Help me get my dad's lovelife on track
August 28, 2012 8:16 AM   Subscribe

My dad has not been in a relationship since his split from my mom 19 years ago. He's turning 60 next year and I want him to finally be able to find someone to grow old with. He lives a few Provinces away - how do I broach this with him.

My dad is incredibly private and I think jaded over the idea of being with someone. My mother really screwed him up and she was his second marriage (the first ended because she wanted him to quit his career in the military). He's retired now and I can tell he's lonely. Both my brother and I have moved out (I now have a family of my own) and I'd really like to broach the idea of him finally finding someone for him.

He's overweight and looks a bit like a lawn gnome, but he's a genuine guy who would really be a great partner. He cared deeply for my mother, but she wasn't a really good person. I know I should stay out of his business, but I do feel like he hadn't dated because "of the kids", focusing on raising us instead of himself.

I'll admit, I would also be comforted knowing that there would be someone to take care of him. He does not eat well or exercise and it would be nice knowing that someone was there to love him. I would move out to his province if it wasn't for my own family. I've asked him to move here, but he just built his retirement home and loves where he lives.

How can I gently suggest the dating scene. How does a 60 year old man meet people after being out of the game for 19 years - and incredible ick factor, does that mean he hasn't had "relations" for 19 years?
posted by Danithegirl to Human Relations (29 answers total)
This should be about what he wants, not really what you want for him. Has he indicated that HE wants to date?
posted by Nickel Pickle at 8:18 AM on August 28, 2012 [19 favorites]

First, ask him if he is up for this. He may not have the interest in maintaining a relationship right now. If he does want to make friends, see what kinds of social activities are in his area that might pique his interest. Once he gets to know some of his local peers (of either gender), he may find himself less lonely.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 8:20 AM on August 28, 2012

You can gently suggest it by saying, "Hey dad, have you ever considered dating?" and see where it goes. But if he's not interested, then drop it.
posted by amro at 8:20 AM on August 28, 2012 [5 favorites]

Additional Information: He thinks he's too late to find someone. Or that's what he's told my Aunt.
posted by Danithegirl at 8:21 AM on August 28, 2012

My boyfriend works in a facility that does outpatient and inpatient physical therapy with older populations. Your dad is definitely not too old to find someone, provided he's not looking to date chicks in their 20s and 30s. There are a lot of single older women who would love to find a partner.
posted by schroedinger at 8:28 AM on August 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

How about encouraging him to just get out and meet people instead of focusing on him finding romance, help him get out and make friends. My mother gets a lot out of volunteering at a local charity store, she meets new people and gets to still feel useful, it has been amazing for her.

At 72 she had gotten into a waiting to die mentality when I all but railroaded her into volunteering and now she is "working' not just her shift but covers for other people every chance she gets. She may not have found true love, though there is one gentleman she speaks about a lot so I have my fingers crossed as he sounds like a nice guy, but if nothing else she has friends and an interest.

I am sure there is something your Dad would like to do, talk to him and then even if you have to railroad him a little try and get him to try it the first time. Once he has gotten out of his his comfort zone it easier to do it again.
posted by wwax at 8:31 AM on August 28, 2012 [5 favorites]

Sorry, but I think the state of his love life is up to him. Encouraging him to participate in his community through classes or volunteering might be a way you can help him be less lonely. Otherwise stay out of it.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 8:32 AM on August 28, 2012 [9 favorites]

If he really feels he's too late to find a partner, try nudging him in a different direction. Name, just engaging in activities with other people. There must be something he is interested in that others in his area is interested in. Or at least something he'd be interested in joining.
Bowling league?
Bridge/Card club?
Gourmet/cooking club (monthly dinenr partiest with fancy pants themed foods! fun!)
Paint/drawing classes?
Book club?
Bird watching?
Evening class at a local college, just for interest's sake? (my dad did this and loved it)

I don't know. ANYTHING! Look on meetup and see about some clubs and gatherings that may be his speed and encourage him to go. The goal should be to do things with people and make friends and not be lonely. His meeting a "someone" for romantic purposes could come from that, but that shouldn't be the point. Just encourage him to do things. With people.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 8:35 AM on August 28, 2012

Hah. He could find another woman by just walking outside of his house. Old men have it EASY to find older ladies. It doesn't matter how unpleasant a dude is, he can find someone. However, he has to WANT to do it. If he doesn't have the emotional wherewithal/desire to, then you can't make him date.

