The difference between dating in your 20s and your 30s

I've been single much more than I've been in a relationship, and since the age of 14 have been what most people would call an active dater. Not particularly because I enjoy dating, but because I believe in being an active participant in your own life. If you want something you need to work towards it. 

Wanting a relationship may mean reflecting and working on yourself (are you someone that someone would enjoy dating - happy, busy, kind etc), or being active in meeting new people. It may mean opening your checklist to change, or really focusing on really matters to you.

I was talking to some of my other 30-something-single friends recently, about the differences we felt dating now compared to when we were a tad younger.

The clichéd answer is that women in their 30s start to hear their ticking biological clock, but for me that is definitely not the change I've experienced. My womb does not call out to me, aching to create offspring. I'm 31, just kissing the '30-something' bracket, but have definitely noticed a shift in my thinking.

  • I feel pretty settled; I love my life. I have a job I love, a close set of friends and spend most of my time feeling happy. I didn't feel this way in my early 20s for sure!
  • I'm ready to settle down. This word 'settle' used to feel stifling and restrictive. I guess to settle for something usually has a lesser-than connotation. The word has changed for me, I don't use it to mean children, or settling for less-than. It now represents creating a team or unit. Pairing up for double the fun. To commit to an idea that you're a partnership of two awesome people, not two halves of one whole.

This shift means that my dating 'check list' (for want of a better word) has changed slightly. When I discuss dates with friends we now describe different elements of the men than we used to.

Things we like now tend to include:

1. Seems together (he's sorted his sh*t)

2. He really enjoys his job

3. He has a great bunch of friends who you would be happy to hang out with

4. Seems settled (not planning on travelling the world for 18 months any time soon)

5. Kindness (over coolness, being fun, etc)

 Only once we've covered those crucial bases do we share the tales of their handsomeness ;-)

Have you changed what you look for when you date? Did your partner surprise you by not ticking your initial boxes?