Dating is hard at any age, but entering a new decade brings with it a new set of nuances to learn how to navigate. If you thought you had finally nailed the dating game in your 20s, once you hit 30, things might feel incredibly frustrating and overwhelming again. The truth is, dating in your 30s is very different than dating in your 20s. The playing field is narrower and you probably carry a little more baggage than you did the decade prior. You may have gotten your heart broken and developed some trust issues, for example, or you could be more devoted than ever to a career that takes up a significant portion of your time. You also likely have fewer single friends, so there's more pressure to couple up.
If you've recently become single or just turned 30 and are beginning to notice how dating has changed, don't stress. We've got some crucial tips to help you survive (and thrive!) dating in your 30s.
Age Is Just a Number
Does age really matter? Not so much. Don't be so quick to write people off because they're too old or too young for you. Relationships work because two people are in love, support each other mutually, and have a great time together, not because of how far apart in age they are. "When two people actually go on a date, the age difference might not have as much importance as other considerations, such as physical attraction and a compatible personality," says clinical psychologist Vinita Mehta.
Know What You Want
In your mid-20s, you might want a partner who drives a nice car and can afford to take you to a fancy restaurant. Although those things are great, once you're in your 30s, you'll probably want more in a partner.
If you’ve never really thought about what you want in a partner, now is a good time to figure it out so you can find the right fit. Write down the names of the last few people you dated. Next to each name, list the top five things you liked about them and the top five things you didn’t like about them. You’ll probably notice that there are common descriptors on the list. The top qualities that you liked about these people are what you should look for in your next relationship.
Let Go of the Past
Many people who are single in their 30s have dealt with some form of heartbreak—be it ghosting, cheating, or a breakup. But it’s time to leave the past behind. The third date is not a good time to discuss how your ex cheated on you for three years and you didn’t realize it until a scandalous photo was sent to you from an anonymous email account. Let it go! We all have skeletons in our closets. This doesn’t mean you have to pull one out and wear it. Yes, your past has shaped who you are, but it’s not your present or future. Instead, focus on what is happening now and look where you are going next.
Let Your Guard Down
When you’ve been in a lot of unsuccessful relationships, a natural defense mechanism is to put your guard up. If you don’t let anyone in, then you won’t get hurt, right? However, if you don’t let anyone in, you probably won’t end up finding the one. When the time is right and you’ve met someone you’re into who is also into you, let your guard down. Be vulnerable. If this makes you feel anxious, tell yourself everything will be okay.
In addition to improving your relationship with your partner, being vulnerable in a relationship can also improve your self-worth, teaching you to be less dependent on the opinions of others and increasing your inner sense of security.
Don't Be Jaded or Bitter
When you’re in your 30s, it’s much easier to become jaded and bitter; so many relationships have not worked out that you may start to think it’s never going to happen. But it’s important not to let this negative thinking get the best of you. If you think it’s never going to happen, then it won’t—you have to be positive. When you meet someone new, give them a fair chance.
Focus on Having Fun
When you’re in your 30s, it’s easy to get caught up in thinking about the things you don’t have yet. You haven’t met the one, you’re not married, and you don't have kids. Wanting all of these things is okay, but grilling every person you date to see if they have what it takes to fulfill your expectations is not. Focus on having fun and getting to know the person. What’s the point of being in a relationship at any age if you’re not having fun? It shouldn’t be a job and it shouldn’t be depressing. A relationship should bring joy, laughter, and love—whether you’re in your 20, 30s, or 40s.
Dump Your Divorce Bias
The divorce rate in America is around 40 to 50 percent, so when you’re in your 30s, you're probably going to date people who are divorced. One of the advantages of dating a divorcee is that they've probably learned a lot from their former marriage that they can apply to a new relationship. When it comes to discussing their marriage, don’t pry. If they want to talk about what happened, they will when the time is right.
Communication Is Key
Good communication is crucial to any relationship. When you’re dating in your 30s, you should be able to talk to your significant other openly and honestly. Likewise, they should be able to talk to you candidly. Got into your first fight? Talk it out maturely. If you’re not communicating early on in the relationship, you probably won’t get better at it as things move forward.
Don't Waste Your Time
If you’re not into someone, stop talking to them, stop texting them, and stop hanging out with them. Life is too short. Wouldn’t you much rather get a good night of sleep than be out drinking with a person you’re just not that into? "Know your values and priorities and always consider your time in their light," says Jim Taylor, Ph.D. "Make deliberate choices about how you spend and use your time."
You Do You
Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not or give up fundamental things that make you who you are. "Losing yourself in a relationship can create anxiety, resentment, and even hopelessness, which can cause you to rebel or express yourself in exaggerated or extreme ways that can threaten the connection," says Doctor of Psychology Suzanne Lachmann.
Own who you are. Nothing is more attractive than someone who is comfortable in their own skin.
Don't Settle, but Stop Seeking Perfection
Nobody should settle for a partner who they are only sort of into. The relationship won’t be healthy, nor will it last. However, you shouldn't be waiting around for perfection, either. No one's perfect, so be ready to compromise.