Single Not Settling – The Pressures of dating in your 30’s


Last week I had dinner with a good friend. Like me, she’s 32 and single. And like me, last year she came out of a relationship, which she expected to be permanent

If you’re female and in your thirties, dating can be particularly tough. If you want children, and haven’t yet had them, suddenly every month and year counts more … and in a way which doesn’t affect male singletons. All around you, friends are not just settling down, they are buying houses, getting married, and starting families. And thanks to social media you get to see every single highlight of their journey.

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My friend has been single for less than a year, but I can already see outside pressures affecting her. Her younger brother married his childhood sweetheart, and as a result, never had to do the dating game. He’s happily married with two children, and it’s clear that their parents want more grandchildren, and not just from his side.

Over the past six months, my friend had told me about the series of bad dates she’d had. One man in particular stood out. She had seen him regularly over the course of four or five months. And every story she told me about him made me more and more angry. This was a man who refused to be ‘exclusive’ after five months of dating. A man who her friends had spotted actively dating on every app available. A man who always made her pay more than her fair share on dates, and who never seemed to make any particular effort with her.

‘I think I’m going to make a go of it with him’ my friend announced on Friday night.
I stared at her in disbelief. ‘Are we talking about the same guy?!’
Turns out we were.
‘Charly, I’m 32 and single. I’ve been on so many bad dates, I just think I’ve been asking too much. This guy’s ok. He wants the same things I do – to settle down, and start a family. He has an ok job, and I find him attractive … It’s the sensible option.’

Nothing in her tone of voice was remotely positive! And nothing she said or did, dissuaded me from the fact that my friend had completely resigned herself to settling. In fact she was actively going into the relationship admitting that she was settling. As if she’d failed some big life game, to meet someone she genuinely wanted to settle down with, and had decided to settle down with the booby prize instead.

The whole conversation just made me so sad. My friend is an incredible woman. And she has just come out of a long-term relationship, specifically because she knew it wasn’t working. So why was she rushing straight into one which had so many warning signs from the outset?

The trouble is, I know my friend isn’t alone. That there are plenty of single women in their thirties and forties suddenly rethinking their expectations, worried that if they don’t ‘settle’ they will end up completely alone, for good.

Most of us enter the dating game with unrealistic expectations. Tick lists of things we believe are vital to our future happiness, which disappear once we meet someone who is a genuinely good match for us. And whilst it’s important to recognise when your expectations might be unnecessary, there’s a big difference between lowering unrealistic standards, and settling for someone out of sheer panic.

The dating game can be pretty rubbish at times. Particularly when you’ve just come out of a long-term relationship. But don’t rush straight into the next relationship, purely to get rid of your single status. You will be much happier single than in a relationship with the wrong person.

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If you find yourself in the same situation as my friend, take a step back, rethink where you’re looking for love, and give yourself time to meet someone who genuinely gives you butterflies.

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