Dating in your 20’s versus your 30’s

The differences for each decade

When you’re 24 years old and dating, how you meet men, and what you expect from them, is entirely different than when you’re in your 30’s.

As we get a little older, and wiser, it’s more about finding a suitable life partner rather than dating the cute guy who still lives with his parents and is eternally underemployed.

Here’s advice from our dating experts on how dating in your 20’s differs from dating in your 30’s, and in what ways.

Dating in your 20’s versus your 30’s

Differences in dating

Some of the differences in dating depends on a woman’s upbringing and influences, according to Lisa Bahar, a marriage and family therapist in Dana Point, Calif.

“For example, a 20 year old may find dating to be a way of getting out of the home, starting a family, meeting family expectations of getting married, etc. On the other hand, your 20’s can be a time of exploration, being ‘untamed’ and having the time to play and explore. The 20’s for some is about being in college and the college experience may invite a lifestyle of partying and dating versus commitments,” Bahar said.

As you move into your 30’s, Bahar said, “there is an awareness that tends to occur that time is to be acknowledged, pressures start to set in if one is not married, in a relationship or starting a family. But this is changing with the child-free movement and many in their 30’s considering career and other priorities over relationships and children. Many women are delaying the standard pf being married and having children at this time.”

Dating has already changed drastically with social media, and both age groups use social media and texting as their main source of communication. So on that front, there’s not much of a difference, Bahar said.

Stef Safran, relationship expert and founder of Stef and the City dating service in Chicago, said that dating in your 20’s versus your 30's can be very different since in your 20's you have many ideals about who you are going to meet, what they look like and what can of job they have.

“In your 20's you feel the world is your oyster and you think the opportunities can be endless. It can be easier to meet people your own age, and dating can be fun. In your 30's you may feel that people are recycled and you aren't meeting as many new people. It can get you nervous that you aren't going to meet you ideals of when you wanted to be married and/or have kids. There can be more anxiety that goes into each date,” Safran said.

How to meet men

The ways to meet men can vary with each decade, since college-aged individuals in their 20’s have a ready-made set of potential partners right on campus. Both age groups are using online dating as an easy way to meet, with the only difference being the method of contacting a potential new date. Younger audiences use Tinder and similar apps, while women in their 30’s tend to opt for established dating websites such as and

Safran said, “In your 20's you may pick the bad boy types thinking you can change them, you also may focus on height and looks. Your 20's can be a time to learn about people and who is the best match for you.

This changes as you get older, and hopefully smarter. “In your 30's you should be going for the good guys. They may be shorter, balder, and even slightly nerdier than what you went for in your 20's - but they make better boyfriends and better husbands and fathers,” Safran said.

Dating in your 20’s versus your 30’s

Learning about yourself

Overall, remember that it is a time of change for women in their 20’s and 30’s as they learn how to relate to themselves and the men they date.

“At both of these ages, women are exploring independence, rights, openness of body and how to explore their sexuality in a variety of ways. When I work with women, they are generally seeking to enhance their self esteem, because they are feeling as though they are empty and wanting to feel fulfilled,” Bahar said. “Many times they will look to men for that, however, if they are willing to explore dating as a way to learn about themselves and their comfort level and perhaps not have sex so quickly (women get confused that independence and strength comes from being sexually wild or dominant) and really nurture the gracious feminine strength they have, the way men will respond may be very intriguing to them.”

“Explore dating as a way to learn about yourself, observe and reflect how you feel around him, what and when made you feel uncomfortable, when did you notice you wanted to have sex rather than talk or communicate, when did you find yourself obsessing about him, etc. These are the questions I would encourage women to explore when dating at any age,” Bahar said.

Tips for dating

Safran shared her best five tips for dating at any age:

  • Don't expect everything to be perfect on a first date, give a guy who isn't your perfect dream guy a second chance. Most women tell me that their husbands weren't necessarily their dream guys until they gave them a chance.
  • Don't interview a guy, it doesn't matter if they give you all of the “right” answers on the first date, you still need to get to know someone if they match up to who they tell you they are.
  • Give guys who are a little younger, a little older, shorter, balder and live a little further than your “list” may have on it.
  • Realize that you may have “dry” spells in dating, but that's normal.
  • Give yourself a break when you need one from dating and realize that failure is necessary for success.

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Lifestyle / Relationships

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