Delayed Dating
October 8, 2015 1:15 PM   Subscribe

Is dating in your 30s more difficult than in your 20s?

A little while ago I posted a question about dipping my foot back into online dating. Weeeeell since then I haven't really done anything about it because life stuff/work busy-ness/hobbies/social calendar filled up/excuses/excuses. I'm not too bothered by that, though I still want to give it a shot soon...but I was thinking--especially in this glorious age of online dating, is there any significant difference when it comes to being in your (late) 20s vs being in your (early) 30s? Rate of response and all that. I'm fairly content not really getting serious/settling down until, say, 32-33, but if the number itself presents a real--albeit silly--barrier then I might be more motivated to get a start now.

Statistical and anecdotal evidence welcome! Apologies if this comes off as silly, I was just curious.
posted by sprezzy to Human Relations (18 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I didn't find it to be so, much the opposite.
posted by kenko at 1:23 PM on October 8, 2015 [4 favorites]

I found it to be way more fun.
posted by Annika Cicada at 1:24 PM on October 8, 2015 [6 favorites]

I have read a few new books that address a) modern dating and b) dating when you're older:
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
It's Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You're Single - Sara Eckel

It's different than it used to be when we were kids.
But, anecdotally, if you make the effort, yeah dating is a lot of fun and probably easier now than it used to be, thanks to the wonderful advances in technology.
posted by lizbunny at 1:29 PM on October 8, 2015

As a straight woman, absolutely. In my experience, the stereotype of men in their 30s rejecting women in their 30s out of hand is rooted in truth; I can't tell you how many dating profiles I've seen where a 30-something dude limits the age range for his prospective female partners to 18-29, and that upper limit is probably pushing it.

Thirty seemed to be the tipping point between women perceived as "young" and women perceived as "older" or even just plain "old," even for men well into their 40s. Almost like an expiration date.
posted by divined by radio at 1:38 PM on October 8, 2015 [5 favorites]

In my experience many of the other single people in their 30s who don't date continuously have extremely busy schedules they have packed with hobbies/activities and don't have any time left to date. Seeing someone only once or twice a month because thats all their schedule allows isn't very fun.

But then there are those who actively date at that age. The pool is much smaller in my opinion however.
posted by TheAdamist at 1:40 PM on October 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

I definitely experienced a difference between dating in my early 20s, dating in my mid/late 20s, and dating in my 30s. (I'm 34 if it matters.)

Early 20s: lots of casual dating. I met most people through friends or groups I was involved with and either didn't have an online dating profile or didn't really use it. I did meet one person through myspace, at some point, though? So my early 20s dating life might have been more a function of things still being relatively offline in general, in the dating world. Online dating seemed like it was for meeting a serious partner, at that point, which was just not what I was looking for at 23-25.

Mid/Late 20s: I joined OK Cupid and got a LOT of attention that way. I went on a lot of dates via OKC, only one of which resulted in a significant relationship. It was mainly endless first and second dates, a few casual relationships, and the one Big One. I definitely had the typical female experience of getting TONS of messages all the time, and mainly spending my energy weeding out the assholes* and weird one-word messages ("sup?").

30s: Once I turned 30 it was like there was an expiration date on my OK Cupid profile. Messages went way, way down. One thing I didn't expect is that I continued to get "sup?" messages from idiots who obviously didn't even read my profile, while the asshole messages disappeared. Messages from genuine people who seemed like they actually matched well with me and gave a shit went down as well, but not as sharply as the assholes. My conclusion here is that most people who won't date a 30 year old woman are not people I want to date, anyway. Also, at some point between 31-32 I added Tinder to the mix. I never successfully went on a date with someone via Tinder, though that may be for other reasons beyond age.

One change I didn't anticipate at all was that once you get into your 30s and start dating other people in their 30s, you suddenly find yourself dating a lot of men who don't ever intend to settle down. I kind of assumed that, the older I got, the more the men I dated would be more marriage/kids minded. Au contraire! It turns out that a lot of 37 year old dudes are still single at 37 because they WANT to be single indefinitely. In my 20s I never asked anyone I met if they wanted kids, were looking for something serious, etc. because either I wasn't, or it was assumed that everyone wanted those things "someday". Welp, someday arrived and now it turns out that you really need to clarify this stuff.

As a result of all of the above, my online dating activity dipped quite a bit. I started sending out more messages rather than waiting for the perfect person to message me. I also started dating more offline. In fact, my current boyfriend is someone I met through friends. Taking the whole thing full circle back to my early 20s when that was my main way of meeting people to date.

Conclusion: Dating in your 30s rather than your 20s is different, but I don't think it's necessarily worse. I certainly don't think being in your 30s is a reason to stop dating.

