In September of last year, I traveled to Portugal, alone. One night, while eating dinner, an older couple beckoned me to join their table. The wife — a woman in her 70s with long, silver hair cascading over her shoulders — asked me what I do for a living. I told her I was a dating coach and a writer.
Amused by my answer, she pointed to her husband and said, "We just got married two years ago." I smiled, anticipating a wonderful story. No stranger to heartbreak, this woman had survived an emotionally abusive marriage while raising four children.
"I eventually mustered the courage to leave my ex-husband," she said. "But those years broke me. I spiraled into a deep depression and ended up in a mental hospital."
"I'm so sorry to hear it," I said.
"Oh, don't be sorry!" she said. "It was such a blessing — finally, I had some peace and quiet! It gave me a wonderful opportunity to heal and put myself back together."
In the years that followed, she lived on her own terms. She left a career in nursing to drive a mobile library. She tended an organic garden. She ushered her last child into adulthood. Finally, fully at peace with herself and her own life, she met John — a widower who had been living on his own for almost a decade.
I asked where they had met. Her answer surprised me:
"Where else? The Internet! I was on a website called 'Plenty of Fish,'" she said. "He kept emailing me. I'd finally had enough and said, 'Let's meet!' And, we’ve been inseparable ever since."
I asked her what drew her to John — a quiet, good-humored and reserved man.
"He was kind," she answered. "And I knew that life was better savored with a companion. Now, we travel through Europe, staying at $10-a-night hostels. I feel like a kid again!"
I asked John what had attracted him to his wife. He said, "She is alive. And despite the challenges that she has faced, she is still optimistic and happy."
People often ask, "What is the best age to find love?" In my opinion, love has no sell-by or expiration date. I have clients in their 50s, 60s, and 70s who have wildly successful relationships. The key to their happiness? A deep understanding and acceptance of the following principles:
1. Age is nothing but a number.
Have you ever met a 20-year-old who lacks vitality and spends his days glued to Facebook, or a 60-year-old with the joie de vivre of a teenager? If so, you understand that age is relative.
2. Opportunity is everywhere.
This week, I consulted with two potential clients — both in their early 60s. One sees a world of scarcity — she laments that men only want younger women. The other sees a world of abundance. She crafted a captivating online profile, signed up for classes in which she can expand her social circle, and says “yes” to all invitations. Guess which of these two is NOT sitting home on Saturday night?
3. Experience enriches love.
While young love is wonderfully innocent and sweet, mature love can be more satisfying and is often a beautiful counterpoint to loss and heartbreak.
4. Life breaks everyone. The courageous see possibility in failure.
A new client lost her husband to brain cancer and nursed him until the end. She has every reason to be bitter but instead is using her experience to teach others how to be caregivers. After 29 years off the market, she is excited to date. She radiates gratitude, optimism, and strength. It’s not surprising that men are drawn to her vivacious spirit.
5. Dating is a skill you learn, and it's never too late.
Some people get lucky — they meet their soul mate early. But most others will experience a fair share of failure along their journey. Failure isn’t a problem unless you get mired in pessimism and fail to learn from your mistakes.
Make no mistake — there is a right way to date. To have a successful relationship, you have to get real and work to build up your self-esteem. But the good news is that with diligence and effort, you can always turn your love life around. Plus, it’s an investment that will keep you young.
If you’ve experienced great love later in life, please share in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.