A friend said to me the other day, ‘Don’t you ever wish you looked younger?’. The thought hadn’t crossed my mind before, even though signs of ageing are beginning to scupper my face and inject my preferences. Like noticing faint lines in the mirror as I smile back-and-forth, watching the creases. I no longer get asked for ID and I find myself wanting to curl up at 11:30pm when nights out use to end at three. My world is changing, but how does dating change as we get older?
Many publications claim your 20s are about being young and free. The decade revolves around hot flings, until we reach 30 and hope to settle. I’m not so sure.
Past the age of 23, I noticed wild and carefree girls transforming into eager love-obsessed women. There was my friend who used to show me dick pics. She’d tell me which guys she slept with and if their size was adequate. She dyed her hair pink and bought clothes second-hand before it was fashionable. Now she’s in a serious relationship growing her sixth year of vegetables.
Another single friend fell in love and became pregnant before my 25th birthday. My happiness for her tinged itself in resentment. It’s not particularly nice to move from best friend to third place in the pecking order.
When I met my partner at 28, I felt I’d spent years waiting to experience what my peers were already connoisseurs in. If you’re single, you know what it’s like. You must continue to add new friends to replace all your loved-up ones.
The young and carefree only affects so many of us. Though parts of me still feel incredibly young (if you’re older than me, I imagine you’re rolling your eyes) I constantly feel reminded of my age. Whether it’s wanting to know if I still want kids, listening to conversations on furniture and paintings or discussions on wedding anniversaries.
So, going back to how dating changes as we get older
Research suggests older adults experience more satisfying social relationships compared to younger adults. They believe the improvement is based on older people becoming more motivated to create meaningful social experiences as they realise their time is less open.
Another study found dating becomes more fun as you age because older singles feel more comfortable in their skin and less affected by peer pressure.
From my analysis, I also believe age affects dating in other ways:
Our dating personality starts to match our romantic beliefs
Perhaps I’m not mature enough to draw this conclusion, but I’m certain relationships begin to match our cynicism or optimism as we age. When we’re young, even the most unromantic and pessimistic among us still fantasise a happily ever after.
But as we mature, the pessimism can stick. Just watching a couple interact can reveal how someone feels about love. The ones who don’t believe in true love and enduring passion tend to look somewhat bored. And the people that do believe in fairy tales look tired, trying to convince themselves that it’s okay they’re partner doesn’t resemble what they imagined.
People who have experienced years or decades of bad dates and unhealthy choices may continue to go on dates. However, they typically turn up with a negative attitude and buckets of criticism.
A study by a psychoanalyst found that older people who feel regret fall into bitterness. The ones who accept their lives enjoy wisdom and freedom from resentment. This is what happens with dating.
We may become less picky
Research implies older singles are less picky about appearance, wealth and personality. However, they make social integration a priority. Wanting a partner who can mix with our social circle and receive approval from friends seems to replace money and looks.
My experience suggests women can become more open and less rigid in whom they decide to go on a date with, but they’re not necessarily less picky in choosing a partner. In our 20s we likely have less status and more ambition to find ‘the one’ and settle down.
Later, we have more financial power and possibly less belief in finding a perfect someone. This independence can make some of us fussier.
We make better choices
While our memory might be stronger in our 20s, recent research shows our social intelligence doesn’t peak until our 40s. This can impact dating in various ways.
For instance, we become better at detecting emotions and understanding perspectives. Thus, potentially lowering our pickiness.
On the other hand, the more we understand others, the likelihood in better knowing ourselves. This makes it easier to figure out red flags and to determine whether someone is compatible.
Physical appearance still plays a role
Working as a makeup artist, I frequently listened to women of all ages discuss their relationships. As I was researching for this piece, I found countless conversation around looks being less important. Research does support this theory, but I also believe we continue to care about looks if we ourselves make the effort.
Turning 50 doesn’t suddenly make us decide to date the ogre from our 30s or subject ourselves to fewer appealing qualities.
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