Mid 30s app dating post COVID
June 4, 2021 11:45 AM   Subscribe

I’m processing a very recent breakup and I'm feeling very pessimistic about my prospects for finding someone else. This is partly because things are so fresh, but I've felt like this for a while, because I’ve had really limited success in dating even though I think I have a lot going for me. I would appreciate some perspective and maybe some hope.

I live in a major city. I’m 35, I’ve never been married, don’t have or want kids. I have an interesting career that I’m passionate about, lots of interests and hobbies, and a strong social circle. People tell me (and they tell my friends when I’m not there, which makes me feel like it’s not just an empty compliment) that they find me physically attractive. I’m good at making people laugh. I’m generally emotionally level and confident, and think I’m good at communicating in relationships. I like myself and think I’m a worthy and desirable partner.

Even though I think I have a good life and I’m not usually actively unhappy, I really enjoy and miss being in a healthy relationship, and I feel like I’m missing out on lots of things that are much harder as a single person- companionship in particular. Nevertheless, I’ve worked very hard on being fulfilled without having to rely on a partner for that, and have taken breaks between dating people to regain that sense. I know a relationship is not a ticket to happiness, and I’m not idealizing it, but I do want someone to grow with and experience life with.

I’ve been on dating apps for 5 years, matched with probably thousands of people, and gone on hundreds of first dates. My friends have set me up with people a couple times, as well, but there aren’t many single people in our extended social network. I went on some dates with people who had approached me in the real world, or who I had approached. I try to be selective but open minded about who I go on dates with, and pick people to continue to date who seem like they can give me what I’m looking for without feeling like I’m sacrificing something that’s important to me. Although I’m clear with people that I’m not looking for a hookup, I don’t go in wanting or pushing for commitment with a particular person off the bat, and would be shocked if I communicate desperation. I’ve gotten better over the years at picking people, pacing intimacy (broadly defined, not just sex), managing my anxieties, and communicating my needs and boundaries. I started seeing a therapist in January to think through all this.

As a result of all of this, I’ve had maybe ten 2-4 month relationships (if that’s what you call them), and a couple ~6 month ones. It’s been an incredibly demoralizing, frustrating, and sometimes heartbreaking series of experiences. I ended most of these relationships rather than settling for people who were running hot and cold on me or actively mistreating me. If I didn’t go into app dating with a complex about my worth to other people, I’ve definitely come out of it with one. I try to have an open heart and not be pessimistic, as I think that can make it hard to be present with people I’m with, but it’s really really hard.

I reopened the apps to make myself feel better about my prospects as I move forward from the recent breakup, and it backfired. I turned 35 while I was dating this last person, and so the last time I was on the apps was when I was 34, during active COVID restrictions. I thought it was a dead zone then, but it seems to be even more of a dead zone now, and I’m not sure if it’s my “older” (ugh) age, fewer people on the apps, or what. I know I’m not old, but I’ve seen the statistics on women’s desirability on apps in their mid and late 30s and can’t help but wonder if that’s what’s going on. I had assumed there would be more people on the apps now that you can actually date in person (I was actually worried it would be flooded by people looking for casual dating), but that doesn’t seem to be the case for me. I have good pictures, a funny profile, a wide age range, and no other restrictions on Bumble and Hinge (premium, if it matters), but I quickly went through the people who had accumulated over the past 3 months. I’m liking/swiping on people and not getting matches. I get that it will take some time and it’s not that I’m expecting to find someone immediately, but I’m having a hard time not getting in my head about it. The feeling that it’s age related makes me feel like I have to keep trying rather than take a longer break, since that part will just get worse as I get older.

