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Is dating in your 30s harder?
Some aspects of dating in your 30s make the process harder—such as a shrinking candidate pool. You can no longer meet potential partners at school and probably aren’t attending parties and social gatherings as often. These are hot spots for fresh encounters. Plus, your friends likely have fewer single friends to hook you up with by this time. In addition to a more narrow playing field, dating in your 30s means you’ve probably endured your fair share of failed relationships. So have most other eligible singles you come across. Somebody’s bound to have baggage or be jaded by past betrayals. That means some of the innocence and fun of dating may be lost.
Why dating in your 30s is better for some people.
There are many reasons dating may actually improve once you hit 30. You likely know yourself a lot better by now. Those failed relationships taught you your likes and dislikes, what you need from a partner, and what you can offer. In your 30s, you have a clearer picture of what you’re looking for because it’s supported by experience. Though the process of courtship may not be as simple as it once was, that’s not necessarily bad. Instead of only using the «like» factor, you start to consider others that support your desired outcome. The quantity of your dates may decrease, but the quality is likely to increase as you use wisdom to your advantage.
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Expert advice for dating in your 30s:
«The shortest path to relational success is understanding yourself,» Moyo says. Jackson recommends focusing on this first and foremost. She notes, «The worst thing you can do to yourself is date in your 30s and have no clue about who you are. This prolongs the dating phase because you waste time with people who have no clue how to treat you, and you don’t know how to verbalize your needs because you don’t know yourself.»
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Forget the timeline.
You often start feeling compelled to settle down in your 30s. Maybe your friends are all getting married, or your parents are questioning the direction of your dating life. If you hope to have kids one day, you may start to worry about that so-called biological clock. However, both experts caution against making romantic decisions based on a timeline. «Let go of societal ideas that you’re supposed to be in a relationship, married, or have children by the time you’re 30,» Jackson says. «Love can happen at any age. Don’t pressure yourself so much, and don’t allow singleness to make you believe that there’s something wrong with you.» Moyo adds, «You’re not late. There’s no rule book that says dating has to start and end at a certain age. 3.
Know that it’s OK to be inexperienced.
Once in your 30s, there may be an assumption that you’ve been around the block a few times. Moyo notes that dates may overestimate your sexual, romantic, and conversational skills. The list goes on. Fear of being «found out» or believed to have «no game» can sometimes hold you back in dating. But age isn’t always an indicator of experience. Many people hold off on thinking about their dating life while they’re focused on their career, social life, or hobbies in their teens and 20s, and that’s totally valid. If that’s you, accept that you’re still learning and release the need to put up a façade in dating. This is important because authenticity is key to connection. eHarmony.com Join eHarmony today to find your person.
(Ad) Dating in your 30s might mean you have your fair share of past relationship hurts. Jackson recommends going to therapy for help with overcoming persistent trauma and festering wounds. «If you don’t heal, you’ll begin to cycle through relationships,» she states. Moyo adds, «Understand and accept that wounds follow you. Any unresolved emotional baggage can be projected onto your next partner and ruin your chances of a successful relationship.»
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Pay attention to trends.
By the time you’re in your 30s, you likely have enough data to recognize patterns in your dating life. According to Moyo, those trends mean something. If the trend is positive, work to recreate those circumstances. For instance, if you have the best dating luck when you initiate first contact, take the lead more often! If you notice a negative trend, such as being repeatedly ghosted, consider the cause. Think about what you can learn from it and the elements present in each scenario. Then you can make adjustments as needed to right your dating ship. 6.
Give up the games.
Don’t fall into game-playing traps. Jackson urges giving up tactics such as waiting three days after a date to call or text. «If you want to reach out, reach out,» she says. «If you want to ask someone on a date, just do it. Here’s the thing: Rejection won’t hurt as much because you’ve done the work to heal yourself and understand that it happens in life, and you’ll be fine.» Everyone’s a certified grown-up now—time to date like one.
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Be clear about what you want.
We’re often hesitant to be upfront and honest about what we want for fear of scaring someone away. However, verbalizing your intentions should take place early on when dating. «Here’s the thing,» says Jackson. «If you’re dating with intent, in hopes of being married, having children, etc., voice that from the beginning. Don’t be the overzealous dater who tells every person that they’ll be your husband or wife on the first date. However, do speak about dating intentions.» Being upfront about wanting something serious will naturally eliminate dates who just want to have fun. Straightforward dialogue will also help you avoid awkward situations later when you’re looking for something casual. If your candor scares someone off, the sooner the better. 8.
