“I’m afraid to date”

The attractive mature woman approached me after my talk on dating after 40. She said she admired my courage to take on dating so enthusiastically, but she was afraid to start dating.

I asked what her fear was.

“I’m afraid of rejection. And I’m afraid of all the work it will take.”

“Yes, there is rejection in dating. It’s just part of the process unless you meet your next love on the first encounter. Some find their sweetie quickly — a friend found her fiance after dating only nine men after her divorce. Others, like me, take longer. So you have to steel yourself that there will be rejection and some men do it more respectfully than others.

“But frankly, some of the hardest rejection to deal with is when you know you must let a man know you aren’t interested in having a romantic relationship. Some will take it well and others won’t, no matter how nicely you put it.”

“And yes, it takes time. Unless, as I said, you meet a special someone quickly. But it takes time to get to know him, ensure you have similar values, and that he’s the real deal.

“But you have to weigh what you want versus the time involved. If you wanted to start playing tennis after a long absence, you’d have to put in considerable practice time. And hopefully, you’d get better and more confident the longer you practiced.

“You may start entering tournaments. And you won’t win every game. You will have to deal with the disappointment of losing — just like you’ll have to deal with the disappointment of being rejected in dating. But if you think of it as not really rejection, but clearing the deck for someone with whom there is mutual interest, it won’t sting as much.”

She nodded and smiled — and bought a book. She said she appreciated the pep talk and thought she’d now put her toe in the dating water.

Before you started dating again, what were you afraid of?

____________________

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20 comments on this post.
  1. Mark:

    I think fear of rejection is universal. I can’t recall any other fear I had that matched that. That’s not a whole lot different than when I first started dating when young.

    At least we guys get to pursue. That can be difficult because walking up to a woman and trying to strike up a conversation, only to be shot down, is tough. But it must be tougher if you’re a woman who is waiting for a man to approach. I know you gals have your ways, but it seems hard to have to flirt and wait and hope.

    The most difficult thing for me, ultimately, about getting back into dating again was learning how to find potential dates. If you’re not in school or your job doesn’t yield prospective dates, it’s not easy. I tried lots of online dating and had marginal success. My success rate with meeting women in person has been much, much higher.

  2. Cheryl:

    I disagree with Mark above that men are the pursuers. I don’t wait for men to approach me, I walk over to them and strike up a conversation. I don’t ask him to dance or out for a date – I let him do that part, but I do initiate contact. If I waited for a guy to approach, I think I’d be alone. Waiting and hoping? I don’t think so!

  3. Mark:

    If you like a guy and want to go out with him, why don’t you ask him if hasn’t already asked you?

    I didn’t really express myself well. I know some women initiate contact. It’s just that talking to someone isn’t asking out someone. That’s what I meant by pursuing, making that decision to formally try to date someone. Women have forever been able to get men to pay attention to them and make men think it’s the man’s idea to pursue the woman when all along the woman was gunning for the man. I’ve seen Hello Dolly! :)

    My last (not current) girlfriend was really, really good about initiating contact. She did it with me, and then in the late stages of our relationship I saw her do it with other men. And just so you women know, it’s very flattering to us men if a woman shows interest first. It may seem a bit forward to some of you, but we men like it.

  4. Karen:

    What was I most afraid of when I first started dating after getting divorced at 43? Most definitely I was worried about whether my current physical looks and my style was attractive/appropriate enough for a date.

    Even though I knew that I’m not that bad looking, I was so much older than the last time I dated that it made me feel really awkward. I remember staring in the mirror while trying to put on “sexy” makeup before a date–because I just felt stupid because you can’t really hide my age and I worried that the extra makeup just made me look more pathetic. Also I had no idea what to wear. I’m an executive and all my “good” clothes were “work” clothes–which I knew was not appropriate for a date. But when I went to the mall I was worried that the stuff I got was “too young” or inappropriately sexy or perhaps not sexy enough.

    A GF dragged me to the Clinique counter for a makeover (& I ended up getting a lot of new products which I really needed). This helped a lot in figuring out appropriate makeup for my age and the times and boosted my confidence. I still haven’t totally figured out the clothing thing—but I have settled on one “first date” outfit that seems to fit that balance between “looking nice but not corporate” without appearing overly sexy or trying to hard. And I’m more confident overall, and I realize that the guys are all having the same issues, so that helps me not to worry about this anymore.

  5. Attractive Mature Woman:

    How funny to find myself quoted the first time I visit this web site! I’m admiring the Dating Goddess all the more for using everything that comes her way to further her journey. I appreciate the comments from Mark and others. So, here’s another question: I have no idea how subtle or direct to be. What do men like in that realm? I’m more comfortable with being straightforward but does it come across as overbearing or pushy? I would like to walk up to a man I find appealing and say “I find you appealing. Would you like to have coffee together?”. I’m not brave enough to say a whole lot more than that but I’d love to get some feedback on that.

