Middle-Age
Relationships
Archive
2008

Tom Blake is an expert on dating after 50. He has appeared twice on the "Today Show" and has written more than 500 columns on dating and relationships. His "Single Again" column appears in The Orange County Register in southern California, is read worldwide and is often featured on msn.com. He is a professional speaker. He spoke at the national AARP convention in San Diego in 2002, and Chicago in 2006. His book, Middle Aged and Dating Again, is a humorous account of his first year of dating after his third divorce. His new book, Finding Love After 50: How to begin, where to go, what to do, is hot off the press. To ask a question or receive Tom's free weekly column on middle-age dating and relationships by e-mail, click on www.findingloveafter50.com See Archives 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, and 2003.

When cheating isn't cheating - or is it?


While preparing for last week's column, I was intrigued by an article I read about divorced and estranged singles living together out of necessity, but who wanted to date. I felt the subject fell under the dating-after-50 umbrella. Not everyone agreed.

I try to keep the topics of this newsletter fresh, interesting and varied, which isn't always easy because it's a weekly newsletter. Those deadlines roll around mighty fast.

The responses surprised me because they were so diverse.

Lisa, a psychotherapist, commented on the proper term to define this group. "I think the term conveniently married or marriage of convenience is the one used when people marry or stay married for reasons other than love."

Lisa's right. Henceforth, when describing this category of people, we'll use her terms. Below is a picture of Lisa, her husband Bob, and me at my presentation last Sunday.

Among the responses that surprised me was this one: "I wish you would keep this newsletter about dating issues for single people. I really don't care why married people read it. I would never date a 'conveniently married' man. Married is married, no matter the circumstances. I won't even date a separated man--too much baggage, unresolved issues and unfinished business."

Another woman wrote: "I have been divorced for 3 years. The idea of "conveniently married" is unseemly to me. I've met a couple of men whose wives were in nursing homes who just wanted 'dance partners.' That is not my purpose in life.

"I see myself as worthy of starting over with someone special to date and maybe even marry. Call it what you like, cheating is cheating, unfaithful men and unfaithful women are what they are. I'm single and looking for a single man."

Compare those two comments to the next two from people on the marriage-of-convenience side of the fence.

One woman said, "I am 55, have MS and have been separated since 1999. My ex allows me to stay married to get an injection medicine called Rebif (Interferon Beta 1A) that would normally cost $1900.00 per month.

"If I didn't stay married, I'd be in serious trouble--health wise and financially. He lives in Michigan, I live in Arizona. He has his girlfriends and I'm trying to date.

"The problem I experience the most is because I don't look sick, men think I am fooling around on my husband, am unfaithful and can't be trusted. This can't be further from the truth."

Another woman in a marriage-of-convenience wrote: "For the moment, I am still deciding whether to divorce or stay permanently separated because my husband is disabled, but does not qualify for disability because he works and cannot get health insurance except for mine through my job.

"I do, however, have trouble coming to grips with if I stay 'married,' even though only on paper, I would, by definition, be 'cheating' if I were to start dating again. So, do I stay married and 'cheat' or do I divorce my husband and leave him without needed, lifesaving health insurance?

"I'm worried about the future because I'm a very social person and love to travel and have fun. I've never cheated in my married life of 30 years."

The husband of the woman with MS is a humanitarian. Out of the goodness of his heart, he is staying married to benefit his estranged wife. If he dates, or, she dates, are they cheating?

The woman whose husband is disabled is also a humanitarian. Let's hope she stays married to protect her husband. Should she worry about being labeled a cheater?

Let's cut these conveniently married folks a little slack. Shouldn't they have a chance to seek happiness in their lives? Or do we just lump them together and toss them in the "married is married, no matter the circumstances" pile?

What do you think?

From the Mailbag

Pat, "My partner and I live together but aren't married. Financially it didn't make sense as well as for other reasons. But we operate as if we were for the most part and it seems comfortable. Other couples in our neighborhood live in much the same way so no one questions it here. Past the age of childbearing, unless you have strong religious beliefs, it doesn't seem to be a very important issue."

Partially-married people joining dating pool?


Why, over the past six months, have more than the usual number of married people subscribed to this newsletter?

It surprises me how many married people read it in the first place. There's no way to estimate the number, but from the comments and email I've received over the last five years of writing it, I estimate 20 percent of our subscribers are married.

Why do married people read a column originally intended for singles? For lots of reasons. But a new reason may be emerging: the economy.

Yesterday, on AOL news, there was an article by Amanda Lee Myers and Christine Armario titled "Economy Forces couples to stay together." Link to AOL article The article talked about couples who remain living under the same roof because in today's economy, they can't afford to live in separate households.

For people who want or would like to date, but are still married or still living with their ex's, I call them, for lack of a better term, partially-married.

Frances, a teacher, is one of them. She e-mailed: "I'm married, my life could be better. I'll read anything."

Anything? Yikes, I hope this e-letter goes beyond the "anything" category. Frances admits she reads it in anticipation of becoming single and considers herself to be married only by law.

Another woman recently subscribed who falls under the partially-married category. She lives in California while her husband lives with his girlfriend on the East Coast. She said, "We've been separated for 14 years. We even have a separation agreement. He's been wonderful to me. I have a serious illness and we've stayed married so I can continue receiving his health insurance. I've even met his girlfriend. I don't know what I would do if he divorced me."

Married people who cheat on their spouses don't fall into the partially-married category. They'd come under the "low-life" category. We're only including ones who are being forced to remain together due to financial reasons.

Partially-married people may have a hard time finding someone willing to date them. Can you imagine going to a woman's home on a date and having her introduce you to her husband? And him saying, "Make yourself at home. There are some cold ones in the refrigerator."

Many married people tell me the newsletter encourages them to appreciate their spouses more. They aren't in the partially-married category.

Don, married for 27 years, said, "My wife and I read your column because it reminds us to appreciate each other, and how good we have it as a couple. Dating today would be difficult."

Teri, said: "I'm a happily married long-time reader of your column-it's interesting and good advice for us married folks, too. The column reminds all of us to cherish those we love and to not take them for granted."

