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6 Steps To Make Dating After 40 Less Stressful And More Enjoyable

Written by: Sarah Duff, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


In the ’90s where I grew up ‒ a place called Hull but pronounced ‘Ull’ by the locals ‒ I don’t ever remember hearing the term “dating", except on American TV shows!! (90210 anyone?) You would see someone you fancied on a night out. Express it to a friend! The word would then spread (advantages of a big small town!) If they liked you back, you'd get "takin' out," and if it were a primo experience you'd start seeing each other. What a simple time, eh! Anyway, fast forward to now and the simple times have definitely vanished.

Shot of a young couple having a coffee date at a coffee shop.

Not only is the term dating as hot in the UK as it is in the US. There’s now an overwhelming number of ways to connect and meet new people. And you would THINK this fact would make it easier to meet someone for a romantic connection and a serious relationship… BUT NO!

The truth is modern-day dating, especially as a woman in your 40s, is not the easiest or most enjoyable thing to do. Do you feel me on this?

And if you have ever wished that it could be less stressful and more enjoyable then keep reading because I’m about to share with you 6 things that will help you…

Feel more empowered in your love life Make dating less stressful and more enjoyable! Let me let you in on a teeny-tiny secret first! Without following the steps, I'm about to share. I would not be in the relationship I'm in today ‒yup I mastered the online dating space in my 40s and met my partner over 2.5 years ago! Here are the 6 steps.

1. Educate yourself

For so many of us, we have no clue what healthy love is. And that's not our fault. If we were never taught and it was never something we witnessed in childhood, how would we know? And there are 2 big problems this causes:

Problem 1:

Dating without understanding healthy and unhealthy love leads to repeating the same mistakes. Meaning ‒ we pick people that are reflective of the unhealthy love that we witnessed as children. Because without conscious awareness we always gravitate toward what feels familiar. And this makes dating so ‒ because history just keeps repeating itself, which results in many women distrusting themselves and their ability to make good decisions in this area of their life.

Problem 2:

Many women end up in relationships that are based on unhealthy love. But they don't realise it because going back to what I mentioned above, to them, it feels familiar. and familiar to the brain = safe.

So the first step to breaking this cycle is becoming aware of the differences between healthy v’s unhealthy love ‒ so that you are empowered to make more intentional and conscious choices about who it is that you are choosing to date and invite into your life. As Mary Angelou said “Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.”

2. Get crystal clear on what you want

When you date and you’re not clear with yourself or others that you want a long-term relationship, when you have no clue about what your non-negotiables, wants, or needs are in a partner or a relationship, you often end up saying yes to men that you should be saying no to.

Something important to remember is that when you say yes to one thing, you automatically say no to something else. In this case, you are saying no to someone who is a better fit for you.

What I experience with a lot of new clients is that when we look at what they've been doing in their dating life and why things haven’t been working. It will often transpire that they’ve never been clear about who an ideal partner is for them (other than the superficial stuff).

Or what kind of relationship they desire.

I work mainly with women over 40 who have been in relationships that just kind of happened ‒ so they haven't given any thought to what they want. But when you don't know what you want, it's surprisingly hard to get it (yes, I know crazy!). Without clarity, dating is like throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping it sticks.

You have no parameters to judge if someone is worth your energy. In addition, you have no way to quickly weed out the people who are a definite no. I also find that women end up in ‘situationships’ way more because they’re getting caught up in someone else’s relationship intentions rather than being crystal clear on their own. If you want a committed relationship, own it. So, step 2 is to clarify what you want. Then don't be afraid to own and express it so you can weed out the matches that are not on the same page as you!

3. “Know thyself”

Dating is stressful when you don't understand yourself and aren't making conscious choices. Your choices and behaviours are driven by default settings and ultimately those default settings don't work for you. From personal experience when it comes to dating success, I know this...

The more awareness you have of yourself. Your love imprint. Your love blocks, any wounds you’re carrying (such as attachment wounding) and the impulses you follow that lead you astray the better! Why? Well, it’s empowering!

You become empowered to:

  1. Heal, let go and re-shape what no longer serves you

  2. Date in alignment with your higher self and your desires

  3. Make intentional aligned decisions rather than allowing default settings to take over

  4. Let go of self-imposed timelines

  5. Date authentically

One way you can get to know ‘thyself’ in relationships is to use your past relationships to teach you some things about your tendencies, patterns and impulses.

My suggestion is to take some time to reflect on your past relationships and your childhood and see what you can learn. Map out your dating and relationship history and look for similarities between romantic relationships. It can also be super helpful to bring awareness to … Any red flags you’ve historically ignored. Any time you acted against your gut feeling and things turned out exactly the way you knew deep down they were going to.

Doing this gives you valuable awareness about listening to your intuition and increases the chances of not repeating what you've done in the past again.

You can try using these questions to reflect on your childhood experiences.

What was your experience when it comes to what you witnessed as a child between your primary caregivers? How did they express and give love to each other? How did they express and give love to you?

