dating at 34

So in the past few weeks I have turned 34 and attended the wedding of one of my best friend’s. This has me thinking about certain things. Here is one of my fears: that the dating market thins out as you get older, that more and more of the cool attractive single girls get “snapped up” in their 20s and you are mostly left with dregs less desireable people.

OK, of course there are good people out there at any age, around the start of the year I was dating a divorcee six years older than me who was certainly a quality girl. But do women like that get harder to find after a certain age? Say the mid-30s?

I had a big discussion about this with Tallman, who is just a few months younger than me and disputes this theory. He posits that perhaps it is just the boring people who step out of the single lifestyle for boring marriage. However I am not convinced, most women do want to have kids and so need to be settled down by a certain age.

Think about it: everyone enter’s puberty single, then certain people settle down. Of course there is some turnover as people break up and divorce. But that is limited.

I’m look at this from a guy’s perspective, considering women, but of course the same could be said about men (including myself). Perhaps by the time guys are in their mid-30s, most of the committment-minded men have been busy making committments, and those left on the dating market are the ones with phobias and issues?

I remember my friend M., whom I dated briefly, complaining about her guy: well, he’s 35 (or was it 36?) and never been married, what is wrong with him? I laughed, but at the same time was thinking “eep” a little bit. Just how long do I have before people start saying that about me?

UPDATE: Edited slightly

36 comments to dating at 34

  • There could be thousands of reasons someone isn’t married (or divorced) which have nothing to do with having issues. I think this speculation is pointless and paranoid. But that’s just me.

  • themofo

    An important distinction to many women in their 30s is men who have never been married and men who have never been in a serious relationship. I dated a woman for 3+ years and nearly married her in 2002; many women I meet today now consider that ‘good experience’ and know it means I’m not afraid to commit. Contrast that to my friend D, 33, whose last serious relationship lasted nine months when he was 21. Women definitely wonder what’s wrong with him much more than me.

  • annie

    don’t worry…all those chicks that you liked but didn’t get to date back in the day…pretty soon, they’ll be back on the market (since the divorce rate is hovering around 50%+/-) AND some will have a settlement. let them pick up the tab for a change!

    dating is brutal.

  • The 50% divorce rate is a myth, Anne. The divorce rate exploded in the 70s when states first allowed no-fault divorces. (It was mostly women who initiated them, interestingly). But looking at it by dividing the divorces by the number of marriages in a given year gives you a flawed figure, because those aren’t the same people. (Also, people who divorce once are more likely to get divorced again and thus are counted twice, while people who stay married are only counted once).

    If you look at it in terms of people, not marriages, the divorce rate never exceeded 41%, according to this fascinating NYT article.

    But that figure is now outdated as the divorce rate has really plummeted, esp. among college graduates. Only 16% of college-educated people who married between 1990 and ’94 were divorced 10 years later, the article says. If the trend holds steady only a quarter of them will end up divorcing within their lifetime. (Women who don’t have undergraduate degrees are basically twice as likely to get divorced)

    As this page notes, “if you are a reasonably well-educated person with a decent income, come from an intact family and are religious, and marry after age twentyfive without having a baby first, your chances of divorce are very low indeed.”

  • Just know that all of the single, 30-something women out there (myself included), feel similarly. We’re worried that our selection is narrowed town to those with major “issues,” (and also worried that people think that of us!). Let’s prove them all wrong, shall we?

  • hmm…so in less than 3 months, i will be considered a “dreg” and “undesirable.”

    Good to know. :)

  • Haha …you will always be v. desireable in my book Flygirl. No I don’t think 30 is the cutoff. More like somewhere in the mid-30s.

    Laren I don’t think they are wrong, that’s my point. But of course, like I said, I’m sure there are desireable singles at any age. They just get harder to find past a certain age, I reckon.

  • So you think that, as we get into our mid-30’s, the number of people (male and female) who want to get into a committed relationship dwindles? Not sure I agree . . . but I will admit they’re challenging to find, at least here.

  • No, I think there are any number of reasons why someone would never have been married by their mid-30s. Some of them are “legitimate” reasons that do not reflect badly on their character — i.e., maybe their longtime S.O. died in the WTC. But it may also be that they have committment phobia, are difficult to get along with, or have other “issues.”

