One of the most off-putting things about dating as you get older is the idea that the dating pool is quickly dwindling. But in reality, about half of the users on Hinge are actually over 30. The key to successfully using dating apps at any age is to use them mindfully. It’s easy to download a couple apps, add a few pictures, answer some prompts, and start swiping away. But this approach is more or less like throwing pasta at the wall and seeing if it will stick.
To learn more about how to mindfully and effectively use dating apps, I sat down with Tennesha Wood, dating coach and founder of The Broom List, a matchmaking firm for Black professionals. When working with her matchmaking clients, Wood is specific about only matching people who are college-educated, 28 years or older, and ready for a long-term relationship or marriage—and she is an expert in determining that readiness.
Why Dating in Your 30s is Actually Better
When I asked Wood the reasoning behind The Broom List’s age parameters, she explained that “the human brain doesn’t actually finish fully developing until around age 26 or 27,” so “prior to that, you’re thinking more with the emotional part of your brain than the logical part of your brain.” Anyone else’s 20s starting to make a lot more sense to them?
“You’re also getting to the point, if you’re not already there, where you’re getting really comfortable with who you are,” Wood said. She explained that by the time you are in your 30s, you are probably in better understanding of who you are and what you want from yourself and from a partner. This, in my semi-biased opinion, is what makes dating in your 30s way more fun than in your 20s.
OK, so how do we make sure we’re dating well and not just dating to date?
1. Be clear about what you want
“You don’t have to want a specific thing because you are in your 30s,” Wood said. “But you should be clear on a dating app about what you want.” The important thing here is that you understand what you want, you own it, and you enforce it. If you are using a dating app intentionally, there is no room for misinterpretation.
In the past, I’ve shied away from the “I’m looking for…” prompt, but Wood recommended putting what you want directly on your profile. “Don’t be ashamed about wanting a relationship, and don’t be ashamed about not wanting one,” Wood said. The right person won’t be scared away by the fact that you are looking for a relationship, just like the right person won’t be scared away if you are looking for just a friendship, something casual, or just sex. There is enough ambiguity with dating apps that it will surprise you how refreshing a little directness can be. “The last thing you want to do is go on a date, like them, and then learn that you want two different things,” Wood said.
2. Actually make plans
Wood also sees a lot of people get stuck in the “penpal” stage on dating apps (BRB while I reply to my list of Hinge penpals), and her recommendation here is to “not sit still.” She said you can “move back” by ending a conversation and unmatching a person or “move forward” by planning a date, but if you sit still in the talking phase for too long, this person will effectively become a penpal, and the relationship will not progress. She explained that there “isn’t always a sense of urgency to get off the app and meet in person” and “there is a level of ambiguity that inherently comes with virtual dating.” To combat this, create that sense of urgency. Wood believes that “all conversations should lead to meeting in person”
Don’t be afraid to give a little push and tell the person you want to get off the app and on a date. If they don’t go for it? Don’t be afraid to end the conversation. There will be someone else who is ready to move forward.
3. Don’t be afraid to date multiple people at once
Another tricky thing about dating apps is the possibility of having multiple conversations, or dates, at once. Wood said while it, of course, depends on what you are looking for, “dating is about having a good time and growing.” So if you are in early stages with a few people on an app, as long as you are honest about it, there is no harm in getting to know multiple people before you become exclusive with one of them (if that is the goal).
Wood’s best advice here is to always “understand what your reasons are” for keeping someone in your life. “There is no point in keeping someone around just to keep them around,” she said. “As things become more serious, the people who aren’t wanting the same things should naturally fall off.” If you still aren’t sure, Wood gave the reminder that “anybody that you are dating should be enriching you in some sort of way.”
Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed or burned out with online dating, just remember it all comes down to being clear about what you want, holding people to those standards, and getting off the app to meet IRL.