Believe me, I wish my mom would find someone else so she'd get off my back, but if she doesn't want to, it won't happen.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:36 AM on August 28, 2012 [5 favorites]

In no way does it mean he has not had relations in 19 years. Being in a relationship and having sex are two different things.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:37 AM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm at least 1/2 with those cautioning against interfering, but, in the absence of much in the way of info about your relationship with him, I'll make one suggestions : ring him up and tell him - without obfuscating/wrapping it up in metaphor - that you are a little worried about him. Say that it would be lovely if he were able to meet someone and ask him how he feels about that idea. Then be quiet and listen to what he says. So don't railroad him or embarrass him or plead with him or make it all about you. Just say your piece plainly and see how it goes. But maybe he wants to not have the worry of a partner and wants to devote his time and energies to living his own life. So be it I say.
posted by peacay at 8:48 AM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

My dad HATES it when people suggest he get out and meet people. He likes his largely solitary life, does not want another partner, and gets increasingly frustrated when people assume the key to all happiness and health is a good partner. He might be surly at times, and certainly cynical about relationships, but he's pretty damned content as is.

I would tread very carefully here; other than pontificating on why he should have something he doesn't, there's not a lot you can do to foist a social life on someone who doesn't want one. He's an adult and can fend for himself.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 8:50 AM on August 28, 2012 [6 favorites]

Just a thought:

If he is "incredibly private", he might have more going on than you think, especially if he is internet savvy. I know for a fact an older gentleman I spent a lot of quality time with was not notifying his grown kids about me. For that matter, my sons had no clue at the time and they were younger than his kids and living with me. I don't have any reason to disclose to my offspring when or how I get my freak on. I am sure they don't really want to know anyway. (They consider my "excess" interest in sex to be face-palm worthy as is, to which my general reply is "Shut up. That's how you got here.")
posted by Michele in California at 9:00 AM on August 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

As someone who isn't terribly far from your dad's age and also hasn't been in a relationship for a while, please believe that he can handle this part of his life without your help. Not everyone needs or wants to be in a relationship and maybe he enjoys his solitude. As far as the other goes, I doubt he would appreciate you contemplating his sex life (or lack thereof) anymore than you would appreciate him thinking about yours. Please believe that he is capable of handling his life.
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 9:02 AM on August 28, 2012 [12 favorites]

If you must, tell him what you think ONCE - then drop the subject.

I realize that it's hard for some folks to be alone and/or to image that someone can be happy without a partner. I happen to be one of those people who think that it takes a REALLY good relationship to be better than NO relationship. Perhaps your dad has similar feelings.
posted by she's not there at 9:05 AM on August 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

Yeah, I'm intentionally single for the time being; if someone were to broach this with me -- well, I"d have a lot of good excuses, but I'd feel sort of like somebody was questioning my life choices. When, yeah, I have actually thought about it, thanks.
posted by angrycat at 9:05 AM on August 28, 2012

There's really not a lot you can do to help someone get into a romantic relationship. You can research the social scene in your dad's community and see what's going on that might help him meet people his age who share his interests: things like the Legion, a bowling league or golf club, senior dances, or clubs or classes about his existing interests, etc., and then suggest he go to them. He may not find anyone to date but he might make some new friends and interests.

Make your suggestions of such activities in terms of "having fun" and "finding new people to spend time with". Definitely avoid lecturing your dad or trying to manage his life for him. Nobody likes that, and elderly people too often get treated like they aren't capable of managing their own lives and knowing what's best for themselves.

If he tells you it's too late, you can say (once!) that it's never too late to find someone to love, though. My father has a cousin who's over ninety and whose wife died maybe about six years ago. He found a girlfriend, a sprightly young thing in her seventies, less than a year later, and they've been enjoying each other's companionship ever since. They just went to England together a few months ago.
posted by orange swan at 9:14 AM on August 28, 2012

He thinks he's too late to find someone. Or that's what he's told my Aunt.

Maybe he thought your aunt was being a busybody and he wanted to give a socially acceptable answer. People will accept that response easier than "I prefer my solitude" or "mind your own business".
posted by Tanizaki at 9:22 AM on August 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

Women tend to live longer than men and there are more women than men his odds increase by the day.

Broach the subject, tell him you think he'd make someone very happy and that you'd love to see him happy. If he's responsive, then offer your help. If not, then let it go.
posted by inturnaround at 9:49 AM on August 28, 2012

I know some people will freak out over this, but what about international dating sites? Yes, he is basically paying for a companion, who will be younger, may have family obligations and a lack of ready cash, but I know two older men who married women from other lands and all parties seem content with the arrangement. Does he have a sizable amount of savings? Could he afford to do something like this? Before you get all icked out--think about the alternatives. Or else, let him figure it out for himself.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:08 AM on August 28, 2012

He thinks he's too late to find someone. Or that's what he's told my Aunt.

If this wasn't an excuse or brushoff as some have mentioned above, I'd just like to share that one of my closest friends got married for the first time at 59 to a gentleman a few years older. They met while she was out on her Harley on a ladies only trip through Eastern Europe and he was on holiday at the same hotel with some friends.

