The experiences of dating at 25 versus 35 are light years apart. Though ten years’ difference may not seem so long relative to the overall lifespan, ten years makes an enormous difference at this critical juncture of adulthood. In one’s 20s, men and women are dating and getting established professionally; by their 30s, many men and women are already settled down in their romantic life (married, having children) and their careers (having been promoted, making decent money, buying a home). Dating at 25 and 35 are totally different experiences, and each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.
The advantages of dating at 25
Life is more carefree. Simply put, life is typically a lot more carefree. People tend to go out more socially in their 20s and they feel like their whole adult life is ahead of them.
You don’t have a lot of emotional baggage from failed relationships. It’s easier to date when you haven’t been hurt a lot. Meeting someone in your 20s, you feel hopeful that you’ve met someone with whom you can have a lasting relationship. Because you’re only 25, you probably don’t have a lot of dating scars and bruises.
Most of your social circle hasn’t settled down yet, so you don’t feel anxiety about finding someone quickly. Your 20s are a great time for dating because there isn’t a lot of anxiety during this period about getting married and having kids. Even family members typically don’t pressure you to settle down when you’re in mid-20s because the idea, again, is that there’s still so much time ahead of you.
The disadvantages of dating at 25
You tend to be more idealistic about love and relationships. At this stage, men and women look to the future and imagine that the one they’ll end up with will be all – or most –things they’ve always wanted in a partner. Because men and women tend to be idealistic during this stage, they may see minor flaws in their date and abruptly end the relationship, telling themselves that they will be sure to find someone else who meets all of their criteria.
You don’t know yourself and your needs as well as you will later. As smart or self-actualized as you may be at 25, you still only have 25 years of experience from which to draw and make decisions. Many men and women at 25 tend to focus more on finding someone attractive or looking for someone who fits in perfectly with their group of friends. Your dating criteria looks very different at 25 than it will years down the road.
You’re financially limited at this point in your life. At 25, most people are just joining the workforce and they’ve had to enter their professions at the bottom rung. This stage is all about paying dues and working your way up, which means that you don’t have a lot of cash to drop on a fancy dinner date or a romantic weekend trip.
The advantages of dating at 35
You know better what you need in a partner. By 35, you’ve already been to a few different rodeos. You know better which types of dates tend to break your heart, and which types you can count on. Most people at 35 will tell you that they’re looking for someone who is honest and committed, as opposed to “hot” or fun.
You understand the difference between wants and needs. By 35, you realize that you’re not going to meet the magical person who has it all. Though you may want someone who is gorgeous and has a great sense of humor, you realize that what you need is someone who is reliable and treats you well. Understanding the difference between wants and needs is one of the greatest advantages of getting older and having more relationship experience.
You have more financial security and money to enjoy with your date. People say that money doesn’t buy happiness, but money sure can buy a nice night on the town. Having disposable cash and financial security makes you feel more secure in your life and allows you to a do a much broader range of recreational activities with your date.
The disadvantages of dating at 35
Many men and women are already married or coupled up. By 35, a fair number of men and women are settled down in long-term relationships, whether they’re married or living together. The 30s represent a weird limbo period in the dating world where many people are already hitched, and a lot of couples who will eventually get divorced haven’t yet broken up. (For example, when you’re dating at 45, you’re going to meet a lot more single men and women who were once married but are now divorced). When you’re 35 and dating, you feel like most people are already taken, which can feel frustrating and depressing.
You have to deal with the constant societal and family pressure to get married and have children. You have to work hard to draw boundaries with anyone who tells you that you should be settling down and starting a family. If you’re 35 and dating, it’s an ongoing annoyance when people tell you that you need to settle down, or they ask you one of the world’s most idiotic questions: “Why aren’t you in a relationship?” In short, some people simply make you feel like a leper if you’re still single.
You feel a little more cynical about love and relationships. Because you’ve probably had a couple of failed relationships by this point, and because each relationship’s ending brings added sadness and anger, it’s impossible to avoid feeling a little cynical about love.
Final Analysis: Dating at 25 versus 35 is like many other things in life: There are positives and negatives with each. The goal in each stage is to embrace the positives and to not wallow in the negatives or let the negatives make you feel pessimistic about the future. At the end of the day, remember this: Attitude is e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g at any age.
Dr. Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve.