How To Find Normal Men (or at least avoid the Weird ones)

Dear Duana,

I’m mid-60s and widowed, and I keep meeting bizarre men.  I’ve tried church, the Internet, book clubs, fly fishing classes.  Seems the guys range from merely odd to what the hell is wrong?!  I’ve dated playboys, commitmentphobes, abusers, and men who had a variety of mental illnesses.  Do you have a recommendation for meeting a normal, available, willing man age 60+? 



Dear Judy,

First off, kudos to you.  At an age when more than half your female peers are widows, yet over 85% of men are still paired off—or single and looking for Younger— it’s important to cast a wide (Inter)net to meet anyone at all.  And you’ve done it.  Bravo! 

Yet dating post-60 can present a case of “The odds aren’t good, but the goods are odd.”  Increasing the number of potential partners you meet is an important part of the plan for anyone of any age, but as you’ve experienced, that alone doesn’t protect you from Weirdness.    Time, then, for some alternatives to the Alternatives you’ve found.  

(And young ‘uns, keep reading…there’s info for you here, too.)    



Get Grief Group(s).   

 The single, Normal and available men who had good marriages and are open to another pairing are probably…grieving. 

Research consistently finds that happy remarriages between a widow and a widower beat remarriages post-divorce, hands-down.  Men who remained in a long marriage that only ended with their spouse’s death are your best bet for Normal~ so much so, it’s a shame I can’t recommend this as a dating strategy for women of all ages. 

This makes sense.  Most divorces are initiated by women; a widower passed at least one woman’s muster for a long time, and it’s fair to assert that the guy’s Normalcy was part of his enduring appeal.  Such men are unlikely to be playboys, hard drinkers, druggers, abusers, laze-ers, insane, emotionally unavailable, or any of the other Weird aspects of personality or character that routinely get the heave-ho.   These may not sound like great selling points to the inexperienced, but as you’re finding, Normal becomes quite sexxxy once its reverse is endured. 

Second, men who’ve been in long, successful marriages are usually men who value long, successful marriages.  You could think of them as commitmentphiles (not -phobes), the refreshing single men who want to be married, know they want to be married, and love being married.  It’s also possible that these men are better than others at the relationship skills that build up rather than tear down intimacy

Bonus?  There’s no embittered ex-wife hanging about.  Nor is your grieving widower cowering from relationships from fear of having his dumped/mistreated past repeat itself.  Instead, he probably has a good feeling about women in general, and of his former wife in particular…and he’s likely, research says, to have a strong interest in repeating the experience of commitment soon.


Here’s some common advice I hope you’ll avoid:  Give the widower a year or so to get over his wife’s death before you start dating him.  Nooooo.  Those men who will ever remarry tend to do it within that timeframe.  It’s the rare man who grieves protractedly, moves on and eventually remarries.  If you wait, Mr. Normal often becomes Mr. Right…for someone else. 

Thus, get thyself to a grief group now—one that focuses on bereavement following a spouse’s death.  Scratch that; join several if you have time.   Worst case, you heal more of your own grief  and you make some friends who understand your losses while you help with theirs.  Best case?  You meet your man and say Yes when he asks you out…even if his wife’s death was recent.    



Find Former Flames.

With technology as your guide, it’s easier than ever to light an old flame~and the relationships that ensue tend to be among the very happiest, especially if you’re renewing ties to a first love

That’s true even if you were both children or adolescents when you fell in love, and no matter what your age is now.  And because personality and temperament change little over a lifespan, if you got along back then, you’ll probably get along now. 

Just make sure you’re both single before you hit “send” on your email or friend request.  First loves are an especially sexually potent combination when they reunite, and they often get involved—much to the woman’s later loneliness and devastation—even when one or both are happily wed to someone else.  By comparison, disenchantment from Weird Ones would be a welcome relief. 



Ask Around.

But let’s say the whole grief-group thing is too Weird as well, and your old flame is unavailable.  What then?  

Then, you go back to dating in all the ways you’re already doing now…but with a twist I’d recommend for anyone, of any age. 

People’s past behaviors –with others as well as us—are by far the best clues to Weirdness, Normalcy and anything else we want to know about them.   So when you meet a man, notice how he treats others now, as well as how he has treated people in the past. 

Learn about his history—not only as he tells it, but as others who know him reveal it.   Does he denigrate former lovers, seethe with bitterness, take pleasure in giving as little as possible, or preen about the would-be wives he eluded?  Do his friends and family say things like, “I know Frank really likes you; he’s usually so cheap and stand-offish with women, but he’s nice to you” ?  No matter how you’re experiencing Frank, if he’s been Weird with others in his past, Weirdness is in your future with him. 


