Dating at any age is rife with nerves, butterflies, excitement, trepidation, futuristic fantasies and great big what-ifs. In our youth, we are taught to seek an acceptable partner based on certain criteria: Will he have a good job? Will he provide? Is he someone you want to procreate with? Is he somewhat attractive? Do your friends like him? This quest for a suitable mate, though well intentioned by the amazing lineage that came before us, has implanted patterns in social structures in our society that are often deceptively hidden and quite difficult to veer away from. And so the story goes you meet someone, your friends meet your someone, your family meets your someone, you marry your someone, you have children (maybe) with your someone, and then just as things start to quiet down you begin to question every choice you’ve ever made.
Or perhaps you haven’t found “the one” and have instead focused on building your career and interesting life experiences. Maybe life hasn’t gone the “traditional route” for you and you find yourself looking to connect with someone and build a relationship well into your adulthood.
If your path has led you on the road less traveled and you find yourself single and dating in your mid-to-late thirties and beyond, I say more power to you! This is a marvelous time to be awake and aware of who you are and what you are looking to call into your life. This precious gift of awareness is rarely granted to people in their twenties. It is not even a gift bestowed with age by default, for many mature and ripened individuals choose to keep their heads down and not ask the difficult questions. Or worse, they fall into the narrative that being single in your late thirties is a bad thing. Your grandmother’s worst nightmare! Awareness is a result of wisdom, life experiences, failures, and successes. It is the result of getting the thing you always thought you wanted, and then realizing it wasn’t what you actually wanted. If we’re paying attention, we are gaining awareness in every situation. And awareness can lead to great dating power!
We’ve all heard the stories of the bad dates and the woman pining away that she can’t find a good man. (I challenge us all to ponder the thought of a good man also looking for a good woman. There are these magical, sparkly purple unicorns out there, ladies. Don’t believe everything you’re told!) She prepares for yet another date, with yet another man she met online or who she is being set up with. She has already decided this one probably isn’t for her, but hope is her heroin, so she puts on a cute pair of heels and says a prayer for the best. Her guard is up—way up. Through the roof up. So is her air of desperation, need, and conditioned disappointment.
But hold on, ladies, there is another reality going on here if we dare open our minds to it. By our late thirties, many of us have answered (somewhat) the existential question of who we are and what we are looking for. We have had some bad relationships and hopefully some good ones (even if they were back in high school). We have had positive sexual experiences and not-so-positive sexual experiences, all of which inform us of what we need, desire, and demand. There are things we have settled for in the past—disrespect, verbal abuse, even physical abuse, perhaps—that we now recognize as mistreatment and will never again allow into our lives. There are ways we have been lifted up and put on pedestals that honor and value our worth—we recognize these moments as learning experiences and a barometer for how we desire and deserve to be treated. With the sacred armor of self-awareness and the beauty of our past (the good, the bad, the ugly), we enter the wild world of dating with confidence, intrigue, and playfulness.
At this stage of the game, honesty is your best policy. The jig is up, so to speak. We have all had experiences that led us to sitting at this table, or at this bar, or in this space together. And very much single. So why hide? You have every right and full permission—in fact, you have somewhat of an obligation—in your late thirties to be exactly who you are. To show up fully and authentically and allow yourself to be seen. Saying what you want, what works for you, and what you’re asking the universe for is the most empowering action a woman can take. You are doing the other person a service and saving both of you a lot of time by demonstrating your radical authenticity. You don’t have to mold yourself to fit anyone else’s visions or standards. Your desires will either align or they won’t, and you will know that early on. It is that simple.
The options that dating presents are endless opportunities for self-reflection and growth. We bring to the table who we believe ourselves to be and are often faced with big, life-altering circumstances that challenge our notions. The guy you’re on a date with seems great, but he lives in another state. Does that truth fit into your lifestyle or the lifestyle you wish to create? In your twenties, one might say, “Sure we can totally make it work,” but in your late thirties, your answer might be very different. Or if your date has a child, but children to you are the devil spawn and you want no part of them, that is perfectly okay. Know it. Own it. Then you can decide if you are willing to open your heart to this situation or not. If your date is throwing out all kinds of red flags (badmouthing the ex, seemingly non-committal, boasting), you recognize them as such. If you suspect your date is playing games and not being forthcoming or showing consistent interest, you recognize this behavior from times you’ve been disappointed in the past. Whether or not you continue to play is then up to you. The golden opportunities for self-actualization and empowerment are abound.
That said, this is probably a good time to remind ourselves to keep an open mind. There is a difference between having standards and being too rigid for our own good. The older we get, the more stuck in our ways we become. Dating successfully at this stage of life means understanding what we desire to feel from the other person and letting go of the form and the way it gets delivered to us. In other words, if I am a city-born-and-bred, self-made, hot-yoga-loving woman, I might at first dismiss the small town farm boy and his laid-back ways. I might be more inclined to go after the fast-talking Wall-Street-types who have always left me underwhelmed in the past but I’m consistently attracted to. Keep an open mind. That farm boy might just slow you down long enough to start enjoying the simple pleasures in life a bit more. There are times to compromise and times to stay fixed. You like coffee, but your potential partner likes tea? Not ideal, but not a dealbreaker. You believe in monogamy and your date rants about the benefits of an open relationship? You’re free to say thanks but no thanks.
Now let’s say you do meet a special someone, things are going great, and you’re feeling it’s time to cut to the chase here and see if the two of you are cooking on all four burners, so to speak. It’s time to take this relationship to the bedroom (or anywhere that works for you, no judgement). The reality is, by this point in our lives we have had some degree of experience with intimacy and sexual partners. If you’re coming out of a monogamous relationship and sex with a different partner is new for you, there can be so much anticipation, confusion, even trauma to work through. Taking it to the sheets can be scary. It can also be thrilling and mind-blowingly amazing. And the beautiful thing is, we don’t have to hide, play games, or pretend something is what it isn’t… or isn’t what it is. We are not 23, and hopefully we have shed some early created judgements about sex. We are all adults here. We are fully capable of making decisions about what we want and expect for our bodies. And if something works for you, Mazel Tov! And if it doesn’t, we are prepared and enabled to keep walking on our path until we find the right fit. There is no need to pretend. This isn’t anyone’s first time at the rodeo.
Putting yourself out there in the dating scene in your late thirties and beyond can feel like nailing yourself to a dart board if you allow it to. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can choose your reality; you can choose your truth. You have the opportunity to put your amazing-ness out there and let your light shine in all its glory. Your light is not for everyone, but who doesn’t know this as we get closer to 40? And who still gives a shit? The more fully we embody who we are, with all our faults, our cracks, our wounds, and our gifts, the easier it is to step into alignment with the universe and receive all that is meant for us. It is not our place to hide, to break, to conceal our truths for the sake of someone else. We know better by now. And when we know better, we do better. You’re able to do YOU better. You will not settle. You have come too far. You are not afraid of facing the big, bad world alone because the world you created for yourself is pretty fucking awesome. You are open to sharing this world with someone who meets you mind, body and soul, whose ideals you align with and who lives a life that makes sense to you.
You are greatness and wholeness personified and a gift to the person who is lucky enough to be meeting you.