Dating in your 20s is totally different than dating in your 30s. When you’re a twenty-something, it’s all about having fun. You’re more carefree; you’re not really looking for anything serious. In your 30s, however, everything changes. You’re not about dating just for the sake of dating—who has time for that? You might want to settle down, maybe even get married and start a family. But even if a longterm monogamous relationship isn’t your endgame, you’re likely sick of the wishy-washiness and tomfoolery you once let slide.
But as frustrating as it can feel to watch the people around you get hitched and have babies while you’re spending your Friday nights going on a string of lackluster dates, there are a lot of benefits to dating in your 30s. There’s just something about your third decade that makes you feel way more grounded and secure in who you are. Plus, you have lots of wisdom and life experience under your belt, which means you know exactly what you want and don’t want in life and in a partner. (Well, mostly.)
To help you navigate the dating scene in your 30s, we enlisted the help of two dating pros—Julie Spira, online dating expert and digital matchmaker, and offline dating coach Camille Virginia of Master Offline Dating—with different perspectives on playing the field.
Keep reading for their tips for dating in your 30s.
1. Get clear 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, Virginia says. 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. And she recommends focusing on the inner traits. 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.
Once you get clarity around your desires, which may require some self-reflection and sitting down with pen and paper, then start focusing on them. “We attract the things that we think about, so you don’t want to stay in the I-don’t-like-people-who-lie mindset,” Virginia says. Because then all you will attract are more partners who lie. 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.
2. State your intentions from the get-go
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.
Yes, it’s a bold move, but Spira says it’s the best way to market the type of relationship your heart is craving. Having your intentions right there for everyone to see will prompt someone who’s just looking to have fun to swipe left and encourage someone who’s on the same page as you are to swipe right.
Virginia totally agrees with being clear about your intentions, but she suggests having that conversation on the first date instead. “There’s an art to doing it,” she says. “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.” Instead, be curious and ask questions in an authentic and genuine way that will help you get a feel for what their goals are.
3. Be open to dating someone who isn’t your type
Your 30s is 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.”
4. Take the pressure off
Dating in your 30s can come with this sense of urgency to have everything “figured out” and a the-clock-is-ticking mentality that puts so much pressure on every. single. encounter. “I tell singles in their 30s to take a deep breath and not to focus on their age,” Spira says. “Many worry they won’t be able to have children and that their shelf life will expire once they turn 39. Love doesn’t have an expiration date. Couples are able to have children later in life or adopt and be fulfilled.”
Virginia seconds this and adds that as long as you’re doing all the things you can to help call in the right partner (i.e. getting clear on what you want, doing the inner work, putting yourself out there, meeting new people, etc.), you’re good. “Wait for the right opportunity and trust that it will show up when it’s meant to,” she says.
5. Ditch the rules
You’ve probably heard all the dating rules a million times. Wait three days to call. Don’t be too needy. Don’t make the first move. Hold smooches until after the first date. 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. “The best rule I can offer is not to wait for the ‘perfect person’ because we’re all imperfect.”
6. Work on your social skills and boosting your confidence
“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. That’s how we functioned for hundreds and thousands of years.” Somewhere down the line, though, mostly thanks to technology, things changed. We lost touch with our IRL social skills.
So working on leveling up your body language and conversation skills just be the missing piece that will help you attract your soulmate (if you believe in that sort of thing). But it’s not just about how you interact with others, it’s also about boosting your confidence so that smiling at that cute stranger on the other side of the room feels like no big deal. That’s when you step into a new way of being and dating becomes way easier.
7. Be open to meeting new people offline
While dating apps have definitely proven to be effective in helping people find their person, if you’re exclusively relying on them to help you meet that special someone, you’re really missing out, Virginia says.
Okay, so if you’re not meeting new people online, where exactly do you meet your match? “Everywhere,” she says. “Literally, I have been asked out on an airplane, at a coffee shop, at the bus stop. There is no magical place with other single people. The beauty is that they’re doing the same things you are.”
8. Listen to your intuition
Above all else, listening to your intuition is so key when it comes to dating in your 30s.
“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 you 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 bring you down.
Want more tips? Here’s dating advice from 8 women on the front lines.
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