“I feel like I’m behind all my friends! They’re either married, having a family, or planning a wedding. One of my friends is getting married a second time. I can’t even get one man to marry me! “
“I’m not sure if marriage is for me. Maybe I should focus on work and wait until my kid are grown.”
Both of these statements came from 2 different clients, both in their 30s, who had discovered that dating wasn’t what they’d expected it to be. They were on opposite sides of 35, but both women found themselves frustrated with their experience with love.
Dating in your 30s usually isn’t what you expected to be, especially if you thought you’d be married by now ( Or maybe you thought the first time you said “I do” would have lasted forever). Now that you’re on the dating scene you’ve discovered that kids complicate things because you already have them, don’t want them, or can’t have them, and the men out there don’t always know how they feel about that.
You also expected to date your peers, but sometimes those men don’t quite have their lives together yet. You’re growing in your career, you’ve put down roots and you’ve got a future to consider. Security is a big deal to you, and you may have been tempted to settle down with someone just because he’s got a house, a car and a stable job.
You experience a cocktail of emotions like anxiety, excitement and recurring disappointment as you see your 40s quickly approaching and you’re still without a partner. You also may have some regrets from the past, especially if you’ve married the wrong person (or passed up the right one).
This is what Myanna and Melissa both expressed to me during the time we worked together.
Myanna had never been married and didn’t have any kids. Her career only poured salt in her wounds because she had to work with newborns on a daily basis, and the fear of never having the family she dreamt of in her 20s was causing a lot of anxiety.Melissa, on the other hand already had children and was ambivalent about having any more.
Both situations complicated dating for the sisters. Myanna’s fear of loss caused her to get attached very quickly to a man she viewed as stable and a potential husband. She’d fall in love with someone because he mentioned he had a home and wanted to settle down. For Melissa, meeting men who weren’t financially stable wouldn’t have mattered to her that much in her 20s, but with kids to look after, she couldn’t take the chance. When she did meet someone who was stable, he’d often want to have children, and she wasn’t so sure about that.
Their search for security wasn’t the only thing they had in common. Both women had complicated relationships with their mothers and until we began working together, they didn’t understand how much of an impact that had on their romantic relationships. Patterns of relating are patterns of relating, and these women developed less-than-ideal ways of relating to men based on their experiences with their critical mothers. Both faced rejection and manipulation from their moms and ended up living their lives as an apology. They spent considerable time trying to please their mothers which usually consisted in silencing their opinions and not expressing their authentic selves. They felt guilty for wanting to have a life on their own and as a result, struggled with communicating directly and assertively.
At the core of it all was a deep shame for not being good enough and this shame was unbearable! They did a lot to not have to feel their feelings including overworking, overeating, and over giving. When it was all said and done, neither woman recognized the woman she’d become. It wasn’t the fact that they had an extra 20 or 40 pounds to lose. They just didn’t have a joy for life anymore! Their self-care was in the pits and they didn’t have any friends to turn to talk about it. For Myanna, all of her friends were married with kids and she felt like a burden for reaching out to talk about online dating problems. Melissa’s friends looked at her as “strong” and having it all together so they didn’t expect her to have any problems.
It’s not surprising that both women chose partners who replicated this dysfunction. Myanna’s men always came on strong and filled her heart with sweet nothings about how amazing she was and how they knew she was The One. She’d be so elated to have this kind of companionship that she’d bite her tongue when the guys would do things that would hurt or disrespect her. When she finally spoke up, the guys would call her high maintenance and disappear. Adding insult to injury, they’d turn around a marry someone else, sometimes a few months after their breakup.
Melissa’s relationship cycle was different. She was done dating party animals and thought that she’d find real love by seeking security. Men who were successful, muscular, and dominant appealed to her. They made her feel protected. She’d let them make decisions about her life because she was tired of having to do it all on her own. Unfortunately, these men were also controlling, and because she was already used to silencing her voice with her mother, she didn’t speak up in her relationships either. Her breakups always ended with the man blaming her for not being enough. For one man she wasn’t submissive enough. To another, she wasn’t thin enough. She couldn’t help but hear her mom’s voice through their complaints.
We had to go back to the past and heal the little Black girl within each of these women, letting them know that they were enough and that they had permission to have needs, desires, and wants. Self-care was no longer optional and they were required to stop focusing on work and start loving themselves. Through coaching, the ladies learned how to use their voice and to own their worth as a woman!
Then, we had to build a whole new life from scratch! These sisters did the work of defining what they really wanted their lives to look like and began making big decisions like moving to a new city, changing careers, putting boundaries around their relationship with their moms, letting go of toxic friends, and doing more things that brought them joy!
They began dating a variety of men instead of sticking to their type. I had to teach them how to identify red flags and to act upon them immediately instead of talking themselves out of what they already knew: these men weren’t a good fit for them. They had to learn how to trust their instincts and to stop going into anxiety, hopelessness and despair when a relationship didn’t work out.
Both ladies began online dating again using my Be Found formula, and this time, felt more confident on a date and when they had to communicate with men. Melissa told me that she now understood that she had choices and wasn’t waiting for some man to choose her. She learned how to walk away from the wrong men faster and the breakups didn’t hurt as much because she knew the relationship wasn’t going to work out in the end.
Myanna learned a similar lesson and after our coaching was done, she sent me this update:
“I’ve moved on from the last guy I met. I started feeling those “desperation” and anxious feelings. I know now that it has been my pattern in the past of dealing with men that make me feel this way. I would call and text him with barely a response. The last time we were having an active text conversation and we’d tentatively planned to meet for lunch that day. I called him not 30 minutes later and he didn’t respond.
You may remember a guy I told you about from earlier. I met him around the same time I met the other guy. I initially blew him off because I thought he was “stuffy”; however, something kept nudging me to give him a chance. Well, I did and it turns out it was the best thing I could’ve ever done. We have been inseparable since our second date! He’s even met my parents, my brother, and some of my extended family. I am happy and thrilled about this new relationship! Honestly, if it hadn’t been for the work we’ve done this year, I’m not sure I’d be in this position . Thank you!
So what are the takeaways here?
When you’re dating in your 30s, you have to :
1) Get clear on the vision you have for your life.
If you don’t want kids, own that. If you do, speak up! Be flexible in what they may look like (for example, you may date a man who has kids already), but you ultimately want to very clear about what you want your life to look like.
2) Get clear on who you are as a woman
You’re not the woman you were in your 20s, but at this point in your life, it’s easy to define yourself from outside forces such as who are you are to your family, what you’ve accomplished in your career or who other people say you should be. You have to go beyond thinking about your career and prioritize your needs, wants and desires for love.
3) Get clear on the kind of partner you need
You’ll need to date a variety of men, spend time observing them, and ask yourself if this person can help you create the life you want. This means you’ll have to have an active dating life (and you’ll probably need to use online dating to get there). Understanding your past dating patterns will help you recognize red flags sooner. You’ll want to make sure you don’t spend precious years of your life with someone who isn’t right for you. You’ll also need to be flexible on the age and type of the man you date.
What other challenges do you face when you’re dating in your 30s? List them below!