Relationship experts say Blacks should adjust expectations,‘do something different’
BY DARCEL ROCKETT
“Forty and fabulous!”
“Forty is the new 30!”
There are many phrases that sum up what it means to get older with style, but is there a phrase for dating when you’re 40 or older?
If practice makes perfect, then by the time they’re in the 35-and-older demographic, each and every dater should be a savvy pro, gliding easily into fulfilling partnerships, right?
Not so much.
Researchers argue in a 2015 study that a racial gap in marriage emerged in the 1960s, when Black marriage rates started to decline, first slowly then steeply. Recent data suggest that, at all ages, Black Americans have lower marriage rates than other racial and ethnic groups.
Based on U.S. Census Bureau data from 2008 to 2012, less than two-thirds of Black women were married by their early 40s, compared with almost nine out of 10 White and Asian/Pacific Islander women and more than eight in 10 Hispanic women.
Race against time
Michelle Williams, 43, of Carpentersville, Illinois, has been single for two years and says it’s harder to date in the 40-something group “because you kind of know what you want, and it’s not necessarily presented to you.”
“What separates our community from others is I feel other races date with a purpose,” Williams said. “Other races date for six or seven months, and then they get married. The purpose is to get married.
“I find, in the Black community, a man will date you for 10 to 15 years and never marry you. I let one man take my 20s, another man take my 30s, so I think that I have to be a little bit strategic in my 40s.”
Bridgette Gordon, 48, of Lansing, Illinois, thinks traditional courting has been replaced with “a la carte” online dating. So what’s different now that she’s older and looking for love?
Gordon says her patience level is different than it was when she was 30.
“I’m not looking for Superman. You don’t have to be the richest man in the world; you just can’t bring the BS to the table,” she said.
Calumet City resident Roosevelt Shivers finds dating challenging because he says it’s hard to find someone who is loyal and honest. He’s tried the dating apps but has had no luck.
The 40-year-old hasn’t been in a relationship in two years. He says, “It’s harder to find that one because a lot of women still play games.” Now his mindset is: “If it happens, it happens.”
Hard time connecting
Ventura, California-based dating coach Dr. Aesha Adams-Roberts has heard all of these concerns in dealing with her clients, mostly professional Black women.
“It feels like men in their 40s and women in their 40s have a hard time connecting with each other and finding each other,” she said.
“The men who find women in their 40s attractive often are a little older, and those women don’t want those men, and the younger women don’t want the 40-year-old men.”
As a matchmaker and relationship expert, Adams-Roberts has built a career on helping people explore and question who they are attracted to.
Unlearn cultural lessons
One of her methods: informing singles that lists of expectations should be thrown out in favor of blueprints with preferences and values that are negotiable and non-negotiable.
She says that we have to unlearn cultural lessons that have been reinforced through our lives — such as the idea that love comes to us.
“I believe, culturally, we’ve been taught from all the Disney movies, all the chick flicks (even in ‘Girls Trip’), the woman ends up with a man, and she didn’t have to do anything,” Adams-Roberts said.
“We’ve been taught that we don’t have to do anything. We should stumble upon him, and that equals love. So it feels weird to have to put in effort.” But when finding love is a priority, strategic effort is needed, she said.
Here are her tips for more fruitful dating for those 40 and older.
Look for the people who are looking for you.
“Who are the people who are interested in you, who think that you are amazing? Position yourself in that pool of people,” said the Milwaukee native.
“That may mean you have to adjust the age search a little bit (by five or 10 years), plus or minus. That doesn’t mean you’re going to marry the 50-year-old; it just means he’s in your dating pool now.”
Make a list
Focus on the core values that you share with your ideal partner.
“Make a list of preferences and a list of core values, and then look at the top three on each list that are must-haves. And figure out what things you’re open to compromise on,” she said.
Don’t give up
Persist. “Too many people give up too fast because they were on a dating site for 30 days, and when they didn’t meet someone during the trial period, they’re done. Be willing to invest that money into a monthly membership (and) use some of the tools they have to boost your profile.
I call it having a dating brand. What is your dating brand? Does your profile and dating essay match that brand? And don’t give up. Keep going.”
Gordon is an example of someone who has made it to the other side. Now in a relationship for the past two months, she admits she’s never been happier. Her advice to other 40-somethings?
“I think we need to love like we’ve never been hurt before,” she said.
“I think we hold ourselves back, and I think we need to be open, get out of your comfort zone. If you want something different, do something different.”