Dating and Relationship Advice

Dear iris,

I’m middle-aged, but I’ve spent a lot of time in academics and moved a lot for work; I've never found the right person, but I’m also not settled down. In-person, I end up attracting people who are younger — who think I’m closer to their age than I am. When they find out I’m older, they back off. I've gone out with my peers, but they expect me to be more settled and established and can't resist the urge to educate me on how they think I should be, like a condescending parent. Any advice for the young-at-heart middle-aged guy on the best direction to go? I feel stuck in the middle of two groups who think I don't belong with them for totally different reasons.

Signed, Mid-Life Dating Crisis

Dear MLDC,

That’s a bummer to hear that you’re not finding people who appreciate you. You shouldn't settle for a relationship that's just okay. There’s also no straight path for everyone, so it makes sense you feel annoyed by your dates educating you on how your life should look.

Since your current approach to dating isn't working out, let’s talk about how to change things up and hopefully find you a partner who appreciates all of you.

First, let’s talk about the qualities you look for in a potential date. This is a great place to start ,since people often focus on qualities that don’t matter when looking for a partner and disregard the qualities that do. So ask yourself: How flexible are you regarding your partner's appearance? What values matter most to you in a potential partner? Do you let your emotions override your logic?

Taking inventory of your dating life thus far can reveal a lot about what needs to change. If you notice patterns that recur in the people you date, dig deeper into why they keep happening and whether they benefit you. You may find there are a few things you want to try differently.

With all that said, my biggest piece of advice is to give dating apps a try. You can literally filter what age range of people show up in your feed. Other people will see your age off-the-bat, and you can talk about your life, what matters most to you, and the kind of partner you’re looking for. This is a perfect solution, given the issues you keep coming across.

If you’re at all hesitant about getting on apps, I beg you to reconsider. Over 30 million people in the US use dating apps. They’re no longer a taboo thing that people use in secret. I’m not kidding when I say that I just attended a wedding for two people who met through an app. With people being busy and Covid making it harder to meet people in person, they’re the best shot someone has at dating nowadays.

I know they can feel overwhelming but try swiping for a day or two. See who you match with, and focus on 3-5 people. Ask what they’re looking for from dating and maybe other questions like what they’re passionate about in life. If you're getting a good vibe from them, plan a date in real life. If not, you saved yourself a lot of time vetting them on the app rather than in-person.

You sound like a catch; you’re just not finding the right people who appreciate you. With thousands of people at the tip of your fingers on dating apps, I think they could improve your prospects quite a bit. But do make sure you’re looking for the right qualities in people. I don’t want you to settle, but I also don’t want you to miss out on someone great because you're focusing on the wrong characteristics.