Mental health pros share tips for senior dating

By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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There may be no secret formula for finding and keeping blissful love, but local mental health professionals say there are some time-tested ideas that help fuel a healthy romantic connection. Auburn clinical psychologist Jordan Hamilton, Ph.d said while chemicals, such as dopamine, that make people falling in love feel the proverbial sparks are valued in our culture, they are not what keeps a relationship thriving over time. “We in the U.S. tend to look for strong emotional/physical connections. That only lasts a brief time,” Hamilton said. Hamilton said being able to create a shared life, centered around common values or spiritual beliefs, is what allows couples to stand the test of time. For seniors, dating is also slightly different Hamilton said. “Seniors are generally looking at a shorter time-frame. They are in the third chapter of their life, as Jane Fonda calls it,” Hamilton said. “There is literally no time to accept magical thinking or accept someone who is not a good match.” Hamilton said magical thinking involves thinking things like, “If I get into a relationship, I won’t feel lonely again,” or “If I get married I won’t have to work and I can stay home and take care of my kids or grandkids.” He said creating a list of 10 ‘must-haves’ and ‘can’t stands’ and sticking to it can help people make better relationship choices. “If they have only one of the can’t stands, they should let it go. Time is too short,” Hamilton said. Auburn Psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Binus agrees that the must-haves and can’t stands are a good technique for finding a better match. “You need to have a good idea of what are deal breakers,” Binus said. “Otherwise, we can be charmed by the wrong person and fall head over heels in love with someone who is not for us.” Some potential spots seniors could meet other seniors to date include senior centers, online, church and service groups, he said. Once you meet a match, Binus said having emotional intelligence is a major component to having a healthy relationship. “Emotional intelligence is closely tied to happiness more than IQ is. EQ actually helps us to have healthy relationships,” Binus said. “It is going to help us choose the right type of person and interact with them in a healthy way. The foundation of EQ is self-awareness.” To gain that self-awareness, he said people should define their own values, goals and beliefs. Major barriers to dating as a senior include fear of rejection, thinking a match isn’t out there or guilt over a deceased spouse, according to Binus. “I think one of the big ones is fear of rejection. I think it’s important to realize that, especially when you are going back to it, everyone is going to be terrified. We need to learn to enjoy the process and not take it so seriously,” Binus said. “Keep looking. Don’t give up. It takes time to get to know people.”