Anne, 62, married, said: "The personal experiences shared by your readers help me feel connected to other seniors. Your column reminds me of tactful ways to keep my own identity and boundaries."

Other married people read the column "in case life changes for them."

Elaine suggested some married people read it "Just in case they may find themselves divorced or widowed and on their own."

Steve said, "I married late and dated a lot beforehand. So, I'm interested in what singles are up against now."

Teresa, a married women attending graduate school, wrote, "With women living as long as they do, I could end up single again, and need good advice."

Some married people read it because their marriages are on shaky ground.

Joyce, a widow, living in the Midwest, met a man online. When they married a few months later, she felt they were compatible in every way.

She said, "We talked, or so I thought, about everything, but failed to discuss one important area: Finances!

Joyce said the initial years' chemistry and magic are starting to fade. She is questioning the wisdom of her marriage as she watches her assets dwindle, not only from the sagging economy, but more importantly to her, because she pays for most everything while he contributes little.

Among other reasons, Joyce reads the column for guidance as she ponders her future.

And some married people, just maybe, read the column because it's entertaining and riveting. While no one has told me that yet, my married friend John, who frequents my Dana Point, California, deli, took a stab at it, but came up a little short: "In your early years you wrote with pathos and were a bit whiny; my wife Cory and I almost felt sorry for you."

Perhaps now that I've been in a relationship with Greta for 11 years, he'll tell me I've matured and the newsletter is now entertaining and informative. I see him in the deli often, but I'm still waiting to hear him say so.

Married people read this column for a variety of reasons. What's yours? Send a return email and let us know.

Don't be fooled by fantasy love


Loneliness and naivety can lead to poor judgment in singles, particularly in women, who often are more vulnerable than men. Some have fallen in love with an image-someone they've met on the Internet--but they've not met in person. It's called fantasy love.

Almost as bad is falling in love with someone you've personally met, who lives far away and you rarely see, and you do not know. Last week, we wrote about Ana, 62, who maintained a 3,000-mile relationship for four years with a man she met at a relative's wedding.

Ana and the man met face-to-face a few times, when he was on business trips, and were intimate just once. She believed he was her soulmate. He'd schedule visits to see her and cancel them. He kept apologizing and making excuses, pleading with her not to give up on him. Eventually, she found out he was "madly in love" with someone else. She wasted four years on him.

Some of you responded about fantasy love. Jane Ann said, "Ana had her sense of self worth totally shattered by an 'imagined' relationship. Had she been thinking--she would have KNOWN this was NOT a romance--but someone just toying with her emotions. Wake up and smell the coffee-we women allow this--so men do it!"

Rebecca thinks men are at fault: "Clearly Ana's friend did not share her feelings or her interpretation of their relationship. I have known men who have strung women along like this for years, avowing their love and desire to be together but never quite making it happen. Why do they do this?"

Marta says, "Here is what I learned the hard way via a failed, long-distance internet romance.

"It isn't possible to know if you have a 'deep friendship,' or have found your 'soul mate/kindred spirit,' without being in the physical presence of the other. I am not talking about sex here - we need to see the other's eyes, see his face move when he talks. Eighty (80) percent of communication is body language. Anyone can say anything via email, or even on the phone; when we are lonely we are vulnerable to being fooled.

"There is no way to know if someone is being truthful or not, except via the passage of time, which allows us to see if others are consistent, keep promises, etc. This can't easily be done from a distance, which is why I made a personal rule to only date locally."

Jennifer said, "Dating a man 3,000 miles away is like dating a stranger. A woman has no idea about who he is or what he does. Without really knowing him, Ana created a fantasy about him. She confused sharing intimate things by email with really getting to know him."

Jennifer passed on six nuggets of advice for Ana:

(1) No more long-distance dating

(2) If a man doesn't let you get to know him, he's probably hiding something

(3) If a man stands you up repeatedly, with no rational explanation, drop him

(4) If the relationship has to be kept secret from family members, something is wrong

(5) Sharing intimate details with a stranger by email is not a shortcut to developing a relationship. Telling secrets only creates an illusion of intimacy. It takes time and frequent (personal) contact to get to know someone in the real world

(6) If a man is much younger than you, a lot better looking and very charming, why does he want you?

Don't be fooled by fantasy love.

Starting Over


Ana, age 62, wonders if she'll ever meet a man she can trust. She explained why she thinks this way.

"I was married for 34 years. My spouse found a younger woman he had an affair with starting in 2002; he left me for her on March 1, 2003. Our divorce was finalized on Dec. 31, 2003."

A few months later, in 2004, Ana met a man-10 years younger--at her niece's wedding. Ana lived on the West Coast, he lived on the East Coast. "We started emailing and became friends. We shared deep, intimate details about our persona and we both thought we had found our soul mate/kindred spirit. We had a deep friendship which developed into a romance; however it was very dysfunctional."

Over the next two years, they met "as friends only" a few times for dinner when he was on business trips. In November, 2006, he told Ana he was in love with her and asked how she felt about him. She said she loved him also, but told him she was concerned about two things: living 3,000 miles apart and their age difference. He told Ana those things didn't matter to him.

"So," she continued, "we tried being more than friends and I made love to him in 2007 and then it all started to fall apart.

"He would say he was going to visit me, then, at the last minute, he'd cancel. Each time he did, I ended the relationship. Then, he would tell me not to give up on us, that I was his soul mate. He would say he cared deeply for me and just wanted to be together when we could spend quality time. However, that never happened."

The man was scheduled to visit Ana in May, June and over the July 4th weekend this year, but he canceled each time, claiming he had to attend to his sick mother. So, over the 4th, Ana went to see her sister who was vacationing in Idaho. She decided to let her sister know she was dating him, which had never been revealed to the sister.

Ana said, "Instead, I was the one who got the shock. I found out through my sister-who also lives in New York and has known him for 27 years--that he was in San Francisco that weekend with his new girlfriend, age 37, and that they were 'madly in love.' I realized that our romance had been an illusion."

"When I told him that I knew about his other romantic partner, he said he didn't know how to tell me about her and to not judge and think badly of him because he really thought of me as his best friend and soul mate.

