Dating can be a daunting experience at the best of times. Combine the nerves and self-doubt of meeting a stranger, with frustrating and foreign symptoms of menopause, and it’s easy to understand why a lot of women get put off dating during the menopause.
But you shouldn’t put your life on hold for hormones. With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, the menopause experts over at Femal have partnered with Charly Lester, one of the UK’s most well-recognised dating industry experts and an award-winning entrepreneur, who has given her tips on how to help banish those first date nerves and improve your confidence when dating during the menopause.
1) Wear an outfit you trust
If you’re particularly excited about a date, often people will suggest investing in a new outfit. But if you’re prone to hot flushes, this can end up being counterintuitive. Instead, opt for an outfit which you are completely comfortable in. It still needs to be smart and appropriate for the venue, but choose clothes which you regularly wear, which are a little loose fitting and which you know you are comfortable in. You don’t want discomfort distracting you on a first date, and if you’re feeling uncomfortable then your date might misread this as you not wanting to be there. If you still want to treat yourself to something new, perhaps opt for a new accessory, which will make the outfit feel new but not compromise on your comfort.
2) Meet a friend beforehand
If you’re particularly nervous about the date, opt to meet a friend an hour beforehand. You can even meet them at the same venue if you’ve never been there before. Chatting to someone you know will help you relax, and can serve as a good reminder of what a good catch you are! They can help you navigate unknown aspects of the date – like the menu, and where the loos are – little things which you might not normally think twice about, but which can suddenly become daunting mid-date. And you can even ask them to wait (unseen) at the start of the date, to check your potential partner arrives, and see you get settled. You can then debrief them by phone afterwards. It’s amazing how much more fun the dating process becomes when you involve a good friend.
3) Avoid alcohol
If you’ve noticed that alcohol enhances your menopausal symptoms, consider avoiding booze on a first date. Drive to the date, or explain that you are doing a ‘dry month challenge’ with friends if you feel you need an excuse to explain the choice. Or simply plan your dates so that alcohol isn’t even an option – a coffee earlier in the day, or an active date in a location which doesn’t have a bar. Not only are you likely to feel more comfortable on the date, you’re also going to get a far more accurate read on your potential partner. ‘Beer goggles’ have a tendency to make people seem more charming or attractive! And if he or she reacts negatively to you not drinking alcohol, is this really someone you want to be with?
4) Plan active dates
One of the most daunting things about dates is that they often feel like job interviews, particularly if you’ve opted to sit face to face in a bar or a coffee shop. There are very few distractions or ice breakers, and if conversation takes a while to warm up, it can feel like a barrage of questions. One of the best ways to avoid this is to plan active dates, where you are walking around, side by side. Conversation can flow more easily, you are surrounded by natural talking points, and the physical activity releases endorphins which make you feel happier and more confident.
5) Boost your sexual confidence
If you haven’t had a sexual partner for a while, sex might be one of the things you begin worrying about even before you go on a first date. The easiest way to make sex a ‘non-issue’ is to get as comfortable as possible with your changing body on your own, before introducing a stranger to it. Spend time experimenting with vaginal creams, lubricants and sex toys, so you know what feels comfortable and pleasurable, and what doesn’t. And then when you find someone who you want to have sex with, share that information with them. Bring the same products into the bedroom which you would use on your own, and be open about what you want to use and how. You’re not a teenager anymore – sex shouldn’t be something uncomfortable which you endure just for the sake of ‘doing it’.
6) Remember you’re not the only one
When you’re worried about something, it can be easy to feel like you’re the only one. But that’s honestly not the case. Regardless of how confident people are in normal life, most people get nervous before a date. So to start with, remember that your date will also be worrying. He or she is unlikely to notice anything about you that you’re worrying about, because they will be too busy worrying about themselves. And if you have specific menopause-related fears, remember that millions of other women are going through the exact same things. If none of your close friends are in the same boat, why not consider attending some singles events or going online to meet other singles, so you can share the ups and downs of dating life?
7) Communication is key
While it’s sometimes easier said than done, the way to make most uncomfortable things comfortable is to talk about them. Better communication is the cure for probably 95% of problems! So if you’re worrying about a potential symptom of your menopause, and how it will affect your new relationship, talk about it. No, it doesn’t need to be the very first thing you ever tell a date about yourself, but if you’ve met someone and you think there is potential, don’t be scared about talking honestly with them. We are all adults, it’s unlikely you will be the first menopausal partner they have had, and in all honestly – do you want to be in a relationship with someone you can’t have an honest conversation with? If something like night sweats or insomnia is putting you off spending the night with a new partner, have a chat about it. A problem shared is a problem halved (or often, not even a problem!)
Talking through your menopause symptoms and concerns when it comes to dating, with friends, can be a huge source of support and should never be underestimated. The more we open up and tackle the conversation around menopause, the less daunting it becomes. You are not alone. For more insights, and to hear about other women’s journeys, visit femal.co.uk/pages/expressyour or join the conversation on social media with #ExpressYourFemal