Dating is hard at any age, but entering a new decade introduces a whole new set of nuances. If you thought you finally nailed the dating game in your 20s, it might feel frustrating and overwhelming once you hit 30. The truth is dating in your 30s is very different from dating in your 20s. But while there may be some negatives, there are tons of positives.
On one hand, the playing field is narrower and you probably carry more baggage than you did the decade prior. You may have had your heart broken and developed some trust issues, for example, or you could be more devoted than ever to a career. You also may have fewer single friends, so there's more pressure to couple up. However, you also have more life experience. You probably have a better idea of what you're going to focus on in life, what type of environment you want to live in, whether or not you want to have children, etc. It's more likely, then, that you'll seek out a partner with similar goals and lifestyle habits rather than date around just for the experience.
"Dating in your 20s can be a bit like the scattered light of a disco ball, whereas dating in your 30s is more like a focused laser beam," says Jordan Gray, a relationship coach and bestselling author. "If you know what you're looking for, you'll waste less time on relationships that have no potential and optimize for healthy, aligned connections with that much more speed and ease."
Meet the Expert
Jordan Gray is the author of six bestselling books on relationships, a public speaker, and a sex and relationship coach with over 10 years of experience.
If you've recently become single or just turned 30 and are noticing how dating has changed, don't stress. We've got some crucial tips to help you thrive while dating in your 30s, straight from an expert.
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. "In your 20s, you might be more prone to dating people for the experience who would normally be outside of your default dating preferences," says Gray. "But in your 30s, all of your previous dating experiences really pay off."
If you’ve never really thought about what you want in a partner, now is the time to figure it out. 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. Note any patterns. The qualities you liked most 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, a breakup, or even a divorce. It's important to remember that we all have skeletons in our closets and that these experiences have guided us to the people we are today.
Your past has shaped who you are, but it doesn't have to be your present or future. Instead, focus on what is happening now and look where you are going next. "All of our previous partners and the previous partners of our [significant others] are allies in our growth and healing," says Gray.
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? As you probably realize, though, if you don’t let anyone in, you won't find "the one."
When you meet someone and there's a mutual connection, let your guard down. Be vulnerable. It might make you anxious, but the good news is, you're in your 30s and you have thicker skin now. If it doesn't work out, it wasn't meant to be. The important thing is that you put yourself out there.
Being vulnerable can improve your relationship with your partner, heighten your self-worth, teach you to be less dependent on the opinions of others, and increase your inner sense of security.
Beware of Negative Thinking Patterns
If you've had a few failed relationships, marriage—or even a long-term partnership—may feel like a pipe dream. But it’s important not to let this negative thinking get the best of you. "If you notice your mind spinning its wheels in the mud of your fear, then you can simply notice it with compassion and choose a new thought," says Gray. When you meet someone new, give them a fair chance, and don't destine yourself to a life alone if it doesn't work out.
"Ultimately, we love to grasp for a sense of control in life, but we actually control very little," says Gray. "We can always do our best to put forth intentional action, but sometimes the thing we are trying to grasp for is being held out of our reach because something better is already heading our way," he continues.
Don't Rush Things
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 these things is okay, but grilling every person you date to see if they have what it takes to fulfill your expectations is not.
"Fear and scarcity don't tend to be healthy internal drivers when it comes to partner selection," says Gray. Focus on having fun and getting to know the person. It shouldn't feel like you're racing to the finish line. "Some people get married and have children at 20, some people get married and have children in their 40s or 50s. So, who knows what life has in store for us?"
Dump Your Divorce Bias
Although the divorce rate in America is falling, you may date people who are divorced when you’re in your 30s. It's not unusual to feel jealous or compare yourself to your new partner's former spouse. "One way to overcome jealousy of a partner's former spouse is to remember that person helped your partner become who they are," says Gray.
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. "We are all eternally works in progress, and your partner's former spouse (and all of their previous partners) helped carve them into their current iteration that you are now benefiting from being close to," Gray continues.
If you feel your partner's relationship with their former spouse is inappropriate or doesn't respect the boundaries of your relationship, bring this concern to your partner and initiate a dialogue around it.
Be Open to a Wider Age Range
Does age really matter? Not so much. "When it comes to dating in your 30s, there's a bit more acceptable range in terms of age when you're selecting your potential partner," says Gray. "Ultimately, it all comes down to maturity levels and alignment of life visions."
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, have a great time together, and, most importantly, want the same things out of life and the relationship.
Don't Date Someone You're Not That Into
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's sleep than be out with someone you don't see a future with?
"In many ways, dating becomes more efficient in your 30s because you know what to optimize for," says Gray. Use this to your advantage by nipping any dead-end relationships in the bud.
Good communication is crucial to any relationship. When you’re dating in your 30s, you and your significant other should be able to talk to each other openly and honestly. Got into your first fight? Talk it out maturely. If you’re not communicating early on in the relationship, that will probably continue as things move forward.
Don’t give up fundamental things that make you who you are in order to find a significant other or accommodate a new partner. "Balancing and prioritizing our various values is a never-ending dance in life," says Gray.
Making time to date can be hard in your 30s, and you'll probably have to put certain things on the back burner to make it a priority. Conversely, you may have to put dating aside at times to reach other goals. "The only thing that matters is that one listens to the deepest truth of their heart and then prioritizes that truth with consistent action," says Gray.
Nobody should settle for a partner who they are only sort of into. The relationship won’t be healthy, nor will it last. Often, people in their 30s, especially women who want to have children, begin to panic at the idea of not settling down soon enough. This causes some to settle for a less-than-ideal partner for a sense of security.
"Instead of obsessing over your ticking clock, you can ground yourself in the idea that it may be more true for you to wait until you find the right person and adopt children with them versus racing to have biological children with a partner that you don't feel deeply aligned with," says Gray.
Don't Seek Perfection
With that said, you should also be discerning of your expectations and evaluate how realistic (or not) they might be. While you should never settle, you shouldn't wait around for perfection, either. Relationships are about meeting in the middle, and you have to be willing to accept a person for their whole self, flaws and all.