How to start dating at every stage of life

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Medically reviewed by
Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Updated August 23, 2023
by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Whether you’re a young adult starting to look for dates or an older individual returning to dating after the loss of a spouse, you may feel out of the loop or unsure of what to expect. It might be helpful to follow a few dating tips, regardless of your age.
Two teenagers are walking together and talking about dating; they are looking at each other and have happy expressions.
Advice for dating in your 20s
People starting to date in their 20s may have different ideas of what dating should look like for them. You may be playing the field and having fun or actively searching for the person or people you want to spend your life with or have serious relationships with. Below are a few tips for dating in your 20s.
Consider whether you want casual connections or are settling for someone
Some people enter casual relationships based on sexual attraction. These relationships may be referred to as “friends with benefits.” While this dynamic may be fun for some, it can confuse others. One person may have feelings for the other and settle for a friend-with-benefits dynamic to try to convince them to feel the same.
If you’re looking for a long-term relationship, connecting with people only interested in casual connections may be unhealthy for you. Even if they change their mind, they may not feel the same way for you, which could lead to painful emotions due to unrequited love.
Be safe during casual sexual encounters
If you feel that having casual sex fits your lifestyle and that you won’t form romantic feelings for someone you hook up with, having fun and enjoying this dynamic may be beneficial. However, stay safe and use protection with new people. You may also consider getting regularly tested for STIs to keep yourself and your partners safe. Individuals who may be at risk for HIV can use a medication called PREP to prevent the risk. Consult your doctor to learn more about PREP.
Give yourself time to decide
When dating, give yourself time to decide what you want. Many people in their 20s don’t immediately know what they’re looking for. You can let others know you want to see how relationships go before committing to them. If they’re looking for a similar dynamic, you can go on a few dates and see what connections you desire. Try not to feel pressured to have children, get married, or live with someone if you’re not ready to.
Advice for dating in your 30s
When dating in your 30s, you might start solidifying what you’re looking for. In your 20s, you may have had a more idealistic idea of love or may not have been ready for a serious relationship. Below are a couple of tips for dating in your 30s.
Use past experience to move forward
In your 30s, you may have had more relationships in the past or specific life experiences and examples of other relationships that have taught you what you want in a partner. Use the experiences to create a list of boundaries and standards for a partner. For example, perhaps you like to spend money and want to find someone frugal to remind you to save for your future. Maybe you enjoy engaging in political debates and want someone open to discussing these topics who feels passionate about them. You get to decide what you’re looking for. Try not to settle for someone out of fear of losing time.
Allow love to find you
Younger people often use dating apps, but people in their 30s may prefer to start meeting individuals in person. To do so, you might join a local club, sign up for membership at a local community, or frequent local social events at your favorite bar or bookstore. You can strike up conversations with people you think would make positive friends and see if a more romantic connection starts from there.
Advice for dating after 40
Older adults often look for partners as well, and you’re not alone if you’re dating again or for the first time after 40. Whether you’re 45 or 92, love may be possible for you. Below are several tips for dating during this period.
Don’t limit yourself
Some people may form limiting beliefs about themselves if they’re in the dating pool after 40. They might believe they’re too old to find love or that people will mistreat them. Some may settle for an unhealthy relationship out of fear of being alone. These fears can be valid, but people can date at any age. Try not to limit yourself to one type of partner or dating situation. Try multiple forms of dating and be open to meeting people you might not have considered before. Give yourself time to make a decision, and try not to feel you need to rush the dating process.
Have fun
Dating can be fun at any age. Allow yourself the pleasure of having extravagant dates, finding people who spoil you, and enjoying sexual encounters. If you’re not looking for casual sex, you can also have fun with others on several non-sexual dates. You can go to the movies, a bar, a concert, or a walk on the beach. Try not to limit your date ideas due to your age.
Use dating services
Some people over 40 may struggle to find dating options due to a lack of a dating pool at local dating scenes. If you haven’t found a dating network for middle-aged or elderly adults, consider setting one up or trying a dating service. Matchmaking services may help you find a compatible partner, but they can be costly. If you’re unwilling to spend money on these services, you can try dating sites specifically geared toward older individuals. However, ensure you practice internet safety to avoid the possibility of financial, emotional, or physical harm.
How to start dating after the loss of a partner
After the death of your spouse, you might not feel ready to start dating again immediately. However, when you start to feel ready, allow yourself the chance to find joy through these experiences. Note that you can stop at any time if you’re uncomfortable. Some people are happy being single, while others feel incomplete without someone to date. Either way, you are valid and deserve to feel comfortable.
Navigating dating with therapy
Some people might think of therapy as a treatment reserved for people experiencing mental health conditions. While people with mental illness can use therapy, licensed therapists and counselors are also available to discuss outside topics like dating, love, relationships, age, and stress. You don’t need a diagnosis or severe concern to seek therapy. In addition, if you’re hesitant to reach out to a therapist due to stigmas, fears, or financial barriers, formats like online therapy exist.
Through online therapy platforms like BetterHelp for individuals and Regain for couples, you may feel safer opening up about personal feelings. You can sign up for phone, video, or live chat sessions and take your time with what you talk about. In addition, online platforms are often easy to use and access and don’t have a waiting list.
Research has shown that online therapy can be helpful for people dealing with complex feelings arising from love, dating, and relationships. In a study published by the World Psychiatric Association, the effects of online therapy were examined. Researchers found that innovations like online therapy make it easier to receive counseling. Where prior barriers may have kept individuals from seeking treatment, online therapy makes effective care more accessible.
Takeaway
If you are experiencing complicated emotions related to dating or any other aspect of your life, you’re not alone. You can try the tips above or contact a licensed therapist for support. Advice may be helpful at any stage of life, and you don’t have to navigate it alone.**


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