My friends always tell me that they know I’ll find someone, but that feels like an empty platitude. I know that it’s also possible that I won’t, and increasingly so as time goes on. At this point, it feels like finding someone would take lowering my truly not unreasonable standards (someone who is reasonably emotionally level/mature and intelligent, who I’m attracted to, who I enjoy talking to and spending time with, who is kind to me and others). And even if I meet someone who seems good on paper, I feel pessimistic that they will be emotionally available. This is what just happened with the last person I was dating- it felt like lightning had struck in that everything about him on paper was exactly what I wanted, but yet again, he just wasn’t that into either me or a relationship with me. It feels unlikely that lightning will strike again, and if it does, I have no reason to believe it’ll turn out any better. Although I know this experience is coloring my current perception, I also know that desirable partners with healthy approaches to relationships are more likely to couple up and leave the dating pool, and people who aren’t emotionally available or can’t cut it in relationships keep ending up back in it. When secure and emotionally healthy people end up in the dating pool, it’s often following the end of a long term relationship, which then makes them less emotionally available. And now we all have pandemic stress on top of everything.

I want to be realistic, but I guess I’d like to believe that it’s not totally hopeless. Any perspective on that front would be greatly appreciated.
posted by deus ex machina to Human Relations (24 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I have lots of thoughts, but one thing I REALLY want to emphasize is that it's not that your desireability or value (ugh) goes down by age, it's that your age cohort is just smaller. Everyone wants to date someone around their age, and many want a long term relationship, so as you age, naturally the available cohort just narrows slightly.

At the end of the day, it narrowing doesn't mean your odds of finding love go down, because the narrowing field is on both the male and female side of the equation.

I would just try to correct that mindset a little bit. You don't need a large number of candidates to be happy. At the end of the day, you just need at least one person that is a great match!
posted by bbqturtle at 11:57 AM on June 4, 2021 [6 favorites]

Everyone wants to date someone around their age.

I mean, this is very much not true, but being 35 does weed out the douchebags who "would never date a woman over 35." It is true that your age cohort narrows though.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:05 PM on June 4, 2021 [9 favorites]

I'm 29 and was dating in a major city for six years. Went on lots of dates, never dated anyone seriously.

I find the idea of the relationship escalator comforting. That dating for longer time periods just requires higher levels of compatibility as that time progresses.

I also have a boyfriend now who I've been seeing for 10 months, and we're moving in together in a week. I'm pretty sure we're gonna get married. Not much changed between all those dates and meeting him, besides reading two books that taught me how to date better -- Intimate Connections by David Burns, and How To Be An Adult In Relationships by David Richo -- and just putting myself out there more. Going on MORE dates.

And also taking very seriously the idea that I might never meet a life partner. That dating was a nice to have, not a need. Because for me it was. That helped buffet me along the harsh waves of online dating -- I knew that I didn't need them, and they didn't need me. But I wanted them, and so I kept going back out there until I met someone I was very compatible with, and luckily he also wanted to be with me. And I was able to recognize it for what it was at the time -- something very valuable to me.

Luck + perseverance.
posted by randomquestion at 12:17 PM on June 4, 2021 [11 favorites]

I was 33 when I met my now-wife on a dating app, and she was 35 at the time. So just throwing that out there as a data point for "not totally hopeless."

I think that the "don’t have or want kids" part is an interesting factor at this age, because my sense when I was in the dating pool was that there were a whole lot of people in their mid-30s -- both men and women -- realizing, "oh, if I want a family/kids, I better get on that, like, now." So prospects tended to fizzle out pretty quickly if it was apparent there was any sort of mismatch. Not that you should want kids or anything, but I wonder if that is contributing to the narrowing field or hot/cold relationships, and whether it helps to think about things like that which may be in the back of other people's heads.
posted by AndrewInDC at 12:47 PM on June 4, 2021 [5 favorites]

This is meant to be encouraging. I am in my late 50s with 3 children and divorced. For the past few years I have been dating and since pandemic co-habitating with a woman in her young 50s who has never been married and has no children. She is a terrific woman. She sounds a lot like you. Attractive, smart, good career, etc. She said a lot of the same things about dating you did.

She said that she decided at about your age that she was not going to 'settle'. She dated a lot, she had several longer-term relationships of about 3 years, but, again, did not want to settle. (unless you consider me as settling).

She would tell you to stay the course. Have confidence in your self and in your gut even if that means tossing fish back into the sea.

Also, I would be clear on your profile that you don't want children. It is my experience that men see a 35 yo woman as being on the hunt to get married so they can have children before 40.
posted by AugustWest at 12:48 PM on June 4, 2021 [5 favorites]

I heard a dating coach on a podcast say that some of her clients that are slightly over 35 changed their dating app age to 35 and then said in their profile that they were actually 37 or whatever. I don't know if that would come off well, but there it is.

