How To Start Dating At Every Stage Of Life

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Updated April 22, 2024by 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 be out of the loop or unsure of what to expect. Regardless of your age, it might be helpful to follow a few dating tips.
Love can be complicated

Advice for dating in your 20s 

People starting to date in their 20s may have different ideas of what dating and romantic relationships 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 find 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 as long as there is mutual consent. However, stay safe and use contraception 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, ensuring that these early meetings don't break your resolve or rush you into commitments. Try not to be 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 is also 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 meet individuals in person and let genuine connections happen organically. To do so, you might join a local club, sign up for a subscription at a local community, or frequent local social events at your favorite bar or bookstore. You can start conversations with people you think would make positive friends and see if a more romantic connection starts from there, even if it initially involves feeling awkward.

Expanding your dating pool 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, thinking it's wrong to seek new relationships at their age. 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 decide, and try not 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 potential financial, emotional, or physical harm. 

Maintaining boundaries the same way at every stage

Boundaries in any relationship, including romantic ones, are the limits and rules we set for ourselves and others. They are key to ensuring that interactions are respectful and fulfilling. Setting boundaries isn't always an easy feat, but it's crucial for the health of the relationship. 

Reflecting on past relationships can provide insights into what boundaries are necessary for you when it comes to dating or deeper commitments like marriage. When starting a new romantic relationship, it's suggested to start slow and focus your effort on being open about what you're comfortable with. This might feel awkward at first, but acknowledging this feeling and moving past it is part of the process. 

You may want to set boundaries early on to help prevent misunderstandings and resentment, which can lead to breakups or even divorce if not addressed. Be aware of red flags instead of ignoring them because you're supposed to feel a certain way. You may also want to keep an open mind and be ready to adjust your boundaries as your relationship evolves; what was decided at the beginning might not always hold true. 

How to start dating after the loss of a partner

After the death of your spouse, you might not be ready to start dating again immediately. However, when you are 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. 

Getty/Vadym Pastukh

Finding support with dating challenges

Some people might think of therapy as a treatment reserved for people experiencing mental health conditions. However, mental health professionals, such as licensed therapists and counselors, are also available to discuss other topics like dating, love, relationships, age, and stress. You don't need a diagnosis or severe symptoms to seek therapy. In addition, options like online therapy exist if you're hesitant to reach out to a therapist due to stigmas, fears, or financial barriers.

Through online therapy platforms like BetterHelp for individuals and Regain for couples, you may be more comfortable 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 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 reachable. 


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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