Many of us find ourselves back in the dating pool when we're in our 30s, and not only wondering how it happened but if there will ever be an end in sight. It's easy when we're in our 20s to imagine ourselves being married by a pre-determined age, with kids and the career we want, living happily ever after. Life, however, doesn't usually end up the way we plan it. So what's the difference between dating in your 20s vs. dating in your 30s/40s? The only difference really, is ourselves.
Dating in our 20s
Dating is fun! We're not jaded yet, and there's still that sense of newness and hopefulness about the whole thing. There's a greater feeling that if a relationship doesn't work out, someone else is just around the corner. Time is not a determining factor yet; women's biological clocks are only usually faintly ticking. We're often concentrating just as much, if not more, on our careers, laying the pathway to our future, and enjoying the journey en route. These factors allow us to not take everything so seriously.
There's a tendency in our 20s to be more self-absorbed. This is understandable, since we're still very much learning about ourselves, although often subconsciously. Our relationships don't seem predictable, as we've not yet fully realized the patterns we may repeat later on in life. Thus, there can be less personal reflection since we're not at the stage yet where we realize our lives are of our own making. It's easier to blame others and move on to the next relationship without stopping to be accountable or aware of our dysfunction. Not knowing ourselves well can contribute to a high level of drama in our dating lives.
Dating in our 30s
With a few (or not so few) relationships under our belts, we're starting to know what we need and don't need from a partner. Finding someone compatible is of more importance than it used to be; our goals at this point have purpose and are more long-term oriented. We hopefully know ourselves well enough to be making educated choices when it comes to choosing that special someone, and are actively working to alleviate our past baggage for a more healthy self. We've learned to be accountable and to communicate our needs.
Too much dating and a lot of heartache (otherwise known as learning through pain), can wear on people. The tendency can be to become overly cautious, jaded gun shy, or overly desperate because we feel time is ticking. And even though most of us know these states of mind are directly inhibitive to the dating process, it's a hard rut to get out of. Women feel pressured to find a husband if they want children. Men can feel pressured by women too early on in relationships to make the big "commitment". Both sexes can feel a lot of pressure from friends and family and society to get married and settle down. Sometimes we forget all the things we learned and end up "settling", to quash the anxiety of being single.
The key to dating is to know what things to keep and which to leave behind.
Keep the wonderment of dating alive! Learning about new people, having new experiences, and falling in love are some of life's greatest gifts. We often forget this after having our heart broken, or after being involved in difficult relationships. Always make a list of the positive things you've learned from each relationship, no matter how negative the experience can seem to be at first. Leave behind the fear that there won't be someone around the corner. A positive attitude is what attracts that positive person in your life.