Dating is f*cking hard — especially when you feel like you’ve “fallen behind” from your friends or you’re the last single person in your friend group. Suddenly, there’s all this pressure to find someone and you really start to psych yourself out. What if there’s not someone out there for me? It’s unfair, but this pressure is more of a reality for women in our current society — and suddenly you feel the need to explain “why” you’re “still” single, instead of being able to live your life on your own terms.
We wanted to find out how women navigate the dating world in their 30s, how they deal with outside and internal pressure, and what’s different about dating now than in their 20s. So we asked real women to contribute their thoughts. Read on to hear advice, commiseration, and encouragement.
On knowing who you are and what you want…
The biggest difference from dating in my 20s from dating in my 30s is how secure I feel with myself. In my 20s, I was still unsure of what I wanted and who I was. It was a time of trying new things and exploring. So I tended to date men (let’s be honest — boys) who I met along the way. Now at 30, I feel solid in my personality — my quirks, my flaws, and my strengths. Knowing this has helped me navigate dating because I know what I’m looking for and what I want and need in a partner.
Learning how to be alone has actually really helped me learn how to be a better friend and partner. It goes back to knowing who I am and what I want.
Learning how to do things alone as the token single girl of your friendship group also helps you focus in on the non-negotiable in your relationships. I’ve traveled alone, lived alone, and I no longer break out in hives at the thought of going out to dinner by myself. Learning how to be alone (something that horrified me in my early 20s) has actually really helped me learn how to be a better friend and partner. It goes back to knowing who I am and what I want. Two very powerful things.
My biggest piece of advice would be not to settle. It’s easy to stay with an “ok” guy because all your friends are settling down, getting married, and having families. Trust me, the right guy is out there for you. You just have to look and be open to it. You shouldn’t stay with someone who’s “fine” just to be with someone. To quote Carrie Bradshaw: Never settle for anything less than butterflies. You deserve it.
On recognizing age is just a number…
I’d say, we need to stop looking at age as a “barrier.” Granted, I’m not gonna date a 20-year-old anytime soon, but if we can’t discriminate against age in the workplace then we certainly shouldn’t do so when we date either. That goes for dating older and younger than what you normally do. I say, give it a shot! It could be an interesting change.
On getting out of your comfort zone…
For several years (late 20s), I was all about WORK (so I was busy, but also not meeting anyone because everyone was married), and my non-work hobbies included workout classes (full of females) and hanging with my female (married/attached) friends. No wonder I wasn’t dating. I’m also a bit of an introvert… which is great, but spending time at home by myself wasn’t getting me anywhere.
So, I moved four hours away for a new job. This was huge — it helped me shake up my routine and forced me to meet new people. I focused more on myself and my future and stopped being a workaholic. I said yes to any social opportunities — why not?! I wasn’t really dating, but I was being social and making changes. Focus on yourself, take opportunities, don’t be afraid to make changes in your life, and don’t feel rushed. Enjoy where you are in life!
On navigating dating online…
The filters you think matter? They don’t. I ended up with an introverted vegetarian. And you are not dating for the big events — it doesn’t matter to me if he shows up to happy hours that don’t hold significance. I was dating to find someone I wanted to see every day. It made a huge difference in how I viewed the whole process.
My biggest advice is to commit to putting yourself out there — on your terms.
My biggest advice is to commit to putting yourself out there — on your terms and within the confines of the energy you have available. Decide how many dates you’ll go on in a given period of time (e.g. one date every week or every two weeks) and hold yourself to it. It will help you both respect your time (You have other things to do! People to see, exercise, lounging, and recharging…) and make sure you’re prioritizing other things (at least down the road) that matter to you.
On knowing when to cut your losses…
I am not interested in dating a guy who has kids. It’s not for me. I’ve done it before, and I’m not interested in doing it again. (My heart was broken when my last boyfriend and I broke up, and I never got to see his daughter again after I’d been a big part of her life for a year.) So, before I go out with a guy, I ask.
Two guys have lied to me about having kids. Most recently, I asked the guy point blank, and he replied that he had no kids. Then, on our first (and only) date, a little ways into dinner, he explained that he did have children, two children, but they didn’t count because they were older, not babies. Inside I fumed. I lost my appetite. I wanted to get up and leave right then and there. I didn’t appreciate being lied to or being lied to about something as precious as children. After dinner, when we walked out of the restaurant, I explained that I would not be staying to walk around, and I was going home. He was surprised but said goodbye. I got a text a few minutes later in which he apologized for offending me and not being honest. He admitted he should have been honest all along. I agreed with him and wished him luck. That was that!
Don’t feel the need to stay on a date if you don’t want to. It’s not rude, it’s honest.
On the pressure to find someone and realizing waiting for the right person is okay…
There is a lot of internal pressure dating in your 30s. In my 20s, I went out with the intention of just having fun, but once I hit 30 I realized I wanted to find a responsible partner. So I usually decide pretty quickly if I see a future with the guys I date. The men I’ve dated feel the pressure too — on first dates, there isn’t much beating around the bush. It’s normal now for the guy to bring up if he wants a family or not by the second date, which is positive about dating in my 30s. I don’t want to waste my time.
Because everyone is trying to find a partner, it’s easy to make stupid mistakes and fall for men that are definitely bad for you but are promising all the right things. In my 20s, I would have seen right through these over-eager men, but in my 30s sometimes I’m so focused on finding what I want that I fall for these over-the-top promises with the wrong person.
Sometimes I swear that I am the last single person left on earth. But overall I’m glad I waited because I was not confident enough to find the right partner in my 20s.
Sometimes I swear that I am the last single person left on earth. I once went to a wedding and was the only single person except for the bride’s 94-year-old widowed grandmother. So I am constantly the third wheel and spent the majority of my early 30s with just my friends and their families every weekend. And starting this year, I had to make a conscious effort to take a step back from driving to the suburbs every weekend and actually put the effort into finding a partner. So far I haven’t had much luck, but I have realized there are still good people out there.
Dating in your 30s is hard! Everyone has their own settled life, and sometimes I have breakdowns over it and have to convince myself that it’s okay to be single. But overall, I’m glad I waited because I was not confident enough to find the right partner in my 20s. I had a lot to learn a lot about myself — and now I feel confident I will know if a man is an actual good fit for me, not just because we like the same sports team or band.
For me, after much trial, and a whole lot of error, I’ve learned this: never settle. If you know what you want, go after it!
Don’t waste your time on men who just want to play games or who are on a whole different wavelength than you. Just because they too might be in their 30s, doesn’t mean they’re in the same place as you are. I’ve found it shocking how much this has happened to me. Don’t be afraid to trust your instinct when your gut tells you they’re probably looking for something different. Oh, and if they ghost you, that’s their loss. Don’t dwell!