Reinventing Romance: Dating Standards Out of Whack?

Over-40 dating expert gives advice on dating standards: Should you lower your standards to find a date?

By Sherry Amatenstein, MSW

Q. I’m 51, a single mother of two teens. I feel all I do is work and drive, flying by the seat of my pants to get things accomplished. Please do not misinterpret this as complaining. But time is a precious commodity. How do I use what little of it I have to find available quality men? I’ve tried online dating, bars, lectures, church — nothing works! In the past I’ve poured energy and emotion into relationships that fizzled because I felt I was the only one bringing something to the table.

Does seeking a "quality" man mean my standards are out of whack? I’m not a "trophy woman" but hardworking and self-supporting. Is it wrong to look for educated, confident, settled men who know how to treat a lady?— Allison

A. Obviously you lead a busy, stressful life and the optimum outcome would be for a "quality" man to just fall into your lap. And while you’re placing your order, dial up a non-Scientology-practicing Tom Cruise for me! Seriously, I’m not suggesting you lower your expectations — no one should ever settle for a less-than-worthy man. But consider regarding some of those "non-negotiable" traits with a little elasticity.

For example, is it imperative that your future partner have a college degree? Ronnie Ann Ryan, author of MANifesting Mr. Right: It’s Never Too Late to Find the Love You Want, puts it this way: "Perfection won’t keep you warm at night, and neither will an education." Ryan adds, "Lack of a degree doesn’t mean a man isn’t intelligent, well read, a good earner or that he isn’t up on current events and can’t hold his half of a stimulating conversation." Often, blue-collar guys who haven’t been schooled in competing with women in the workplace hold a magna cum laude in how to, as you put it, treat a lady.

Lori Quaranta, an about-to-turn 50-year-old single mom based in Connecticut, agrees. "You want to be with a man on the same level spiritually and monetarily, but while being ‘hot and loaded’ works for a while it usually fizzles in the long haul." The small business publicity specialist suggests, "Write out the qualities in a man you are willing to compromise on. This can make the ‘perfect guy’ list less overwhelming."

More grist for the man-meeting mill: Expand your horizons. Try different venues. Joshua Estrin, author of Shut Up! and Listen to Yourself, affirms, "Good and single men eat, so they also grocery shop. And they exercise. And don’t rule out flea markets, seminars, volunteer groups."

And don’t give up. He is out there, lying in wait. Pat Pickett, nearing 50 and single for most of her adult life recalls, "Most of my dating experiences have been the stuff of trashy summer novels. I’ve named them — ‘The Felon,’ ‘The Thanksgiving Dumper.’" But, as the cliche goes, just when you’ve stopped looking up, an apple falls on your head. The Indianapolis publicist says, "Out of the blue, totally not man hunting, I e-mailed a congratulatory note to a former high school teacher who was retiring — his first year of teaching was my freshman year." He e-mailed back. They went for coffee and seven months later are sharing a lot more than java.

Lastly, here’s a sentiment to raise a glass to. MANifesting Mr. Right author Ryan says, "It’s not where do you meet men, but who are you when you meet them? Is your heart open? Do you make a man feel good so he wants to be with you? Are you friendly and approachable, even outgoing? Do you flirt?"

Just as there are good women available, good available men exist as well. Like the lottery jingle goes — you have to be in it to win it. So keep rolling the dice and eventually your number will come up.

Do you have a tough question about dating or relationships?

E-mail Sherry at DatingExpert@More.com and your question might be featured in an upcoming column.

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