As a 36-year-old man who doesn't want children, I set my filters to x number of years younger or older than my current age.
posted by catquas at 12:53 PM on June 4, 2021

It seems like you have had a pretty good hit rate for early stage relationships: the 3-6 month range that you mention. Is it possible you're not being discriminating enough earlier on? Could you try to get those relationship-ending realizations to happen a lot sooner, or set your bar even higher at an earlier stage?

You say "I don’t go in wanting or pushing for commitment with a particular person off the bat". But are you being clear early on that you are definitely wanting commitment, sooner rather than later, should that person meet your standards? You'll scare a lot of guys off this way, but that's a good thing!
posted by Jobst at 1:02 PM on June 4, 2021 [6 favorites]

A friend recently told me that dating in your 30s is: you go on 3 dates, you have a detailed conversation about what you want out of the relationship, and then you either get serious about each other or move on. That's certainly one way to do it, if what you want is a serious long-term relationship.
posted by danceswithlight at 1:25 PM on June 4, 2021 [2 favorites]

Met my (younger) partner of 7 years in my early 40s via a dating app. So definitely not hopeless, but there is an element of luck and chance to it all and the more you go out on dates the higher your chance you'll get lucky.

I was both very selective in terms of knowing what my criteria was, but also flexible enough to not let it get in my way. Looking at the on-paper stats, some of our early dating experiences, and how we were with each other I bet many people would have told me to let him go. But we worked on things together, we gave ourselves room to grow together and it's worked out.

I highly recommend "It's Not You: 27 Wrong Reasons You're Still Single" to help you put things in perspective and be kind to yourself. As you say, dating can really do a number on your sense of self-worth and this book will help you hold onto it.
posted by brookeb at 1:38 PM on June 4, 2021 [2 favorites]

I think that right at 35 is maybe the worst set of conditions for women who date men. There's a big surge in available population around 28-32 as people outgrow the young adult relationships they thought were going to be permanent, so there's this big All Change/Do Si Do while everybody starts over and a lot of people settle down again, plus you have an influx of people who maybe did other things with their 20s (anything from grad school to drugs) and are maybe more mature or have the relationship skillset of a teenager.

So the field ends up flooded around 35 with people who for whatever reason didn't manage to settle back down with anybody, newbies who've gotten through a couple of starter relationships, and the second wave of split-ups of men who had their kids in their 20s and the kids got old enough to split up. Some percentage of all these men only want to date women in their early-mid 20s, others may make a lot of assumptions about what 35yo women want without asking, and I do think overall you're kind of dealing with amateur hour there worse than you will ever again.

I am almost 50 and married for the first time in that first wave (at 32), so I have watched all this unfold, along with the early-mid-40s wave of divorces when the 20s-era kids are approaching independence and the 30s-era kids hit grade school (and all of the above, in blended families) and life calms down enough to split up. I have a tiny subset of female peers who are unhappily longer-term single, a slightly larger subset that are fairly contentedly single by choice and it seems like a permanent decision but might just be more of a pre-retirement one, and everyone else is with somebody (with varying degrees of success/satisfaction).

The happiest women I know across the board are the ones who found themselves in similar circumstances to you and prioritized living/building their lives for themselves and maintaining pretty high standards. I think they did date a fair bit, but with really serious boundaries and a kind-but-surgical touch in ending things as soon as it was obvious it wasn't going to work out. But I think that was the necessary process to either find a partner who truly fit and synched into the lives they were already making for themselves or not get derailed by settling for someone that was a bad fit and wasn't going to work out in the long run. Yeah, they scared a lot of men off, and they shoo'd a lot of men off, and that was the system working perfectly.

Some of them ended up in relationships that don't look terribly traditional, either, in particular I know several serious committed couples who do not live together most of the time because they both own homes that they redid to suit them, run businesses from them, like their quiet time. All of them divorced over pretty much those reasons previously but weren't comfortable defining their lives that way until they were older and more serious about prioritizing their needs. There are advantages to being a little older and wiser and having spent time really getting to know yourself.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:46 PM on June 4, 2021 [26 favorites]

I’ve had maybe ten 2-4 month relationships (if that’s what you call them) and a couple ~6 month ones.