Learn your money personality.
In your 30s, financial considerations become much more important than they may have been in your younger years, says Moyo. Financial problems in relationships are also one of the most common causes of divorce. He suggests asking yourself questions about your so-called money personality.» For example: Do you see money as power, status, security, or a resource to be enjoyed? It’s crucial to date people who relate to money the same way you do if you’re hoping to develop a serious relationship. 9.
Understand your attachment style.
Moyo also recommends learning your attachment style to understand why you do what you do when dating and in relationships. The better you understand yourself, the easier it will be to help a potential partner understand you. Plus, you can work on removing any barriers keeping you from healthy romantic attachment. Don’t be afraid to dig deep into self-awareness. 10.
Stop dating people for their potential.
Sometimes we continue dating someone because we believe they’ll be a great partner one day, whether that’s when they’re less stressed out, or when they finally get a job, or when they learn to be less defensive. Some psychologists refer to this as creating fantasy bonds. «You don’t have the magic wand to fix anyone,» Moyo states. «Chances are if someone has been that way for the past 30 years, you won’t change them. Experience the relationship now, not in the future.» 11.
Sharpen your communication skills.
Enhanced communication should be one major difference between dating in your 20s and dating in your 30s. Jackson says effective communication can help eliminate assumptions and ensure you and your dates are on the same page. Practice fully expressing your thoughts. Make sure you aren’t approaching dating with a closed mind. Jackson says some people can get so hung up on finding someone who fits their predetermined «type» that they miss out on an ideal mate. Don’t limit your dating pool with a bunch of superficial requirements, such as «tall and handsome.» 13.
Don’t rely solely on dating apps.
While dating apps are a formidable source of meeting new people, Jackson says you can’t be afraid to step away from your comfort zone. Date outside of your box. Attend social gatherings and be willing to meet people in different environments. She even suggests trying blind dates. Your future partner may not be on an app. 14.
Forget the gender roles.
According to Jackson, gender roles and gender rules are a major source of playing games in dating. If you’re caught up in who should do what, it can cause you to try to manipulate the situation and the other person. Dating becomes a competition where both people lose. 15.
Remember that dating isn’t always about getting married.
Sometimes, especially with the pressure you may be feeling in your 30s, you can want to be in love so badly that you create it in places it doesn’t exist. «It would be a beautiful thing to find the one and get married, but it doesn’t always happen,» Moyo says. He mentions being careful to avoid setting yourself up for disappointment. The process may take longer than you’d like or not go as you hope. Don’t adopt the «marriage or bust» mindset. Allow dating to continue being a fun learning experience. Navigating the multifaceted world of dating in your 30s can feel overwhelming. Just remember that it’s not a matter of the process being more difficult at this age. Just make sure your dating life is evolving over time just like you are. Dating in your 20s is totally different than dating in your 30s. When you’re a twenty-something, it’s all about having fun. You’re more carefree; you’re not really looking for anything serious. In your 30s, however, everything changes. You’re not about dating just for the sake of dating—who has time for that? You might want to settle down, maybe even get married and start a family. But even if a longterm monogamous relationship isn’t your endgame, you’re likely sick of the wishy-washiness and tomfoolery you once let slide. But as frustrating as it can feel to watch the people around you get hitched and have babies while you’re spending your Friday nights going on a string of lackluster dates, there are a lot of benefits to dating in your 30s. There’s just something about your third decade that makes you feel way more grounded and secure in who you are. Plus, you have lots of wisdom and life experience under your belt, which means you know exactly what you want and don’t want in life and in a partner. (Well, mostly.) To help you navigate the dating scene in your 30s, we enlisted the help of two dating pros—Julie Spira, online dating expert and digital matchmaker, and offline dating coach Camille Virginia of Master Offline Dating—with different perspectives on playing the field. Related Stories
Keep reading for their tips for dating in your 30s.