"I forgave him and have been trying very hard to get over him and want to begin dating again. Yet, I keep comparing others to him and realize that I need to stop all communication with him to get on with my life.

"How do I tell when someone is truthful? Any words of wisdom will be gratefully accepted."

I told Ana she didn't need words of wisdom from anyone, she'd already figured out the situation herself. I also said she had wasted four years on a man who had merely toyed with her.

"He was not your soul mate. Soul mates don't cancel plans or lie. Soul mates do whatever it takes to be together," I said.

And I agreed she should cut off all communication, no matter how difficult.

"He's too young for you, he lives too far away, he hasn't been honest, and now, he loves a woman 25-years-younger than you," I added.

I suggested that instead of focusing on finding a new mate, she should get involved with activities she enjoys and just focus on meeting new people and making new friends of both sexes. She needs women friends as well as men.

And I adamantly told her, "If he calls, don't talk to him. Doing so could wipe out all of the progress you've made in breaking the chain."

Children helping parents Internet date


Using the Internet to meet potential mates can be overwhelming for older singles, particularly those intimidated by computers. But their computer-savvy kids are starting to help them.

Lori, Rancho Santa Margarita, California, wrote, "I was browsing the web this morning in hopes of finding more information on seniors and dating for my mom, who is 73. I came across your newspaper article from May 2007 in the OC Register and wanted your opinion.

"My mom is a very beautiful and happy-go-lucky single widow who just moved from San Diego to be closer to her family. She is lonely and is willing to start meeting other seniors in OC in hopes of finding companionship and love.

"She never thought she would join an online service, yet as she see's other singles meeting their match, she has opened her mind. I met my fiancé on line and she loves him and looks forward to having him as her son-in-law.

"It was fun putting her profile together for her. I got it started, then, she got right in there and edited it to her liking. Now she is hooked. She checks her messages often and edits her photos, etc., in hopes she will attract her Mr. Right. So far she has not had much success but I keep encouraging her to hang in there. It takes time."

I congratulated Lori for helping her mom and told her to remind Mom that finding love for older singles is a numbers game, and indeed it takes time. Using the Internet to meet people is no guarantee that a person will find love, but it sure improves one's chances, as we see from the story below.

In addition to using the Internet, Lori's mom needs to include other activities where she's out meeting new people. Senior centers are great places to do that.

In a different situation, a man's two daughters helped him find love online. Yvonne (one of our subscribers), Illinois, explained how: "My sweetie, Dave, and I have been together a year and a half and I realize more every day how suited we are to one another. He's 68 and I'm 65 and each of us has been divorced for several years. We met on the Internet. Nothing unusual there, except, he doesn't own a computer nor has he ever used one!

"I, on the other hand, had been searching on several dating sites for about three years when one ad jumped out at me. It was written by two daughters living a thousand miles apart, feeling sad that their dad was lonely with very little resources to meet someone suitable.

"They 'stole' a picture and put his ad on Match.com without him knowing anything about it. His ad said, among other things, that he was "house-broken and did windows," which was a pleasant diversion from the same trite bios so many men had written.

"I responded (to the ad), plus his daughters printed a few others they also considered for him, and once he found out what they were up to, he said 'Let's go shopping,' not having a clue what was next or anything about Internet protocol.

"I wrote to 'him,' which, of course, his daughters intercepted. He picked my ad first, called, set up a first date - and we've never looked back. He says Internet dating is a 'piece of cake' while I just shake my head."

In my upcoming book, How 50 couples found love after 50, of the 50 couples featured, more than 30 of them found love on the Internet.

Older singles who don't use the Internet could be missing out on a valuable mate-seeking tool. They should enlist their children and friends to assist them in getting their profiles online. And when they do, they might get results similar to Dave's results--a nice sweetheart like Yvonne.

Women reveal their secrets on where to meet men


Two weeks ago, this newsletter's topic was where single women should go to meet men. Surprisingly, it was the women who responded more than the men with where they've found success in meeting those elusive single guys.

I know we've mentioned it before, but many people recommended the website www.meetup.com. It's not a dating or singles website, but a site where people organize themselves into groups that share a common interest or goal. Unlike regular online social networks, members actually meet face-to-face in activities the groups plan.

And where there are lots of new people getting together, romance has a potential to follow.

Brenda wrote, "There is no cost to join or for membership at Meetup.com. It is organized by interests in your zip code area: hiking, volleyball, theater, dance, biking, pet lovers, movies, travel, foreign language, law of attraction, religion, books, any kind of sports (lots of men in the sporting-related ones).

"Whatever your interest - you name it - they'll probably have a meetup for it. If not, you can start your own. They do have singles meetups for those interested in singles activities.

"By joining, you'll get emails (or not, if you prefer) on upcoming events in your area that you can RSVP for. You'll meet lots of new like-minded people (both male and female) this way."

Note from Tom: Meetup.com is easy to join. I joined in about one minute. It's a vast site; there are nearly 50,000 Meetup groups covering 3,662 interest categories that reach around the world.

And there were other fun suggestions on where to meet men.

Kathy said, "The golf course! Gals, get out there and take a few golf lessons, buy a club or three to get you started. Municipal clubs are more affordable for lessons and to play a round of nine holes, and go for lunch after-- a Mecca of men.

"Also, lots of golf opportunities like Friday night dances and golf dinners that won't break the bank --- usually the weekend things are well-attended by those guys who go home to an empty house.

"Men are not in the bars but on the golf course and having lunch or a few beers in the clubhouse dining rooms. Start a conversation -- if they've had a GOOD golf day, they'll talk."

Comment from Tom: So the opening line to the golfer guy might be, "Did you have a good round?" If the guy says no, move on down the bar to the next guy.

Pat shared how she met men, "When I was looking, I didn't like the types of men I met at the usual watering holes. I joined a local ski club and started going on organized ski trips, attending club meetings and participating in club activities. Within a year, I met my husband.

"The secret is to get involved! I saw many women make the mistake of going to meetings with their girlfriends and sitting at a table, talking only to them. No man is going to approach a table full of women, talking among themselves and select one to dance or ask out - it's too intimidating!

