I am a 24-year-old woman, and it seems the older I get, the worse dating becomes. Meaning, when I was 18-19 I didn’t really worry. I figured guys were just immature teenagers and in a few years it would be different. But now, years later, things aren’t much better. Most guys I meet would rather date around and not focus on one girl. It just gets frustrating and I get lonely. And it scares me to think that 10 years from now I could still be dealing with the frustrations from dating.
As of today, I’m a 31-year-old man and let me tell you, dating is more complicated today than when I was 24 years old. My reasons for why dating is harder and more complicated are probably a bit different from yours, but I think that most people would say that the older they get, dating becomes more complicated.
Lots of people assume dating works something like this: When you’re 19 years old and into friends with benefits, but by 29 years old you’ll be done with casual hookups, and all of the people your age or older will be on the same page as you. The thing is, life just doesn’t work that way. Sometimes you’ll meet people older than you who date like they’re immature teenagers, and sometimes you meet someone younger than you who dates like you’d expect someone much older to date. There are lots of reasons why at 24 years old, 34 years old, 44 years old, and 54 years old you might encounter people who don’t seem to be dating they way you would expect based on their age. Some people never grow out of bad behaviors, and some people just don’t care who they hurt. I’m not even talking about things like having dating goals that one might consider immature based on someone’s age, I’m talking about the basics: Flaking, Gaslighting, Ghosting, and so on.
If it gives you any comfort, many people are in the same boat as you, at very different points in their lives. Myself included. Dating feels harder and much more complicated these days than it was for me 10 years ago, 5 years ago, and even 3 years ago. I don’t know if it’s because time skews your perceptions, or that it’s easier to remember dating successes than it is to remember all of the smaller dating failures, but it does seem more complicated.
BUT, it’s not all doom and gloom, I promise. With all that complication, there comes a much bigger appreciation for when you get clarity. I remember at 22 years old meeting a woman who told me exactly what she wanted in her life. I didn’t appreciate that sort of clarity at the time because dating was so uncomplicated back then, I just assumed it would always be that easy. Now, 9 years later, I appreciate that sort of clarity so much more when I get it. It’s harder to find the older you get, whether that’s because dating makes you more jaded and guarded the longer you do it, or if it’s because the people who knew exactly what they wanted and weren’t into playing games are coupled off now, but when you do finally meet someone who doesn’t frustrate you, it feels like water in the desert.
So, here’s what I’d suggest you do to try to make dating a little less complicated, and a little bit more bearable.:
- Don’t date potential. Don’t date people based on what you think they will become. Date people right now who are suitable partners right now. If you meet a man who says he’ll one day be ready for a commitment but you’re ready for one today, don’t waste time waiting for him to get on your page.
- Don’t make assumptions. Don’t assume that just because they’re older or younger, they’ll date one way. Don’t make assumptions about what people might be looking for based on their education, career path, relationship with their family and friends, ownership of pets, or whatever else. Assumptions are shortcuts. Learn about the people you date, rather than inferring things about them.
- Broaden your dating horizons. To paraphrase Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás, Those who cannot remember their dating past are condemned to repeat it. If you have a “type”, and that type is the sort of person that is a bad fit for you, maybe you need to date outside of your type. I pride myself on not having a type, outside of some really basic stuff, like being kind and supportive, and it’s helped me to date some absolutely amazing people. When I say I haven’t been on a bad date in years, please believe that I say that without hyperbole. I’m almost certain that dating in a way that eschews a type is the reason why dating can (sometimes, it’s not all sunshine and roses) be a lot of fun. I’ve dated people of all different ethnic groups, colors, creeds, body types, professions, life philosophy, and however else we categorize humans, and would recommend that you do the same. If you’ve decided on a type, and it’s not working for you, broaden your dating horizons. Maybe tall, dark, and handsome is the type you’re most physically attracted, but not the best romantic fit for you.
- Figure out what you want, pursue it mercilessly. What do you want out of life and love? Marriage by 28 years old, a kid by 30 years old, another kid by 33 years old? Great, so stop dating people who don’t want that. If you have a goal in life, there’s nothing wrong with planning for that goal and avoiding people who don’t want what you want. If, at 24 years old, you want to meet someone who will be ready to be married in 4 years, you can’t date people who say that they never want to be married. If you want 2 children by 33 years old, and you’ve got 9 years to meet that goal, don’t date someone who doesn’t want kids at all. You don’t have to tell every single person you meet what your dating goals are on the first date, but if you’ve been dating someone for a while and they suddenly don’t want kids, there is nothing wrong with ending things right then and there. There should always be some compromise in relationships, but not when it comes to the things you absolutely want out of life. It’s okay to end things with someone who no longer wants what you want. It’s okay to date in a goal driven way if that’s what you want. It’s much better to say “Sorry, we want different things” than to wait for someone to change their mind.
- Don’t get jaded (or at least, try not to). Okay, this is tougher to do in practice than it is to actually implement. When the dating world grinds you down, it often hardens you in ways that only make dating more and more miserable. Becoming jaded guarantees that dating will only become harder. My advice would be to figure out what stops you from getting jaded by dating, and do that from time to time. Maybe it’s going on a dating hiatus, maybe it’s just going on a dating app hiatus, trying out new ways to date, and so on. I’ve done all of those things when dating makes me miserable and honestly, it helps. Try meeting people platonically with an understanding that romance is on the table if you hit it off. Delete the apps you’re currently using and try some new ones, or take a break for a while. Stop going to bars and restaurants on dates and do something completely different. Join offline social networks and meet people with your interests organically. Basically, try literally anything besides whatever is making you jaded.
There’s no guarantee that by doing all these things you’ll find an uncomplicated, perfect-for-you match tomorrow, but at the very least you’ll be avoid people who are complicating your dating life in a negative way. Dating will only become more complicated the older you get, whether it’s dealing with partners who are divorced, have children, and so on. There’s no way to stop the march of time (and the complications that come with it) so the best you can do is learn to make dating a little more bearable.
Good Luck Out There.