Friday, September 9, 2011
Today's topic comes to me from a question asked in a forum I belong to on Facebook. The question was: Is it typically more difficult or easier to have committed relationships in your 30's?
I've had this discussion a few times with female friends mostly, and the answers varied widely. I'll give my answer based on my experiences, and you all can chime in with yours.
Ironically, the most meaningful (and monogamous) relationships I've had were in my 20's. I always thought your 20's were supposed to be your "free" years - a decade of discovering yourself, having fun and building your career. I never set out to settle down into a relationship with any one man, but somehow, that's where I always landed.
Then I hit 30.
Fresh out of a 3 year relationship, I wanted to take some time to breathe. Well...I've been breathing for the better part of 8 years now. Don't get me wrong, I've dated. I've met some great men and had plenty of fun. Male company is not something I lack. Finding a date is actually rather easy. It's that elusive "relationship" I was having a hard time with.
Maybe it was easier to get into a relationship in my 20's because I wasn't expecting to be in one. They always say, it's when you're not looking that you find someone. In high school, college and your early 20's, you don't really know what you want, so you probably don't weed people out as quickly as you do when you're 35 and know EXACTLY what you want. You're pretty much open to dating....anybody.
When I was 23, I'd date a man who wanted to explore things with me - build something that we could discover together. But once you start working, living on your own, traveling the world and establishing a life - you've then built a world that someone now has to fit into.
At 30-something, I had a cat...so if you were allergic, you either pop a Zyrtec or keep it moving. I live in NYC, and any man who didn't like the big city (or any area close to it) need not apply. And if he didn't want to get married (again) or have (any more) children, then the party is over. If you are "selectively honest," or faithful, there would be no more calls back. I'd simply disappear. Afraid of commitment? Time for me to go. End of courtship. The list goes on.
Having kissed a few frogs in my time, I've found that my "list" grows longer with time and becomes VERY specific. My tolerance for bullshit is at an all time low. You develop a list of "warning signs" that you know will likely lead to problems, and out of simple practicality you don't even bother giving people with these problems the time of day. It's almost involuntary.
The list of deal breakers gets longer as you get older, simply because you experience more things you don't want to be involved with, and you yourself have had more time to sort through your issues - and expect your counterpart to have done so as well.
I know myself better, I know what I can and cannot deal with, and I do a greater job at identifying compatibility with potential dates than I did when I was 25. Most importantly, I now know when to end things when they aren't working out rather than holding on for no reason. I don't have time to waste, and doubt I could do it even if I wanted to. At 38, I have to be true to myself. I simply can't help it.
But does that limit us in our quest to find our perfect (for us) mate? While I see nothing wrong with having a "been there, done that" attitude, are we blocking our blessings by being so set in our ways? Are we doomed once we hit 35 and haven't yet found "The One"?
I don't think so.
Just because it may get more difficult, doesn't mean it's impossible. For some, maybe it IS easier to have a real relationship in your 30's, because if both parties know exactly what they want and are in agreement, then no time will be wasted, no games will be played and they can get right to the business of building an inclusive life together.
I honestly think the things that make it harder for me to find a compatible partner as I get older aren't necessarily so bad. I'm finding that I have time to become my own person and discover the life I really want to live. I'm still learning to screen out issues and character traits that would eventually become problems anyway, so I'm dodging bullets left and right. While I think finding and maintaining meaningful relationships may be more difficult as I get older, I feel the quality of a relationship I WILL find will improve. Being selective, in my opinion, isn't such a bad thing...so long as the end result is a happy one.
What say you?