"Women who took part in club activities and volunteered their services (occupying board positions, helping with social activities, running trips, etc.,) found partners sooner or later and had fun in the process.

Gale, said, "Where to meet men? Everywhere: hardware stores, gyms, supermarkets, church. Anywhere people go, there are men."

Anne suggested a unique place, "I went to an astronomy star gazers party alone. Guess what! Men are the ones that man the large telescopes and like to explain astronomy to anyone who will listen. It was fun and I met some nice men."

Anne added perhaps the best advice of all, "If science isn't your interest, try something else -- with a smile."

Man's divorce anger will fade in time


Peter, a single man, shared his thoughts on why he's fed up with dating. He said he isn't bitter after his divorce and it's not his intention to sound like he's whining. "Just thought I would give you a different and honest perspective from a man," Peter emailed.

He wrote, "I think there are a lot of men like me who are 'worn out' dating women after a lengthy and very expensive divorce! I am tired of getting dressed in a suit, driving my date to a fine, expensive restaurant, acting as a doorman and paying for it all only to be granted a kiss on the cheek at the end of the evening."

Peter's comments are similar to the thoughts I held after my divorce 14 years ago. I complained about nearly everything: that my wife had cleaned out the house and left me without notice, that the divorce settlement wasn't fair, that the considerably younger women I tried to date didn't understand me, and that the cost of dating was too high. I was a woe-is-me, mid-life guy, mad at women.

So mad, I applied to write a column from the man's point of view about mid-life divorce and dating and how men get hosed. Two women editors of my hometown paper, the Dana Point News, decided to give me a chance. They felt local single women would be entertained by a divorced man, feeling sorry for himself and writing about his pathetic attempts to date again. One woman responded to an early column by asking, "Who is this sniveling puke?"

But back to Peter. He continued, "Since the divorce, most of us smart men have moved on with our lives and have learned that we can survive quite well on our own. We have learned how to run the dishwasher, BBQ, stove, washer/dryer, robot vacuum and get frozen dinners at the grocery store if we don't want to cook for an evening. We can have the TV & remote to ourselves and watch what/if we want."

I know Peter says he's simply being honest, but, the above paragraph sounds like sour grapes to me. Of course men can do those things on their own, but do we really want to be alone forever?

Peter added, "I have a fairly comfortable pension and health plan and don't need any woman to look after me. So it will take some doing to open the Pandora's Box that is every woman's mind.

Come on Peter, not every woman's mind is a closed Pandora's Box. It's unfair to categorize them.

Peter ended with this comment: "The raging hormones from my youth are now just a memory, so it will take a smart woman who can leave her female independence at the door and keep me warm at night, to make me go down that road again."

This last paragraph won't fly with women. It appears Peter is suggesting that because sex isn't as important to him now as it was in his youth, women will have to offer more to him than the sex they once did.

And leaving female independence at the door? I don't think so. It's refreshing to meet women who are independent. And, it's not a woman's job to keep a man warm at night. Snuggling is a benefit to both parties in a relationship, and the responsibility of both also.

Peter is likely a good guy, just a bit scorched at the moment. In due time, he'll change his feelings. And then, one fine day, a kind, gentle, caring woman will enter his life and his different and honest perspective will soften and he'll embrace the new wonderful person in his life.

That change happened to me. It has happened to other men. It will happen to Peter.

Where to go to meet men?


A woman named Cheryl who has been receiving this newsletter on a trial basis emailed, "I am thinking about continuing my subscription, but would like to ask you more about your organization. Please tell me what it consists of, what activities there are, etc. I live in the Los Angeles area, am widowed, attractive and easy to get along with, and have a modicum of intelligence to boot!

"Will your organization offer me some venues to meet nice, respectful men in my age group? I'll be 62 in a couple of weeks. I work full-time. I'm still raring to go. I'm just not sure WHERE to go. I don't do internet dating."

I replied to Cheryl: "That's a great question and I'm glad you asked it. There is no organization, although I do have approximately 1,000 people on my mailing list. Many are subscribers; our tie to each other is that they receive the newsletter and we often exchange emails. If you are looking for a club or something along that line, I can't help you."

I thought about Cheryl's question and decided to write a newspaper column for the syndicate of newspapers that carry my article about how to answer her. Here are excerpts from that column.

"Where should I go to meet quality men my age?" is the most frequently asked question I receive from mature single women. I've been writing columns on mid-life dating for 15-plus years and I still can't give women a satisfactory answer to that question--because, there isn't one.

I answered Cheryl--at the risk of discouraging her by writing that there is no place in the Los Angeles area or anywhere across the USA--at least to my knowledge--where older single men congregate for the purpose of meeting quality women near their age. Places like that simply don't exist.

Yes, there are clubs and bars where older guys go hoping to meet young honeys, but women like Cheryl wisely stay away, not wanting to demean themselves in a meat-market atmosphere.

Women get irked at me and some even suggest I'm not worth my weight as a columnist since I can't come up with specific places where single men hang out in the towns and cities in which they live. I don't know what's going on in Chicago, Charlotte or Cincinnati and whether the men hang out at Morrie's Pub or Beck's Poker Club in those cities, but my where-to-go message applies to all parts of the country.

My book, Finding Love After 50. How to Begin. Where to Go. What to Do offers advice to singles on where to go: "People need to get off the couch, away from the computer screen, out of the house, and pursue activities and hobbies that interest them. Meeting new people is vital.

"Singles should go out to spice up and revitalize their lives, grow, have fun and experience new things. While doing that, they might meet a mate, they might not, but in doing so, they've improved their chances greatly."

I also tell singles that it's important, however, not to go out for the sole purpose of trying to meet a mate. When singles do that, they come off as looking too hard-even desperate-and other singles sense that and will avoid them altogether.

We hear about the importance of attitude so much that it's almost a hackneyed thought, but I cannot stress enough how important it is for singles to have a positive, non-judgmental attitude when they are out and about. A smile works wonders.

When singles are negative, potential partners they meet relegate them to the dating slush pile.