Photo: Getty Images/Hero Images
1. Get clear about what you want
Not in the mood to mess around with dead-end dates? It’s important that you first get really clear about what you want, Virginia says. Past relationships and tons of not-so-good dates can provide lots of intel about what you don’t want, which in turn can help you figure out exactly what you do want in a partner. And she recommends focusing on the inner traits. Yes, obviously you want to be attracted to the person, but at the end of the day, what really matters are those inner attributes and core values. Once you get clarity around your desires, which may require some self-reflection and sitting down with pen and paper, then start focusing on them. “We attract the things that we think about, so you don’t want to stay in the I-don’t-like-people-who-lie mindset,” Virginia says. Because then all you will attract are more partners who lie. Focus your attention and energy on those good characteristics you’re looking for and then you’ll start spotting singles who embody those traits everywhere you go.
2. State your intentions from the get-go
To avoid wasting your time and getting emotionally attached to someone who will never be The One, Spira recommends sharing your intentions right from the beginning. If your goal is to get married, settle down, and start a family, don’t be afraid to write that on your dating profile. Yes, it’s a bold move, but Spira says it’s the best way to market the type of relationship your heart is craving. Having your intentions right there for everyone to see will prompt someone who’s just looking to have fun to swipe left and encourage someone who’s on the same page as you are to swipe right. Virginia totally agrees with being clear about your intentions, but she suggests having that conversation on the first date instead. “There’s an art to doing it,” she says. “You don’t want to sit down with someone on a first date or your first encounter and make them feel like they’re in an interview or a screening process.” Instead, be curious and ask questions in an authentic and genuine way that will help you get a feel for what their goals are.
3. Be open to dating someone who isn’t your type
Your 30s is the perfect time to branch out from your typical “type” and date new people. You never know where it may lead you. “I’ve encouraged dating coaching clients of mine to date outside of their comfort zone, initially with resistance,” Spira says. “It’s often a wonderful surprise when they actually enjoyed dating a different type than the ‘bad boys’ from earlier days.” That’s exactly why Virginia puts such a strong focus on inner traits instead of what looks good on paper. “When you’re clear on the inner traits of someone, they’re probably going to come in a package you don’t expect,” she says. “If you remain open to what they look like, how tall they are, what ethnicity they are, etc., then you can actually find an amazing person that you might otherwise miss.”
4. Take the pressure off
Dating in your 30s can come with this sense of urgency to have everything «figured out» and a the-clock-is-ticking mentality that puts so much pressure on every. single. encounter. “I tell singles in their 30s to take a deep breath and not to focus on their age,” Spira says. “Many worry they won’t be able to have children and that their shelf life will expire once they turn 39. Love doesn’t have an expiration date. Couples are able to have children later in life or adopt and be fulfilled.” Virginia seconds this and adds that as long as you’re doing all the things you can to help call in the right partner (i.e. getting clear on what you want, doing the inner work, putting yourself out there, meeting new people, etc.), you’re good. “Wait for the right opportunity and trust that it will show up when it’s meant to,” she says.
5. Ditch the rules
You’ve probably heard all the dating rules a million times. Wait three days to call. Don’t be too needy. Don’t make the first move. Hold smooches until after the first date. Throw all those out the window. “I find [rules] get in the way of finding a meaningful connection,” Spira says, because every situation is so different. “The best rule I can offer is not to wait for the ‘perfect person’ because we’re all imperfect.”
6. Work on your social skills and boosting your confidence
“As humans, we’re social creatures,” Virginia says. “We’re meant to be around each other, get energy from each other, interact, have eye contact, and have in-person conversations. That’s how we functioned for hundreds and thousands of years.” Somewhere down the line, though, mostly thanks to technology, things changed. We lost touch with our IRL social skills. So working on leveling up your body language and conversation skills just be the missing piece that will help you attract your soulmate (if you believe in that sort of thing). But it’s not just about how you interact with others, it’s also about boosting your confidence so that smiling at that cute stranger on the other side of the room feels like no big deal. That’s when you step into a new way of being and dating becomes way easier.
7. Be open to meeting new people offline
While dating apps have definitely proven to be effective in helping people find their person, if you’re exclusively relying on them to help you meet that special someone, you’re really missing out, Virginia says. Okay, so if you’re not meeting new people online, where exactly do you meet your match? “Everywhere,” she says. “Literally, I have been asked out on an airplane, at a coffee shop, at the bus stop. There is no magical place with other single people. The beauty is that they’re doing the same things you are.”
