31 and it worries me (and familia) that I'm not yet married
June 10, 2012 12:35 PM   Subscribe

Does finding a partner really get that much harder after 30? I'm a guy in my early 30s and I am starting to feel it now.

The facts stacked against
- we become more rigid in our preferences as we get older
- harder to give up freedom and personal space
- most people by their 30s have sustained a few battle wounds in terms of bad relationships and if they haven't done their necessary work, carry the baggage around (making it worse for their next relationship)
- just harder to meet people in general
- analysis paralysis?

On the plus side
- we have hopefully learned from our experiences, good and bad, and know better what we like/want
- financially in a better position
- we have a more mature, well-rounded personality

How did it happen for you in your 30s? I am currently talking to someone who was introduced by common friends/family and while on paper, there are no red flags and we seem compatible, our conversations lack the depth and spark that I crave. They are somewhat superficial and labored at times. Partly, it might be because we're holding back due to the "arranged/setup" nature of this vs if we had met on our own. But I wonder if we just lack the necessary chemistry. It is also long-distance. We've met twice in each others' cities.

I ask the question because I am in a dilemma if waiting out is better in the hopes of meeting someone compatible where the chemistry is better or look at settling down with someone who is good and stable?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (14 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
if you decide that it is hard to meet people, you can certainly make it harder for yourself. But 31 is not by any means too old, too rigid or too wounded. If anything, I think the self-knowledge that you've gained by your thirties is all to the best as far as finding a partner.
posted by ambrosia at 12:45 PM on June 10, 2012

our conversations lack the depth and spark that I crave

This would be a dealbreaker for me.

Don't let cultural fear-mongering about age get in the way of you going after what you really want. If you want to have kids, then yes, there's more urgency to find a mate, I suppose. Otherwise, there's no need to rush and settle.
posted by quivering_fantods at 12:45 PM on June 10, 2012 [6 favorites]

I think this depends a lot on where you live. If you're living in a small rural town where everyone marries young and divorce is frowned upon, yes, it probably is harder to find a partner in your 30s because most people in their 30s will already be taken. But if you live in a big city or a place where divorce is acceptable, there will be plenty of people in their 30s who are single and ready for a relationship, plus the pool of "applicants" will constantly refresh as others come out of relationships and look for something new.

Age is never a reason to settle for ho-hum okay relationships. Even if you want kids, it's a stupid idea to settle for someone just so you can procreate and then possibly be stuck in a boring marriage "for the kids."

Anecdata: my husband and I met in our 30s after having married/divorced other people in our 20s. It happens. How does it happen? You date until you find someone with whom you have awesome chemistry. You don't worry about age or set deadlines for yourself. You remind yourself that you're lucky you didn't make a mistake in your 20s and marry someone who wasn't good enough for you.
posted by joan_holloway at 12:45 PM on June 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

Wow, I see your facts in a far different light...

- we become more rigid in our preferences as we get older:

I have learned what I want and need

- harder to give up freedom and personal space:

I have learned what I want and need

- most people by their 30s have sustained a few battle wounds in terms of bad relationships and if they haven't done their necessary work, carry the baggage around (making it worse for their next relationship):

I have learned what I will tolerate and what I won't, and how to set boundaries and reinforce them.

- just harder to meet people in general:

It is? That may be true, I have no idea

- analysis paralysis?:

I have learned how to think critically about the quality of my relationships.

I can only speak for myself (obviously) but I would say that as a person who is turning thirty this year, I am very excited to date in my thirties. I feel that I will be FAR more capable of selecting a quality partner that will fit me. Maybe I will have less options, but at least I will also make fewer poor choices (hopefully).

Bonus tip: having a defeatist attitude is not attractive and tends to draw defeated people to you. I know it's hard, but don't let yourself go there.
posted by Shouraku at 12:50 PM on June 10, 2012 [25 favorites]

Yes, because you are more discriminating and less willing to settle it's harder to be happy in "less-than" relationships. This is a positive, not a negative!

Don't be on the look out for your next relationship. Take time to do things that please you and don't worry about being coupled up.

You'll find someone with whom you have a spark and from that will grow a friendship and from that will grow a relationship.

Have faith! I married for the first (and only time) at the age of 39 and Husbunny is perfect for me. We have nothing but harmony in our house and we're very, very happy together.