Also in my book, I suggest reunions and weddings as must-go places for singles. Joining clubs and doing volunteer work are worthwhile activities, as are going back to school and travel. Antique car shows are great places to meet men. Most men love to talk about their cars so conversations are easy to start.

On Wednesday, Nancy, late 50s, who was working at Pier One Imports in Dana Point, said to me, "I have no problem meeting men. They are everywhere. You just have to be friendly and approachable. Walking in Dana Point Harbor is a great place to meet people."

Now, I realize each of you can't walk in Dana Point Harbor. But you have parks and places where you live where you can go to meet people who are likewise out walking and enjoying themselves. Flea and produce markets can be enjoyable places to mingle.

By not using the Internet, Cheryl has excluded herself from one of the most prolific ways older women meet older men. In spite of the negatives that accompany Internet dating, there are endless success stories of how older singles met mates on the Internet. It should be at least a small part of Cheryl's mix of activities.

So where should Cheryl and single women in general go to meet men? Anywhere and everywhere, it's the getting out with new people that's important. Fate will take over from there.

By the way, Cheryl subscribed to the newsletter. I thank her for that and for her question, and hope that she found today's topic beneficial.

Never Married No More


Linda, early 50s, grew up in the San Fernando Valley, north of Los Angeles. In 1996, she moved to San Clemente (population 30,000) in Southern Orange County, which is located half way between Los Angeles and San Diego.

She had never married. It wasn't that she didn't want to meet a nice partner, it just hadn't worked out that way for her. To enhance her chances of meeting someone--after all, San Clemente was a fairly small city--she had her profile on American Singles. She realized a long-distance relationship might be the result of Internet dating.

What she found surprised her.

Bob had lived in San Clemente since 1976, where he'd been a Bank of America branch manager for several years. He was about as far away from his hometown of Van Buren, Maine, as one can get. Van Buren is close to the Canadian border.

Note from Tom: Don't move to Van Buren to meet men. Of the town's 2,310 population, 53.5% are women, 46.5% are men.

After divorcing in 1993, Bob was lonely and wanted to meet a new partner. He hadn't met anybody in San Clemente of interest so he tried various Internet matching services with mixed results. In 2000, when his subscription ran out on AmericanSingles.com, he didn't bother to renew it.

But as most of the matching companies do, American Singles kept Bob's profile in its pool of available men. When the company contacted him, saying that a woman in San Clemente wanted to communicate with him, he figured it was just a sales pitch to reel him back in.

Bob debated on whether or not to spend $12 to renew his American Singles membership. "Turns out," Bob said, "it was the best twelve bucks I've ever spent." The woman was Linda, who lived all of a mile or so away.

Of their respective friends and acquaintances in San Clemente, they knew only one couple in common, but no connection had been made through that couple.

Bob and Linda started emailing. Then, they spoke on the phone for a couple of weeks. Besides the Internet bringing them together, Bob feels another small miracle got them together for their first date.

Bob was the coach of a club basketball team that was scheduled to play one weekend in San Diego. But the team failed to get its entry fee in on time so it was bounced from the tournament. Instead of playing basketball on that Sunday morning, Bob took Linda to brunch at the Renaissance Café in nearby Dana Point.

Three and a half years later, on September 21, 2003, Bob and Linda were married. They live in San Clemente.

Bob and Linda agree, they most likely wouldn't have met if not for the Internet, although they lived so close to each other.

When singles use the Internet to seek love, they might be surprised to find their compatible match lives across the street, down the block, or within their city limits, and not in some far away city, like Van Buren, Maine.

So, not only do we have a "never married before" success story here today, we also have evidence of why keeping oneself visible on the Internet is a smart thing to do.

Mailbag - Comments from women about men

Arlene, "Where I live is not the place to be single. There are several divorced women here. The 'pickens' are thin for single men over 50. Over the years, it seems as if men are threatened by women with a decent job who own a home.

"They seem to prefer the 'damsel in distress,' someone with a substance abuse problem, or who need a surrogate dad. What's up with that?"

My answer to Arlene: "I can't understand why any man with a brain would be threatened by a woman with a decent job who owns a home, prefering instead the things you mentioned. Most of the men I know, including myself, would prefer stability over dysfunction any time.

"I recommend you expand your activities beyond your neighborhood to where there aren't so many divorced women and maybe there are better 'pickens' for men."

Ellen, "I have not ventured on a date since my husband passed away three years ago. Nothing I read lately makes me even want to start dating. It sounds sad out there in the dating world. I thought I was ready to start but it sure sounds depressing. I think I'll wait awhile."

My answer to Ellen: "You sound like you're ready to venture out and meet new people, not neccesarily to date, but just get out. Because dating sounds depressing shouldn't be the reason you don't do that, waiting won't change what you hear about dating.

Perhaps today's "feel good" story will change your mind.

Best chance of finding chemistry may be in the supermarket


Last week's column about Karen, mid 60s, who advertised unsuccessfully for dates on Craig's List, brought comments from single men about mid-life dating.

Peter said, "I am 64, have been divorced for 11 years and am still solo. This is not a complaint but a reality check for people getting back into the dating scene in their 50's and later. I have dated and met some lovely women, just not the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with."

Peter critiqued the dating sites I had suggested. "Craig's List is not a serious dating site, more for the hard cases and those looking for fantasy fulfillment, mostly the younger crowd looking for a quick hook-up.

"I tried e-Harmony and absolutely hated it, had trouble getting my info deleted, once I decided it was not for me. This is a problem with many dating sites, in order to justify their membership fees, they make it difficult to delete your info, so they can claim a big membership base.

"I suggest Karen try Plenty of Fish.com, or check the local newspapers for ads, and check clubs where men can be found (golf, yacht clubs, etc.).

Peter thinks finding a suitable man will be hard work for Karen.

"The reason," he said, "is as we get older, we get more selective, some people age better than others, there are financial situations to consider, background, unfinished business (not over last partner's departure), health issues, different stages of life (retired snowbird, still working), distance, and family commitments make it harder to date."

Larry has given up dating women he meets on the Internet: "After three dozen or so lunch and/or dinner dates from the Internet, I am coming to three conclusions.

"First, the photos/profiles posted do not accurately portray the women.

