Are You To Busy To Date?

Finding time to date is a snap when you are in college or your early 20s. Remember?

What else are you going to do while in college? Study, attend classes, and conduct research? Come on. We all know that college is one big dating service, and much of a student’s time is spent frequenting bars, going to parties, and looking for guys or gals to fool around with.

I just read those sentences to my college-age daughter and asked “Is that still true today?” She laughed and said “Uh, huh!” (And she actually takes her studies very seriously.) When I was in college way, way back in the late ’60s, a lot of time was spent demonstrating against “the man” and attending peace rallies and “sit ins.” But even then, to be totally honest, a primary reason many of us marched in those rallies is because we knew it was a great way to meet girls!

Bar hopping and party going is a practice that most people continue well into their mid-20s and for some beyond, way beyond.

But for most people adulthood eventually hits, and with that comes responsibilities, loads and loads of responsibilities. As one rises up the career ladder, work tasks become more complex and time-consuming. There are business trips, memos to write, faxes and e-mails to send, meetings to attend, and worries. Worries about being laid off yourself or which member of your staff to lay off.

Then there are family issues. For divorced men and women (obviously I am not writing this “Are you too busy to date” column for married people), the responsibilities are seemingly never ending.

After all, if you have the kids Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays and every other weekend, and there are parent teacher meetings and soccer practices and ballet lessons to factor into one’s schedule, your appointment book can fill up very quickly.

Many divorced adults also have to deal with aging parents and their health concerns and doctors’ appointments and visits to the hospital, rehab center, or nursing home.

So when can you find time to date? Well, many adults just claim they are too busy to play the dating game. So they don’t. And that is a big mistake.

At LunchDates, the Boston-based dating service that I ran for 23 years, I interviewed many men and women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s, who said they were now ready to begin dating … finally. I heard story after story of men and women (especially women) who reported they had spent the past decade caring for an ill parent. Now that their parent had died, they had completed a year or two of mourning (and perhaps therapy), and now they were ready to meet someone.

I also interviewed divorced men and women who said they had put off dating until their children had finished high school and gone off to college. I would ask when they got divorced and some answered “Oh, about 10 years ago.” I would then inquire why they waited so long, and the response was usually something like “My kids needed me; I was too busy to date.”

Now I am going to be brutally honest. Most of those people were just fooling themselves. They probably had not enjoyed dating when they were younger, and the thought of starting over again was terrifying.

But here’s the problem. No, actually there are several major problems with putting off trying to date for a span of years when you are an adult.

First, there is the obvious one. The older you are, the more difficult it is to meet someone. This is especially true for women. As I have previously written, a woman’s “Dating Quotient” (that is how marketable she is in the dating world) begins to drop when she reaches her late 30s, and it goes down a bit every subsequent birthday.

There are many reasons for this, which I have spelled out in previous columns, and I don’t want to repeat those reasons now. Suffice to say, as women move through their 40s, 50s, and 60s, the available pool of “quality” men drops dramatically.

So when a 55-year-old woman says she is “now ready to start dating” after taking the last decade off to care for a family member, well, what can I say? It is not going to be easy for her.

As for men who take years off from dating in mid-life, there is another problem. Many men inherently have trouble with dating anyway, because they inherently do not understand women, their emotions, their needs, etc. Then if such a man skips a few years, I guarantee he will have extreme difficulty sustaining a relationship for more than a few dates.

Yes, many men are oblivious in terms of understanding women. Men who have not dated for years can be as oblivious as I am when trying to read instructions on how to download a new program onto my computer. And that is pretty oblivious, folks!

Unfortunately, many older men and women also tend to become less flexible about their time and their dating priorities. So they pepper their conversations with excuses like “I can’t possibly go out on a Sunday night because I haven’t missed ’60 Minutes’ in years,” or “Wednesday is my bowling night,” or “I am always too exhausted from work to go out on a Friday night,” or “I have dinner with my Aunt Aggie every Monday.”

And at a time when the available pool of dating prospects is smaller than when they were younger, they become less flexible, when they should be doing just the opposite. So they set up roadblocks with such statements as “I just couldn’t go out with someone who likes (or doesn’t like) Elvis,” or “I don’t like to drive at night, so he should live within 10 minutes from me.”

But people should try and become more flexible and open than when they were younger, and equally as important, they should force themselves to find the time to date. (You can DVR “60 Minutes” and Aunt Aggie will understand an occasional missed dinner.) Unless you are one of those few men or women who really is happier alone (and I do recognize there are people like that), on some psychological level, most people really do yearn for a “mate.” Studies have shown that married men tend to live longer than men who live alone.

Moreover, one could make a strong case that many of these adults might have been a better caregiver or a more patient parent had they taken time for themselves and attempted to meet someone years earlier.

So my final advice for divorced, widowed, or even never married singles is to NEVER use the “I just don’t have time to date this week (month, or year)” excuse.

After all, those months and years can very quickly turn into decades.

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