So, Judy, I hope you’ll take a moment to congratulate yourself on doing what it takes to meet many men; keep it up.  And I wish you all the best as you put in place a plan for finding the Normal catches among them. 




Related Love Science articles:


—Picking a good mate (without settling)


—Women As Sex Objects (beating the odds and becoming more datable age 50+)


—When First Love Is True Love  (renewing your ties to an old flame)


—Why Not To Friend Your Old Flame On Facebook (how to ruin a perfectly good marriage)


—Dealing with difficult men


—Dealing with difficult women


—Opposites working out their differences/Solving unsolvable problems






The author wishes to thank the following scientists and sources: 


A lot of the information in this article comes from my knowledge of the fields of psychology and aging, social psychology, and general psychology, as well as from topics I have written about formerly.  Other sources include these: 


John C. Cavanaugh and  Fredda Blanchard-Fields, for their overview of marriage, remarriage and widowhood in Adult Development & Aging  


Nancy Kalish, for her research into old flames and her e-book on the topic of Lost & Found Lovers  



If you enjoyed this article, please click “share” below so your friends can experience it too. 


All material copyrighted by LoveScienceMedia and by Duana C. Welch, Ph.D., 2011


Do you have a question for Duana?  Write to her at



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Reader Comments (8)

I like the article although I'm one of the 'young 'uns'. I've been warned off dating any man who is recently single. You say not to wait to date widowed men. Do you believe in rebound relationships or a time frame for dating men who have just gone through a break up or divorce?

August 10, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteranonymous single female

I'm speaking as an experienced person here. It matters what the person (guy or woman) experienced and learned from the prior relationship.

I was divorced . . . did not date anyone for a year . . . and then a woman ID'd me as a likely dating "target" and we were off to the races. But then she picked up some kind of red flag and told me "Sorry, we aren't an item any more." I was still mystified (although I should not have been) because I hadn't yet admitted to myself that I needed to be a bit more autonomous (less pliant and deferential?) in a relationship.

But man, that second relationship sank the lesson in deep. I think that a guy who has learned how to be with (and without) another person will not need a long detox period.

But you won't know this much info about a person without being around them. So you go for it and take it for what it is, until all the data are gathered. Bon appetit.

August 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTom

Hi, Anonymous Single Female,

Thanks for writing in with a GREAT question--and one I'm surprised I only get now and then.

It's often assumed that relationships occurring soon after a breakup, divorce or widowhood will be Transitional...but there's scant proof of to back that up.

In fact, what I wrote to Judy in this article, advising her not to wait to date the recently widowed, was written too narrowly. Most people who will ever remarry--male or female, post-divorce or after a significant others' death--do it within three years of their divorce. Indeed, about 80% of folks who've been married will do it again, usually in that timeframe.

As time rolls on, though, remarriage rates favor men. This is partly because they often marry down in age as their own age increases, and partly because they usually attempt to marry childless women. Breaking it down more finely, men who are divorced but childless often attempt remarriage with women who have never been married, and men who are divorced and have kids often try to wed a woman who has divorced but who has no children of her own.

Clearly there are many exceptions; you're reading the words of one now.

Returning to your query, I don't know of research on whether rebounding seems to happen after breakups, but from the marriage and widowhood data, it looks unlikely.

Instead, the data appear to say most of us, most of the time, find that the best cure for an old love is a new love--and that most of us seek that out sooner rather than later.

August 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDuana C. Welch, Ph.D.

Tom! How nice to hear from you again. I'd like to take a bit of your idea and expand on it here.

Yes, indeed, it surely does matter what both people have gone through before getting together with someone new. It's been my impression from Life as well as client work that most people harden after pain, rather than opening up. As we age and go through rejections and trauma from relationships, it can be the case that many folks simply aren't open to love anymore. Toooooo risky.

But that's my impression. What does the research say? It agrees--at least a bit. Folks who have had the hardest, bitterest relationships before often really do have a tougher time establishing a stable, happy relationship.

Those data are correlational, though, so I could be wrong that the hardships cause the emotional shutdowns later. It could be that emotional shutdowns before all the relating caused both the earlier relationship to end, and later relationships not to get off the ground. Or it could be circular--hardship, emotional shutdown, emotional shutdown, hardship... Could be a lot of factors, life being the multi-variate phenomenon it is.

Thanks again for sharing your perspective

August 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDuana C. Welch, Ph.D.

This made me wonder what you think are the best ways to meet men. I'm in my late 20s and i want to get married but I haven't been close yet. I don't seem to meet many men. Normal or not, lol. What do you recommend?

August 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEmily P.

Dear Emily,

Nice to hear another new voice at Love Science~and great question. How to meet men can prove difficult, especially once you're out of college and are no longer necessarily surrounded by other singletons. Yet Judy is meeting plenty of men (formerly Weird--now more Normal per the article!). And as a sweet young thang, you certainly can, too.

