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Looking to Find New Love?

8 ways to know if you're emotionally prepared to begin to date again

En español | In the course of my work as a sex and relationship educator, I frequently run workshops about dating after age 50.  My audiences are people who are motivated enough to show up at such an event — but scared silly about diving into a dating world they hadn't even thought about for decades!  It's my job not only to teach them some new skills about dating, but to calm their fears. I reassure them by saying that taking that first step is the hardest part.

If you've been out of the dating pool for a long time, starting up again can be frightening. But you'll be pleased to know that things have gotten a lot easier since you were going to high school dances and college bars. A whole host of online dating sites have sprung up to help you meet great people from social networks that normally don't intersect with yours. Some of these sites are specifically geared to the 50-plus crowd, and they are attracting more and more single, divorced and widowed people than ever before.

See also: Find love in the new year with AARP Dating.

Are You Ready to Date Again?

Been out of the dating pool for a long time? Make starting up again less frightening. — Annie Engel/cultura/Corbis

But just becomes it's relatively easy to find a potential partner doesn't mean you should start dating before you think about your goals and desires.  Meeting new prospects before you're emotionally prepared can feel infinitely worse than sitting home alone every Saturday night.

Read the following statements. If you agree with all of them, go forth and conquer. If not, pay attention to those areas you need to work on.

1. "I'm totally over my previous relationship."
In order to be really available, you must be absolutely ready to move past your previous love and devote yourself to another person. That doesn't mean you don't honor your 40-year marriage that ended with the death of your spouse, but it does mean that you won't be constantly comparing new women to your late wife or new men to the husband who left you for his secretary. The grief of losing someone is genuine and legitimate, but if you are still grieving, you are in no shape to meet someone new.

2. "I am not bitter about the past."
When dating, most people want to avoid a person who comes with too much baggage. That's the individual who's still carrying the unpleasant events and feelings of their past relationships into the present. Bitterness in any form — even if justified — will send most new people running as fast as they can in the opposite direction.

3. "I don't want to divulge everything about myself right away."
People who reveal everything on a first, second or third date risk overburdening the fledgling relationship with too much information. Someone who has a chronic or life-threatening illness, for example, might feel compelled to talk about it, even during a first meeting. But this goes against the first rules of dating: Keep it light, and let your date see your most attractive characteristics first. There will be plenty of time to exchange more profound information, if there is enough interest and attraction between you.

4. "I know how to listen."
Of course we all like to talk about ourselves and the things that interest us. But a common mistake is to be so overwhelming that the other person never gets to say anything about him or herself. Truly, the most winning way to get to know people is to get them to talk about themselves — and really listen closely. Ask questions; help them be comfortable with you, and then reciprocate. You need give and take, and being the life of the party isn't required.

Next Page: 4 more statements you should agree with to get back in the dating game. »

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Dating Today: We asked AARP members what they think of dating today compared to when they first started. Check out AARP Dating powered by HowAboutWe.

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