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11 Things I Learned About Being Single In My Thirties

Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all....

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1. Your present happiness is more important than your past expectations.

Instagram: @dominiquesamario

In your twenties, you may have dreamed of a big white wedding and a couple of kids. In your thirties, there's every chance the person you meet will already have done this with someone else.

Letting go of something you spent many years thinking would happen for you can be hard. I spent a lot of my thirties hoping I'd find myself in the right situation to have children. Then when I was 37, I accepted it wasn't meant to be. Yes, I was a bit sad. It was like grieving for the life I thought I would have had, but I'd also seen the reality and how tough parenthood could be. Taking the pressure off myself was a huge relief.

I learned that it's OK to change your mind and let go. You don't have to do something just because it's something you always expected you'd do. The most important thing is that you're happy and true to who you are now.

2. And you don't have to live up to other people's expectations, either.

Instagram: @kreid1231

I spent most of my thirties in a frenzy fretting about finding a man, settling down, and having babies, thinking it was what my parents wanted. Many of my friends felt the same.

Yes, some people meet the right person and get a house, get engaged, get married, have a couple of kids, and that’s great and brings them a lot of happiness.

But when you don’t fit into that mould, people can't seem to comprehend why.

I remember wanting the world to swallow me up, and my poor mum too, when one of her friends asked, "When are you going to give your mum some grandchildren?" In the middle of Marks and Spencer!

But if you’re not so lucky in love or you just don’t want kids, it’s not as simple as that, and the pressure you feel to conform to what everyone else seems to be doing can be really distressing.

Sure, my parents would love to have little kids in their lives, but that doesn't mean I have to go force my dating life into an unhappy settlement to meet that hope. Besides, nieces and nephews, godchildren, and friend's children can bring the same joy and energy to a family. After all, family comes in lots of different forms, as Melanie Notkin's Otherhood explains, and if having your own children isn’t the right path for you, that’s OK.

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3. The relationships you already have are enough.

Mackenzie Kruvant / BuzzFeed

It’s easy to beat yourself up and feel like a dating disaster zone when you’re single in your thirties. But it's important to remember that relationships aren’t just about boyfriends and girlfriends. And you don't need a romantic partner to have a fulfilling life filled with friends who have been by your side for decades.

If I'm feeling down about the dating game, I like to think about the qualities my friends love about me, or even ask them to tell me themselves. Focusing on those relationships reminds me that I am the kind of person others want to be around, that I don't have to be settling down with a partner in order to feel loved.

4. And remember that positive relationships aren't limited to people!

BuzzFeed / Rachel Spencer

I'm going to sound slightly nuts now, but one of my most rewarding relationships in my thirties was with my dog, Daisy.

Daisy was my friend's dog, and I took her in for a few weeks when she had a baby. We fell in love, and luckily I was allowed to keep her forever.

When I was single and lonely, having a living creature to consider stopped me moping, and her unconditional love gave me a more positive outlook on life and myself.

She helped sort the wheat from the chaff with the guys I dated, too. You can tell a lot about a person by the way they are with animals, and if they weren't that bothered about Daisy, I figured they weren't that bothered about me.

(If you can't have a dog, try walking pooches at your local rescue centre or Borrowmydoggy.com.)

5. Being a single adult means you get the luxury of focusing 100% on yourself.

Facebook: Wholeheartedfitness

I started running after being dumped at 32. A few years later, it kept me sane when a newspaper I earned half my freelance income from shut down and another car-crash romance came to an end.

Instead of getting bladdered, I did a 24-hour relay race, and while I couldn't walk for the next week, my head was much more clear. It inspired me to run loads more races and raise money for charity, and when I did a marathon two years ago, one of my many mantras that got me through was thinking, 'If I can get through this, I can get a bloody boyfriend!'

When my love life was crap, running gave me a focus – not to mention the natural endorphins. Getting physical and focusing on your health is a great form of self-care – whether you're running, picking up yoga, CrossFit, or hiking, it's a great way to boost your self-esteem and keep yourself sane when things around you aren't going as planned.

6. Technology can be your friend...

John Gara / Mackenzie Kruvant / BuzzFeed

Internet dating had only just started at the beginning of my third decade. At first, I'd tell people I was on Match and they'd look at me like I'd grown a second head. It was shameful and I was desperate.

As I got closer to 40, it was perfectly acceptable for the single girls in the office to share smartphone snaps of their potential beaus – some of which were particularly graphic – without anyone batting an eyelid.

Internet dating is great and the world is a smaller place, but don't just look on the dating websites or apps. You never know who might pop up on social media too.

7. But a digital detox every now and then will bring you back to centre.

Instagram: @nina

Yes, dating apps are great and Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are excellent ways to make spontaneous connections... but when I'm feeling less that grateful about my single status, the internet can be a pretty frustrating place. Seeing happy couples when you’re on your own can sometimes be heart-wrenching, so if it’s getting you down, it might help to take a break from social media (here's looking at you, Valentine's Day).

When you're feeling low, close your profile for a while and get back into the real world. If you want to meet someone outdoorsy who loves dogs, get out to the park where you might bump into them.

Step away from the screen and see the reality of your friends and their relationships.

8. Know what your real deal breakers are.

Instagram: @adriennewx

If I had a quid for every time I heard "tick tock" and "time is running out" when I was single in my thirties, well, I’d be able to afford a decent weekend away in Blackpool.

But the well-meaning doom-mongers had a point. I think whether or not you want children is the main deal breaker, and it’s not unreasonable to ask the question on the first or second date.

But, while the biggies, likes kids, careers, marriage, and values are important as you get towards the big 40, don’t sweat the small stuff so much. You can teach someone to make a proper brew.

9. Remember it really is better to be on the shelf than in the wrong cupboard.

Instagram: @jmann18

At this point in my dating career, I usually know after a couple of dates if someone is for me or not, and even though it's good to keep an open mind and heart when it comes to the small stuff, it's also important to trust your instincts with potential partners.

If you’re not feeling it, don't try to force it. Tell them in a kind, grown-up way, in the same way you’d like someone tell you, and get back out there. Likewise, if you do date someone who doesn't take your calls or takes three days to answer your text, move on and accept they’re not that into you, and you’re worth more than that.

Don’t settle or let yourself be second best. As psychologist Karin Anderson says, "Don't wear white 'til it's right." Ditch them and free yourself up for someone who values you and who will see you as the catch you really are.

10. It's OK to have a little help if you're struggling.

Instagram: @healingspeaks

If you feel like you're not at the stage where you want to be in life when you're in your thirties it can be tough.

There’s no shame in seeing a dating coach or counsellor who will help you work through your emotions in a healthy way. They’ll help you understand what it is you want and why you want it, and to develop coping strategies to deal with things in the interim.

And while you have your friends for support too, it can be a struggle to make sense of things while guzzling Pinot Grigio, so speaking to an outsider and working through things in a controlled environment, while sober, is a great way to gain a bit of clarity and learn a lot about yourself.

Take time to focus on yourself and realise that you matter. This website helps you find a therapist to suit your needs.

11. Learn to love yourself, and someone will love you just as you are.

Universal

In the words of Whitney Houston, "Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all." And in your thirties, you learn to do this. The awkwardness about your looks and desire to people-please that you may have had in your twenties goes, leaving more room to focus on your own happiness.

The time comes when you learn to value yourself and finally feel happy in your own skin, no matter what other people might think.

Like Bridget Jones, I always felt I might be more desirable if I was slimmer and more intelligent, and drank less wine. But eventually, I learned to accept myself and figured that the right person would accept my foibles and love me just as I am.

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