Like Jobst, I wonder if you're not being selective enough? 12 relationships over 5 years is far more than I could ever manage, but given you don't sound happy with them, I wonder if you ever reflect back an realize you were trying to fit a square peg in a circle, so to speak? These men who end up being hot/cold with you, does that happen from the start or only towards the end? If the former, I'd start dumping people sooner.

And another vote for making it clear you ultimately are looking for a long-term commitment but not kids on your profile. That will be very appealing to the right people, and will weed out the rest.
posted by coffeecat at 3:23 PM on June 4, 2021 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Because this has come up a couple times, some of the earlier relationships were definitely bad choices on my part. More recently, most of them (in the past couple years, at least) were people who were really into me at the beginning and expressed interest in a relationship, and lost interest, which is maybe the most crushing of the options.
posted by deus ex machina at 3:30 PM on June 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

an interesting career that I’m passionate about, lots of interests and hobbies, and a strong social circle.

I think you’re doing all the right things. You sound incredibly self aware and that has no doubt helped you avoid long term relationships that would have probably made you miserable.

There are many single people that are great catches who would rather be partnered but realize they would rather remain single but happy.

I recently moved to a medium sized city and after some initial matches on Hinge, I’ve reached the dreaded: “you’ve seen everyone who fits your preferences.”

In-person events and meetups are slowly opening up. This could be the hope many single people are waiting for as many of us are tired of only having online dating as the only option.

In the meantime, keep pursuing your hobbies and spending time with your close circle of friends. Regardless, I think you should take comfort in the knowledge that you’re at least doing all the right things. If the right person comes along that will be a nice surprise.
posted by mundo at 4:14 PM on June 4, 2021

You mention having dated people you approached in person, not just online matches, but were these people you knew to some degree before asking out/being asked out? or just a different pool of attractive strangers & set-ups? I ask because "approach" covers a multitude of sins and people mean all kinds of things by it.

If I were you, I would ask out people I knew a little and liked very much. maybe not my very best friends, because most people who try that have sad stories to tell, but friends to whom I was attracted. no more near-strangers for a while. start with the warm feelings, filter for the practicalities later, instead of the backwards app way.

but if this is something you already have done or are already open to, my only advice is to wait a year and try again. for some reason, 36-38 feels & sounds a lot younger than 35. don't ask me why, don't ask me to prove it. but I maintain that it is true.
posted by queenofbithynia at 4:43 PM on June 4, 2021 [3 favorites]

I met my husband on Tinder when I was 37 and he was 39- both of us have no kids and had never been married previously. Sharing mostly as an anecdote that you are definitely not in a hopeless situation. One thing I like about the fact that we got together later in life is that we were both quite independent with our own lives, friends, interests, etc and that carried over into our relationship in a positive way. Also,
I do basically no emotional labor for my husband- he got along fine for 39 years before we met, so he can keep on handling things like buying a present for his mom's birthday.
One question for you is whether you are open to dating someone with kids? That would potentially expand your pool a fair amount.
posted by emd3737 at 4:45 PM on June 4, 2021 [7 favorites]

Well, I am here to share some good news that admittedly feels a little gross and braggy. I'm 37, bi, have a cool career and lots of friends and hobbies, live in the near suburbs of a major US metropolitan area, and am leaning towards not having kids. I've used all the apps: all are ok and all kinda suck at the same time. I swipe left on 95% of the people but there are some decent ones, for sure. This past week I went on a date every night Monday-Wednesday, and turned down more invitations. I literally had 5 different men* ask me out for Saturday night: I chose to visit my parents and stay home with my cats instead. So while the fear of women over 35 not having luck is real and I want to validate that, it's also bullshit. There are plenty of men over 35 on these apps who suck so I think it's less of a gender issue these days than before, fortunately.

Tips: Use recent pictures you feel good about! Write a bio that feels very authentic! Think about what's important to you and stay true to it. Be flexible about other stuff: they aren't part of the expert selfie generation so most straight men look better in person than in their pictures.

