Dating in your 30s is different for everyone. Perhaps you’ve spent your 20s having fun and are now hoping to find something more serious. You might be newly single and getting back into the dating game all over again. Or, you could be a dating app devotee who is finding that the rules of looking for love are changing as you enter a new decade.
Either way, your 30s can be the perfect time to meet new people. It’s likely that you know yourself and are more comfortable in your own skin than you were a decade ago. You have a clearer idea of what you want, and are less prepared to waste time on the wrong person. And you may well have more cash to splash on fun and interesting dates. Equally, dating in your 30s can have its downsides, as social pressures to settle down mount and you find that your friends are increasingly coupled-up.
If you’re dating by the big 3-0 and beyond, here’s what to keep in mind:
1. Remember that dating is still supposed to be fun
As much as dating might be an enjoyable way to pass a free evening, there is often an unreasonable, yet unavoidable societal and biological pressure on women that increases as we age. Films and television seem convinced that we must be weeping into our Ben and Jerry’s Bridget Jones style if we haven’t met our Mr. Darcy yet, and we all have that dreaded great aunt who takes delight in warning us about our ticking biological clock every time that we bump into her at a family event.
As much as the pressure to find the right person might seem increasingly important in your 30s, remember that dating is supposed to be fun. You have the opportunity to meet new people and try new things — and if you happen to meet the love of your life along the way, great.
If you find that the fun has disappeared from dating, then take a step back for a while and focus on yourself. Love doesn’t have an expiration date, and you still have plenty of time to meet someone — and you’ll be in a much better place to do so if you feel happy and relaxed in the process.
2. Get comfortable with being on your own
An inevitable fact of growing older is that many of your friends will begin to settle down. Some might even start to have children, and suddenly be much less available for a last-minute night out than they used to be. If you find that your weekends aren’t quite as full as they once were, it’s important not to panic and try to tie down the next potential partner who comes along. Being able to eat out, travel, or perhaps even live alone can be a scary, but incredibly affirming experience. Knowing that you are happy and fulfilled on your own alleviates much of the pressure on finding a partner, and allows you to truly enjoy dating, whilst also opening up new and exciting experiences.
3. Be clear about what you want
Maybe you’re hoping that your next Hinge date will be walking you up the aisle within the year, or perhaps you’re just looking for a few drinks and a flirt. Whatever your reasons for dating in your 30s, you might find that the stakes are higher, for you or for those that you are going on dates with. To avoid wasting your time or hurting someone else’s feelings, be clear about your intentions. Communicate with potential suitors about what you are looking for, and be firm about saying no if your intentions don’t match.
4. Don’t compromise on the things that are important to you
There might be a myth that singletons in their 30s start to settle, but although the dating pool might be a bit smaller than it was when you were 21, there are still plenty of great people out there. In fact, it’s likely that you have enough experience of relationships and dating to have a much clearer idea about what you are looking for, what your deal breakers are, and what you are prepared to compromise on.
The great thing about dating in your 30s is that you know your own worth. Sure, in your 20s you might have been happy to hook up with the guy who left moldy plates on his bedroom floor and only had one pillow that you had to share. You might have overlooked the fact that your ex had a chronic lack of ambition in the hope that they really would put that business plan together one day. But by your 30s, you know what you will and won’t settle for, and you should feel confident enough to cut your losses if you find yourself dating the wrong person.
5. Don’t get disheartened by bad dates
If you’ve been in the dating game for a while, then it can be easy to get a little down if a date doesn’t go to plan — especially if the only people you have to vent about a disastrous date to are happily coupled-up friends.
The fact of modern dating is that there will always be bad dates. In a swipe-happy world, it’s impossible to weed out dud daters, and you are bound to come across at least a few. Try to see that date who turned up an hour late as a lesson in what you don’t want (punctuality is important guys!) or the girl who got so drunk that she fell off her barstool as a good anecdote to laugh about next time you catch up with your other single friends. Accept that bad dates as part of the experience, and line up a fail-proof pick-me-up waiting at home for you just in case a meet-up goes badly — be it freshly washed sheets and a boxset, or an enormous glass of wine.
6. Get out of your comfort zone
If you’re finding that the tricks from your 20s just aren’t packing the same punch when it comes to dating in your 30s, it might be time to try something new. Feeling fatigued by dating apps? Try taking your dating life offline. Find yourself spending every Friday night in the suburbs with your settled-down friends? Arrange a night out in the city. Shake up your routine by taking up a new hobby and saying yes to social events or opportunities that you would usually decline.
The great thing about being single in your 30s is that you have the luxury of flexibility and time. You don’t have a partner to factor into your decision-making, so you can do whatever makes you happy — whether that’s booking a last-minute trip or taking up a job offer on the other side of the globe. Although I’m certainly not advocating handing in your notice in the hope that there might be hot singles in another office, an added bonus of your ability to make changes in your life means that you’ll be exposed to new people. And if the love of your life happens to be amongst them, then who are you to argue?