  • I think the ratio is correct, assuming most undesirable/ issues. phobia having people remain unmarried, the others will leave the population as they get married.

    Other factors play in, however. If someone is focusing on career or socking away some money (which is about foresight and responsibility, not shallowness), for example, he or she may be more desirable by the time he or she is older, having saved marriage for after the house was in order, as opposed to someone who’s committed to limited work hours (meaning closer to 40) and little savings because of a wife/husband and kids early on in their career.

  • spungen

    Themofo is right; it’s about your relationship history, not just binding legal contracts. Relationship history can be judged a lot like work history. Do you just happen to be unemployed now, or have you *never* worked steadily? A man who has had some long-term committed relationships, but never married, may look a lot better than one who married right after college for a brief time, got a divorce, and has been alone ever since. Or than one who has never done either.

    The equation is kinder to a professional in a big city, where people tend to marry older and be more transitory. Also, I think people in creative/expressive fields like journalism should get a break, because it’s so difficult to build the stability one often wants (and needs to attract a partner) before settling down.

    Plenty of dysfunctional people have long-term relationships. Like Chris Rock said, crack addicts stay together forever. The main problem I’ve seen in over-30 educated people is that their standards for others don’t match up with what they themselves have to offer. The schoolteacher thinks she deserves a wealthy guy; the middle-aged pudgy guy thinks he deserves a young model. Unless the teacher looks like a supermodel and the pudgy guy is rich, both are going home alone.

  • I have often wondered about the undesireable part of the 30-something person. As someone celebrating the 4th anniversary of her 36th birthday in a month, I wonder if that means I’ll be single forever. I’ve been in several long term-relationships however I’m also in a creative/television field and have a schedule that brings sympathy to most people’s expressions. I have to at work at 3:30am and am done at about 11am. Hard to have a relationship when you can only have lunch dates and have to be in bed by 7pm and can barely stay awake past 11pm on weekends.

    I often joke to friends that if I find someone and get married, we’ll have to have separate apartments.

  • By mid-thirties, everyone has baggage of one kind or another, and the question of marriage starts including a new component: what sort of baggage people are willing to accept. I don’t want kids; for a surprising number of men, that’s an immediate deal-breaker. Looking at it from another perspective, if a man is hell-bent on procreation, that’s a relationship that’s not going to get off the ground as far as I’m concerned.

    It would be nice to get married again. Having said that, I have a wonderful life. I’m a million times happier now than I would have been had I stayed married. I’ve had relationships with some great guys and one or two jerks since getting divorced, but at the age of 37 with one horrific mistake under my belt, I’m in no hurry . As for “the cutoff” (which I’ve long since passed, apparently). . . where love is concerned, there is no such thing ;-)

  • I think everyone pretty much said the kinds of things I would have said, starting with The Anonymous Blogger.

    But I want to say I laughed at this: “Like Chris Rock said, crack addicts stay together forever.”

    There’s a line from Annie Hall where Woody Allen stops two people on the street and asks them how they managed to stay together. One of them says, “I don’t have an original thought in my head.” And the other says something similar. This is a very loose recollection, but it’s something like that.

  • I’d like to add, as a followup to the Anonymous Blogger’s comment, that sometimes people’s “issues” actually dissipate as they learn more about how to deal with and understand the opposite sex. Some of us are just late bloomers. Our “issue” may be that we were shy, or not too aware of what the opposite sex wanted, or inexperienced…sometimes we need to figure out what we really want, too.

  • A random girl, I truly empathize with that last analysis.

  • The last few comments I think miss the point — I’m not trying to diss or judge any individuals, but discuss the state of the overall dating market.

  • I wasn’t saying you were trying to diss anyone…just pointing out that sometimes people may be available because they were late bloomers and took a while to figure out how to relate to the opp sex or people in general. Hell, I’m still figuring it out and I’m in my mid 30s.

    Which means that sometimes you have to have patience with people in order to make a relationship work.

  • I agree with the Tallman theory, that “the boring people who step out of the single lifestyle for boring marriage”.
    I saw this happen first hand with two friends of mine.
    I know they were looking for an easy way out of being singles by marrying the first person that liked them.
    It’s a very sad state.

