How to have a healthy relationship at 50

Local mental health therapist talks empty nest syndrome, children and dating

By Kirstin O’Connor - Reporter/Anchor, Kristin Cason - Assignment editor, Donovan Myrie - Investigative/Special Projects Producer

ORLANDO, Fla. - At age 50, you may be facing an empty nest, entering a new type of relationship with your children or getting back into the dating scene.

News 6 spoke with Megan Sforza-Flick, a mental health therapist at Orlando Health, on how to deal with these new changes in your life.

“It's important to remember that an empty nest is actually a type of loss. It's a change, going to be a change in your lifestyle. So it's OK to work through that and process through it,” Sforza-Flick said. 

Having children move out on their own is never an easy transition for parents. Sforza-Flick said there are things you and your partner can do to make it easier and to reestablish a new normal for yourselves. 

“Set some good goals for yourselves and look at some of the interests maybe you didn't ever take part in because you were raising children,” she said. “Surround yourself with good people, people that are making you feel good and make you feel happy, to help you through that transition.”

If you haven’t quite reached the empty nest stage yet, there are other changes on the horizon as your children transition into adulthood.

“As children age and they get into adulthood, you have to be mindful and respectful of the fact that they're now adults and can make their own choices,” Sforza-Flick said.  

Communication is key as your relationship with your children evolves.

“You have to just leave communication open. Make a safe place for them to know they can come home to, a place where they can call you and talk to you. Also know that communicating, for them, may be different than you. You might be used to talking on the phone. They might love texting,” Sforza-Flick explained. 

If you’ve cultivated a good relationship with your kids as they’ve grown-up, those relationships develop into friendships as you all get older.

Then, there’s dating. 

The norm of 30, 20, or even 10 years ago has shifted dramatically from in-person to online dating. Match; Bumble, POF, formerly known as PlentyOfFish; Our Time; Silver Singles; Elite Singles; Tinder; eHarmony; Zoosk; OKCupid and Coffee Meets Bagel are just a few of the sites that have now taken over as potential matchmakers.

If you just cringed a little because you haven’t heard of half of those sites, don’t worry.

“If you are interested in online dating, figure out what works for you. Don’t take it too seriously. Just, you know, go on dates here and there, when you want,” Sforza-Flick said.

If you do want to go high-tech, Sforza-Flick said there are a wide variety of dating apps to choose from, but not all of them are the same.

“Do some research. Figure out which ones make sense for you. Recognize that you might also not be somebody who's interested in dating online,” she said. 

If online dating is not a good fit, Sforza-Flick said it’s not because you’re old-fashioned. It means you’re just looking to eliminate the middleman.

“Sometimes, it's more of an advantage because you're more established in your life. Your career may be more established. You may have financial independence and you might know what you're looking for in a relationship,” Sforza-Flick said. “So you'd be able to actually meet with that person and tell them right off the bat what you're looking for and you both can either say, 'OK, let's move forward,' or go ahead and move on to the next individual, if you like.”

Sforza-Flick also said that you don’t need to be afraid to seek counseling if you’re having challenges transitioning into new chapters in your life. 

Change is never easy, especially if something was a constant in your life for a very long time.
 

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