So the good news about dating in your thirties and forties is by now you likely know who you are and what you like, but you are still flexible enough to allow new experiences and new people into your life. And hopefully by now, the “games” in dating have stopped or at least drastically reduced. In fact, dating in your thirties and forties tends to be more serious and fulfilling, as most people resolve the “do I want to get married” question. If you are dating in this stage of life and you want to get married, be sure to ask your date the question. Not if he or she wants to marry you, especially if you just started dating, but it’s important to know if your date is looking for a life partner or just the life of the party. The same goes for having children. You need to know before you get too involved for too long.
No matter what our dating status, be it single, newly single, or single parent, the major goal of this stage in life is to develop intimate relationships. For most people, this means finding a marriage partner. But it can also mean developing close relationships with friends, the church, or a community you are passionate about. The goal is to learn how to be vulnerable enough to get close, but experienced and mature enough not to get manipulated and hurt. Or if you do find yourself in a bad situation, that you get out quickly. We all have the benefit of experience, but we also have the fears of repeating bad experiences (a.k.a. “baggage.”). It’s good to be aware of what you don’t want to repeat, but not if it keeps you out of the game entirely.
The downside of not forming intimate relationships is falling into a pattern of isolation. In fact, isolation is one of the most painful aspects of being single, or newly single, at this age. You would think with all the technology we have to keep us connected that we would feel less isolated. But sadly, research is showing that more and more people struggle with a deep sense of loneliness. And it’s not always easy to talk about. Dating out of a desire to simply not be alone can be dangerous, as it can move us towards people that we would normally know to avoid. Setting boundaries around what you will tolerate, like simply expecting to be treated as a good friend or setting limits on sexual intimacy, can help you manage the longing of wanting to be a couple. Don’t let dating with a lonely heart lead you to a broken one.
Dating in your thirties and forties can take on a new focus. You begin to look for characteristics that are good for long-term compatibility rather than a short-term adrenaline rush. It can take extra work, and be a bit more complicated, but it’s well worth the effort. Really, any long-term relationship (more than 2 years) is going to take work. Maintaining long-term friendships throughout this stage of life can also become trickier, especially if friends are married or building their own families. It can take extra effort to find common ground with a former “wing man”.
But beyond the work, the beauty of this age is the capacity to love, in deeper and more meaningful ways. Our dating goals and our spiritual goals are meant to be the same: to learn to love more fully and perfectly. We are given the example of perfect love in Jesus on the cross, but also in Jesus serving the poor and widowed, Jesus reaching out to the Samarian woman, and Jesus speaking against social injustices. We have the opportunity to grow in the wisdom of what it means to be a follower of Christ. And it’s a beautiful thing when your dating life meshes well with your faith life. Shared faith adds spiritual intimacy to a relationship, a type of intimacy that reaches out from the couple and taps a supernatural power. Spiritual intimacy, or simply inviting God into your relationships, empowers us to build and keep the relationships that have given us an abundant life. And there is no other gift of maturity then to live life with more of the abundance of God.