January 29, 2019

Dating and Singleness Across A Lifespan

Anxiety & Depression

Dating and singleness is something that many of us have thought about.  Whether you grew up in a home that said, “you can’t date until you get married,” or from a household that said “finding a partner is the most important goal that you can ever obtain,” to “you’re young, you should date so you know in the future who you want to marry,” we each reach a point in our lives where we become more in touch with our longing for intimacy from a significant other.

This longing for intimacy can shift over time depending on our age, where we live, who we spend time with, and ones stage of life. The cultural and spiritual communities that we are connected to can also influence our longings and perspective around dating. Speaking as someone who spent much of her 20s longing for this intimacy, how people went from finding someone to date and then marrying them often felt like a mystery.  In our 20s, the way we hold our singleness is different than how we do in our 30s and 40s.

Generational Differences

In our 20s, many have just graduated from college or vocational school or are “living their best lives” out of high school by finding a job and having their own apartment.  The future is no longer set, and you get to decide what your next steps are regarding careers, finances, and relationships. For many, the 20s are a time of finding community and defining who you are.  Particularly in cultures that are more independent in nature, the 20s are focused on personal growth and achievement. Many think that it’s not until their 30s that they need to settle down to find that special someone.

Why Your Twenties Matter–And How to Make the Most of Them Now   

Author Meg Jay, a psychologist, would say that while your 20s are important to focus on personal growth and development, these are the years that you can also be intentional about discerning what type of family you would like to create.  In addition, it’s important to consider what are your “deal breaker” characteristics in a relationship. Lastly, what are the places of hurt from immature parenting/trauma/abuse/low self-esteem that cause us to “settle” in our relationships?  Dr. Jay encourages those in their 20s to not delay thinking about marriage because we hope that our prospects will be more mature in their 30s. Dr. Jay encourages individuals to look now at these characteristics.

Choosing A Dating Path In Your Thirties & Forties

In our 30s , many feel more pressure to stop casually dating and to “get serious.”  I would say this is in part due to people’s desires for children. There is a trend that shows that many are getting married later in life so that they can pursue higher education and other career goals.  Pursuing these goals or strengths is admirable and gives many an opportunity to have new and formative adventures. In our 30s, the mystery of finding someone to date and to marry can become even more heightened.  I liken it to this: it is kind of like looking for a parking spot in the city at the end of the night. Do you park at the first parking spot that you see, or do you loop around in hopes that something else will open up, even though the next spot is not guaranteed and it’s getting late?  In our 30s we are more aware of the cost of lost time if the relationship doesn’t work out.

In our 40s we may also have different perspective on how we view dating and marriage.  Maybe you are in your 40s and your concerns around dating and marriage are centered upon whether or not you want to reorder your life to meet the preferences of another person. Conversely, maybe your are much more open to entering into relationships in which previous marriage or kids is more common and readily accepted.  

Invitation to Therapy and Dating Blogs

Regardless of age, here in therapy I’d love to walk with you as you define for yourself your confidence in singleness, dating or marriage.  In my next few postings, I hope to talk about the cultural influences that impact one’s dating and helpful tips on dating.

Written by therapist Pamela Larkin


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