"Second, you have a better chance of feeling good chemistry at a supermarket encounter.

"Third, many women use the internet dating services as a guise to get free meals. I have had ladies confirm the latter about some of their female acquaintances. I question why a man would even buy dinner for a totally strange woman?"

Dan thought he'd found love but it didn't find him:

"About a month ago," he said, "a friend introduced me to a great lady, probably in her mid-to-late-50's. She is beautiful, successful, confident with a wonderful personality.

"I was smitten. I phoned the next day and left a message on her recorder that I enjoyed meeting her and would like to follow up with a lunch or dinner. I called a week later and left a message asking her to call. With no response to either call, I realized it was not a match made in heaven."

Several weeks later, the woman who introduced Dan offered to casually learn what happened. The feedback was that Dan seems like a great guy and would make a wonderful friend but she didn't need more friends.

Dan added, "I got the hint long before, when my calls were not returned, but it was a stinging confirmation. My point is that I have found a few great gals that I was interested in but I know that it takes two to tango and I'm still looking for that dance partner."

It's not only women who find mid-life dating difficult, men face steep challenges as well.

Mailbag: Vote For Our Member Eve

Eve Michaels has been a friend of mine for seven years. She's one of our subscribers who has never tooted her own horn although she's a high-visibility person operating a successful business. Eve is an internationally acclaimed image consultant and makeover expert, who is known to television viewers in the US, Great Britain and Australia. Her unique approach to Image is based on the concept that Beauty and Happiness begin on the Inside and radiate Out.

I'd like you to help her in a fun, quick (20 seconds) and easy sort of way.

Eve has been chosen as one of the 16 finalists for the AARP Magazine, Face Over 50 Model Contest. More than 14,000 people submitted their photos to the magazine. The finalist who gets the most votes wins. Let's help her by voting on the AARP website.

Eve has a business that helps Boomers and Seniors be healthier, more vital and look more modern as they age through beauty boot camps, men's overhauls, and private image coaching. When you go on the AARP website, scroll down to Eve's photo and check the vote box by her name. You'll see that she represents our group exceptionally well. Like many of our members who don't look their age, Eve doesn't even look 50, but is actually 55, and is very modest. The link to the AARP vote website follows: Vote for Eve

Thanks for helping one of our own members, who is also my friend.

Loneliness clouds judgment


A 58-year-old woman is involved in a puzzling relationship. She's confused and doesn't know how to handle the situation. "Any words of advice you can give me would surely be appreciated. I'm sure the advice will be helpful and probably what I already know in my heart and mind to be," she wrote.

She explained, "In April, I started seeing a 63-year-old widower I met through an online dating site. Our relationship became physical almost instantly."

There's the first red flag. They became physical too soon. How can one build a loving relationship with another if one hops in the sack with that person before getting to know him or her?

But there are more red flags. She said, "He was widowed in January after 43 years of marriage; he cheated on his wife from the beginning."

When she met him, he had been widowed for three months. That's too soon to be dating after 43 years of marriage. But her story is not a dating-a-widower issue. A bigger red flag is that he cheated on his wife throughout his marriage. What does that say about him?

She pinpoints the root of her problem: "I allowed my loneliness and sympathy to overrule my intelligence."

Loneliness clouds judgment. It takes people down paths they should never be on. But there's more.

"I believe him to be addicted to Internet dating sites. He was or is a member of 10 or 12 sites, even a few XXX-rated sites, where he posted photos of his private part. He does not see this as a problem as all he does is chat online, but on occasion, phones the women he meets there," she said.

Not a problem? He's chatting with some woman online who's looking at his private part flopping in the breeze? Remember Bob Dylan singing "Lay Lady Lay?" His clothes are dirty but his hands are clean? This guy sounds like a porn man, but I don't think his hands are clean. That's a huge red flag.

She added, "To my knowledge there have been three women he has met and only two that's he's had a physical relationship with, one of them being me.

"I have been cheated on before and it is the most demeaning and demoralizing thing that can happen to a person. I do not trust him any further than I can pick him up and throw him."

She can't trust him and yet she's wondering what to do? Where is her self-esteem?

She said, "His wife knew of his cheating and apparently was accepting of this flaw in her husband. I don't know if she had her own agenda or not. I only know I am not cut from the same bolt of cloth. I cannot and will not tolerate a liar or cheat."

Flaw? Cheating is merely a flaw? It's a hell of a lot worse than that. And, isn't tolerating a self-confessed cheat what's she's doing?

She doesn't know if he's cheated on her, although she's had suspicions, not yet proven. With his track record, it's not a question of if he'll cheat, or did he cheat, but when he'll cheat again.

She added, "I think I will always be suspicious of him because of his history of cheating and mine of being cheated on. I know the right thing to do; I just don't want to do it. Loneliness is a terrible thing to base a relationship on and I believe it to be the core of this one."

My advice to her: "Get out of this lust pit immediately. How can you have a relationship with a man you'll never trust? Also, get tested for STDs and HIV because you have no idea what diseases he might be transmitting or has passed on to you.

"Recapture your self-esteem and don't let loneliness cloud future judgment."

Open mouth, insert foot


It was last week's Mailbag section about Sue, who is dating a widower of seven years, that created a stir. Some of you took offense to my advice to her. Your comments were important and are featured today.

Sue said she's confused, because, while the widower has mentioned possible marriage in the future, pictures of his deceased wife remain throughout his house, and, he continues to put flowers on the church altar.

She said, "If he loves me, he would have already put her pictures in a drawer. If he wants a future with me, I shouldn't have to read in the church newsletter that he put flowers in memory of his wife; shouldn't the flowers, instead, be in my honor?

"I've always been the most important person to the men I've dated. I wonder if I'm the most important person even though he says he has moved forward and is ready to have a life with me."

I responded, "Don't even think about making a commitment to this man until the pictures are down and tucked away. Buy yourself a huge bouquet of flowers and display them where you live. When he asks who gave them to you, tell him 'A secret admirer.'"

Those were stupid comments on my part, and you let it be known.

