Dating in your early 20s is fun and irrational, and it is done with little regard for actual compatibility or long-term sustainability.
But for me, I couldn’t wait to be an adult. I yearned to be comforted by the safety of a long-term partnership. I had no idea what that meant at the time, but I knew it sounded nice.
Movies portrayed it as something to aspire to, and so the idea fit well into my own dreams and goals.
Like the hopeless romantic mainstream media shaped me into being, I spent the better part of my 20s chasing the conventional dream to find my love story.
During the 10 years before turning 30, I was in relationships where I couldn't be committed to or supportive of my partners.
Like a classroom, life was teaching me what love was all about. So, when I turned 30 as a single woman, I was confident I knew who I was and what I wanted.
But, I came to five unexpected realizations while dating in my early 30s:
1. Organically forming relationships is rare.
If you’ve been out of the dating scene a while, you need to know online dating sites have changed the game.
With apps like Plenty of Fish and OkCupid, finding a potential partner is based first on looks, and second on personality or connection.
Don’t get discouraged or offended when you don’t get a response to your message. Our generation doesn’t believe in wasting precious minutes on providing a polite rejection to an inquiring individual.
If you're lucky enough to make it past the initial profile screening, be prepared for the fact your date is likely dating other people as well. In fact, he or she probably got a message from another interested party while on your date.
Moral of the story? Dress nicely, and don't be a douche because he or she has plenty of options.
2. Age is not just a number.
As someone who's experienced and learned from a handful of significant life milestones, I quickly realized I should steer clear of anyone under 25.
At that age, your interested party is likely fresh out of college, still employed by the safety of a college job and might be living under his or her parents' roof. These are not bad things, as you were once there yourself.
However, they’re not a good mix for someone who has lived and learned from life’s lessons that can only be served up in career jobs, independent living and lost loves.
3. Fewer people are looking for long-term relationships.
Remember that dream I mentioned chasing in my early 20s? Well, that’s not really the dream for our generation anymore.
We value our freedom; our attention spans have shortened, and we are accustomed to instant gratification. We prefer not to be constrained by a label.
What this means for dating is you need to learn to go with the flow.
4. You will feel like an outsider.
Your early 30s are a transitional phase. Your dating pool may seem limited because you don’t quite fit in with the late-30s or early-40s crowd who have lives that resemble your parents’.
Yet, you find it difficult to hold an intellectual, stimulating conversation with younger prospects who are still determining what their booze threshold is.
Don’t fret this dilemma. Instead, embrace the variety.
Go out with a date younger than yourself when you need an exciting night out on the town. And, when a quiet night with good conversation is needed, seek out a date who has a few years on you.
There's much to learn and enjoyment to be had from both options.
5. You will be weary.
If you’re entering your 30s as a single person, it means the dating efforts leading up until now have failed.
That’s not to say you didn’t value or regret those relationships; it just means they didn’t work out.
And when you’ve gone a decade floating in and out of relationships that didn’t pan out, you get a little discouraged. You’re a little more realistic and a little more hesitant.
You’re less likely to jump into a relationship unless the checklist of qualities have been met. If you realize this, then the only thing left to do is realize when you need to let your guard down.
My fellow 30-year-old singles, hear this: With age comes wisdom, and we are too young to go through a mid-life crisis while struggling through the dating scene.
Trust your instincts. When it feels like people aren't on the same page as you, they probably aren’t.
There’s no shame in calling it like it is and walking away.