That's what you're aiming for.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:03 PM on June 10, 2012 [5 favorites]

There's a greater degree of flexibility when you're in your 20s. You aren't established into anything. You don't have kids. You don't know what you do and don't want. You can meet someone and grow into each other or, as common, grow apart.

In your 30s, you have a better idea of your wants and limits. You don't have to play the game as much. But if you want to find a partner and have kids, you still need to keep an open mind.

One thing that seems common in my older single friends who want a partner but seem unable to find one is their rather rigid set of requirements. Sometimes I wonder if it isn't a defensive act. A long time ago, there was an article about a matchmaker who hated, naturally, the concept of online dating. Her thought was that it allows people to be too selective. I think her criteria was kids and religion. If you had similar spiritual believes and both wanted kids, you should try it out. It kind of makes sense.

Anyway, I've known lots of men and women in their 30s and later who find it hard to find love but they out there looking! So, find one of them. Be open and don't settle.

In your particular case, I don't see how it would be possible to settle with a LDR where you aren't spending a lot more time face to face. Maybe if you were in the same city things would take off. Keep your eyes open!
posted by amanda at 2:22 PM on June 10, 2012

It depends greatly. I'm not trying to be elusive, it really does.

If you have a timetable for kids, or if "not having been married yet" makes you insecure and craving that result, this might be an uncomfortable time since you might be willing to compromise more than potential partners, and be frustrated with the difficulty.

If you look at partnering more as a thing to do contingently, only when and if good matches are found, you might find it a much more pleasing time since you're far less likely to get yourself tangled up in a relationship that is not, on balance, that good for you. It's very easy to do, especially when you're younger.

In specifics, I also suggest: break up with someone you're bored by, that will only get worse. Try to avoid LDRs, they can be slow torture. And ignore your family nagging you about your relationship status, it's none of their damn business.
posted by ead at 2:43 PM on June 10, 2012

For a 31 year old male in any reasonable geographic area the numbers are in your favor especially if you're educated nd economically self-sufficient. The women in your likely age range and target educational demographic have fewer options, usually, than do the men of the same range.

Enjoy the odds.
posted by mikewas at 4:36 PM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Dating in your 30s rocks! I was worried about it for awhile, but it's great because you know who you are and what you like! You've done the soul searching and have most of the logistical crap ironed out that took most of your 20s to wade through. You have decent finances and a career and know what your interests are!

I'm 32 and my boyfriend of almost 8 month is 38. Neither of us has been married before and we met through a local sporting club. Sure, we both live in a major city, but because of the common interest we share, we got to know each other as friends last summer and then started dating in the fall. It was all totally organic. I had tried the dating websites and had a horrible experience. Much like you, it felt way too arranged and like I was on a job interview or something. Ugh!

I wanted to punch people when I was in your shoes who said "just relax and let it happen" because it felt like such a bunch of bologna when I was a thirtysomething single female and-OMG-who-the-hell-will-ever-be-interested-in-a-thirtysomething-female-who-doesn't-have-baggage-and-isn't-a-weirdo. But you know what? when I did finally chill the eff out, it DID happen, and now I'm one of those people I want to punch.

Just relax. Be social! Talk to strangers! Embrace who you are and embrace life as it is. I think there is so much to be said for people who are comfortable in their own skin and who don't NEED to be married. Getting married is not mandatory. Being happy with who you are and your own state of affairs and being the best human being that you can be is mandatory. When you're happy with who you are and how your life is, the rest seriously will fall into place. People pick up on it.
posted by floweredfish at 5:06 PM on June 10, 2012 [14 favorites]

Speaking from personal and anecdotal (from friends) experiences in London and Sydney I find the opposite is true. In your mid 30s it seems to be much easier to fall into a relationship.

Perhaps you are just not getting out enough? parties, online dating, theatre, pubs. I think it becomes even easier as all the singles are a little desperate. When I was single at 37 it seemed like there were opportunities everywhere.
posted by mary8nne at 1:35 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm 31 now, and I only began dating seriously this past year (seriously, I spent upwards of a decade not really dating at all). There are lots and lots of singles in their 30s and late 20s out there. Relax, go out, do what you want to do, and you may well meet potential partners. If not, well, online dating actually works pretty well.

