in: Dating & Relationships

How Dating Changes: 20s, 30s & Beyond

Kristen Hick

There’s no getting around it. As we age, dating changes. Instead of lamenting the loss of your 20s mentality, let’s celebrate why this is actually excellent news.


Contrary to your waistline, hang-over recovery time, and grown-up expenses likely increasing in your 30s, the time your relationships last have unfortunately (or fortunately) shortened.

Ever think to yourself or hear your friends say, “My relationships don’t seem to last as long as they used to. Two or three months and then *poof* it’s over. I don’t understand. I remember dating for years in my 20s. Has dating changed that much?”

The short answer is “Yes, it has.” Dating in your 30s is wildly different than dating in your 20s.

Dating in Your 20s

You were young, focused on making your way after college, meeting new and exciting people, and building a career. If you happened to meet a sexy-smart someone at a party, bar, or friend’s gathering, you delved right into the deep end of romance.

Dating in your 20s was about the chemistry you shared, the fun you had, and how close you lived to each other—how easy it was to date them. If red flags presented themselves, you probably figured that you were young, or that it wasn’t all that important, or that they would change.

As long as the feel-good feelings and fun continued, you likely stayed in the relationship for far-longer than you have experienced more recently.

So what happened?

The Change

Your 30s—this is when it all seemed to change. Dating shifted from the surge of chemicals flowing through your body and a desire to be with that special person all of the time.

Dating got more serious. More vulnerable. More strategic. Less fun. 

Or so it seems.

The truth is, if you haven’t settled down yet, or if you have reentered the dating world, things have changed—a lot.

Dating in Your 30s & Beyond

While the picture I paint may seem bleak and dismal—I am not saying that those feelings don’t present themselves—the truth about dating after your 20s is that dating changes as you change, or should.

You don’t date the same because YOU are not the same person.

You have refined your tastes through careful (or perhaps accidental) crafting and intentional exploration of your intuition, interests, values, and future goals.

Therefore, if you’ve been maturing as a person, the attractive-yet-emotionally-unavailable or future-incompatible partners do not seem quite as appealing as they would have in your younger dating years.

Dating these days is an intentional quest to find a suitable long-term partner—to create a life, to build a family, or to explore the world with.

The shoes have gotten much bigger and more important to fill, and so has the criteria you use to assess who would be a good match for your journey.

The Two to Three Month Mark

The more I talked with people dating in their 30s and beyond (for some advanced few, in their late 20s), the more I’ve started to form ideas about why it seems as though dating relationships seldom move past the two to three month mark.

Common reasons this occurs:

  • Differences in life values and beliefs (religion, spirituality, background, etc.)
  • Differences in life goals (desire to get married, have kids, lifestyle)
  • Differences in personality compatibility
  • Physical incompatibility despite all other aspects being mostly congruent
  • 1+ Red flags (that your wise self was not going to ignore)

For many, realizing things will likely not progress past the initial fun stages (approximately two to three months) comes with a sense of hopelessness about ever finding the right partner, aggravation with the dating process, and sometimes a sense of rejection.

The thing is, I’ve come to see—and hope you do too—this actually means that you are getting closer to what you are looking for.

Each and every time you date someone, you learn more about yourself, what you are looking for, and what’s not for you. When it ends, it means something wasn’t right. It wasn’t a good fit. This can hurt at times, but try and let your ego take a seat for a minute and trust that it wasn’t right. You can learn from it and move forward with that new-found wisdom. 

Lesson: Relationships don’t last as long because you are more keenly aware of what you are looking for.

Making Sense of Your Dating Adventures

Given the number of lessons you will invariably learn through your adult dating years, it may be helpful for you to make sense of the things you have learned.

Journaling before, during, and after each dating experience can glean numerous lessons and insights that you can use in your future dating experiences.

  • What worked and what didn’t
  • Refine your deal breakers
  • Things you want to seek out next time
  • Physical and Emotional indications that you felt safe (or not safe) while dating
  • Rate your quality and quantity of self-care while dating
  • Red flags you ignored, dismissed, or did not see
  • Red flags you read loud and clear—yay.
  • New date ideas (i.e., those that helped you show/feel more yourself)

While your dating trajectory may not have taken you where you initially imagined in your younger years, it undoubtedly took you on a journey of learning about who you are and who you are looking for. Reframing how you view the typically-shorter dating duration will you give you a new, more mature perspective on how dating has changed—because you have.

About the Author:

Kristen Hick Kristen Hick

Kristen Hick, Psy.D. is a Clinical Psychologist who specializes in the area of awakened dating and healthy relationships. She is the founder of Center for Shared Insight, a private psychotherapy practice in Denver where she and her clients focus on Individual Relationship Therapy. Dr. Hick’s expertise lies in helping individuals create healthy, meaningful, and loving relationships with others through healing, strengthening and transforming their most essential relationship, with themselves. When not helping clients fulfill their personal relationship goals, she enjoys the Colorado outdoors, capturing life through photography, practicing yoga and hopes to one day manage her first unassisted headstand. You can connect with Dr. Hick on her site, Facebook or Google+

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