No one would dispute that dating in your 20s has its perks. Maybe you have more single friends or your social life includes more low-key house parties and barbecues that lend themselves to meeting people. (You definitely have a better ability to recover from one too many margaritas, that’s for certain.) But spoiler alert: There’s a whole lot to look forward to if you find yourself single in your third decade. To prove it, I polled real women—and drew from my own experience—to sum up why dating in your 30s is actually pretty great.
1. You have a better idea of what you want
Across the board, the most common response I got from the women I spoke to was some variation on knowing what you want. Think about it: Even if you’ve been imagining your perfect partner since you were 12, the only way to really learn what qualities are important to you is through experience. Maybe you used to be attracted to the life of the party…until you realized how exhausting it was keeping up with your ex’s constant attention-seeking. Or let’s say you always pictured yourself with someone super ambitious, but then weren’t so crazy about the 14-hour days your last S.O. was always pulling. A laundry list of traits is no substitution for all the nuances and complexities of a real, living relationship—the more you’ve dated, the better an idea you’ll have of what actually works for you.
2. And you’re more comfortable asking for it
If confidence comes with age, that goes double when it comes to dating. Think back to times when you were younger and something was bothering you—the person you were seeing sucked at communicating, or maybe you wanted to define the relationship but didn’t want to risk upsetting whatever delicate equilibrium you already had. Younger self, I’ve got news for you: You’re not doing anyone (most of all yourself) any favors by not asking. I don’t know whether it’s because accumulated experiences have toughened us up or we’re just more inclined toward a DGAF attitude, but it seems like by the time we hit our 30s, we’ve gotten over it. Many of the women I talked to mentioned they’ve gotten a lot better at being assertive about their needs, whether that’s discussing their stance on having kids or just letting someone know that, no, I’d rather not drive across town to meet at Dave & Buster’s for our first date and can we go to a quiet wine bar halfway between us instead?
3. You’ve learned from your mistakes
Let’s not put all these past breakups on our exes (except for Steve; that one was absolutely his fault). I can definitely admit that there were times when I was selfish and unwilling to compromise with someone I was dating, and other times I wrote people off (who probably didn’t deserve it) because I was in the wrong headspace. But instead of beating myself up about it, I chalk it up to experience and vow to do better in the future. Just as I know not to put up with bad behavior from someone I’m dating, I aim to hold myself to the same standard. At the risk of sounding like a yoga influencer’s Instagram post, you get out only as much as you put in—and you can’t expect to get openness, honesty and compassion if you’re not bringing it yourself.
4. You know not to waste time on so-so situations
Raise your hand if there’s a fling or other romantic entanglement in your past that dragged on wayyy longer than it should have (*raises both hands*). While your reasons may vary, for me, I now realize it was a form of insecurity: This person isn’t great for me, but they’re here now, and who knows the next time someone will like me this much? A good chunk of my 20s was ruled by on-again, off-again situations that weren’t healthy or fulfilling, but that I was nonetheless afraid to let go of. And while my behavior was far from faultless (I’m sure I could have been more assertive about what I wanted), if I’d been honest with myself, it was pretty clear that those relationships didn’t have a future from the get-go. Now that I have more perspective, I’m better at seeing if something’s worth sticking out—or if I’m better off abandoning ship early. As Marisa, 33, puts it: “You become better at weeding out people you’re incompatible with.”
5. You probably have more disposable income
OK, not everything has to be about self-reflection and personal development—those purely logistical benefits count for something, too. If you’ve been steadily building your career for the past decade or so, you hopefully have a little more money in the bank (as do your similarly aged romantic prospects). Which means instead of defaulting to happy hour at the local dive bar, you can meet up with your latest Hinge match over a buzzy new tasting menu—or book an impromptu glamping trip with the person you’ve been seeing for the past month. Even if things don’t work out, you’ll get to spend some time doing something a little more interesting than sipping a watery beer.
6. You value your own time more
“The best part about dating in my 30s is getting back home before 10 p.m. and going straight to couch-sweats-TV mode,” says Whitney, 38. While this might not sound like it’s about dating, per se, it goes back to not wanting to waste time on just anyone—because you’re comfortable being alone, so if something’s going to disrupt your precious free time, it had better be worth it. “I now know to arrive to a date with an exit plan—like ‘I can only meet for one drink since I have dinner plans later,’” says Anny, 36. “I’m also comfortable enough to be like, ‘Oh great, nice to meet you! Have a wonderful night’ without letting the date drag on for another hour.”
7. You’re not going to find a partner just for the sake of it
All due respect to our friends who coupled up young, but the older we get, the more finding a suitable long-term partner before you’re old enough to rent a car seems like a fluke, not a given. Sure, some people pair up, navigate early adulthood together and happen to grow and change in complementary ways. But a lot of us spend those years figuring things out solo—or realizing that our relationship since college is no longer the right fit—and emerge on the other side with a better picture of who we are and who we want to spend our time with. And we’ll be damned if we’re going to take all that hard-earned soul-searching and just latch onto the next eligible bachelor/ette who walks by.
8. You have more life experience (and more stories)
Outside of past relationships, you’ve just been on the earth for a while now, and that’s never a bad thing. You’ve likely worked a few different jobs at this point, maybe had an opportunity to do some traveling and definitely encountered lots of interesting people. Aside from the fact that all those experiences have made you a savvy, worldly, well-rounded individual, it gives you plenty to talk about beyond the standard first-date fodder of where’d you grow up and how many siblings do you have—like that time you swam in an underground cavern…or snuck into the SNL afterparty.
9. You’re getting the new and improved version of your dating prospects
Instead of thinking of someone’s past as “baggage”—because, really, isn’t baggage just experience?—try to think of each previous partner as part of the education that made them into the older, wiser human they are today. Just as you’ve hopefully learned something from every one of your relationships, they’ve grown and changed from other people’s influence, too. And yes, that includes divorces. Someone who’s been through a committed relationship that didn’t work out isn't damaged goods—far from it. They probably have valuable insight about the challenges of long-term partnership and know what they’d do differently next time.
10. Things move more quickly, if you want them to
Most of us have some version of that friend who met her person at freshman orientation and dated for six years before moving in together and another three before getting engaged. But if you meet someone you connect with at age 34—and commitment is your goal—you’re not beholden to the same trajectory. You’ve both had time to “season,” so to speak, in past relationships and life in general, so next steps don’t feel like such a leap. “Once I started dating someone, we fast-tracked all the BS,” one woman told me. “Family traumas, cellphone passcodes, openly passing gas…it all goes a lot faster when you have less time to waste.” Another sums it up: “I met my current (serious) boyfriend in my 30s and, for a variety of reasons, am nearly certain we would have never met in our 20s.”