Dave, a widower of 6 ½ years, emailed, "I unequivocally disagree with your response. You have not experienced the loss of a spouse to death. Your advice is tantamount to sympathy vs. empathy.

"Losing the love of my life to cancer after only 7 years of a mountain-top, unconditional love relationship was devastating.

"If I heeded, adhered to your advice to Sue and took down my late wife Franny's pictures that grace our family wall of pictures, my 5 children including 2 step children who have become my children, and my 11 grandchildren would disown me.'

"Whenever my children and grandchildren come into my house, they walk to the wall of pictures. Franny is part of who and what I am, a part of my life history.

"Her pictures are not to intimidate a special lady (hopefully a widow); her pictures hang on the family wall because she is part of our family!

"This widower will never take down Franny's pictures."

Mary Lou wrote, "Sue's lament that she has always been the most important person to a man she dates is inapplicable to later-life romance. She needs to lighten up or she is headed for heartache. She is way too eager.

Nancy: "How can you and Sue expect someone to put a loving marriage and history in a drawer? Sue should work on her insecurities. She needs to learn to respect his first wife's memory and not be jealous of a deceased person."

Linda, "I'm pretty disappointed that you suggested that Sue buy herself flowers and lie to the widower. She should buy herself flowers and when he asks about them, say, "I bought them for myself, though I wish you had bought them for me."

Lynne: "It takes a person with a very special outlook on life to have a successful relationship with a widower/widow. I'm a widow. I know.

"Don't expect the surviving spouse to ever give up loving the deceased spouse. If not for death, they would still be together. Someone who wants a relationship with a surviving spouse is going to have to realize that there is a memory lingering there, and be comfortable with that.

"Why buy flowers and claim they are from a secret admirer? What's the point? This is not a game."

Jane Ann: "I was once in the same boat. Walked into my lover's condo, and all of HER stuff, clothes, make-up, jewelry, wheel chair, bed lift, was there, after five years. I didn't say anything at the time, but it was like a slap in the face. The next time he wanted me to visit him, I simply said, 'I will after ALL of her things are gone.'

"Men do not think about these things as women do! I told him he could keep a couple of pictures--but not in the bedroom--while I was there. He seemed dumbfounded that I felt that way, and apologized profusely.

"He said that he had never thought about it, and immediately hired someone to help with the removal. He felt hurt that I did not want her jewelry. Men are not mind readers, and need to be told exactly how we feel. Don't blame him too much. Give him a chance to make it right.

"As to the altar flowers, see it as the mark of a good and loving husband, and be proud he is the man he is."

Phoebe, a RN and grief counselor, said, "Each of us reacts differently in our grief. Past lives and loves are gone, but never forgotten. But if a new relationship is to survive, we need to commit wholeheartedly to that relationship without feeling we have betrayed our lost loved one. If the past and how we choose to honor and remember it is causing tension between the parties, then it is too early for one or both participants."

Thanks to all who contributed. Your comments were awesome.

Getting out and about


Dateline--Washington, D.C. (at the AARP national Life At 50 event)

In this week's column, we visit Washington, D.C., and the AARP Life at 50 Plus national event last week.

Once you attend an AARP national event, I'm certain you'll try to go every year. My partner and I went for the fifth time in a row and it seems to get better every time. For people our age, it's a great place to make new friends (everybody there is friendly) and to learn all kinds of neat, new stuff.

In the Mailbag, Sue, one of the women from last week's dating a widower story, is still confused, as we see from her email. I hope my response will help her.

Keep the stories and questions coming.

Tom

Still crazy after all these years

So there my partner Greta and I were last Saturday night, in a front-of-the-stage mosh pit made up of 50, 60, 70 and 80-year-olds, dancing to Paul Simon and his 7-piece band playing, "Graceland," in the Washington, D.C. Convention Center.

The Simon concert was the final happening of the AARP's annual three-day life@50+ National Event & Expo, which Greta and I attended.

I was on an Internet dating panel called "Love at first click." The ratio of women to men in the audience was about 25-to-one. And yet, one couple who met right after my talk, made plans to go on a date that night. One of our members, Judy from Baltimore, was in the audience.

Prior to our trip, when I told people that we were going to the AARP event, some rolled their eyes or made comments like that's just old-people stuff. That couldn't be further from the truth.

The three days are crammed full of inspirational speakers, entertainment, and displays of the latest products designed for the older generation. There was even a job fair. And what a great place to make new friends.

The AARP now has 40,000,000 members and has become a powerful voice in the United States. So significant that both presidential candidates addressed the event via satellite.

Regis Philbin kicked off day one by talking about how he entered and has remained in show business for 40 years. Shirley MacLaine gave a fascinating discussion on life, health and aging. At night, Natalie Cole and Chaka Khan performed.

One of the bonuses of attending an AARP annual event is taking time away to sightsee. On one day, Greta and I walked to the White House Visitor Center, The White House, the Washington Monument, the Freer Gallery of Art, the National Air and Space Museum and had lunch in the Smithsonian Castle.

Then, we took in the recently opened Newseum. It has six floors of videos, newspapers, and radio clips of every major world news event since WWI. Viewing them is like taking a refresher course on the events of your life. The Newseum charges an entry fee, $18, but it's worth every penny.

Included there is a not-to-miss FBI exhibit, which explains how criminals including John Dillinger, Patty Hearst and the SLA, and Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, were apprehended. Throughout the Newseum, the lives of journalists such as Walter Winchell, Edward R. Murrow and Tom Brokaw are chronicled.

Also, there is an extensive 9/11 exhibit; the documentary film about that day is still difficult to watch.

The most inspiring session was a casual conversation between world-famous poet Maya Angelou, now 80, and renowned record producer Quincy Jones (winner of 37 Grammy Awards). Maya said the key to life is to "Live, love, laugh and give." Later, Greta and I interviewed Quincy one-on-one.

Quincy Jones in press room

One presentation was extra special to me. Pulitzer-Prize-winning author David Maraniss talked about his new book, "Rome 1960. The Olympics That Changed The World." For book and author information

I attended those games as a spectator for 17 days. It was fun to relive--through Maraniss's comments-events such as Rafer Johnson so proudly carrying the American flag during the opening ceremony and his winning of the decathlon against UCLA teammate C.K. Yang.