*For the purposes of this answer, I use the term "asshole" to mean guys like this.
posted by Sara C. at 1:45 PM on October 8, 2015 [23 favorites]

Every single thing about my 30s was better than my 20s, dating included. Much like I got smart enough to stop buying shoes that didn't fit despite being just so sure I could break them in, I developed enough self-respect to stop dating people who didn't fit, no matter how nice they looked on.

Now I'm 41, and I'm about to marry the hell out of an outstanding guy I started dating in my 30s.
posted by jesourie at 2:14 PM on October 8, 2015 [13 favorites]

I'm in my mid thirties, and I've suddenly started meeting a lot of guys between my age and early 30s who want to have kids and family now and are expecting me to just sign up because it's time already. Which is weird and jarring because I've been dating forever but still want to go through the whole pleasant conversation get to know each other thing, but everyone keeps wanting to remind me how old I am.

I didn't have the experience others have had with messages and dating stopping at 30 - I get asked out constantly and more and more as I get older. I barely got asked out in my late 20s.

I'm not really sure what changed - I mostly think the way I look (ethnically ambiguous young-looking brown person) is getting more traction culturally now than it did when I was in my 20s and especially before that.

So I guess I disagree that there's an age limit or expiration date but check with me again when I'm 40 I guess.
posted by zutalors! at 2:15 PM on October 8, 2015 [4 favorites]

I think dating is different in your 30s because you actively have to "go on dates" with someone, sometimes before you have even snogged them, whereas in your 20s everyone would just go to the same place anyway and you'd cop off with people and if you kept copping off with the same person then you were a couple. It is much harder now because you have to be all deliberate about it!!
posted by intensitymultiply at 2:37 PM on October 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

The biggest positive change single guys tell me about dating in their 30s versus their 20s is the number of women who will (in theory) date them is vastly larger.

At 26 or 27, starting their careers, they could pretty much only date the subset of women 23 to 28 who would tolerate their poverty and/or insane and unpredictable work hours. At 35 and better established, they are theoretically datable to pretty much every woman 23 to 40.
posted by MattD at 3:30 PM on October 8, 2015 [4 favorites]

I find it harder to get dates in my 30s, but the dates I go on are generally much better. I'm better at telling who's worth my time much more quickly, and people tend to be more interested in my personality than they were in my 20s, when they were generally interested in my tits. (I'm a poly bisexual woman.)
posted by a hat out of hell at 5:25 PM on October 8, 2015

Big round numbers (like 30) are a bit more likely to be used by people for their age-range thresholds than specific odd numbers, so when you cross a number like 30 or 40, you'll drop out of (and into) more people's ranges than you will on other years. (Especially as a woman.)

Other than that, people in their 30s (and 40s) are often a little more mature and financially secure, less inclined to put up with shit, more relaxed about sex, more able to communicate, more put-together, have more relationships under their belt so hopefully more knowledgeable about how to not be shitty, etc, so generally things are better.

(But also perhaps more stuck in their ways, less free time, less inclined to skirt responsibilities on a whim and YOLO, so YMMV :) )
posted by anonymisc at 5:38 PM on October 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

I found it much better in my 30s, although part of that may be personal circumstance (moved from a small town where everyone seemed to marry straight out of college to a major East Coast city right before I turned 30). I will say that getting dates for most folks seems to require a bit more work since more of your social circle is paired off, but the flip side is that people seem to be much more confident, more secure financially/career-wise, and way less likely to play games.

Also FWIW - I met someone when I was 31 and she was 36 through a Meetup group, we're 35 and 41 now, been married almost two years and couldn't be happier :)
posted by photo guy at 6:10 PM on October 8, 2015

I'd certainly try online dating because many people have good experiences! However, if it's not working for you, I wouldn't worry too much either. I also think it's good to explore options in person, like checking out activities groups that you're interested in but are slightly outside your usual circle.

I think it's also good to "allow" yourself to go where your heart (or gut or what have you) takes you at first. Some people find their partner for life right away but, for most of us, it takes some trial and error, and being in your 30s is no exception. Being older and more experienced in life, you may find yourself wanting the exact same thing as before or something entirely different; just giving yourself time and space to figure it out can help you get there. (Of course, it sounds like you're very open to this already, yea!)

