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5 First-Date Mistakes to Avoid

For people 50-plus, these dating don'ts can ruin a relationship before it starts

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En español | When you are over 50 and starting to date after a divorce or the death of a partner, you may feel a little adrift. You realize things have changed a lot since your old dating days, but you're not quite sure of the new rules of the game.

See also: The man's guide to dating after 50.

You may even wonder whether it's worth the hassle of trying to meet someone new. I'm here to tell you that, yes, it is. Here are some tips to help get you started:

1. Don't focus on your family.
Of course your grandchildren are important, as is your daughter's recent promotion. But a first date is a bit like a job interview and you need to focus on getting to know your potential partner – and making sure he gets to know you as a person, not as a mom or a grandma or a daughter or an ex-wife. That means making sure that you engage in a meaningful conversation about lifestyle, values, experiences so you can how compatible the two of you really are.

2. Don't treat him like your doctor.
Yes, as you get older, you no doubt have a few aches and pains or even some things that are more serious. Maybe your recent surgery or a diagnosis of high blood pressure is foremost in your mind. But that's where it should stay. Keep it out of that initial getting-to-know-you conversation. A first meeting should an enjoyable chance to share discoveries and dreams, not your deepest and darkest challenges. You may feel the impulse to be honest and open, especially if you're drawn to someone. But don't be more forthcoming than the situation calls for – and scare someone off who could handle this information eventually, but not at "hello."

3. It's a date, not a mortgage meeting.
Money should never come up on a first date. Whether you have complaints about the raw deal you got in the divorce settlement or can brag about how you're "fixed for life," it's best to keep those topics off limits. It's just bad taste to bring up anything about money with someone you've just met. You don't need to warn your date that you are poor, and if you are well off, you don't want to look like an insecure person who uses wealth as bait. Keep your bank account in the vault.

4. Your romantic past is just that – the past.
You wouldn't want your ex sitting next to you on this date, so why bring her into the picture? Your date wants to be sure you can focus on her, and no one else. Revealing bitterness or anger about your ex is especially off-putting and can cast a toxic pall over the whole meeting. Even if your ex was a demon, keep it to yourself and show the warm, funny, gracious, interested and interesting part of your nature.

5. Don't flirt too much – or too little.
OK, a date isn't quite like a job interview. On a job interview you wouldn't try to engage the interviewer's sexual imagination. But on a first date, that's exactly what you have to do. I don't mean showing cleavage or baring your shaved chest. (You can do that later!) But a little show of attraction is essential. That little twinkle in your eye could make a date perk up.

At least at first, flirting should be subtle – holding eye contact, smiling, leaning in a little, speaking softly and brushing a hand ever so lightly. It's not sexual teasing or double entendre. It's more an exchange of looks, chemistry and letting the other person know you're feeling something. Yes, it makes you a little vulnerable, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

 Published June 2012

You may also like: Got relationship questions? Ask Pepper! »

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