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The Woman’s Guide To Senior Dating and Remarriage

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The Woman’s Guide To Senior Dating and Remarriage

Beating the senior dating and re-marriage odds

Dear Duana,

Wives usually outlive their husbands, and no one seems to want a woman (read: old) who cannot fulfill her “duty” of looking hot and having children.  And there are a lot of “old” women out there. This just depresses me more the more I age, even though I’m happily married.  So my question is: How much hope exists for the post-menopausal woman to find another marriage partner after being widowed?




Dear Elizabeth,

First, the bad news:  Although about 25% of widowers over 65 remarry, only 5% of 55-year-old women wed again.  Sure, some women may be in permanent mourning, but not most; instead, men’s universal preference for youth and beauty locks many middle-aged and older women out of the marriage market.  To wit, younger widows are the likeliest to find romantic partners, but economic success is important for a man’s ability to remarry—which goes along with male and female mating preferences the world over.

And much as we’d like to believe otherwise, beauty is an objective, mathematically identifiable fact.  Men worldwide value a woman with smooth and clear skin, good teeth, symmetrical features—and a waist about 30% smaller than her hips.  In fact, the hot waist-hip ratio is a constant across the globe at all discernable points in history in art, porn, and even in modern studies where men circle the silhouette they find most appealing.  Men don’t consciously think, “Oh, would you look at those fantastic child-bearing hips!  Gotta tap that!”  But women with the 7/10ths ratio are the most fertile; and as we move away from it, we also leave youth, health and fertility behind.  So, what seems a shallow desire in men—as women’s gold-digging must seem to them—is quite deeply based in reproductive success.

Unfortunately, our genes want their own survival, not necessarily our happiness, and they have no “off” switch—so even older men continue pursuit of The Young And The Breasted, even if they don’t want more kids, have a vasectomy, or would be embarrassed if/when mistaken for their date’s dad.

Defying the Senior Dating Odds

But what if you want to defy the odds?  Here’s how you can improve the senior dating and remarriage odds in 6 easy steps:

1. Remember that Character Counts.  We’ve all met him/her:  The Gorgeous One who appears amazing but as soon as the mouth opens, reveals an appalling poverty of soul.  Turns out, men and women everywhere seek certain Core Characteristics in a partner: lovingness, kindness, intelligence approximately equal to theirs, and fidelity.  Nowhere are hateful, stupid, cheating mates in general demand.  So there has to be substance to back up your style.

One element of that style should be sexual restraint until a real emotional attachment has formed on his side—unless all you’re seeking is a fling.  Waiting to have sex activates the she’s-high-status/not-a-cheater male mating psych, and gets his dopamine rising, helping him fall in love with you if he’s so inclined.  But having sex too soon has many men repeating Groucho Marx’s line: “I wouldn’t join any club that would have someone like me for a member.”

Therefore, Be Your (Best) Self With Appropriate Boundaries—and proceed confidently to step two.

2. Although who you *are* keeps the man, how you *look* gets his initial attention.  Which means the most direct route to securing The Approach is—of course— to continue looking young and hot, to the most reasonable extent you can.

Don’t starve yourself, though.  Most American men prefer an average-weight woman— not a human stick insect, as women incorrectly conclude.  Also, weight plumps the face, making you look younger.  Recent research on identical twins shows that the heavier twin is usually judged as considerably younger—7 years, in some cases—once middle age is reached (before midlife, the reverse is true).

Whatever you do, *never* show an outdated or misleading photo of yourself, or lie about your age (please refer to “Character Counts,” above).  Men will not, as women often assume, feel drawn in by your charm despite the false physical advertising.  Instead, they’ll only feel angry once they see the real you—much as you might feel if a prospective date hinted that he was a financially stable professor, but turned out to be a struggling grad student with $70,000 in debt and no plan to pay it down.

3. Become familiar and be friendly.  We all want to think that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but that part comes only after a man begins to really know you.  So…let him get to know you.  The mere exposure effect demonstrates that familiarity breeds contentment, not contempt.  And men regularly fall for mere mortals they’ve gotten to know in social organizations.  Strategy?  Pick some testosterone-laden places you’d like to go; go often (without a posse); and use the Women’s Most Successful Pick-Up Tactic In The World: Smile and make eye contact.

4. Be the younger woman.  Science has found a pain-free way to lose years fast: Date men whose age exceeds yours by a decade or more, because once in their 50’s, men reliably prefer this age gap or greater.  And please don’t automatically reject men because of their age while expecting them to ignore yours…

5. Lower your standards for your prospective mate’s success—money, education, property ownership, an Oscar…None of this matters if you’re done raising babies and have satisfied your own survival needs.  Crying foul while pursuing your own genetically driven plan is not only unfair, it’s almost guaranteed to keep you alone once you’re nearing/passing menopause.  Only a quarter of men are remarrying after their wife’s death—typically, the wealthier men who can command a younger audience.  A sizeable portion of the other 75% might wed, too, if financially secure women their own age would relax their standards for material goods.

6. Stop overvaluing height.  Just. Stop. It.  Today, tall men tend to make more money (see “success”, above), and in the ancient past, tall men probably were better protectors.  But you want to avoid anything ‘ancient’ being associated with your still-adorable self.  And you really don’t need a man any taller than you yourself, if you look at this realistically.  Women routinely say they want a man who is 6 feet tall or taller.  Guess what?  Statistically few men attain that height—American male average height is 5’9”—, and those who do can choose a much younger woman.  I have met clients who refuse to budge on this one, usually while bemoaning men as superficial(!).  They have remained single.

Elizabeth, not only do the data show this to be sound, but without exception, every woman I know who married at or after midlife implemented some version of this senior dating plan.  So go forth with optimism, wear sunscreen, exercise…and enjoy your husband and the happiness you share now.



The author wishes to acknowledge the following scientists and sources:

W.P. Cleveland, for research regarding “Remarriage probability after widowhood”

Devendra Singh, for evidence regarding the waist-to-hip ratio and its importance in female beauty

David M. Buss, for multi-cultural research regarding what men and women really want, and why they want it

 All material copyrighted by Duana C. Welch, Ph.D., 2010; revised and updated, 2014

Duana C. Welch, Ph.D., is the author of Love Factually: 10 Proven Steps from I Wish to I Do, coming in January, 2015. She also contributes at Psychology Today and teaches psychology at Austin-area universities. Get a free chapter of Love Factually!



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