As far as I can tell, there are only a few cases where haste/concern might be appropriate:
* you're in a small town. The dating pools are smaller, and people tend to connect quicker.
* you belong to an evangelical or otherwise religiously rigid denomination/culture. Religions and cultures which have highly pervasive and specific attitudes about sex and/or familial relationships tend to marry young, and a lot of them discourage divorce and remarriage, so singles within these communities tend to thin out a lot in the older cohorts.
* you want a high-profile wedding. A lot of older singles are either pretty blasé about marriage as an institution or divorced, so they may not have a matching enthusiasm for big, flashy, invite-all-your-friends-for-a-grand-bash weddings.
* you want children. Fertility drops off in the mid-40s, IIRC, and adding in the time to get together, get settled, etc., the scheduling might get a bit constrained. The 30s are still early enough that you don't need a whirlwind courtship, but it is an issue that might put a timetable on things.
posted by jackbishop at 5:30 AM on June 11, 2012

I'm 34, and my boyfriend is 35. It was harder in some ways and easier in others.

The harder:

- Past baggage on his part. This is a bonus too because he has had/is having therapy for it, which shows me he is willing to work on problems. It also means that he is very aware of what did not work before---her deal-breakers are not at all the same as my deal-breakers, so it's actually reassured me that our relationship is on a solid footing. But the definite minus is that because he has a child with her, we will be dealing with the ex forever.

- The biological clock issue. This is more on my end than his, but as I approach the dreaded 'Over 35' barrier, the 'must have baby! now!' siren calls ever louder. Were I half a decade younger, I might be more inclined to take things slower and just enjoy the relationship for a couple years before jumping into that whole game-changer!

The easier:

- We both are more financially secure and know what we want. Lack of independence was a huge issue for him in the past (women who did not work/contribute to the household goals etc) so knowing that I have a job and am quite capable of looking after myself I think has been a plus for him.

- Just knowing that you both are grown-ups is a big plus. It feels like a more adult, mature relationship. We connect on values and goals, not just taste in movies and television.
posted by JoannaC at 10:49 AM on June 11, 2012

To the contrary, I think people (in North American big cities, anyhow) should be required to wait until their 30s to marry (or whatever marriage-like config they prefer).

OK, "required" is a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point. By their 30s people generally have a much greater degree of self-knowledge and often self-esteem - both requirements for successful romantic relationships - than they do when they're younger. They also have usually established a degree of financial independence that allows them to go into relationships from a position of strength - no hurrying things along because rent is too high or whatever. As well, people have usually learned to say "no" which is essential to forming good relationships.

All of that, and this: I don't know of a single relationship that started in the partners' 20s that has been a success into their 40s (my peer group). Scratch that - I know of one, but she was 29 and he was 34 when they got together.
posted by mikel at 12:40 PM on June 11, 2012

I agree that it's harder and easier. The easier part for me is that there are more people in their 30s looking for a serious relationship. I also think people tend to know who they are a bit more, so it seems like it is less likely that you'll end up breaking up down the road because someone "changed."

There are more reasons that it's hard though:
1) Baggage- I really don't want to be with someone that has been married before or that has children because I would like our firsts in this regard to be one and the same AND because, more often than not, people who were married before have mega-baggage. Dating someone with kids means you have to be a stepparent with all that involves. People say it is ridiculous to date people in those categories after you are over age 30. People never said that that was ridiculous when I was in my 20s.

2) Agree with JoannaC about the age thing. For women the luxury of time is not really there anymore. My friends who got married at 30 or 31 or in their 20s dated their now-spouses for 3, 4, 5 (even 7!) years. Then, once married, they waited a couple of years to have kids. Someone who is just meeting someone at 31 or above doesn't really have that luxury if kids are something they want. WEll, I guess they do, but they risk having trouble getting pregnant.

3) There are some who don't want to date women 35 and over because of the biological clock thing, so that can limit your pool once you reach that age or create anxiety about reaching the magic 35.

4) It's just harder to meet people without the assistance of internet dating sites or contrived dating services or events that require you to pay to find dates. The reason is that many more of your friends are likely to be married. Married people often spend more time with other married people, thus, they have a smaller pool of single friends to introduce you to. Further, there is a smaller group to go out with you to places you are likely to meet others. So, you either have to internet date to get yourself our there, or make more single friends so that you can have a partner in crime in the whole deal.

5) Dating can be frustrating once you reach a certain point. You've just been doing it for so long that it can feel tedious at times if you aren't meeting good people.
posted by superfille at 5:02 PM on June 11, 2012

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