8. Listen to your intuition
Above all else, listening to your intuition is so key when it comes to dating in your 30s. “Our intuition is always guiding us, but in our 20s, we’re not necessarily as ready to hear it,” Virginia says. You might have tried really hard to make it work with someone you knew wasn’t good for you or you ignored a ton of red flags. But now, with a decade (or more) of dating and relationships behind you, you can really listen to those signs and inner nudges so you don’t end up wasting your time and energy on people who bring you down. Want more tips? Here’s dating advice from 8 women on the front lines. Photo by Vanessa Gren/EyeEm «When my last relationship ended, there was a sense of excitement from some of my male friends in relationships,» John, 36, from Manchester, is telling me. «In their eyes I could once again ‘play the field’ and do some of the things that they probably secretly wanted to do.» «Depending on where you look and who you listen to, there is an idea that being single in your 30s is normal and even to be desired,» he adds. «I think that’s a bit of an oversimplification, to say the least. The reality is quite different.» The messaging about being single is conflicting. It is simultaneously cast as consistently fun and ultimately tragic; essential for fulfilment but only truly acceptable in the past tense. As women, depending on when we were born we know precisely what single life in our late 20s and 30s looks like: a heady mix of Bridget Jones, Carrie Bradshaw and, more recently, or rather more refreshingly, Lizzo. As an identity, straight female singledom is so packed with emotion that we have entire genres dedicated to it. We speak about it frequently. We rail against it when it becomes stereotyped or commodified, trite or just plain degrading. “ The messaging about being single is conflicting. It is simultaneously cast as consistently fun and ultimately tragic; essential for fulfilment but only truly acceptable in the past tense. ” But what do we know about the same things when it comes to the (straight) male experience? «James Bond?» John floats when I ask about societal depictions to which single men are expected to relate. «Too broken to emotionally attach so he just fucks women and kills people.» Not exactly relatable, is it? «There don’t seem to be many male role models living happy, healthy, single lives well into middle age,» he says. There is an established (albeit very tired) narrative attached to single men in their late 20s and 30s – that they are players, the bachelors, ‘picky’ or dangerously noncommittal. The sticky trope that men don’t (or won’t) speak about their feelings comes into play too, along with other burdens of toxic masculinity. Unsurprisingly, as John says, there’s a lot more to it than that. «People seem to think that the same pressures put on women to settle down aren’t there with men,» says 28-year-old Dean Westbrook, a travel consultant from Wimbledon. «It is to a lesser extent with men, of course. But I still have those very optimistic older relatives that send me Christmas cards like ‘to my grandson and partner’, because they assume that I must have settled down by now. I’m an only child and I know my mum would like grandkids. There is a pressure,» he says. Studies show that he’s not the only one to feel this way. Seventy-one percent of single men told a 2017 eHarmony survey that they felt pressured to get into a relationship, compared to 58% of women. «You just can’t let expectations weigh on you,» Dean adds. «For me I think the quieter stuff – the week-to-week stuff – is more relevant. A lot of my friends are in relationships, so when it gets to the weekend and I’m asking what everyone is doing, suddenly every man and his dog is off to Center Parcs. You can’t help but think about what everyone else is doing and then, what am I doing?» «I do think men need to talk about loneliness and disconnection more, especially men who are single and feel cut adrift,» John says. “ A lot of my friends are in relationships, so when it gets to the weekend and I’m asking what everyone is doing, suddenly every man and his dog is off to Center Parcs. You can’t help but think, what am I doing? Dean, 28 ” He came out of a six-year relationship in July 2019. «Most of my friends are in long-term relationships… You can find yourself alone and men are terrible at asking for help or surrounding themselves with friends, in my experience.» «I think this is partly because as you get older you stop making new friends but also because there’s a perverse sense that men should be lone wolves who shouldn’t engage with their emotions. You see this a lot in books and films – generally the ones that appeal to men to help them shore up this image. It’s a vicious cycle.» «I’m lucky in that I have male friends I can talk to about my feelings, who have been through similar things, so I could talk to them about being lonely. But I think that’s not too common and I worry for the men who don’t have people around them that they can talk to about feeling alone, because it’s such a horrible feeling. I can see why the suicide rate among men my age is so high because it can really feel like you’ve failed at life, especially if you buy into society’s messages about what it is to be a man.» Some studies show that single men report higher levels of loneliness than the majority of other social groups. Others claim that women are better at talking about loneliness. That’s not without consequences: male midlife depression is very common between the ages of 35 and 50, and suicide rates are frighteningly high. Eliot Small, 30, head of a central London IT department, has been single for a few