“Dating apps in my 40s? Yeah, things are definitely going according to plan! 😜”
I don’t think anyone ever really expects to be divorced in their 40s, it just sort of happens. And still happens fairly frequently, if you’re to believe the statistics on marriage longevity in the US these days. The whole dating landscape has really changed in the 20 years since I met my (now ex-) wife and it is both exciting and incredibly strange at the same time.
Swiping? Ghosting? Breadcrumbing? Who knew? Newly single and new to Reno, I have had a bit more to think about in that I also have teenagers who watched their comfortable family life completely transform over the past year-and-a-half. Dating in a new place is confusing enough; dating in your 40s with curious teenagers around makes it even more so.
What Was I Thinking?
Everything about this situation is so new to me that it’s hard to know where to start. I’ll probably look back on this time in my life (and this post, in particular) and wonder “what was I thinking?”
When I first realized that my marriage was coming to an end, I felt like a complete failure. I had put so much stock in defining myself first as a husband before anything else, that not being part of a married couple made me question who I was as a person, and shook me to my core. I don’t think that it’s a stretch to say that most people go through this as a part of the grieving process during and after a divorce, and getting out of that negative cycle can take months or even years for some people.
In order to keep myself from going potentially further into that negative spiral, I knew I needed to focus on getting myself back on some stable ground. I had a new job, which might have added even more to an already stressful mix, but instead it provided me with something positive and constructive on which I could focus my attention. I also devoted some time to really stepping up my fitness goals for myself, which felt like a good way to fill the extra time I had when my kids were with their mom. At one point, my son asked me if my new focus on nutrition was a means to impress someone, presumably someone I was dating. I did my best to let him know that I was doing it for myself, rather than for anyone else. I told him that when he and his sister were with their mom, I had more time to devote to my fitness, and it helped me feel good about myself. It also helped me sleep better at night, and generally improved my energy level at work.
Building a new social life, including dating, was also a big part of keeping a positive outlook after so much disruption. As an extrovert, I’ve always gotten energy from being around people, and I found that the dating apps, at first, seemed to provide the promise of a nearly unlimited supply of new people to meet and potentially date.
Dating Apps (Happn, Tinder, and Bumble, oh my!)
The sheer number of dating apps and their various reputations is enough to make anyone a bit apprehensive to wade in. Most of these apps are clearly considered “hookup” apps, to be sure, but I’ve found that women in their 30s and 40s are pretty clear about “no hookups,” which seems sort of sad to me. Do people actually straight up ask for sex if they match? I can’t get my head around that one, but apparently a lot of women feel it’s necessary to use their precious limited characters and state the obvious. My experience with these apps has been sort of hit or miss, honestly — but mostly miss. There’s a lot of noise out there, and the effort it takes to move from the basic interaction to an actual, in-person meeting is, quite frankly, exhausting. I guess it really boils down to a numbers game. If you’re on these apps, I think the general assumption is that you’re essentially window shopping. I think the vast majority of people on these apps hardly take time to either write a relatively meaningful profile or even bother to read the profiles — it’s all fairly superficial. That said, I actually have made a few real connections through them, some of those have led to dates, and even to a few real friendships.
Without going into too much gory detail on the myriad apps that are out there, I have to make a comment about one in particular. Bumble — the basic premise is that after a match the women are supposed to make the first move by initiating the conversation. In theory, this means that the women are empowered and have the ultimate decision about whether a match progresses to the next step. In practice, though, I’m not so sure. I’ve matched plenty on this app, and for the most part, the first salvo is essentially, “Hey!” or “Hi, Jonathan!” — not a particularly engaging conversation starter, if you ask me.
Contrast this to Tinder, where my experience is that unless I a) make the first “move”, and b) start with some witty opening line, nothing usually happens. I’m not exactly sure what to make of this observation — maybe it’s just that, an observation, but it seems to me a bit presumptuous to think that just saying “Hi” is going to get the conversation off the ground. To be fair, some women have commented on “things are definitely going according to plan” or my current Hamilton obsession that I have in my profile, which always get a response back from me. Overall, though, my experience has led me to the conclusion that most of these apps are a huge time suck, so I’ve deleted my profiles and moved on.
The Reno Dating Scene
As for the “real world” dating scene here in Reno, I can see why they call it the “Biggest Little City in the World.” I’ve only been single a little over a year, and I’ve already encountered the “3 degrees of Reno” that I’ve heard about. Like the time when I was at dinner with someone who knew the woman that a friend had set me up with for a lunch date a few weeks before. I think I’ve managed to avoid anything too awkward so far, but I do have to wonder when my luck is going to run out. As someone told me recently, “Just be nice to everyone, since you’re likely to have a lot of people in common, and all of that is going to come back to you one way or another!” Truth.
I think it’s an especially tricky situation to meet someone who might have kids at a nearby (or even in the same) school — which is where the whole dating with teenagers thing starts to get really complicated. My daughter texted me once to ask me if I had a girlfriend — apparently, a friend of hers saw me out skiing with someone on Mt. Rose. I hadn’t even considered that I might run across her friends out on the mountain, but there it was.
With all of the complications that the modern dating apps and local Reno present, by far the most complicated part for me has been how to talk with my kids about it (Well, there was also the that time I ran across my ex’s dating app profile… awkward!).
It’s clear to me that they are, at times, curious, and since they’ve said in the past that they want me to be happy, that they might have more than just a passing interest in who I’m spending time with. On the other hand, they sometimes seem pretty disinterested in the whole concept, since they have so much to deal with in their own lives.
I think it’s important to be honest with my kids, for sure, but I also know that there’s no need to overshare with them, either. That means that I’m pretty careful about what I post on social media that might be visible to them. For now, I’m taking the approach that I will answer any question that my kids ask of me around my social life, with the notion that when they’re curious enough they’ll find a way to bring it up with me directly. This approach allows them to set the pace at which they want to have these discussion, if at all. I know they’re pretty observant, and probably know a lot more than they’d admit to me if I asked. In the meantime, I’m taking as much opportunity to get involved in Reno as I possibly can with the intention of finding new and interesting people to hang out with and get to know — in real life and in person.
(* Did you really think I was going to write about my sex life? Maybe when there’s something to write about… )