Have I met a lot of nice guys who aren't a good match? Yes. Have I had lots of fun sex? Yes but I don't feel any pressure to either. Have I met too many secretly married men and/or guys lying about something? Yes, so much that I now do background searches before many of my dates. I have so many shitty stories but mostly good ones. I know the fact that I am white, rather privileged, and conventionally attractive plays a big role in my having options. I'm on the curvier side of "average" but have found weighing less or more to play no role for me in options because people like all different sizes, thank goodness.

No, I haven't found love yet and tbh the more I date, the more I like being single. I do enjoy dating though so it's kind of perfect?! Sometimes I take breaks but I always go back. I look forward to trying to flirt with strangers in person again, too. My life feels perfect as is because we can have everything but rarely all at once: it doesn't mean something is missing though, you know?

Bottom line: I know you're worried and the statistics can be scary but you are awesome. You will like some people who don't like you. Some people will like you whom you don't like. Eventually something good will happen and regardless, being single and dating -- or choosing not to date -- is better than being in an unfulfilling relationship. You've got this!!

*There are way more straight and bi men than queer women on the apps. Hinge is the best for queer women, I've found, but that's not your question.
posted by smorgasbord at 4:45 PM on June 4, 2021 [2 favorites]

A few more thoughts: find solidarity with fellow single friends who are dating. The coupled ones may have great advice but it often feels smug, however well-intentioned.

I no longer pay for the dating sites. It wasn't worth it and didn't get better results but pay if you'd like.

I got banned from Tinder because some creepy guy reported me in the hopes that I'd only date him. I wish I were kidding but sadly this isn't uncommon.

The biggest thing for me is going with my gut. I too had a few shitty situationships with people I met online in the past two years but now I have honed my skills and don't waste my or their time. It's important to feel empowered and not like a victim of circumstance. (I have PTSD from childhood so I'm saying this in terms of feeling empowered in the choices we can control, not the circumstances we sometimes end up in.)

I think it's awesome that you are seeing a therapist and working on everything: I did three years of weekly therapy as well as some medicine and it radically changed my outlook and attitude. It did not result in a happy relationship but it resulted in a happy life. Sadly, a lot of the people on the apps look at dating as escapism or have the idea that a great relationship with be the fix for all their issues. This isn't true and you and I know it but it can be hard dating these folks. Dating is so hard for everyone -- people of all ages and genders. You are in good company. I wish you were having better experiences because you deserve to be treated well and happy!
posted by smorgasbord at 4:57 PM on June 4, 2021

I'm sorry this process has been so disappointing and challenging, I can feel your pain coming through in this question.

I also know that desirable partners with healthy approaches to relationships are more likely to couple up and leave the dating pool, and people who aren’t emotionally available or can’t cut it in relationships keep ending up back in it. When secure and emotionally healthy people end up in the dating pool, it’s often following the end of a long term relationship, which then makes them less emotionally available.

This strikes me as kind of an unhelpful and limiting belief, and I might start by examining this more closely. Life is unpredictable and people end up back in the dating pool at all phases of life for every kind of reason and circumstance, and most of these are not always going to be reliable or true indicators of someone's emotional health or availability. I entered the dating pool at 37 following a divorce and if anything, the people I connected with the most were recent divorces like myself, who had been prompted to start therapy or reexamine their lives or take much more powerful charge of their emotional growth and wellbeing as a result. I met my partner six months after my separation, we were both in the throes of the divorce paperwork, and it turned out to be a joy and a comfort to have the other person's support throughout that arduous process. And I mean, look at you! You sound awesome and like you've done a ton of work in this area and have a clear vision for what you want and have taken all the right steps to get it, surely the fact that you keep returning to the dating pool does not correlate with your being emotionally unavailable? Because it doesn't sound like it to me.