years after a four-year relationship came to an end. While he’s not actively looking for a relationship currently, he is open to it. But he says that finding a meaningful connection, especially in the age of apps, is increasingly difficult. “ I worry for the men who don’t have people around them that they can talk to about feeling alone. I can see why the suicide rate among men my age is so high because it can really feel like you’ve failed at life. John, 36 ” «I guess I’m okay with being single,» he explains. «But I would like to find someone. The accessibility – of being able to ‘connect’ with so many people, constantly – seems to have ruined something. It feels fickle. People are so fast-paced, they’re texting lots of different people at once… I feel like girls might do this more than men. It can make you feel insecure.» There’s a slight defensiveness to the way Eliot speaks about this subject, which I come up against several times when researching this feature. Some men are embarrassed to talk about it, others worry about how it will make them look, to say publicly that they’re single and not happy about it. This pressure is universal, it seems – it’s not cool to admit that you want to be loved but we all do. Unsurprisingly, background also has a big impact on attitudes towards being single among the men I speak to. John tells me that his single friends who have confessed they would really prefer to be in a relationship often have parents who are still together and want to emulate that. Dean’s healthy outlook – «I’m lucky, I have lots of lovely friends, I’m just trying to be decent» – seems to reflect his secure family life. Eliot, on the other hand, whose mother is Russian and father is British, went through divorce as a kid, before being sent to boarding school. His views are quite sharp-edged – he talks about men seeking «breeding» and seems resentful of women at times. Later, he says that there is «no rape culture in Britain or the US» and urges me to look up the stats on false reporting. He feels that men can be treated as disposable by women in modern dating. This is something that Dean agrees with, though. «I had a bad date last month,» Dean explains. «It was a third date and we went to a small gig. I’m not a bad person or offensive or anything, and we seemed to get on well. But she walked out halfway through the gig. I didn’t think that was very nice. I think a lot of people – of any gender – feel that the impersonal nature of apps means you don’t have to be polite. Human decency is a little lost, there.» While John has only flirted with apps so far, he has found them to be «both good and bad». They’re good, he says, because he has met people in similar situations to himself. «I’ve found there isn’t a mad panic about being single, people have their own ideas about where they want to go,» he explains. «So it’s nice to know those anxieties about being single aren’t necessarily founded.» Rejection (and plain bad behaviour) can badly affect your mental wellbeing though, as Dean says. «Being single and dating is fun, but it’s also exhausting. You have to be resilient and sure of yourself. Otherwise, it can just leave you feeling more alone.» John adds that he’s «found with apps you can feel you’re competing for attention and matches etc. It’s a cold and impersonal environment and, depending on how much emphasis you put on meeting someone there, it can really cause emotional distress. I think men are more susceptible to this because they often don’t have the same emotional toolkit to navigate the world of online communication that women have or require.» “ We’re being boxed into identities or stereotypes that we feel uncomfortable in, or that wider social gender stereotyping has created in the first place. ” Many of our discussions are underpinned by a familiar feeling – that we’re being boxed into identities or stereotypes that we feel uncomfortable in, or that wider social gender stereotyping has created in the first place. The men I speak to all recall moments of being on the negative end of a stereotype and feeling trapped by it; for instance, John has noticed that he feels he often has to justify why he’s single at 36. «When I do explain I’ve come out of a seven-year relationship I’m immediately given more leeway, as if it’s okay to be a victim of circumstance rather than a philanderer who is too afraid to commit.» «I think the most shameful trope for single men in their 30s is the guy too afraid to commit and settle down, who just wants it all his own way,» he adds. «That’s a really toxic stereotype that makes men feel insecure, in my opinion.» Another friend confides in me that people assume he is an «overgrown child» because he’s 38 and single – a woman in his office made a joke about him not being able to clean and cook. For what it’s worth, said friend has competed on a Masterchef special in the past (and won). «I don’t think people think my life is very serious because I’m single, 38, and don’t have kids,» he says. Due to financial necessity he lives in a houseshare in London which, he says, «doesn’t help». And just as there’s a poisonous and unfounded narrative of failure imposed on unmarried women in their late 30s, John thinks that «people don’t understand that there’s a feeling of failure around having a relationship end in your 30s,» as a man, too. «For men who constantly receive messages about taking responsibility, achieving and winning, this can be a really big blow,» John adds. «Ultimately, being single is fine, being isolated is not,» he says. «And there isn’t enough space created in society for men to be one and not the other.»
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