Match-making for grown-ups
Looking for love in the valley can be more exhausting than spending a full day on the slopes, especially for those who kissed their 20s goodbye years ago.
For folks in their late-30s and older, the bar scene might not pack as many potential mates as it used to.
So where is that elusive dating scene for the divorcees, widows, single parents and older singles?
“I’ve seen numerous couples who have met online,” said Dr. Meredith Ringler, a local psychologist specializing in couples counseling, divorce and men’s issues.
Sites like match.com and eharmony.com are popular among the 40-, 50- and 60-something crowd, she said. There’s a real convenience to being able to search through profiles for a person with similar interests or goals. Ringler, who is in her 50s and has been separated from her husband for more than two years, said about 80 percent of the dates she’s been on in recent years were with men she met online.
“When it started with newspaper personals people were very skeptical,” Ringler said. “People used to think it was a sign of being desperate; that is not the case.”
Older singles have different lifestyles than 20-something singles. They’re typically more established and know what they want in life, she said. And for many who have already been married and had children, they’re not looking to start families or sail away into the sunset with a soul mate.
Bob Zeeb, also divorced and in his 50s, is a match.com member and meets dates through the site frequently. The bad thing about it, though, is that the valley doesn’t have a huge population, so there aren’t as many potential dates online as there would be in more urban areas.
“It’s just plain hard,” Zeeb said.
Marie Gustafson, 49, said older singles in the valley have to have a positive attitude about dating or else love might pass them by.
“If you’re a pessimistic person, it’s not going to work at any age,” Gustafson said. “You have to put yourself out there.”
Gustafson continues to find herself in fun situations in the valley. From participating in the Vail Daily’s bachelorette auction to attending a friend’s son’s high school basketball game, she’s seen tons of older singles in this valley looking to date, too. But everyone has to work at it, she said, especially in such a small valley.
“I think it’s a matter of saying ‘if I want this, it’s not going to come knocking on my door; I have to go out and make it work,'” Gustafson said. “Go out and have fun and be friendly and open minded, and people will gravitate to you.”
Zeeb is starting to lose his optimism about relationships and dating in the valley. He keeps himself busy and hopes for the best.
“At this point, it would be nice to find somebody, but if I don’t, I don’t,” he said. “I miss some of the closeness you can have with a good relationship … I guess I’ve kind of given up a little bit, but I’m still optimistic, I guess.”
Ringler said people who focus on others’ strengths can get something out of almost any type of relationship. People should enjoy dating for what it is, she said.
“If you have a positive attitude and you don’t expect every potential date to be a potential mate, you won’t be disappointed,” Ringler said.
Ringler said it isn’t just the older singles looking to date who need to work on their positive attitudes, but it’s also society. Divorce rates prove that divorce is the norm, not lasting marriages, she said.
“If society didn’t look at marriage as something that lasts forever, there would be less of a stigma when it ends,” Ringler said.
Gustafson isn’t too keen on the bar scene because “you can’t really get to know somebody” in that environment.
There are plenty of other places to meet people, though.
In a valley full of adrenaline junkies, just getting outside can provide all kinds of dating opportunities.
K.K. Cherry, 63, said skiing is “the best thing in the world.”
“Being on the ski lift is like a cocktail party without the cocktails,” she said. “You can meet someone and take a run together.”
But not everyone who lives in the valley necessarily spends time on the slopes. Cheryl Thomas, director of the RSVP program for volunteers aged 55 and older, is still new to the area and to skiing. She said that while more advanced skiers might meet on the mountain, for her it’s harder.
“I’m still on the bunny hill,” she said. “For men (who are good skiers), if you’re not ready for the big black slopes, forget it.”
That’s why people need to branch out, Ringler said. Finding other groups and activities that are more in line with your personal interests is a great way to meet people.
The valley might be full of sports enthusiasts, but it’s also full of nonprofits and volunteers. People get together for all kinds of causes, and that’s a great way to meet someone with similar interests, Thomas said.
The Gore Range Natural Science School offers adult seminars throughout the year. Carol Busch, the school’s marketing director, said the school’s programming definitely provides “an alternative format for meeting like-minded potential partners.”
Busch said the school’s summer adult programs and the Avon library speaker series are great alternatives to the bar scene.
Zeeb said athletic clubs are pretty good places to meet people. It’s not always dependable though, since often people just want to work out and not “chit-chat.” He recently met some ladies downvalley who have horses, so he’s going to ride and maybe meet others through that.
Being single at Ringler’s age is a blast, the 55-year-old said.
“You don’t have a lot of the concerns you had when you were younger,” she said.
Friendships really evolve out of the dating scene, too, she said. She’s been on many dates that haven’t blossomed into anything romantic, but have still succeeded in making friendships.
And friends, Ringler says, can be blessings in disguise.
“If you make a friend, you’ve got a whole new pool of people (to potentially date),” she said. “Just look for friendship rather than instant passion.”
And looking for that “perfect” person might keep you looking for a long time. People’s interests don’t have to be identical, “as long as you respect the other’s independence,” Ringler said.
“You have to clarify your expectations right up front,” she said.
The valley is a melting pot full of people in different stages of their lives, Gustafson said. And while being single as a middle-aged or older person poses certain challenges, Ringler said age doesn’t matter as much as the stage in life that two people are in.
Ringler tends to date men who are about 10 years younger on average, mainly because she’s so active and has such a lust for life. She tries new sports and challenges herself all the time, so she typically has more in common with men who are a little younger than she.
“Age doesn’t matter,” Ringler said. “It’s more important to be in a similar stage in life than to look at someone’s age … achieving balance is the most important thing.”
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