When Maraniss autographed a copy of his book for me, he wrote, "To Tom Blake, who was there!" I thought that was pretty cool.

Tom and David Maraniss

And that brings us back to the mosh pit. During the concert, Simon put his hands above his eyes, looked out across the audience, and said, "Just kids out there," which got a big laugh.

When he added, "I don't care if you stand up, dance, or come to the front of the stage," 2,000 rockin' old folks bolted from their seats, came forward, and carried on like teenagers. It was special to be a part of. Maybe we are "Still crazy after all these years."

The AARP annual event next year is in Las Vegas October 22-24. Put it on your calendar. It will be awesome-and fun. AARP website

Still Confused

Even though last week we wrote about Sue and the widower she's dating from church, she's still confused.

She wrote, "My widower has told me he is in love with me and hopes that one day we will be married. He wants to wait until I have all of the loose ends tied up, so to speak, with my former marriage. My ex and I still have a house for sale; the realty market is terrible now!

"I'm thinking you are saying that when the time is right, my widower will stop putting flowers on the altar in his deceased wife's memory and will take her pictures down. I think he should make that decision and I don't want to mention anything to him. If he loves me, he would have already put her pictures in a drawer.

"If he wants a future with me, I shouldn't have to read in the church newsletter that he put flowers in memory of his wife, shouldn't the flowers, instead, be in my honor?

"I've never been in a situation like this. I've always been the most important person to a man I have dated. Sometimes I wonder if I'm the most important even though he says he has moved forward and is ready to have a life with me. I'm very confused. Help!"

Tom's response: Don't even think about making a commitment to this man until the pictures are down and tucked away. His wanting to wait until you sell the house is a blessing in disguise. Buy yourself a huge bouquet of flowers and display them where he can see them where you live. When he asks who gave them to you, tell him "A secret admirer." Stop being confused, just enjoy the present as it is. Marriage could be a disaster with him.

Two widowers - two women - two problems


Dateline--Washington, D.C. (at the AARP national Life At 50 event)

My partner Greta and I are at the annual AARP national event. I will fill you in next week.

Today, two women reveal their experiences in dating widowers. There is nothing wrong in dating a widower, most are wonderful, caring men, but when they haven't properly healed from the loss of their spouses, disappointment, surprise and heart break can result.

Also, in the Mailbag section, a few responses to last week's wedding column.

Keep the stories and questions coming.

Two women. Two widowers. Two problems

Dating a widower can be risky and challenging. Today, two women share their experiences with dating widowers and ask for advice.

Marie said, "I met a widower online on a Catholic Match service (Vietnam vet, cancer survivor and then bone marrow situation because of Agent Orange, counseling for Post T Stress Disorder), dated for three months. He pursued me with many dates every week, and 3-4 phone calls a day."

"He was interested in making a commitment; we would only date each other. July was a great month. He was happy and made many plans with me ahead of time.

"August 9, during our fifth month of dating, was the second anniversary of his wife's death. He told me it would be difficult for him. After that, we had a few more dates (fine) and then he became emotionally detached.

"On August 21, he said he did not know who he was, was still in love with his wife, his work was troublesome, he had an upcoming trip to Asia (including Vietnam), and he tried to fall in love.

"'Not you, it's me,' he said. He left very quickly; I haven't heard from him since. He never went off of Catholic match even though he said he would.

"Have I figured it out myself?"

Tom's comment: I told Marie that he's right, he is the problem, not she. The greatest risk in dating a recent widower is that he hasn't healed properly--which this man hadn't--although he likely believed he had. Besides him not loving Marie, he had other serious issues that could have complicated her life, plus he was still on the Internet looking. I suggested she gratefully move on.

The second woman, Sue-not her real name-said, "I am a divorcee of over a year. I have been dating a man from my church I've known a long time. His wife died eight years ago.

"I am wondering about something. His wife's pictures are still all over the house. There is a picture of her on one side of the bedroom and one of me on the other side.

"He still puts flowers on the altar in her memory at church, yet everyone knows that the two of us are seeing each other. He was very dedicated to her and loved her very much. I'm proud he did; that shows he was a good man.

"Is it time for him to stop with the memorials? When I go to his house, I feel like I am in her house. I'm not jealous but it feels a bit strange."

Tom's comment: I told Sue I understand the way she feels. But, how widowed people handle the memory of a deceased spouse is a very personal and individual thing. If the relationship gets more serious, he will have to decide about the pictures.

If he and Sue decide to marry, or live together, it might be a good idea if they moved into a neutral home, one where neither clings to memories.

Dating a widower is like navigating a mine field. You may get through it ok, but it's unpredictable and there is risk as well. Widowers may believe they are ready to move on, and then reality sets in. Women need to protect their hearts so they don't end up being the ones who get hurt.

Responses to last week's Laurie and Phil wedding article

June, "Thank YOU for a beautiful love story; meeting THE one is difficult but not impossible, so there's hope for the rest of us. Really appreciate your efforts in sharing your experiences and readers' comments."

Celia, "I was glad to read that Phil had stuck by her side thourgh a rough time. I met Bob through your column in 2004. We had both lost our mates the year before. He was 80 and I had no desire to marry again.

"Now I have been told I do not have a lot of time left and did not want Bob to go through the pain of losing me. Especially not watch me on oxygen 24/7 and not be able to get out much.

"He has chosen to keep seeing me and help what he can--taking me on errands etc. I have no one close here to help. So many men leave at the first sign of illness. Phil seems to be one that will stay through thick and thin--for better or for worse .

"What a thrill that must have been for you to marry them--and in such a beautiful setting! Enjoy your life!"

Anonymous woman, "Obviously, the moral of the story is that even if you are balding, paunchy and 54, you can marry a beautiful younger woman if you have money. And if you are a young, 'gorgeous and sophisticated' woman, you can attract and marry a rich older man.

"As usual, the 'after 50' part of finding love only applies to the boys."

Tom's response. Laurie is 49, almost 50. My fault, I should have included her age. But, you are way off regarding the moral of the story.

© 2008, Tom Blake



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