21 Expert-Approved Tips for Dating in Your 30s

Photo: Getty Images/Thomas Barwick
While dating in your 20s may have felt more carefree, dating in your 30s can feel…well, different. “In your 20s, people are more likely to be in the same chapter of life,” says therapist Samantha Bender, LCSW-S.“Once you enter your 30s, however, you’re more likely to know people in a variety of lifestyles and experiences. While some may be never married with no kids, others may have already been divorced and co-parenting,” Bender adds.

These life differences may seem intimidating and challenging, Bender explains, but they’re not always barriers. Being in your 30s also comes with plenty of advantages that you didn’t have available to you in your 20s! You know more about yourself, the dating pool in your 30s tends to be more serious, and you probably have a better idea about what you’re looking for in a partner.

Experts In This Article

To help you have the best experience dating in your 30s, we asked the experts to answer some of the most asked questions about finding a partner during this decade.

Is it normal for a 30-year-old to be single?

Yes, it's totally normal for a 30-year-old to be single. “I am often surprised (and sad!) that I still hear many of my clients in their late 20s and 30s express that they feel ‘behind’ in terms of what they view as social timelines,” adds psychologist and therapist Arezou Costello, PhD. While it’s not uncommon to feel that dating in your 30s may be “too late” you certainly are not “too old” to meet anyone. In fact, dating in your 30s can come with lots of advantages that you didn’t have in your 20s, like more confidence, a fully-developed frontal lobe, and likely, more money.

Is 32 too old to start dating again?

32 isn't too old to start dating again, at all. Wherever you are in your 30s (and beyond), rest assured that there are no deadlines when it comes to dating. “I tell singles in their 30s to take a deep breath and not to focus on their age,” says online dating expert and digital matchmaker Julie Spira. She adds that some of her clients express worry over not being able to start a family in time. However, “love doesn’t have an expiration date.” she explains, adding that “Couples are able to have children later in life or adopt and be fulfilled.”

Is dating in your 30s harder?

In many ways, dating in your 30s should be easier than dating in your 20s. You now have the advantage of confidence, a more serious dating pool, and the ability to slow down and take your time. On the flip side, you might also encounter specific challenges in your 30s you didn’t have in your 20s, like trouble getting over past relationships, and a lack of built-in structure to meet new people.

What are the pros of dating in your 30s?

1. You probably have more confidence

In our 30s, we’re more focused on what we think and less on what others think, says psychologist Michele Leno, PhD. You’ve since had a decade plus to get better at dating and to realize what you like, dislike, and want to prioritize about dating and relationships. This can be a huge advantage to dating in your 30s as it allows you to be more upfront about exactly what it is you won’t stand for. Try to channel your inner Jenna Rink: 30, flirty, and thriving.

2. It can feel liberating to be free of timelines

You can take time to slow down in your 30s. “From my own personal experience, I can share that I had the same ‘timeline’ concerns in my late 20s, and once I turned 30 and wasn’t married, I actually felt liberated from that pressure,” says Dr. Costello. So often our own anxieties lead us to believe things are much worse than they are, and often when the Big Bad 30 actually comes to town, we realize: “hey, this actually isn’t bad? It might even be better to be 30?” Dr. Costello notes that once she realized the pressure was off, “[I] felt like I could take my time more to find the right person.”

“Once I turned 30 and wasn’t married, I actually felt liberated from that pressure” —Arezou Costello, PhD, psychologist and therapist

3. The dating pool in your 30s tends to be more serious and play less games

Just as you’re probably more tuned into exactly what it is you want, the same can be said for your potential partners. “People in their 30s generally have more experience dating and may be more aware of what they want from a relationship. They already know what did and didn’t work in past relationships, and hopefully know what they want their futures to look like,” says Bender. “This means they’re more likely to be serious about dating and less likely to ‘play games’ as they search for compatible partners who can complement their dreams, goals, and lifestyles.”

What are the cons of dating in your 30s?

1. You might have lingering suspicions from your last relationship or trouble letting go of the past

While your 20s may have been the time to have chaotic Bad Boy relationships, the one downside is that past relationships (of any kind) are likely going to have an impact on future relationships, explains Dr. Leno. “Even if the last one was not so bad, we gather thoughts that our brains cannot seem to shake,” she adds.

“Embracing the past versus trying to forget about it, will allow you to move on,” Dr. Leno says. “We have an opportunity to learn so much from our last relationship. Avoidance hinders growth and keeps us stuck in the past,” Dr. Leno adds. Instead, face the past and consider the lessons learned so that your past no longer threatens your future and any connections you have yet to make.

2. There isn’t as much built-in structure to meet people

In your 20s you likely had school and were constantly being exposed to new people from those two areas alone. Nowadays, “people tend to be busy with work, are more entrenched in their social group, and may be more isolated due to remote work,” explains Dr. Costello. You can still absolutely meet new people! However, you might have to get more creative about it, like asking friends to set you up, or taking the initiative to join a club or hobby. (Don’t worry, we’ll touch on that more, later).

What are the tips for dating in your 30s?

Here are some of the best tips from the experts to help you find the best way to meet a partner.

1. Make the first move

“Don't be afraid to ask for someone’s number,” says therapist Laurie Wilson, LMFT. “Be bold. Be brave. Be 30,” she adds. While you may have spent your 20s waiting for everyone else to make the first move, being in your 30s means you’ve probably got a ton more experience about exactly what it is that you want. Lean into that!

2. Ask your friends to set you up

“They have spent a decade with you, watching your dating habits. Find one with a good partner and ask about any singles you can double date with” Wilson says. Not only does this have the added benefit of opening up your pool of dating candidates, but you know your friends truly have your best interests at heart.