  6. Mark:

    “I would like to walk up to a man I find appealing and say “I find you appealing. Would you like to have coffee together?”. I’m not brave enough to say a whole lot more than that but I’d love to get some feedback on that.”

    You’re braver than I am if you would do that. Assuming you’ve been talking to the guy and he isn’t simply some guy you saw strolling along in the mall, I’d just tell him you enjoyed talking to him and would like to continue the conversation another day over coffee.

    I’ve never had a woman be that direct with me before. The ones I’ve met in person and ended up dating I always asked them out. However, they were very warm and friendly towards me initially, so that bolstered my confidence. And thinking about it now, had any of them asked to see me again before I got around to asking them out, I would have been just fine with it, even flattered.

  7. Mike Lowrey:

    Guys having fear of asking a woman out is ridiculous in my opinion.
    If you want a big mac, do you just stare at a McDonald’s from across the street and hopes it magically comes to you?

    I’m really feeling Cheryl’s point of view. A confident dude only needs his foot in the door by the woman showing interest.
    After that she can sit back and relax, I don’t mind doing the rest!

    It’s just dumb to be scared of rejection. It’s not like your life ends. Move on. Fellas need to grow a pair.

    The sad part is it makes women have to do the job of the man .
    They have to initiate and then ask guys out.
    WTF is this world coming to.

    Don’t get it twisted I also love a confident woman but overall a man needs to be a man. I have no problems with women coming up to me and asking me out.

    Just my opinion, not to down any of the guys who have trouble in social situations but geez. You gotta live at some point in your life.
    Just seems like the number of guys who have fear of rejection have been growing like weeds in the past decade or so. It’s cool to feel that way in high school, but after that it’s time to man up.

  8. JDS:

    In me, the fear of rejection is so strong that I think I’ve turned off my emotions as much as possible, to protect myself from feeling hurt. In fact, I have a difficult time expressing empathy to others, not because I don’t feel it, but because I’m paralyzed by this irrational fear, I’m unable to express emotion. I often appear cold, rigid and inhibited. At times I pretend to be formal and non-attracted to the guy even when I love to see him and talk to him.

  9. Richard:

    “I find you appealing. Would you like to have coffee together?”

    That’s a little forward for an opening salvo (would a guy get a dirty look 9 times out of 10 if he tried that with a lady?), but if you are standing in line and that is the only chance you get, go for it (1 out of 10 is better than 0 out of 10). It is similar to DG’s Flirt-O-Gram.

    If you are at an event, and have time to strike up a conversation, a little small talk will at least help you figure out if you want to spend time with him over coffee.

    If what you mean is: “I’ve chatted with him for 5 minutes, when is he going to make a move?”, then go for it.

    IMHO: Figure out what would be comfortable for you if a man approached you. If you would be comfortable with it, then there is no reason for you not to try.

    I’ve reached the stage in my life where I realize there is little downside. If I will never see her again, then why shouldn’t I take the one chance? If I do see her on a regular basis, then it does take a little more care (but then I also have more opportunities) to develop some rapport first.

    I’m with Mark: Where are the opportunities is the more difficult part. I have been thinking about ladies I have met (most of them not available), and where would they be. I think it is very hard to meet them unless they are putting themselves out there to be found.

  10. Mark:

    I’ve had good luck meeting people at Yahoo Meetup Groups. Most of these are made up of people looking to make new friends. It’s nice to meet someone in person because you know before too long if there’s any kind of spark.

    My advice is to look for things like these Yahoo Meetup Groups, maybe take an adult education class, see what interest groups you have in your area that might yourself be interested in, etc. You have to get out in the world if you want to meet people the old fashioned way, which is what I prefer.

  11. Anna:

    Like Karen, I worried about my changed appearance since last dating. I didnt want to look mom-ish but I didn’t want to come across like a MILF either (I learnt that term on match dot com when younger guys would email me, some of them were so cheeky!). Its not so much that I obsess about my appearance but rather the approach I wanted to take. Its hard to get the right balance. But then I found out that men worry about those things also and while I may have changed physically, so have most mid life men so we are all equal. It took me a few months to get that message into my head and then I began to enjoy myself. I do think that divorced folks suffer from fear of rejection more than widowed people. I have experienced both states of being and post divorce I felt a bit of a failure in terms of a relationship whereas after my husband died, I did not have that fear of rejection.