Also maybe it's purely semantics but I don't think I would label anything in the 2-4 month range a "relationship" per se. Those are still verrrrrrrry early days and you're still feeling each other out. I wonder if elevating those brief phases to relationship status is heightening the emotional blow when they end? I'm absolutely not suggesting you downgrade your standards or what you're looking for or be open to people who desire only casually dating when that's not what you want, but maybe looking at it like simultaneously dating lots of fun, interesting people with more emphasis on learning new things and discovering new places and less on reaching relationship status and if it turns out two of you both feel the same way after several months, then yay! For my own sanity, I try to view dating this way... as a way of meeting new people, keeping my social skills sharp, finding out about new-to-me books/music/movies/games/restaurants/hiking trails/places to kayak/etc. that end up enhancing my own life, and so much the better if we can also have great conversation. Every date I've ever been on has taught me *something* either about myself and what I do or don't want or how people manage relationships and interact with the world and that's valuable feedback to me. I kinda hate to quote Sex and the City but the scene about "letting men be just these great, nice guys to have fun with" and not necessarily a means to the one true relationship really helped me. It helps keep dating fun, or as fun as it can be, instead of an arduous and emotionally depleting slog. I do take breaks and make sure I'm giving preference and energy to nurturing the existing relationships in my life instead of falling back on swiping.

You said you didn't want kids but are you open to your partners having kids? If you haven't been considering them already, this would likely open up your prospects considerably. I agree with others that dating in your mid-thirties as a woman who has never been married and has no kids is one of the most fraught stages there is, and it's correct that people will ascribe all kinds of motivations to you that may or may not be true. My mid-30s brother who was divorced with one kid and didn't want more also had a hard time connecting with people because most women in his age bracket DID want to get married and have kids. His current girlfriend is never married/no kids and she said for years she initially passed on men with kids until she got to her late 30s and realized that continuing to do so was severely constraining her choices.

Lastly, dating in your 30s and 40s is a totally different landscape, I feel like. When I was dating in my 20s, just about everyone was aiming for the relationship escalator and that's definitely no longer a given, though it happens slowly. It's been really refreshing and fun but also required some mental rewiring to embrace that my dating life now going to look a LOT different. People have kids, aging parents, demanding jobs, early meetings, weird schedules. We may not want to live together. We may not be able to get together more than once or twice a week.

Hang in there. Everyone has such great advice above. I hope any of this has been useful. <3
posted by anderjen at 5:04 PM on June 4, 2021 [6 favorites]

I want to respectfully disagree that you should consider dating people who have kids just to have more options. In 2021, there are plenty of single men in their 30s and 40s in major cities who don't have kids and don't want kids.

You are looking for a partnership with someone who also doesn't have and doesn't want children. If you happen to meet someone with kids and fall in love and happen to change your mind, then great! But it's not fair to you, your partner and especially not to their kids given your current desires to dabble in it online.
posted by smorgasbord at 5:20 PM on June 4, 2021 [3 favorites]

OP, please get off the dating apps for the time being; they're hurting you, when you're processing your recent romantic disappointment and already hurt. Keep working with your therapist.

And please, please re-frame that bit about dating "people who were really into me at the beginning and expressed interest in a relationship, and lost interest". You've been doing the hard work of figuring out your relationship wants and needs on your own time for a good while, but these other people? They aren't self-reflective. They're getting to know themselves better as they're dating you. (This also means you're not the only woman they've dated and viewed as a type of "accidental" tutor.) This approach to pairing up is part of why these people were not right for you, and I'm sorry you're going through this.
posted by Iris Gambol at 6:50 PM on June 4, 2021 [4 favorites]

36-38 feels & sounds a lot younger than 35.

You know, I think the always wise queenofbithynia is right. 36-38, even 39, feels younger than 35. I think it's because 36-39 is closer to 40, but still not 40. 40 is like a milestone age, but it's still young (it's the new 20, after all). Whereas 35 - wow, you're definitely moving out of your 30s now. 30 is so young. 31-34 - still 30s. (I'm 42 for reference :D )

The only things I can suggest are to really think about what you want in partner. Maybe you've already done this, if so, sorry for repeating the obvious. Make a list. Be totally honest with yourself. Put down everything, no matter how frivolous or ridiculous you think it is. Have a look at Amy Webb's "how I hacked online dating" Ted Talk. It's several years old so maybe there are additional considerations about how the app algorithms work now, but what I really like is the very detailed list that she made about what she wanted.