I have heard similar things about women who are over 30 on sites like OKCupid. In fact, there's a cool behind-the-scenes old OK Cupid blog entry that you may be familiar with! If people aren't interested in you for age alone, then they're missing out. And, seriously, good luck to them because most 24-year-old women are not looking to date blah 38-year-old men who aren't willing to date anyone over the age of 30! I would argue that there are actually more younger men willing to date older women (say, he's 26 and you're 31.) They're likely under less of a (self-imposed) time crunch and more willing to just see what happens. (That's been my positive personal experience at least!) The age thing is even more reason to consider meeting people in person as well because he'd like be first charmed by your personality/awesome geekiness/humor/etc. and not even think about your specific age until later on.
posted by smorgasbord at 7:19 PM on October 8, 2015 [3 favorites]

At mid-30s, I find I put much less effort into online dating than I did when younger, and while I still get matched and messaged by guys anywhere between 28 to 38, they seem to put equally less effort to keep things going in response to my half-heartedness. Maybe they would have tried harder were I in my 20s? Or maybe we are all getting blase about this whole online thing. I increasingly think it's not a good use of time, and that meeting people in person is much more efficient. I tire of texting back and forth, trying to suss out whether I feel like meeting up..

In person I apparently look to be mid-20s, and regularly get seriously asked out by 23 year olds. Not so much older guys though, who often assume I'm not available. I have many guy friends in their 30s and 40s who confess that, part of the reason they date a lot younger is because "all the good ones their own age are taken." Except we exist, and my age, once they discover it, has never deterred any guy I dig from being interested. So perhaps the solution is to be prepared to take the initiative more than you were used to, once you decide to actively start dating again.
posted by enlivener at 9:07 PM on October 8, 2015

I reluctantly turned 30 recently. It definitely feels like there are ZERO single people my age. Almost everyone I know is recently married or in a long-term relationship that is leading toward marriage. I know zero people who are "dating." When one of my single friends ceases to be single, they seem to just show up with their fiance.

I looked up some census data on this (which I am unfortunately struggling to find now) and found that about 25% of the adult population from 30-35 is single. Of these, some 50% said they weren't looking for a partner. In later age brackets, the 25% drops off up until the late 40s, then persists more or less. But the "not looking for a partner" sub-group grows quickly so that by age 60 something like 85% of single people are content with their marital status. Presumably this is because all the divorced people start to join the single ranks, and the divorced people who have had it with relationships are not contributing back to the dating pool.

The lesson I gleaned from all of this is that if you are serious about wanting a traditional marriage & kids type relationship then you should start trying to engineer that ASAP. There are lots of single people over 30.. and over 40, 50 etc. But that group over time begins to comprise mainly people who aren't interested in dating at all.

I haven't use an online dating tool in many years but for what it's worth, I don't think it's a matter of men refusing to date women over 30. I think it's more likely that a) there aren't a lot of single people over 30 in absolute terms, b) 30 is a nice round number and seems like a reasonable cut off point when selecting for your own 'age range', which explains the sudden cut off/explosion of matches on dating sites, and c) if you're a single person over 30 and you aren't looking for a serious relationship, dating someone in the age bracket where more casual dating is common is a logically sound decision.
posted by deathpanels at 5:14 AM on October 9, 2015 [3 favorites]

I don't think there's much difference, except that yes you might get fewer responses once you're over 30 because men your age or a few years old might set their filter to 30 and under (men in their 20's and 30's tend to set their age range to 25 - whatever their own age is), I don't think it really lowers the rate of quality messages you'll get though.

I used online dating as an early 30's single mom and got lots of responses from a wide range age range of men but there are not many men 29-35 online, and so I had to wait and weed out most of the messages. At first I felt like I was un-dateable to men my own age but it was just that there were so few of them compared to men who were younger and older. I feel like men who want to be in relationships in their late 20's-early 30's tend to not be single for very long so there's a smaller window of opportunity (the same is true for women from what men have told me).

Agreed that there are a lot of single older (>35 years) men who are happy to casually date but don't want to settle down. If you want marriage + kid(s) be clear about that in the first date or two, it will save time and you won't scare off the ones that are seeking the same thing.
posted by lafemma at 7:08 AM on October 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Everything is going to be all right. Lots of books are written about the horrors of dating when you are thirty+, freakouts about spinsterhood, etc. etc. It is really going to be all right.

I completely believe there are men out there who have some sort of principle about not wanting to date someone over 29. Some of these men are even over twenty nine themselves. It is in your best interest not to get involved with these people anyway, because fuck them. Did we really want to date that guy? It's a win-win.

We live in an internet age in which you can schedule a date every night of the week. If you are thirty something, then it is likely you know yourself well, you know what you want well, you know how you work in relationships. This bodes well for your relationship future. If you are a woman over thirty, go out on a limb, be proactive asking out people you are interested in. You will meet people. Eventually you will meet someone you like.

I'm in an awesome relationship that began when I was thirty one and a half. It came about after having met a whole bunch of men who were definitely not my type, who I opted to meet because who knows? My being thirty one and a half didn't present any sort of problem for my current relationship and in general, age won't when you meet the right guy.
posted by mermily at 2:01 PM on October 9, 2015 [2 favorites]

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