They both have children. And I asked her why she married since she'd never chosen to do so with her children's father and she gave many of the reasons you've listed in your question such as companionship in old age and fun. But that's not all of it, imho, since I visited with them a couple of months ago and its obvious they're also a very much in love couple who like making goo goo eyes at each other. And taking afternoon naps ;p

Mention it to him as some have said, if only to hear what he has to say about it, so at least you'll rest easy. I know how difficult it is with parents far away who are only getting older.
posted by infini at 10:16 AM on August 28, 2012

I concur with those who have noted that it's ultimately up to him, and while it might comfort you to know he had someone, it might not comfort him. He's been on his own for 20 years, and aside from saying you can tell he's lonely, you don't really describe him being unhappy.

If you want to say a few words of encouragement, I don't see anything wrong with, "Dad, do you ever think about dating?" But if he says no, drop it, and don't bring it up again. I think that beyond making it clear that you're comfortable with him dating on the off-chance he thinks it would bother you, you have very little role here, much as I know you love him. Some people are solitary and want that respected, and the fact that you say he's so private makes me think he might indeed be that kind of person.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 10:37 AM on August 28, 2012

Visit him more and take him out, so that he's less lonely and more comfortable interacting with people he doesn't know. Tell him stories about interesting things you've read on MetaFilter, including telling him about this guy called davejay who shared the story of his aunt who was very introspective and went her whole life without being married, and happily so, then moved into a senior community in her 70s and met a man her age and decided to marry him -- and it turned out to be the divorced-when-young, never-remarried father of a friend of his*, that he'd never met.

*this is a true story, by the way. they're very happy.
posted by davejay at 11:02 AM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just to get it out of your system, you probably should bring it up, but very delicately. Maybe something like "Aunt Ethel said you said...blah. I know it is none of my business and maybe you were just politely telling her to butt out, however I do love you and want you to be happy. So you will have to forgive me for wondering if maybe you could use a little assistance getting hooked up. If you ever want help getting a profile on a dating site or something, hey, let me know. If you prefer to be alone, I will butt out."
posted by Michele in California at 11:26 AM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

In the US, there are military veterans associations. American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, etc. Are there comparable groups in Canada that might interest your dad because of his career? He may be more in need of companionship than romance.
posted by Cranberry at 12:29 PM on August 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Rather than telling your father what you think he should do, maybe talk to him about how *you* are feeling. He will be less defensive if you're talking about yourself. Tell him that you sometimes worry about him because you are so far away, and you worry about his health, about him being alone. Tell him you'd be more at ease if he had a lady friend to care about and who would care about him. Tell him you think he's a wonderful man who would be a great partner and that he deserves to have someone in his life. If he tells you butt out, tell him okay but you want him to know that if he found someone you would be very pleased about it. (Sometimes parents think their kids would disapprove. Because sometimes they do! So give him permission to move on from your mom.) Then leave it at that.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 12:52 PM on August 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

How is the rest of his social life? Does he have poker buddies? Does he attend chruch? Is he involved in family gatherings? People who mix and mingle in other aspects of their lives, tend to be folks who find partners.

If your Dad is naturally shy, or just not a do-er, maybe you can suggest some things he might enjoy. Is he still in the workforce? Does his job give him opportunities to socialize?

Certainly, broach the subject, lots of good ideas for that. Be jolly, not mopey, and be prepared to accept what he tells you.

No harm in saying, "You know, you may think you're over it, but if you find a nice person that you'd like to hang out with, you have my permission."
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:45 PM on August 28, 2012

I'm almost 59. Where does he live? (I keed, I keed)

But seriously, be careful with this. As someone who is "retired" from dating and relationships for many excellent reasons, this can easily come across as pity, or judgment, or meddling. He may be perfectly happy with his life, with or without a relationship you don't know about. Coupledom is not for everyone, growing old alone can mean you finally get to do whatever the fuck you want, and everybody eventually dies alone. Yes, love is grand, but so are serenity, peace, contentment, autonomy, and solitude, with as much or as little of a social life with friends as you prefer. It has actually been something of a surprise to me that the decision not to look for a partner, made not out of heartbreak and bitterness but rational reflection, has been so very satisfying. Dating at this age, however - not so much.

If you must say something, say it once, and drop it if he shows no interest. He doesn't need to hear that you think the life he has probably chosen for himself is inadequate. "It's too late to find someone" (if those were his words) can be interpreted in many ways, you know. It doesn't necessarily mean he thinks romance is out because his death is imminent.
posted by caryatid at 2:13 PM on August 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

There is every possibility that he IS dating but hasn't told any of his family, too. I had an uncle who did that.
posted by shazzam! at 8:54 PM on August 28, 2012

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