  12. Mitsy:

    That rejection thing…yeah, I’m afraid that oftentimes keeps us paralyzed from moving forward. I have not had a steady dating relationship in almost a year and a half. I dated a guy who had a severe alcohol problem. I did love him but I hated his addiction. I went out with a guy from my part-time job which did not amount to anything. Not much in common and zero spark. Since then, I have not found anyone to date and quite honestly feel a bit “numb” like another poster indicated. After a while, you sort of give up. I am also afraid of rejection. Some of us take rejection far worse than others. When you have had a lot of negative dating situations in your life, it does change your perspective. At some point, maybe I’ll be ready to try it again, but for now, I’m content to be alone and not have the drama to deal with.

  13. Mark:

    I don’t mind being shot down at the start. What hurts is when I have something going with someone and get rejected. I don’t do breakups very well. They really get to me. I feel devastated initially.

    Time cures me of this, but it doesn’t happen overnight.

    Mitsy, I think the best thing you could do is look for social groups to join and get out that way. Then there’s no pressure on you and who knows, maybe you will meet someone?

    I find that online dating is like having a part-time job. It takes a lot of work. I would spend an hour or two most nights contacting women. I would always write each woman a unique email that showed that I read their profile and thought about her, so every contact took some time. And then you get some who email back, and that ongoing exchange takes time. It’s a lot of work and then you finally meet in person and…there’s zero spark!

  14. Alexaleigh:

    I can empathize with Mitsy. I ended a relationship in February, 2010 and have absolutely no desire to enter the dating scene at all….I am afraid I am going to feel like this forever. I have been dating since the age of 17 and am now 43, have never been married, but have been in 2 common-law relationships. I just seem to meet men who are emotionally abusive to me, not sure why, but they are the same guy over and over again. It’s like the movie “Groundhog Day” for me with relationships! I am a smart, attractive and outgoing woman with many friends and many interests, yet when it comes to men, I just “can’t pick ‘em” for some reason. I notice red flags in the first months of the relationship but unfortunately, choose to ignore them, then next thing you know, it’s 3 or 4 years into the relationship and I end up breaking up with the guy, my self-esteem is shot, and I have no desire to date. Other times, I have picked myself up, dusted myself off, and gotten back into the dating scene but I just feel defeated this time. The thought of being single for the rest of my life scares me somewhat, I would enjoy being in a loving relationship, but at the same time, it makes me feel secure and relieved, because I never want to experience the type of relationship that I have experienced over and over again in the past. I hope I am not feeling this doomed forever!

  15. Sunny:

    Wow, this is so refreshing to read that men and women both feel the same types of fears that I am going through. I couldn’t quite pinpoint what fear I had, but yes, it’s the non-youthfulness and the aging. Granted, I am 43 and just starting to look my age, maybe it’s a little bit of vanity and seriously I believe the word “next….” should not exist.. LOL

  16. Angie:

    Dating…what’s that??? It’s been so long I’ve forgotten what it is. What is it people say “stop looking for it and it’ll happen” well I haven’t been looking for it for 4 and half years and it’s not happened. Now being single has become my comfort zone and the very thought of dating again scares the he’ll out of me. I’m 43 and don’t think I’m too bad for my age but it just doesn’t happen for me. I guess some people are destined to live life alone. I’m not denying that I find life very lonely but I tried the going out thing, the online daring thing and it just didn’t work. So I have accepted things for how they are and just get on with it. I still have a wonderful life and am very happy (if it’s possible to be happy and yet lonely) or am I just kidding myself ???

  17. D.B.:

    I’m newly divorced and had been separated for about 2.5 years before the divorce. I didn’t date then as I was technically married and nor did I care to. Now I don’t date because, well… partly fear… fear of just sharing my space and time and freedom (and heck… body for that matter) all over again. I might be jaded because of the divorce but I call it experience. I just find that it’s not worth it. When you are younger, you are bright-eyed and willing to go through certain situations because you don’t know better. You are just learning to control and deal with your emotions and what you think is “love”. I’m 46 and really know better and I’m just not as accepting of games that will be played because I’m older and some idiot believing I should be thankful he looked my way. I’m still beautiful, inside and out and share my world with family, and friends and volunteer often. I guess those are the people I “date”. ;)

  18. dave:

    Sounds like “Ms. D.B. has it figured out.If you are a good person ( you better not say “nice guy” or you get an earful) and live a good life, you will not play any games that seem unfair or like a waste of the time that you do have.That is not fear, it is common sense!

  19. kel:

    I am afraid to date cause I might meet a bad guy!

  20. Andrea:

    I have never really dated much and have never been in a relationship. It just doesn’t seem worth it.

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