Finding a life partner when you are in your late 30s is hard, admittedly. This is especially true if you are a woman.
It isn’t that hard, though. Most of the problems stem from expectations and bad habits. The good news is that finding our life partner is mostly something in our control. We just need to make sure we’re good at relationships, not coasting along with bad habits.
When we are young, it is easier to date. We can play off of attractiveness and our role in the traditional script where people find a partner, settle down and have kids. By the time we reach our late 30s, however, we lose this opportunity to phone it in; we now must actually be good at relationships, not just available. Compounding the problem is that we might not even realize we’ve been coasting along.
This is good news. While the dating phase might be harder if you are in your late 30s, it is an opportunity to lay the foundation for a relationship that lasts because we’re more conscious about being a good partner and not just showing up and expecting it to work.
A recent article in POPSUGAR, 9 Harsh Truths About Dating in Your Late 30s, outlines some of the issues that women in their late 30s face when it comes to finding a solid relationship. Let’s go through the first half of this list and make a few quick adjustments that could help get the ball rolling when it comes to finding that lifetime partner. In my next article, I’ll then tackle the second half of this list.
Problem 1: Men want young women
Yes, they do. This comes primarily from three goals men have when seeking a relationship: they’re looking for children eventually, and a younger woman signals a larger window of opportunity and more fertility. They primarily want sex, and of course a younger woman is ideal from a sexual attractiveness standpoint. They also want someone who doesn’t have as much emotional or habitual baggage, and the younger the woman the less ingrained habits this person will bring to the table.
Men may or may not realize that these are the reasons they prefer younger women, but all three of these factors play a role.
The adjustment for this problem is refocusing the relationship on the actual goal of a relationship: deeply connecting with another person. No matter your age, you can be good at connecting and loving another person. So solving this first problem is winning the game of falling in love by being good at connecting with another person—and walking away from men who are so caught up in “goals” that they can’t recognize the real point of a relationship at its deepest level.
Problem 2: Men mostly just want sex
This also is a real problem, especially since the men who think beyond just sex probably have been snapped up long ago.
If a man is hardboiled and only out for sex, stay away unless sex also is your primary goal.
Most men are not actually out for sex, though—they just think they are out for sex. What they really want is happiness, and sex sounds like a good stand-in for happiness. But love and real intimacy is better. The problem is that men can separate love and sex more easily than women on the whole, and the short-term gain from sex becomes seductive enough that they easily lose sight of the bigger, better happiness that comes from a good relationship.
If a man just wants sex, all you must do is show him that love is better. This won’t eliminate his desire for sex, but it will help him get in touch with something even more important—something you’ve already realized. Your solution to this issue, except in the case of men who are hardcore players, is getting good at building a connection with another person quickly so they see the love right away.
Problem 3: You’re intimidating
As psychologist Carl Jung pointed out, we often operate from archetypes. One archetype for men is that they’re the protector and the provider. Women generally like men who fit this archetype, and men feel pressure to deliver on this role. So when a woman has career or resource parity with a man, this can challenge the relationship. The older a woman becomes, the more likely this issue will occur.
While there’s no complete fix for the problem of gender role archetypes, it can be greatly minimized through—you guessed it—connecting more deeply with your partner.
The first step is making the relationship not about goals and fulfilling a checklist, because this will more than likely engage the traditional life script that gets guys uncomfortable about not being the protector and provider. Instead, make it all about love and connection and not about goals or career success (even if these are important to you).
This change in focus is only a bandage, however, since the archetype persists. The more permanent solution once you’ve gotten your foot in the door is coming together with your partner enough that they no longer think of you as a separate person. Then there’s not two, there’s only one person; there’s no room for intimidation. If this concept seems really foreign or hard to achieve, however, don’t worry—we at Kowalke Relationship Coaching can help.
Problem 4: Your biological clock is getting in the way
There’s a lot of pressure and confusion when you are in your late 30s and want a traditional family life but have not yet found the right person. The pressure for kids can put a big strain on your relationship; it forces goal-oriented thinking and moving too fast with the relationship. This might be rationalized as what must be done to realize the dream of kids and a family, but even when this “last chance” succeeds it often fails in the end; the relationship is built hastily and on the wrong foundation.
More often than not, trying for everything in your late 30s is a recipe for ruining an otherwise promising relationship. Instead of making your biological clock the focus of the relationship and rushing it along, instead accept that your window might have closed and an alternate form of motherhood might occur. You still can keep the possibility of biological kids alive, but re-center your expectations around adopted children or other creative ways to raise kids. You’re much more likely to find a lifelong partner and get closer to your goal of kids and a family if you don’t force the point.
I’ll tackle the other five challenges of dating in your late 30s in the next article. The major takeaway of both this and the next article is the same, though: Get good at relationships and you can find a partner at any age. You might need to adjust how you conceptualize your relationships because just showing up no longer cuts it. But just because you’re in your late 30s, you still can have relationship success.
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If you’re ready to actually take action and start that relationship of your dreams, schedule a free consultation with me or one of our coaches and we’ll help you find and keep that special someone.
Peter is founder of Kowalke Coaching. He also is founding director of the Philia Mission, a small charitable organization. Contact Peter.