3. Don’t use trauma-dumping as a tool for bonding

One thing to be aware of, Bender says, is trauma-dumping as a tool for bonding. “In your 30s you may have plenty of stories to tell, whether it’s funny first-date fails or painful experiences of heartbreak,” she explains. However, “Bonding over dating failures or regret is neither a strong start or good foundation for a healthy relationship,” Bender adds, noting that “This can be a turnoff to others and may actually be misinterpreted as a red flag without proper context.”

Dwelling on these stories yourself may also be a sign that past dating experiences were more traumatic than you may have thought and that working through relationship trauma could be beneficial, Bender notes. This leads us to our next point…

4. Be open to working on yourself in and out of therapy

“While dating, you may notice some past trauma or wounds reappear,” Bender says, adding that we might revert to using defense mechanisms like shutting down, lashing out, seeking reassurance, or pulling away, which are usually signs we need to heal from past wounds and may benefit from expert help. Therapy is never a bad idea, and working on healing old wounds may make finding a healthy future relationship easier.

5. Don’t take things personally

“Every single person has their own set of experiences, narratives, and expectations. Because of this, they have their own lenses that they will view you and their relationships with you,” Bender adds. “While you may do something that they don’t like, that doesn’t mean it’s your ‘fault’ if things don’t work out or that they need to change,” she explains. Try to think of it as just the universe gently redirecting you towards things that are a better fit for you both.

6. Get really clear with yourself about what you want

Not in the mood to mess around with dead-end dates? It’s important that you first get really clear about what you want, says offline dating coach Camille Virginia. Past relationships and tons of not-so-good dates can provide lots of intel about what you don’t want, which in turn can help you figure out exactly what you do want in a partner. She recommends focusing on the inner traits of your ideal partner. Yes, obviously you want to be attracted to the person, but at the end of the day, what really matters are those inner attributes and core values. Focus your attention and energy on those good characteristics you're looking for and then you’ll start spotting singles who embody those traits everywhere you go.

7. Be upfront about your intentions from the start

To avoid wasting your time and getting emotionally attached to someone who will never be The One, Spira recommends sharing your intentions right from the beginning. If your goal is to get married, settle down, and start a family, don’t be afraid to write that on your dating profile.

If you’d rather wait to discuss intentions IRL on the first date (say, if you met someone through friends), that’s cool too. Just make sure you’re tactful about it. “You don’t want to sit down with someone on a first date or your first encounter and make them feel like they’re in an interview or a screening process,” Virginia notes. Instead, be curious and ask questions in an authentic and genuine way that will help you get a feel for what their goals are.

8. Date outside your usual “type”

Your 30s are the perfect time to branch out from your typical “type” and date new people. You never know where it may lead you. “I’ve encouraged dating coaching clients of mine to date outside of their comfort zone, initially with resistance,” Spira says. “It’s often a wonderful surprise when they actually enjoyed dating a different type than the ‘bad boys’ from earlier days.”

That’s exactly why Virginia puts such a strong focus on inner traits instead of what looks good on paper. “When you’re clear on the inner traits of someone, they’re probably going to come in a package you don’t expect,” she says. “If you remain open to what they look like, how tall they are, what ethnicity they are, etc., then you can actually find an amazing person that you might otherwise miss.”

9. Ditch the dating rules

You’ve probably heard all the dating rules a million times. You know, “Wait three days to call,”; “don’t be too needy,”; “don’t make the first move,” etc. Throw all those out the window. “I find [rules] get in the way of finding a meaningful connection,” Spira says, because every situation is so different. Ultimately, she adds, “the best rule I can offer is not to wait for the ‘perfect person’ because we're all imperfect.”

10. Make an effort to socialize more

“As humans, we're social creatures,” Virginia says. “We're meant to be around each other, get energy from each other, interact, have eye contact, and have in-person conversations.” Somewhere down the line, though, mostly thanks to technology, things changed. We lost touch with our IRL social skills. Challenge yourself to step outside of your comfort zone and socialize more at work events, meet more of your friend’s friends, or even join a social hobby you’ve secretly always been interested in.

11. Be open to meeting new people offline

While dating apps have definitely proven to be effective in modern relationships, if you’re exclusively relying on them to help you meet that special someone, you’re really missing out, Virginia says. Yes, meeting people offline can sometimes feel a bit intimidating now that everyone tends to use the apps, but keep an open mind.

Once you start to view all your surroundings as potential places you could meet your partner, the possibilities are endless. The airplane you take to visit your family for the holidays, the coffee shop you stop into to get a treat before meeting a friend, or the bus stop you wait at for your everyday commute: these are all fair game. “There is no magical place with other single people,” Virginia says, “The beauty is that they’re all doing the same things you are.”

12. Listen to your intuition

“Our intuition is always guiding us, but in our 20s, we’re not necessarily as ready to hear it,” Virginia says. You might have tried really hard to make it work with someone you knew wasn’t good for you or ignored a ton of red flags. But now, with a decade (or more) of dating and relationships behind you, you can really listen to those signs and inner nudges so you don’t end up wasting your time and energy on people who may not be right for you.

13. Don’t give up

It bears repeating: being in your 30s is not too old to date or find love. Remember that there are many great people out there seeking a loving, healthy, relationship, just like you out there, Bender says. Dating at any age can be disheartening or disappointing, but keep your head up, Bender notes. If you need encouragement, just think of all the couples out there who met in their 30s, 40s, and even 50s and beyond.

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