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Why I chose companionship over chemistry in my 50s - and you should too

Dating expert Kate Taylor shares why her priorities changed when it came to dating in her fifties 

Romantic couple at home. Men giving a present to his girlfriend
14 February 2024
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I met my second husband through online dating in my 50s and it was a very different experience to when I met my first husband the same way when I was 29.

In my twenties, I was solely concerned with physical attraction. I fell in love with my first husband's online photos but didn't pay any attention to his hobbies and interests. That meant we had amazing chemistry but nothing in common.

He was outdoorsy, sporty and adventurous, whereas I'm bookish, cautious and love staying home so much that I barely noticed the pandemic. We were married for 10 years and argued about what to do every single weekend.

Redhead in plunging blue top
Kate Taylor met her husband online in her 50s

Dating again

When I started dating again, I knew I had to look for someone who shared my interests - and I wasn't alone. According to 50+ dating app Ourtime, having shared interests is the most important thing when it comes to dating for half of single Brits over 50.

When browsing on the app, I noticed that my second husband had lovely photos but what really piqued my interest was the line in his profile that said, "I love lying on the sofa with a book."

Companionship is crucial

It's important for a long-term, committed relationship to look for companionship rather than chemistry. More of your time together is going to be spent deciding what to have for dinner rather than gazing into each other’s eyes. Look for someone you get on with.

Barriers to dating

There are perceived barriers when it comes to dating in our fifties, but most of these barriers are put up by ourselves.

Imposter syndrome can strike when you're dating later in life. You might not feel you’re as attractive as you were and you might even feel like a failure if you’re single over 50, or that you missed the boat and should just give up.

A senior african american couple enjoy an evening on the town with ice cream© Getty
Looking for companionship as well as chemistry

You might also worry that your children won’t approve of your dating, or that dating has evolved since your 20s and you won’t know what to do.

All those barriers are confidence issues and the best way to silence them is to get out there and date. You might be surprised at how freeing it is. I found going on dates easier as I got older. I was shy in my 20s and used to struggle making conversation, but as I got older I found it much easier to chat to people and have confidence in myself.

I was also less hung up on small things, like what music my date liked and far more attuned to their overall character and kindness.

 READ: Later life doesn't have to be boring – I'm living proof! 

Baggage on board?

We have more baggage in our 50s – kids, exes, ageing parents, regrets, worries – the list goes on. But in other ways, we are much freer. Ourtime's research shows that a quarter of people surveyed found they have much more leisure time to dedicate to interests and hobbies, allowing them to meet people with similar passions.

Finding fun

Dating after 50 isn’t about finding someone to have kids with or start a life with. It’s finding someone to have fun with, to laugh with, to share your struggles and relax with. There’s much less pressure when your biological clock isn’t going off.

INSPIRATION: Why women in their 40s are more confident voicing their desires

Advice for dating in your fifties

1. Trust your instincts 

Don’t second-guess your gut feeling. If someone appears to possess the kind of attributes you’d look for in your ideal partner, but they’re not physically your type, go on a date anyway. But equally, if someone feels too good to be true, or does not appear genuine, walk away - your instincts are well honed over 50. Trust them.

Gay male couple on a date in a cafe© Getty
Our priorities change when we're dating later in life

2. Use honest photos

That photo taken during the 2012 Olympics might be stunning, but it won’t represent the version of you that will be turning up to the date. Make sure your dating profile clearly shows who you are today. You don’t have to be perfect - you are looking to attract someone who accepts and likes you for you – but make sure it is clear and shows an honest representation of what you look like presently.

Smiling senior woman with computer at home© Getty
Online dating is helpful in our 50s

3. Give people a chance

I found people were almost always much more attractive in person than they looked in their photos. So, if you enjoy talking to someone, why not meet them for a brief date like coffee or lunch? Chances are, they’ll be a pleasant surprise. If they’re not, at least you have given them a chance, and won’t be left with any regrets or 'what ifs.'

4. Embrace shared interests

A mixed race senior couple is kayaking down a river together. The image's focus is on the elderly woman smiling in the foreground. She is Pacific Islander and has graying hair. Her husband is seen in a kayak in the background. In the distance behind the couple you can see the shoreline and a bridge. The happy couple are wearing casual clothing. It is warm outside.© Getty
Somebody with hobbies that align is key

The secret of lasting love isn’t so much about gazing into each other’s eyes, but finding someone you can enjoy spending time with. That’s why it’s important to find a partner with interests and passions that you both share.

Spending time together develops a closer bond and gives you lots to talk about, which is the foundation to building strong and long-lasting partnerships.

Visit HELLO!'s Second Act hub for inspiring stories of people living their best later lives.

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