What Rosie Green's discovered about online dating in your 40s

Rosie Green
·6-min read
Photo credit: Rosie Green
Photo credit: Rosie Green

From Red Online

Rosie Green is Red's columnist. She was blindsided when her marriage of 26 years broke down in June 2019. Since then she's found love online, exploring what it's like to sleep with someone new after so long in a recent column and her new book, How to Heal a Broken Heart (Orion) which is out now. Here, Rosie's cheat sheet for online dating success in your 40s.

Even in the midst of my grief and devastation, even as I was convinced I would never love someone again, or have someone love me, I craved the closeness of a romantic partner. That intimacy, the hugs, the togetherness. The distraction. The feels.

Love researcher Helen Fisher says searching out romantic love is in the human condition. Anthropologists have never found a society that didn’t have it. ‘It’s a need, it’s an urge, like hunger and thirst, it’s almost impossible to stamp out,’ she says.

But I was plagued with self doubt, and I questioned everything. Would a broken heart make me make bad decisions? Would my wrecked self-esteem make me needier? Am I damaged goods? How can I expose my body to a stranger again? A body shaped by age and childbirth.

Even more terrifying, how can I expose my heart again? A heart whose ventricles have been twisted and scarred by hurt and pain and betrayal. Who will love me? How will I find someone? Can I resurrect flirting skills mothballed since All Saints were rocking Maharishi combat trousers? How will the kids cope? How can I deal with the inevitable rejection? And just what are the expectations these days in terms of pubic hair?

All these thoughts swarmed through my head. But still, I knew I didn’t want to be alone.

Sara Davison, the divorce coach, thinks signing up to a dating app is an essential part of recovery. Because ‘deep down we are all craving intimacy and connection. It’s our number one human need. If you don’t like a dating app you can come off. I’m not asking you to go on an actual date with anyone. I’m just asking you to dip your toe in the water. Even if you don’t find anyone attractive, it’s just having that connection in a safe space.’

So, if you are about to embark on online dating, here are my tips…

Dating tip 1: Reframe rejection

Elizabeth Day – beautiful, successful, smart author and podcaster Elizabeth Day – talked me through how to deal with rejection. Because yes, she has been rejected.

‘Life has a frustrating habit of not accommodating these visions [of walking off into the sunset],’ she said about the end of her own marriage and other relationships. ‘Simply put: real people do not act according to your script because they have their own stuff to deal with.’ That means it's about them not you.

Dating tip 2: Read this book

It's Just a Date! How to Get 'em, Read 'em, and Rock ‘em by Greg Behrendt and Amiira Ruotola. They say not to load dates with expectations of where things are going, or what it all means, and that's great advice.

Enjoy the date for what it is – a night out with a new person. If you spend your date interviewing someone, or trying to second guess how they want you to be, it will be zero fun and, in all probability, unsuccessful.

Dating tip 3: Don’t just talk to one person online

That’s a recipe for disaster. It’s about limiting any pain. When you have five or six guys on the go, if one person ghosts you, it doesn’t matter because you have the others to flirt with.

Dating tip 4: Listen to what they are saying about availability

Dolly Alderton, author of Everything I Know About Love, wisely says that men are like taxis. You have to get them when their light is on and they are ready to accept passengers. You can meet the perfect person at the wrong time – and that means they’re not perfect for you.

Dating tip 5: Don’t believe you need to be fully healed

Vex King, author, life-coach and king of Insta-inspiration, believes you don’t have to be totally over your last relationship to date, and that waiting for this to happen is just another perfection trap.

He believes that real progress is about making ‘better decisions in the midst of living’. That you can simultaneously heal the past while being open to the present.

Dating tip 6: Know there will be young men

It’s a phenomenon known to internet dating, that young men pursue older women. My inbox was full of 20-year-olds commenting on my ‘hotness’, enquiring with a sexual subtext as to my likes and dislikes. Some of them are fit as.

But, ask yourself do you want someone with the same lived experience (e.g. someone that remembers Tiswas)? Or an outside chance of a committed relationship? If the answer to those questions is no, then knock yourself out.

Dating tip 7: Realise some men just want a pen pal

There’s a subsection of men that will message endlessly. Back and forth, all day. You know their inside leg measurements, what their coffee order is and the intimate details of their childcare arrangements, but they don’t ever suggest a meet up.

The experts disagree about whether you should just ask them out. Some guys just need longer to suss you out. But after a few weeks, I tell them I don’t need another friend, so…

Dating tip 8: Remember what YOU are looking for

We often have a tendency when dating to fixate on whether the person we are meeting likes us, without asking ourselves the more important question: do we like them?

I found it useful to have a list that reminded me of what the most important qualities are in a partner. It’s much harder to ignore red flags when you’ve put your essentials down on paper, or in your phone’s Notes app. These notes aren’t meant to be a shopping list of physical attributes or bank balances – you could live without a partner with blue eyes, but can you live with a man who has no sense of humour? I know I couldn’t.

Dating tip 9: Don’t fake it

No not that, although don’t. What I mean is don’t overload on the fake lashes, tan, nails and hair. Maybe one of those, but not all at once.

Instead get that confidence boost by giving yourself time to get ready, prepping your outfit in advance and using that mask/perfume/lingerie that makes you feel a million dollars. Because if you feel it, you’ll look it.

Rosie's book How to Heal a Broken Heart is out now. You can read all of Rosie's columns for Red here.

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