While many women hit their professional and personal peaks in their 30s, they nonetheless dread playing the dating game when they’re no longer as young, fresh, and unburdened as they were in their 20s. They’re also, unfortunately, saddled with increasing expectations from relatives, friends, and peers. However, 30-something women possess a greater range of experiences… and there are even a few attitudes they could retain from their 20s, enhanced by a healthier perspective on their self-identity. We asked relationship experts to weigh in on dating in your 30s as opposed to your 20s.
In your 20s… You went with the flow. You could relax your expectations and date a variety of people to figure out what type worked best for you.
In your 30s… You have to be clear about what you want, and not try to match someone else’s ideal. “Women in particular are always trying to say the right things so that they won’t limit the pool of men who might possibly be interested in them,” says couples therapist and dating coach Tricia Bennett. When it comes to what you’re looking for, “Be clear. You want to attract someone who is in the same place in life: ready for commitment and family—or, still dating just for fun. There is no right or wrong place to be… just be clear so that you can attract what you want.”
In your 20s… You had the energy to go on endless dates, says dating expert and matchmaker Stef Safran.
In your 30s… You value your alone time more, which means that you’re choosier about who you go out with on multiple dates. You’ve also had enough experience to recognize who’s worth going out with again.
In your 20s… There’s less pressure to date someone who you expect to be with in the long run. You’re having fun and meeting new people without thinking about long-term commitments.
In your 30s… You feel more pressured by issues of fertility, the “appropriate” age to settle down, and other societal expectations, explains online dating and relationship coach Virginia Roberts. “For most heteronormative people, dating in your 30s has more gravitas than in your 20s.”
In your 20s… You may have relied more on your looks and dressed scantily to attract the opposite sex.
In your 30s… You dress more for yourself than for anyone else. “This isn’t about not having a good body in your thirties or being too old to wear something,” says Marina Sbrochi, author of Stop Looking for a Husband: Find the Love of Your Life. “This is about being smarter and knowing that you don’t have to sell yourself with sex. You are an intelligent and worthwhile person and anyone worth really knowing wants to know the real you, not just the sex kitten.”
In your 20s… You date different or possibly “inappropriate” people. A woman in her mid-20s might take a chance on someone from a different religious background, or date a person she doesn’t necessarily see herself settling down with.
In your 30s… You’re focused on finding an “appropriate” person. This may actually backfire, Roberts warns: “Thirtysomethings tend to become so picky about selecting for appropriate life partner traits that they close themselves off to options that fall even slightly outside of their desired criteria.” By getting in your own way, you may ironically be putting up more roadblocks. But if you’re open to dating people whose experiences don’t exactly mirror your own, you can find a romantic experience that’s just as rewarding.