Second thing is, have YOU really liked the people you've been with? Someone can tick all your boxes, say that you're interested in you, say that they like you, say that they're looking for a serious relationship, but if the chemistry isn't there, it just isn't there. And by chemistry I don't mean just sexual, although that's a big part. I mean like, your face lights up when you see them. You get gooey feelings thinking about them. When you talk you feel like you're connecting, or you've learned something about the world, and/or about them, and vice versa. And you can FEEL that they feel the same way about you, even if they're saying it or not.

You say that people were into you at the beginning, expressed interest in a relationship and then lost interest. But I wonder if people sense that they're fulfilling a role for you, and you're more into having a partner than really being into that person. That's why I asked, have you really liked the people you've been with, or do you really like that they tick all your boxes? Do you like that they say they like you and want a relationship (obviously yes) but is that mostly why you like them?

Now I don't know you, and there's only so much you can put in a post, but it sounds like you're so focused on being good and worthy and healthy, that you're not focused on what makes you YOU and who would bring out that you-ness to the fullest (and vice versa). Like Captain Awkward says, find someone who matches your kind of weird.

I also love this line from Ask Polly: You're so good at being GOOD. But how good are you at being YOU? I feel like this can apply to you as well, in a way.

I also know that desirable partners with healthy approaches to relationships are more likely to couple up and leave the dating pool, and people who aren’t emotionally available or can’t cut it in relationships keep ending up back in it. When secure and emotionally healthy people end up in the dating pool, it’s often following the end of a long term relationship, which then makes them less emotionally available. And now we all have pandemic stress on top of everything.

Yes, absolutely, pandemic stress is doing a number on all of us. But the stuff before that is very much a scarcity mindset. And what you say isn't completely wrong either. It's just not helping you right now to focus on that. I would rather you focus on the person who's going to match your brand of weird and what they look like (not physically, I mean generally speaking), then go swiping to see if you can find that.

Finally, last strategy: Reddit. There's r/r4r and r/r4r30plus. The latter has quite a lot of nice ads. r/r4r has more 20-somethings than 30-somethings. There will also be r/r4r[yourcity] which most definitely will be a total cesspool (r4rtoronto certainly is, but every now and again, there's a nice ad). So I would spend some time on there getting a feel for it, and when you're ready you can make a very detailed post about exactly what you're looking for, which is the advantage of Reddit (and there's no algorithm bullshit, ELO scores, or photos, unless you want to exchange them). You're a very good writer so you can use Reddit to exploit that. Also, women tend to get a bunch of responses, so it's definitely a bit of an ego boost when that happens (ignore all the one word answers and dick pics of course).

After all this, I agree with Iris Gambol. Get off the apps for awhile. Go enjoy your fabulous life and get back on in a couple of months or more.
posted by foxjacket at 7:20 AM on June 5, 2021 [3 favorites]

Many great responses above about doing important introspection and putting a positive frame on the hellscape that is dating in your 30s. I'll just make an operational suggestion: if you shake up your routine, you may get different results. For example, you didn't include Tinder in your apps; even though it seems pretty superficial, you may be able to find gems in there just because it has a larger user pool. I've known of long-lasting relationships that started there.
posted by far flung at 9:58 AM on June 5, 2021

This is going to sound a little weird, but have you self-assessed your "love language"?

Gary Chapman wrote that there are 5 different love languages: https://www.5lovelanguages.com/

* Words of affirmation
* Acts of service
* Receiving gifts
* Quality time
* Physical touch

Not all relationship partners are into the same things. If you do not speak the same love languages as your partner, then the relationship will wither because it wasn't being fed.

Perhaps your failed relationships are due to some differences here?
posted by kschang at 12:57 AM on June 6, 2021

I just attended the wedding of my late-30s sister who has been trying to find the one she wants to marry since she was early 20s. She had been through the mill with both apps and blind dates, and was just so tired of the process and had mostly given up (and she had some very overbearing relatives pressuring her too)! She eventually met her new husband through another blind date through people that she knew (and he had had similar experiences). I think that for her, "giving up", by which I mean not focusing so much on the pursuit of finding a mate, helped give her some breathing room and perspective, and took some of the pressure off.
posted by taltalim at 12:36 PM on June 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

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