

It used to be that meeting someone online was considered slightly odd, but nowadays? Everyone, and I mean literally everyone, is online, and that’s really where modern dating begins. 

Google “online dating sites” and you’ll be overwhelmed with options. The key is to know what you’re looking for before you dive in, and know what each site does and doesn’t offer. These are a few of the more popular sites for the over-40 crowd: 

Match.com and eHarmony: These are two of the OG dating sites, and they’ve stood the test of time. You can get a basic membership for free, but won’t be able to access all their available tools unless you purchase a membership. Both offer the ability to create in-depth profiles, filter out what you don’t want in a relationship, and have a video chat with prospective dates.

Bumble: Created with empowerment in mind, Bumble is unique in that men can only contact women who’ve already shown an interest in them. 

That means no creepy messages or (ugh) weird photos from random guys. After you sign up, you begin to build your “hive” which is what Bumble calls all the connections you make on the app. The basic free membership also allows you to browse and meet other members, which isn’t offered with many other free memberships.

Hinge: Hinge sets itself apart from some of the other dating apps out there, not only because their interface includes some fun features like being able to add text and titles to photos, but also because they are LGBTQI+ friendly. 

Your initial sign-up questions include whether you’re interested in men, women, or everyone, then takes you through a series of prompts and questions. A basic membership is free, but it doesn’t offer a whole lot, so expect to pay the monthly fee if you want to enjoy full access.

Tinder: Notorious for its reputation as a hook-up site, Tinder matches do occasionally evolve into relationships, but if you aren’t looking for something serious, this might be worth checking out. 

Once you sign up, it’s as simple as “swiping” right or left to indicate interest. Unlike other apps, Tinder doesn’t ask a lot of questions about what you’re looking for in a partner, so you are on your own when it comes to filtering unwanted connections. The interface on this app is easy to use, and the basic membership is free, but you’ll need to pay to access any extras.

Finding love with a little help from your friends.

If you can’t reconcile yourself to the idea of online dating, there are still ways to meet people in real life. Let your friends know that you’re ready to date, and ask to be set up with some of their single friends or even co-workers. This is not the time to be shy or coy, because if you don’t tell them you’re single and ready to mingle, how will they know?

Friends can be a great dating resource, but make sure you set a few ground rules beforehand, such as not setting you up with anyone who is separated but not divorced if you’re not comfortable with that, or not introducing you to someone who has small children or lives too far away. 

Most importantly, make sure your friends understand that it’s a “no harm, no foul” situation, and that no one will be faulted if they introduce you to someone and it doesn’t work out. They’re only responsible for the initial set-up, nothing else, and neither they nor you should have any hard feelings if it doesn’t work out.

Dating in the wild

Attending an event can be a great way to connect with people organically, with the key to success being that you only go to those events that involve things that actually interest you. 

If monster truck rallies aren’t your thing, don’t go just because you think it might be a good way to meet someone – that is unless you’re interested in attending more monster truck rallies with your new love interest!

Public spots where it’s easy to meet new people include art galleries, coffee shops, farmers markets, concerts, book readings, poetry slams – really anywhere people gather can lead to connecting with someone interesting. 

It can be fun to attend with friends, but don’t be afraid to venture out on your own. Sometimes sitting alone can encourage interest more quickly than being part of a large group, which could feel intimidating to someone who might want to meet you.

Proceed with caution

By now most of us have heard the horror stories of people getting “catfished,” where the person they fall in love with online is someone else entirely. People have lost thousands of dollars to these kinds of schemes, and as savvy as you might consider yourself to be, it’s still important to be aware of red flags.

If you meet someone online and they repeatedly put off meeting you, this is cause for concern. They might be trying to catfish you, or they could be married and looking for some fun on the side. 

Conversations that immediately become sexual in nature can also be a red flag. That person might be only there for the hookups, which is fine if that’s what you want too, but if you’re in the market for a real relationship, don’t count on it from someone who makes it clear that they aren’t looking for anything lasting.

If you do meet someone in person and they are vague about their own life or relationship status, or want to meet in out of the way places (or in a different city) they might not be as single as they are pretending to be. Be upfront about any concerns that you might have, and if they continue to evade your questions, it may be best to discontinue contact.

 Ghosting… it’s not just for Halloween anymore

The advent of dating apps, coupled with a pandemic that has kept most of us home over the last year and a half, made it a lot easier for people to hide behind a keyboard, or disappear entirely. 

You may have someone suddenly drop out of a conversation or potential relationship without any notice, otherwise known as “ghosting”. This has unfortunately become very commonplace in today’s society, and not just with dating! (Check out getting ghosted in the job search process here). It’s hard not to take it personally, but the best thing to do is just delete that person and move on.

You may also encounter those dating prospects who think it’s quite appropriate to send what are quite inappropriate photos to your phone or inbox. I don’t know why anyone thinks this is okay, but don’t let it scare you off from dating altogether. Delete, block, and keep scrolling.

 Remember, this is supposed to be fun!

Dating after 40 isn’t, and shouldn’t be, scary or intimidating. Try to look at it as another adventure in your life, a way to meet new people and make friends. Not every person you meet is going to be a match, but if you go into it with the idea that you’re there to explore options and see what’s out there, you might be pleasantly surprised. 

There are a lot of people who found themselves dating after 40 and ended up finding real, lasting love (I’m one of them!), so don’t be afraid to push past the uncertainty and dive back into that dating pool!

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About Jody Ellis

Jody Ellis is a freelance writer who specializes in beauty, health, travel, fashion and social justice. She is currently part of a fellowship with Community Change, a non-profit focused on writing about social policies that impact low-income families. Her work has appeared in publications such as LennyLetter, Huffington Post, BBC Future Planet, Civil Eats and Eater.

View all posts by Jody Ellis