  • Yeah, but eventually you have to step out of the single lifestyle, don’t you? I don’t want to be still trying to pick up girls in bars in my 40s, that’d be pretty lame. And if you’re a woman who wants to have kids, after age 35 your chances of becoming infertile increases rapidly. Of course we men can always “date down,” but that has its own problems.

  • I think everyone here is missing one crucial factor: LUCK. I am in my late 30s and have been ready for the Real Thing for the past 8 years, when my last serious relationship ended. I keep meeting men who either haven’t gotten over their last relationship or who, despite being attractive and seemingly normal, just don’t do it for me in the long run.

    I’m sure people wonder about me, “What’s wrong with her if she hasn’t had a relationship in 8 years?” Of course, there was a time period when I began to wonder the same thing: was I putting off the wrong vibe, was I picking the wrong guys, etc. But several years of therapy disabused me of the notion that I’m somehow sabatoging my chances. In fact, my therapist concluded recently, “You’ve just had some rotten, disappointing luck.” I’m pretty confident in who I am, have healthy self-esteem and know what I want at this point. But I don’t get to show that much to men because I simply don’t meet men that often. I go to school with people who are, on average, 27 or so, I work with no single men, and despite having varied interests and “getting out there,” (which includes online dating), I meet a new man maybe 3 or 4 times a year.

    And I know at least 8 other single women, all over 35, never married, who are fabulous, attractive, intelligent, kind, SANE, and very much wanting to meet someone for the long haul. We are not dregs, I assure you. We often wonder where all the single men are these days. We hear you’re out there, but I suspect too many of you in your 30s and 40s are chasing after twenty-somethings (nothing’s wrong with being in your 20s; we all were at one time, but hell if I had my act together back then!) because you think women over 35 are the bottom feeders of the dating pool. If that’s true, you’re missing out on women with the liife experience, self-awareness and wisdom that enables them to keep things interesting.

    You seem to assume that everyone who is already married is a stellar person. There are a lot of screwed up people out there in screwed-up relationships, so don’t assume someone is the salt of the earth just because he or she is married.

    I think assumptions like this are what send people into the wrong relationships in the first place. While the divorce rate might not be at 50 percent, divorce is common enough to make me wonder how many of those people settled to escape the same misinformed fears you harbor.

  • Believe me I’m not about to jump into a relationship to escape any “misinformed fears.” But with all respect Kath your argument seems a bit anecdotal. I have no reason not to believe that you and your friends aren’t great people, but that doesn’t mean the overall quality of the dating pool doesn’t diminish as you get into the mid-30s. Only so many people can have rotten luck.

    And I’m sure there are plenty of screwed up married people out there. But in general most people do not want to marry screwed up people. Sometimes two screw ups find themselves, sure. But I think in general you need to be a little bit on the ball to find someone willing to commit to you … particularly in a place like New York where folks are much more likely to marry at 28 than 18.

  • Kath

    And your arguments aren’t anecdotal? Did I miss something here? Where’s your empirical evidence that the “overall quality of the dating pool diminishes as you get into the mid-30s”?

    You can keep believing that, I suppose, but it’s a pretty dismal way of looking at things.

    It would be interesting to hear your definition of “on the ball.” For the record, my girlfriends and I are all “on the ball” in terms of leading full and active lives. It’s not as if we sit around in our apartments 24/7. We all have careers and social lives, along with doing plenty of volunteerism and participating in sports and other hobbies.

    One thing I have learned (I’ve got a few years on you and a bit more dating experience) — if you don’t push beyond your comfort zone, you might miss out on some really good people.

  • Well it is not like I have done any surveys. But I think that most women (other than loners and commitmentphobes) do want to be married by their mid-30s. If they haven’t, I think that likely means a) there’s something wrong with them or b) they’ve had, to use your words, “rotten, disappointing luck.”

    But like I said, only so many women can have bad luck. You can only keep rolling craps for so long, eventually the law of averages catches up to you. In other words, the dating market thins out. That doesn’t mean there isn’t great people out there at any age, but every year some are going to stop having bad luck and find someone.