4. Continue to date multiple people

Continue to date multiple people until you’ve had the “we’re exclusive” conversation!. Hear me out on this one ‒ because I know many women's resistance toward this suggestion! But let me explain why doing this can make dating much less stressful.

So you know how in the beginning stages of dating when you meet someone you like, there’s that icky limbo grey area stage as you get to know someone and figure out where things are heading ‒ you know what I mean right?

Well, what I see so often (and what I used to do) is this. You meet/match with someone. You've been on a date or 2 and decided you like the guy ‒ yay exciting!!!

You decide to stop talking or setting up dates with anyone else. You like this person so why not put all your focus on them ‒ lob all those eggs into one basket and hope they don’t break! Now, if you’re completely chill and have no anxieties or insecurities around dating or men, this might be OK because you can maintain a level of detachment.

But if you’re like my past self… you can’t maintain a healthy level of detachment from the man you barely know. You become a tinny bit obsessive and begin to get attached very quickly and a lot of your energy and brain power becomes focused on.

When will I see them next? Why haven’t they responded right away? Do they like me? How can I get them to like me?

You stalk them on social media to check their movements. Your mind is in fantasy mode about how perfect this person is to be your partner (even though they are a literal stranger!). You find you’re not making plans just in case they want to see you. It honestly can become all-consuming and the anxiety and stress that comes with it are just horrible. I remember having permanent knots in my tummy and feeling kinda sick all the time. As a result, how you feel impacts your energy. What do I mean by that?

Well, we’re the energetic template that life responds to ‒ people can sense your energy before you open your mouth. So if you’re in the energy of lack, scarcity, desperation, fear, low self-worth, whatever the energy is behind the spiral you get in. You project that outwardly and behave in alignment with this energy. As a result, it pushes the person that you like away from you.

Why? Well, your energy is not fun, exciting, curious, abundant, calm, grounded or thriving which is the energy of magnetism. Unfortunately, it’s actually the total opposite and as a result, this energy repels rather than magnetises.

This is one of the reasons many women don’t ever get past a certain point in dating or a relationship. Their energetic template is out of alignment with who they really are underneath their wounded patterning.

But when you continue to date multiple people (and do the inner work to heal your wounds, master your emotions and become grounded in your self-worth) this doesn't happen! One person doesn't become the centre of your Universe.

Yes, you may decide that you like one guy more than anyone else and you may feel you want to get to know them on a deeper level. But getting to know someone properly and gathering enough data to see if you two are compatible for a relationship and a life journey together takes time.

There’s no real way to know if somebody is right for you without spending time getting to know them. You can't fast-forward this part of the process. So the answer to the question “How do you know if somebody is right for you?” is this…

You have to spend time getting to know them. You have to see them in different situations in life. Establish if there’s a true connection. Find out if you’re compatible (love & chemistry are not enough.) Establish if you meet each other's non-negotiables. And all that stuff can only be established over a longer period of time. (and FYI spending time with someone over time is different from spending an intense weekend here and there.)

I have a guideline for my clients to not go exclusive with someone before the 3-4 month mark of consistently seeing someone. At that point, the hormone cocktail haze has chilled out, you’ve both relaxed around each other, and the “ best 1st impression” time has passed, so there’s more realness.

However, to navigate to this place and keep the energy you project magnetic, you need to maintain a healthy level of detachment through these initial months. So how do you do that? So glad you asked!

Build a deep sense of trust in yourself

Build a deep sense of trust in yourself and the Universe. Stay grounded in unshakable self-worth so you are empowered to continue projecting open, inviting, curious, and authentic energy.

Continue to date other people

Continue to date other people to lessen the chances of one person being placed on a pedestal and worshipped and your energy shifting into something that begins to work against you. Doing both these things gives you the best chance to stay more relaxed and therefore continue building the connection with and gathering more data about the man you particularly like.

5. Take things slowly

Following on from step 4 ‒ and reiterating the point that the only way you can truly get to know someone is to do it over a longer period of time. When you meet someone it’s a fabulous idea to adopt the strategy of intentional pacing. This strategy is focused on staying present in the stage of the relationship that you are truly at with someone. What do I mean by that? Again so glad you asked!

There are 5 stages of dating:

1. Working on yourself

Investing in personal growth is important, taking the time to understand your needs and desires. This involves identifying and breaking harmful patterns, allowing yourself to evolve into someone who aligns with your relationship goals. You can cultivate the qualities and traits that contribute to healthy and fulfilling relationships through self-awareness and self-improvement efforts. By prioritizing your own development, you not only enhance your potential for meaningful connections but also pave the way for greater happiness and fulfillment in your romantic life.

2. Initial attraction and interest in someone

Establishing there’s enough there to go on a date / a few dates but you don’t know them!

3. Curiosity, interest, infatuation!

You are still assessing the basics of compatibility ‒ seeing him in other real-life scenarios and gathering more data if this could be a real thing. But only time will really tell, you still don’t know them well. Important to keep options open so you remain in the energy of choice.

3. Exclusivity

Deciding that you are going for exclusivity ‒ so you both stop seeing other people. But even when you have this conversation you are still in the early stages and being exclusive isn’t the same as full commitment to a relationship. So it’s important to keep communication open.

