How is dating different in your 30’s than in your 20’s? According to Dr. Kristen Carpenter, Director of Women’s Behavioral Health at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center, it is where work-life balance starts to become the top priority. Women who want love and family tend to start wondering how they will fit it all in, while still killin’ it in their careers. How then should you approach the dating game, with all these goals already in mind? Jenna Birch from Self.com has some pointers for us:
1. Redefine Your Priorities
In your 20s, you were probably dreaming up what would be the pinnacle of your career life, because, why not? A manager by the age of 28? A business owner by 35? Everything seems possible when you set your mind to it! However, if marriage and children come into the picture at some point, then you have to reach a compromise with yourself.
“You have to decide how much time you can give to each of your priorities, and how much of yourselfyou want to give to each priority,” says Carpenter. “As professional opportunities start to arise, you’ll have to make decisions. Maybe you’ll take a slightly lesser position to be closer to family, or scale back on those 60-hour workweeks to devote more time to your relationship life.”
2. Identify What You’re Looking For
Most of us are probably a bit romantic about potential partners in our 20s. You might even have had some sort of “list” for what you want in a guy. But after a decade of trial and error, butterflies in our stomachs or heartbreaks, perhaps we have a better idea of who we want and need in our lives. Moreover, we might also become more realistic in our expectations of our partners. Chance meetings might be romantic in the moment, but a person with attributes to complement yours is romantic long-term.
“You can’t wait for serendipity to intervene or simply say, ‘It will happen when it happens,'” says Boston-based dating coach Neely Steinberg, author of Skin in the Game. “You have to put in the time, effort and energy—even when you feel like throwing in the towel or avoiding it altogether and that means not just getting out there dating, but really understanding what and who you are looking for on a deeper level, and not the superficial stuff.”
3. Put Forth Strategic Effort
The best way to do this is to approach this part of your life with as much intention and effort as you would your friendships or career. Actively position yourself to meet like-minded people who are likely looking for stable, long-term relationships.
Steinberg says this might mean: getting online or taking online dating more seriously (really read those profiles!); actually putting yourself out there at events and activities where you’re likely to meet people; tapping into your network of friends for set-ups; and so on. “It’s about taking action, in more ways than one,” she says. “Doing so will help you create what you want to create in your life—instead of just passively waiting for him or her to find you.”
4. Swiftly Identify (and Ditch) the Dead-Ends
You’ve probably met your fair share of partners who would qualify for your own personal What Was I Thinking? file but don’t beat yourself over those mistakes. Now that you (hopefully) know a red flag when you see it, don’t let that knowledge bank of toxic partners go to waste. If you’re looking for marriage or biological babies, says Steinberg, your job is to recognize poor fits early and often. “Don’t spend years, or even months, with people who are clearly commitment-phobic, wish-washy or emotionally unavailable,” says Steinberg.
However, it is important to take time to know someone and not rush things through. “It takes time to discover your feelings, for them to discover theirs, to build an emotional bond, and to see the person is consistently trustworthy, reliable, kind, emotionally available and sensitive to your needs.” says Steinberg. If after all this time they still don’t seem to be someone you want to settle down with, perhaps it is time to end things cordially.
5. Set Better Boundaries
Think about what didn’t work in your earlier dating years in terms of fostering personal and relationship growth. Think about what did. Get specific about the choices you made and what might need to change.
Specifically, the key is in establishing smart boundaries. “For instance, if you’ve been really career-focused, spending time with other people might be tough,” Carpenter says, “Eventually, you have to decide how reachable you want to be.” This could mean anything from stopping all work communication at a certain hour every night to finally calling your city “home,” instead of always having one foot out the door.
Steinberg’s bottom line for single 30-somethings is that they can do themselves a big service by owning up to what they want in life and committing to it. “You may wake up at thirty-five and think, ‘Wait, where did the time go? Why didn’t I spend more time focusing on this aspect of my life?” Seek out and nurture a new balance, especially as you progress into that third decade of adulthood.