    (And nothing against loners and commitmentphobes, I’m describing some of my best friends. And you could say bad things about me here as well.)

  • and you wonder why i am seriously dreading turning 30…

  • I totally agree. Even at 25, EVERYONE I meet is already “taken” or a loser (except me, of course, right?) I know you probably think I’m crazy b/c I’m younger than most of the other commenters-and how could they all be taken ALREADY-but it definitely seems like that. I don’t even talk to guys now b/c I know they’re going to bust out with, “my fiance” or “my children” and I hate being caught hitting on a “taken” guy-and they ALL are. They should seriously make guys wear engagement rings too.

  • Audrey – I think it depends on where you live, when I was in New Hampshire everyone was settled down by 25 too … or had moved to the big city. Here in NY people are single much longer.

    As for “man-gagement” rings, gay gay GAY! But maybe you can get the Mofo to wear one!

  • Or if you’re me, you’re totally drawn to Gay men… nothing like getting involved in a conversation with a pretty cool dude, and he starts talking about his partner… darn it… don’t even get me started on releasing the “kid” topic. I do that a lot to ward off any hesitant inquiries… it is fascinating how few come back for another “chat” in my off the beaten path office after they see the pics of the 3 kids I have on my wall. Natually they all look like me… but at least with the kids. I’ll always have someone to go to dinner and a movie with :-)
    I don’t know if Alaska is any different, but it seems a large majority of the peeps are married in their early to mid 20’s. Or they leave the state as soon as they can! HAHAH some just can’t handle the “tough” life :-)
    Good luck ALL, our prince(cess) is out there, even if they’re frogs at the moment.

  • CaliGirl

    This is all very interesting… I am a 34 year old divorced mother of 3 children and I have been dating a 22 year old guy for almost a year now. I happened upon this website cuz I wanted some tips for dating at 34. All of my guy friends keep telling me that I am wasting my time and that I am not gettin’ any younger. They tell me that the dating pool gets more and more shallow as you get older and basically, that when my 22 year old BF decides to dump me for a younger POA that I will be an old maid and undesirable! So, I decided to seek out some advice on this topic. I really don’t look at it the way guys seem to see it – and I am not naive. I know that when age catches up in this relationship we will eventually have to part ways even thought we are great together (and not just in bed), but I feel that dating a younger guy has vastly expanded my dating pool and I’m diggin’ it!

    I must further say that I have been a little concerned with older men that I have dated that have not been married or do not have children. But, I do not think this until they are in their 40’s. So, I’d say you have quite a few more years to go til you’re deemed weird! ;-)

  • Kelley

    I just turned 34 on Thursday. I’m still searching for “the one” (kill me for using that) and I’m not a dreg. I divorced 4 years ago because I settled – I agree that a lot of boring people are the marrieds – and now my life is A+. I’d love to meet Mr. Right and settle down with family, but not if it means finding Mr. Almost.

    I’m also a huge Red Sox fan and a Massachusetts native. In the spirit of actually dating, instead of just talking about dating, how about watching a game at The Riv or Hairy Monk? I can send you my details if you’re interested. How’s that for getting off the couch everyone? ;) Does 34 = BOLD?

  • I wouldn’t do it as a date, but I’m more than happy to catch a game with my readers at a Red Sox bar. How about Prof. Thom’s, that way hopefully I can also see (and you can meet) my friend Finy, she’s awesome.

  • Hahahaha … how did I not see this before. Thanks sweetie!!!

    *Finy slinks away because she TOTALLY owes Derek a phone call – oops

  • […] There was some discussion on this blog lately about dating and luck. However I do not really believe in luck when it comes to dating. Why? Because I am a guy, I have to make my own luck. […]

  • […] am feeling much more settled today than I did at my last two […]

  • mike h

    hi wow so glad i found this i too am nearing mid thirties to its like my twenties whent by in a flash you know wake up one day and your thirty or thirty five.i thought my 20s were going to be more and more fun but they turned out more arduous.and adult there was some deaths in the my family relationships and shifting of lifestyles,living situations i should say.moving apartments,finding them .also i hear that after thirty your brain fully matures and you are able to use more of it also people shouldnt get married til forty i think this is how we are designed and were just mere puppies in our 20s.

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