I was talking to a guy friend recently and the conversation turned to relationships, dating in your 30's and how things become a little different. I know when I came out of my last relationship, I definitely felt that pressure of now being single in my 30's when everyone around me seemed to be doing the marriage, babies and settling thing. (Even as a coach, I get the same niggling insecurities, believe me!). He was saying how now he's had a couple of years single after his last relationship and knows he wants the marriage, kids and feels that pressure too, but is scared that he hasn't sorted himself out enough to offer that to someone. So he's resisting and holding back, yet still knows he wants it and isn't sure how to bridge that gap.
We're complicated creatures aren't we!
The thing is, dating at whatever age should ultimately be an opportunity to meet new people, have new experiences and figure out what you want/don't want.
But tell that to someone who is desperate to settle down and feeling the pressure; it's not exactly the ideal piece of advice they want to hear! Things are shifting in my own life at the moment and it's made me think about this - relationships, what I really want and as someone who has felt that slight anxiety at times about being single in my 30's, here are a few things I've learned.
It really does start with you
Anxieties about relationships can reveal a lot about other things. We can look to finding the perfect relationship to fix the other stuff going on in life - the things we feel we lack or the things that aren't working for us. My friend just mentioned is unhappy in his job and feels stuck. It's not a great feeling for him but because he's become so aware of it, it's made him realise that perhaps that's why he's scared to let someone else into his life. His view is that he's not the best man he can be whilst he's so unhappy with a major part of his life. I think that makes total sense.
I'm not saying that once he finds a better job, the relationship will all of a sudden click into place, but he'll be a lot happier and therefore putting out a different vibe. Being around someone who hates their job (especially someone who isn't doing anything to change that) can be a real energy suck and just isn't attractive, so if something in your life isn't working - be it your work/career, lifestyle, habits and so on, you have to get yourself into gear and do what you can to change it. It will very likely alter your approach and attitudes to relationships and dating. And in your 30's…..well this is the time to get to the core of all of this and take responsibility!
Comparing is pointless
Yep, another one I'm sometimes guilty of doing! It's true, many of my friends are married, have kids and all that. And you know, when your friends tell you 'how amazing' their husbands are or when you're supposed to be out for drinks, the conversation never fails to turn to an account of their baby getting it's first tooth, the endless pictures etc…you smile and make all the right noises, but really it's irritating you or killing you because you can't relate to that (and maybe want to). Plus you've probably had the digital lowdown on Facebook already and seen the same pictures tagged 'amazing weekend with my gorgeous little family', which doesn't help in the throws of comparison either.
But you know what, I have just as many friends who are single too. A few are in mediocre relationships because that's safer for them. And a handful are in the process of, or have gotten divorced. I don't know about you, but I'd much rather take my time and wait for the right person than go through all that emotional and financial hassle. We tend to focus on noticing the things that we lack but what others have, rather than seeing the overall picture.
The thing is, none of that really matters anyway when it comes to you.
People are other people; they're not you. Comparing yourself to others is going to lead to feelings of envy or jealousy and no good can come of that. Unless you can channel that in a positive way, which would be seeing something in others that you want to work towards having in your own life - but not feeling bitterness or disappointment because of it.
I will admit, being shoved photos in my face of other people's children on a night out isn't my idea of a fabulous time but it's a big thing for those people, which I understand and I love to see them happy. I don't get riddled with anxiety because of it because I'm pretty happy in my own life. All that is eventually something for my future and I'm content with that.
(My friend Lucy bases her entire coaching around getting over the comparison trap so if this is something you're struggling with, I definitely suggest you check her out.)
If you know what you want, be bold about that!
There are a ton of self-empowering articles out there on being single, and that's great. But there's also nothing wrong with wanting to settle down. If you want the marriage, a family then that's awesome and something you need to keep in mind when you are dating. I think sometimes we can tell ourselves that we're not bothered about all of that and maybe want to be perceived as the guy/girl who is 'cool to go with the flow and whatever' or the person who is all about the career or travel. And obviously that's fine too if you want that. But if you are after something serious then be bold about it and don't waste your time with people who don't! You definitely don't want to go on every first date bringing up conversations about wedding venues and first dance songs, but don't invest your time and energy with people who clearly want something different just for the sake of being with someone.
Don't make dating a separate project from everything else in your life
I think we can look at dating as something completely separate from our day-to-day life - like there's our life and then our 'dating life'. The more pressure you put on it the more it will just become draining and a hassle. Dating should really just be an enhancement to your life. This is why it's so important you er…still live your life. Not from a place of lack but using being single as an opportunity (and to be able to do all those things your married with kids mates moan they can't do!) The more active your life is the more people you'll meet, the more interesting you'll become, the more attractive you'll be and the more chance you'll have of attracting a great partner and having choices. Not just relying on dating apps, sites and singles nights. Mix it up so that it becomes more natural - an integrated part of your life. Put yourself in places where you'll always be meeting new people.
Remember, it's completely fine to feel these anxieties - we all feel them now and again. Don't let the stress get the better of you because that will radiate from you when you do go on dates and you don't want dating to turn into an interview process. It is supposed to be fun! You can have that balance of going with the flow but with intention.
Being single at any age is completely normal and there’s nothing wrong with it. If all your friends are married/in relationships then do things to make some new ones so that you're not constantly surrounded by it. Turn your anxiety into a positive - know what you want and mould your life (and yourself) into something that will allow that in instead of just worrying about it but doing nothing. Try to relax, because you are where you are and that's fine! Do things and be around people who help you see that it's a great place to be and use it to your advantage :)
I'd love to hear any thoughts you have on this!