My favorite book on the topic of dating is "If I'm So Wonderful, Why Am I Still Single?". Although Susan Page is no scientist, science almost always backs her up--and she's got a spot-on plan for finding a mate.

So let's flip to chapter 3: "Abandon The Myth That There Are No Good Ways To Meet People". And what you find there is a five-part formula about "maintaining a balance between doing nothing, on the one hand, and letting your life be controlled by your need to meet people, on the other."

I won't re-type her entire plan; that would cross the line into plagiarism, and what you really need is her book. But let's delve a bit into parts 3 and 4.

Part 3: Go For Volume:

One of the best things Judy is already doing is meeting a *lot* of men. Judy is entering activities men might enjoy, in addition to the activities she herself already enjoys, and in this way she's meeting enough new people all the time to keep the dating pool filled.

Everyone, of every gender or orientation, and no matter the age, needs to go for volume in this way. But simply meeting a lot of people isn't enough.

Nope. It's not sufficient simply to meet a lot of men; it's also critical that you *stop* dating men who are clearly a bad fit, as soon as you find that out. Again, Judy's doing a fantastic job here. She is not falling into the pit of modern dating, whereby a woman finally meets one man, commits herself to him as if it were a mini-marriage from moment 1 even if he has not said anything about any level of commitment, and hopes for the best.

(Lest anyone think I'm exaggerating, studies for the past 10 years show that today's young men and women are more prone to engage in "hooking up" rather than dating. Hooking up is a nebulous state of affairs where folks get together without any firm plan; sex may or may not occur, but the central feature is the lack of definition of the relationship. Women in particular find themselves unhappy at not knowing if they're even a girlfriend, let alone a prospective wife. Yet the women often spend months and years in a non-defined relationship with someone they aren't actually sure would be right for them anyway.)

Nope. Judy gets it that you meet a lot of guys, quit dating anyone unworthy right away, and move on. Next! I think she's brilliant.

Part 4: Use The Two -Hour Date

A major part of meeting enough people, then, is rejecting the wrong ones--and very quickly, at that. How many women and men have I known who have languished in dead-end, non-committal and emotionally unsatisfying relationships for years? Too many. Time's a'wastin', and it's the one thing you can never reclaim.

So as you meet these guys--however you meet them (online, in clubs, at religious functions, through political or neighborhood or apartment or activist organizations, in hobbies, at bookstores)--only say yes to very brief, low-key dates right at first. Meet somewhere for a drink for one to two hours, max.

As Page puts it, "Two hours may not be enough to tell whether you have found your soul mate, but it is often enough to tell when you haven't."

Bonus: You as the woman gain status by not being clingy, trying to extend the date, or in general chasing men as if they were your last hope on the planet. If you like each other, the guy gets to experience longing...and that tends to move things off dead-center and into He Clearly Wants You territory very fast.

So, Emily, although there's no magic list for finding men, there are ways to make sure you meet a lot more of them, plus spend a lot less time with the wrong ones so you're still open when Mr. Right does enter the field. Go forth and meet many; spend two hours with quite a few; and seriously consider only those who seem a good fit. It works!

August 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDuana C. Welch, Ph.D.

I think Duana has given super advice here for finding a non-toxic guy with decent relationship skills.

I should add that when looking for a normal guy, it is a good idea to hold your nose and read "The Rules." Yes, the authors' style and attitude sucks, but the actual Rules they give are really good -- they just often have stupid reasons for what they recommend.

You really do have a better shot at avoiding toxic guys more easily if you don't put up with a guy who calls you on Thursday for a Friday date, if you limit your time and contact with him, and if you completely avoid "desperate" behaviors.

In particular, you can winnow out a lot of the bad weirdness by NOT spending the whole night talking on the first date, and by NOT letting a guy tie up your phone and your time too early in the relationship.

To me, the worst sign that a guy is totally double-plus-un-good is when he latches on too quickly and tries to create an instant relationship. This is especially true if he has a set idea of what romantic is and shows up with a dozen roses at your work when you've only been on 2 dates. That's the sign that he has a Hollywood idea of dating and relationships, and he will NOT be disillusioned by anything short of maximum immediate dumpage.

Also, real "traditional" type dates are important. Dinner and a movie will give you a chance to see how he treats the waitstaff, the ticket taker at the movies, and so forth. The more you get to see him interact with "little" people, the better.

And remember, if he brings a black rooster and a sacrificial knife to your home any time before the third date, that's a really bad sign.

August 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMocha's Mom

Mocha's Mom,

Bravo! Couldn't have said it better meself. By all means, do get "The Rules", peeps. Just remember Mocha's Mom's critique--it's true, word for word.

August 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDuana C. Welch, Ph.D.
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