4. Moving into a committed relationship

At this point you have decided to continue to create a wonderful life and a healthy relationship together ‒ there will be bumps in the road that if the relationship is strong you will face together. The intentional pacing strategy is there to prevent you from rushing things. Because let's be real when you want a relationship, ideally you just want to get things nailed down and done! But unfortunately, this oftentimes leads to what I used to do, which is to settle in relationships and ignore or justify red flags because I just wanted to be in a relationship.


You move too fast and then realise later down the line that you're not even compatible with this person. By taking things slowly you allow yourself the time to get to know someone and (this is a big one!) it helps you manage your expectations.

Let me explain what I mean…

For example, let's say you go on three dates with someone and because you like them and want to be in a relationship you decide you’re all in and committed. You then create a story that revolves around the expectation that the other person is in the same place as you and you begin to expect their behaviour to become aligned with someone with whom you’re in a committed relationship.

So when they aren’t aligning with your story you end up with an expectation hangover because they’re not living up to the story you’ve created in your mind about where you think the relationship 'should' be and how they ‘should’ be behaving.

But the reality of the situation is you don't know them! And as previously mentioned in step 4 this causes an energy shift that can drive behaviours that actually destroy the connection between you.

By adopting intentional pacing, staying present and committing to taking things slowly you can keep a reality-check on the stories you might be creating about how things ‘should’ be.

And this strategy really helps you chill out!! Because you’ve accepted that you need to get to know someone over a longer period and that chilled-ness helps make dating a lot less stressful.

6. Create pre and post-date rituals

Having these are so powerful and so important. Your pre-date ritual is to put you in the right mindset and the right energy so you can show up to a dating event or an official date as the most authentic fully expressed version of yourself, ready to experience whatever unfolds. Because as a reminder being yourself is magnetic to everything you want in life. So that's what will help you meet the right partner for you.

How my clients might set these up before going on a date

Step 1 - Bringing the awareness

As my clients are all on a journey of healing their wounds, shifting their love imprint and shedding their conditioning. They’re beginning to embody a new way of being in life and dating.

So it's important for them to stay aware of the patterns they're trying to change. I suggest you do this before going on a date. In order to get them in the driver's seat (instead of driving on default settings), they...

Bring awareness to their old stuff aka the triggers/attachment wounding, behaviours, impulses and tendencies they’re working on shifting that may pop up. Go inwards and listen; is there any limiting chatter from who I call “Debbie Downer" the bad dating coach!

Debbie’s negative chatter in whatever form it takes can impact the energy template and potentially sabotage the date. If they pick up on some negative limitations they can create an affirmation to interrupt and override Debbie and keep their energy in alignment with how they want to show up.

Step 2 - Set the energetic template

I then suggest they set a very clear intention for the date. You can use a simple stem sentence such as on this date I intend to. To help them get clear on this I tell them to visualise who they want to be on the date. How do they want to feel? What energy do they want to radiate ‒ Queen, Goddess, Beyonce? They can then use this vision to stay grounded throughout the date.

Step 3 - Getting in the zone

For this, many of my clients will find a song to dance to that really puts them into a powerful, positive and magnetic energy. Or they may listen to some affirmations.

Step 4. The post-date ritual

This is a simple practice of taking some time to reflect on your experience so you can gather data about whether this person is someone you want to see again. Here are some questions you can use to help you do that.

How did you feel when you were around the person? What version of you came out when you were around them? How did your body feel around them? Was it tense stiff and closed or did you manage to feel open, calm and relaxed? Did this person make you laugh? Did you feel seen, did you feel heard, did you feel like they held space and actually asked questions to get to know you? Did you feel captivated and interested in knowing more about this person? or did you just kind of feel bored and disconnected? Were there any signs of similarities between somebody that you've dated before or a relationship you've been in before that maybe didn't work out for you? Were there any red or pink flags or things that caused concern?

Finally, it's always good to ask yourself, “Am I potentially breaking my old patterns and cycles, or am I potentially repeating them?”

These questions are super simple but powerful because they give you the chance to gather a ton of information about your experience and help you reflect on whether this person is somebody that you may want to go on another date with. So there you have it—six steps to making dating less stressful and more enjoyable!

I hope they help to make your path to finding the relationship you desire as stress-free as possible. And if you need more guidance then you can sign up for my free ebook here ‒ 4 steps to drastically improve your love life this year.

You can also find more videos on similar topics on my YouTube channel.

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


Sarah Duff, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Sarah Duff is a life, dating and relationship coach. After years of repeating the same dating and relationship mistakes. By age, 40 Sarah was sick & tired of being unlucky in love. She decided enough was enough and, she began to dig deep into what was behind her struggles. After cracking her inner love code, she attracted her partner and is now in her first healthy relationship at age 43. She has decided to dedicate her work to helping women crack their inner love code. She doesn’t want other women to struggle in their love life as long as she did. She's the owner of the brand Thrive With Duff, and her clients span the globe. In 2022 she launches a new program dedicated to helping women thrive in love at all stages of their life.



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