As the rules of society evolve, thankfully, so are the rules of dating. Millennials are statistically getting married later or choosing not to get married at all. In fact, the 30s are now widely considered the beginning of the prime dating years (thank you, Sex and the City). Why, you ask? Well, according to relationship experts, dating in your 30s (and beyond) presents some very real benefits.
"I find that people have more clarity with what they want and what they need in their 30s as opposed to their 20s," explains Dr. Hernando Chaves, a licensed marriage and family therapist. "They have a better understanding of what makes them happy and what qualities in a partner complement them best as they mature as individuals."
Dr. Valeria Chuba, a clinical sexologist, sex educator, and host of the Get Sex-Smart podcast, also weighs in on why dating in this decade is better. "As a woman, dating in your 30s can be a great deal more enjoyable and satisfying than dating in your teens and 20s," she says. "By then, women begin to care less about what society thinks of them, or what they 'should' be doing, and begin to focus on what’s really important to them."
Ahead, find more expert insights on why dating in your 30s is the best, and hear from two single women who have experienced it firsthand.
You Have A Better Understanding Of Who You Are
"For a number of people, our 30s is a period in our lives where we look to create balance, manage mental health concerns, focus on self-care, and deepen our social relationships," explains Dr. Hernando Chaves. "This can create happiness in our lives and help fill the voids we didn't realize existed in our 20s."
Lena Minervino, a 38-year-old development director and single mother of three, says a shift in perspective completely changed her dating life. "[My dating habits] continued to be similar until my mid-30s when I took a long, hard look at who I had chosen to be in relationships with," she recalls. "So much about who I dated had a lot to do with my insecurities, making similar (bad) choices in partners, and lack of self-care." Fueling her self doubt was the fact that she had children from a previous relationship. "As a single mom to three kids, I used to be insecure about sharing my story," she admits. "I worried about what [my dates] would think."
But Minervino's confidence began to build when she started putting herself first: She landed a great job, got into a healthy routine, worked through some issues with a therapist, and became more involved in her community. "The work I did and continue to do for myself, the self-care I make a priority in my life, and [making sure] I have a life outside of being a mom has been key," she says.
Dr. Chuba notes that mature women are not only better at identifying their needs, they're more equipped to take action. "Qualities that many women are still developing in their teens and 20s, like good communication skills (especially the ability to advocate for themselves and ask for what they need and want), healthy boundaries, assertiveness, emotional maturity — all these qualities become more available to women by the time they reach their 30s."
You Know What You Want (And Don't Want) In A Partner
"In my college years, I settled hard," states April Cohen, a 38-year-old realtor. While she's dated plenty of people who were not right for her in the years since, "I cut them off much quicker than I did when I was younger."
Although both Cohen and Minervino have grown less tolerant of anyone who wastes their time, they're also more open-minded when it comes to dating. "I used to be wicked selective and had this perfect man in my head," Cohen reveals. But she says that, in retrospect, this was a hindrance. "You never know who a guy is going to turn out to be. [...] You just have to give it a date or two to really figure it out." Worst-case scenario? A bad date "will help you further figure out what you don't want and [give you] the confidence that the right man will come along." Minervino adds that she, too, dated "different types of people" as she became more self-aware. Not only did it help bolster her confidence, she explains, "nearly three years of just dating [with] no intimate relations was the most empowering experience I've had."
"I see a lot of my female clients in their 30s dating casually for awhile before focusing on finding a more permanent relationship," Dr. Chuba points out. "What matters most is that you have clarity about both who you are and about the kind of relationship you’re looking for."
You're Less Likely To Settle
Often maturity brings a new set of priorities. When the proverbial timeline is no longer a factor, you can focus on the relationship, as opposed to the milestone it represents. "I'm not as focused on checking off the list (getting married) or finding my soulmate," says Minervino. "My freedom, alone space in my home, feeling confident and comfortable attending events alone, are things I never thought [I would enjoy]. Even dating without labels, enjoying the time I spend with people, being present, and not thinking too far in the future is fantastic."
Cohen, who was formerly married in her 20s, agrees. "I'm in no rush to find 'that person' because I really want it to be right," she says. "Going through a divorce is not fun. I hope to never have to go through that again." She'd like to find her "forever man" eventually, but "until then, I'll keep dating until it clicks and we are both 100 percent in ... and I'll have all the fun doing so!"
In addition to refusing to settle for a partner, women who date in their 30s are less likely to settle for perceived societal expectations. "It’s important that your choices are based on what you truly want and need, rather than on societal pressure, other people’s expectations, anxiety, or fear of being alone," reminds Dr. Chuba. "We make our best choices when we feel calm, centered, and confident about our self-worth and value. No matter what kind of dating experience you’re trying to create, do it with that mindset in mind, and you will be successful."