When you’re in your teens and early 20s, it’s common to feel like dating is the most important thing on everyone’s mind. All of the juiciest gossip and the most intriguing conversations are centered around dating, sex and love. This is true no matter how negative our experiences are. And wow, so many of them are negative!

Now that you’ve reached your 30s, it can feel like everyone else started long ago and know exactly what they’re doing, while you feel like you don’t even know where to start. Starting to date later in life can be intimidating.

But you don’t have to feel that way. It’s becoming more and more common for people to start dating in their 30s. Here are five tips that everyone in their 30s should know about dating.

  1. Approach dating like you would approach a friendship.

You haven’t had any dating relationships. So you’re new to romantic relationships. But you do have experience with family and friendship relationships. These types of relationships actually have a lot in common with dating relationships.

At this point in your life, the best way to approach dating is the way you approach making friends. Dating involves emotions and dynamics, which you’re already familiar with. Plus, the person you date should be among your best friends, so look for similar qualities.

  1. You have many examples.

One of the best parts about starting to date later in life is that you’ve been watching your friends mess up their own relationships for years!

It’s a lot easier to see someone else’s mistakes than it is to see our own. This is especially true when it comes to dating. So analyze your friends’ relationships. What do you see in those relationships that you wish you had? What do you see there that looks awful?

Learn from others’ mistakes. You have many to consider!

  1. Figure out what you really want.

If you’ve waited a long time to date, you might be naturally inclined to jump at the first person who comes along. Try to fight against that. You’re obviously looking for someone, but you should try to get out there and meet lots of people.

Hold out until you meet someone you really enjoy being with, and who treats you well. Dating can be fun, and you won’t know what you really want unless you’ve met different people.

  1. Set realistic expectations.

This, honestly, is counsel that could benefit everyone, regardless of their age. Try not to put a huge weight on any potential date or partner. You need to take the time to evaluate them and your chemistry together.

This is especially true if you’re meeting people on apps. It’s easy to project everything you want onto a person you haven’t met yet while you’re chatting and get way too excited about a date, only to have it fall flat within the first few minutes.

Don’t get ahead of yourself. There are always other options out there.

  1. Finally, don’t settle.

This, too, is good advice no matter how old you are: don’t settle. This is really the bottom line.

It’s common for people who started dating at a later age to stay in bad relationships because they may feel like it’s their only chance. But there’s no reason to continue in a bad relationship just because you’re not in your 20s anymore.

If you’ve waited this long to start dating, it’s especially important to not just stay with the first person who comes along. The fact that you were single through your teen years and your 20s proves that you’re confident and independent, and that you don’t necessarily need a relationship. Knowing how to be content while you’re single is an important but often-overlooked skill. Don’t compromise yourself with something that’s less than what you really deserve.

It can be difficult if you’ve been single for a long time when it feels like everyone else is dating and you’re left third-wheeling. But lots of people don’t get into their first relationships until their later 20s or 30s. It’s more common than it seems. So don’t settle. Take your time. There is someone really great out there for you.

And dating is part of the fun!

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