While writing my last piece, Feigned Love: The Art of Settling, it became apparent that one article could not do justice to this important yet under-discussed topic. Seemingly everywhere I look, people my age are throwing away their peak years for the sake of finding a partner; any partner. People get into checklist mode and become inclined to marry the next person they meet who's interested, employed and doesn't have an (obvious) substance abuse problem.
Seriously though, most relationships these days are so cookie-cutter and predictable that they could fall off the script of a low budget rom-com; "maybe Bed, Bath and Beyond, I don't know if we'll have enough time!" As indicated in my last article, I myself almost fell into the same trap. I decided that I wanted what everyone else had and went full-steam ahead into Mission: Find-A-Wife. Fortunately I came to my senses before completely derailing not just one, but two lives.
If you look around the Internet you'll find that most advice for the 30-something crowd centres around how to find your future mate. Why nobody is talking about how enjoyable and acceptable it is to be happy, in lieu of a partner, is beyond me. I must have missed the memo when being 30 and single was declared an alternative lifestyle. With this in mind, I felt compelled to tackle the subject and explore how to be truly happy as a 30-something in this day and age. Instead of spending time creating online dating profiles and disappointingly speed shopping through potential partners, this article is being written to show you the other options.
Before going any further, I want to make it clear that this advice is indeed for both men and women. Yes, I understand that women have a biological clock and no, I don't believe it changes anything. To be frank (and to give an unpopular opinion that will surely make me enemies), the biological clock thing, although real, is primarily being used as an excuse to settle down. Yes, it is reasonable to desire having children before a certain age but no, this is not a reason to throw away your lifestyle as you enter your thirties and force yourself into a sub-par relationship. Some women use the biological clock excuse to explain why they're chasing a relationship and why it's acceptable to settle for less. It's an excuse that falls into that same category as any 30-something man who is simply lonely and longing for someone to take care of him.
These days, if a woman wants a baby, she can have a baby. A husband doesn't have to be part of the equation. I'm aware that it's not ideal, but that's the point I'm trying to make: It's not the biological clock running the show, it's the desire to fill long-standing socially-driven expectations. If you reach the point in your life where you want a child, have a child; biological clock problem solved. If you want a partner, find a partner -- just don't tell me that it's your biological clock forcing you to settle into an unfulfilling relationship.
With that piece of housecleaning out of the way, here are the keys to being single, awesome and happy in your 30s, for both men and women.
Live For Yourself
It perplexes me that I have to explain this simple piece of common sense but it seems to be totally lost on our generation. You live once -- one single time. It seems to me that when people realize they've entered their late 20s unattached, they start to panic and throw the present to the wind in an attempt to set up the life they always thought they'd have by their early 30s. I discuss this with clients all the time -- it's important to have large, long term goals but you can't obsess on those goals because you can't make them magically happen overnight. The key is to take small, actionable steps every day that will ultimately help you get to your finish line. If your goal is to get married and start a family, don't blow-up your current lifestyle by starting to serial date and fast-track a relationship to catch up with self-imposed timelines. If you don't live for what you love, who is going to fall in love with who you really are? Changing your lifestyle in hopes of finding a partner will not only decrease your present quality of life, but it will set you up for failure and unhappiness in any impending relationship. Live for yourself and when you meet the right person you can happily learn to live for one another -- the real one another.
The number one thing that got my life going down the right path was to simply open my mind and say yes to things that I'd ignored in the past. It's easy to pass judgment on things and to scoff at the choices and activities of others, but you really don't know what life is all about until you get outside your comfort zone and truly give new experiences a real chance. You will meet new people, experience different thoughts and it will make you a more worldly, well-rounded person. This can be hard to embrace for those of us who aren't innate risk takers, but I can't recommend this enough. Develop yourself, learn to let go and you'll be amazed at the fun you can have!
Take Care of Your Body and Health
Arguably the most important piece in this entire equation, you have to look after number one. As a single 30-something, you want to make sure you look and feel your best. If you can accomplish these two things, your confidence will shine and people will take notice. If it appears that you're unhealthy and don't seem to care for yourself, well, that's surely the crowd you'll attract. Exercise, eat real food, and prioritize sleep. These three things will not only boost your confidence and improve your quality of life, but they'll prolong your youth and extend the window of opportunity to meet a potential partner with a similar, healthy mindset. Not only that, but exercise will make you more sexually desirable and increase your libido, two things that go hand in hand with an extended youth and increased quality of life.
Enjoy the Now
I've had this talk with several women and watched light bulbs explode with insight above their heads. This totally applies to men as well, but it's imperative for women to understand this point of view. As I've mentioned above, some single women can get bent out of shape over their biological clocks and spend an inordinate amount of time trying to find a man for baby-making. So much so that they'll slip into a pattern of dating without joy or satisfaction; finding a partner begins to consume all aspects of their lives. Again, this does happen with men too, just without the excuse of the clock thing. This results in a great deal of time being dedicated to frustration and disappointment and inevitably limits the time these people have to enjoy life outside the process of dating.
Here's the deal: You are only young once. You only get one shot to enjoy the youthfulness of your body before things start to break down. Sure, you can argue that pregnancy is one of those things, but youth is a terrible thing to waste because time is the only resource that we can truly never get back. You should be active, you should be adventurous and for the love of god you should be enjoying sex. I'm going to elaborate on this below, but seriously, why are people wasting the youth of the only human body they have? I understand the desire to find a partner, but I do not understand prioritizing this over doing the simple things that can be done today to enjoy the now and to ensure happiness each and every day. Search for a partner, fine, but don't overlook the other things in your life that bring you joy!
Embrace and Enjoy Sex
Newflash: Sex makes life better. Going back to one of my main points: You only live once. Ipso facto, have more sex. Who are the happiest people you know? The happiest people I know are the ones having the most sex. I've covered the health benefits of sex in the past and it's unquestionably one of the most important activities in which adults can participate. Yes, I understand that there are concerns that go along with sex but it comes down to being smart. Choose your partners wisely. Yes, condoms can break, but we are so crazy fortunate to live in Canada where we have free health clinics and morning after pills. I understand that situations like this are not ideal, but if you're careful these are rarely, if ever, necessary.
On that line of thought... Use Condoms. Don't be stupid. If you're going to capitalize on the other points in this article, don't go and blow it by having unprotected sex and risk contracting something that could seriously downgrade the great life you've created. Be smart, be safe, and you'll be able to enjoy the best thing in life for the longest possible time. Condoms are free at clinics and not pricey in drug stores. Buy them, use them, and don't be afraid to replace one mid-session if you're a marathon man and you're pushing the intended lifespan of your little latex friend. No excuses here.
Don't Get a Dog
For the love of God and everything that is holy, don't try to fill that empty space in your life with a dog. If you are an absolute animal lover, spend a lot of time at home and want a dog because you love dogs and you'll give the little pup a good home, by all means. However, if you are lonely and think a dog might help you find a partner, please don't be that person. Not only are you not the right kind of person to own an animal, but they will tie you down. Dogs change your lifestyle and alter your existence. They give you an excuse to stay at home and can hold you back from new social opportunities. They poop, and you have to pick it up. They will not marry you nor will they bear your children. They will not replace your longing desire to wake up with a human who can converse with you and poop in a toilet. This is a Band-Aid solution, and one that will not make you happy in the long run. Get a dog if you love dogs and only want to date a dog-lover, but don't do it for any other reason.
Yes, I am anti-online dating but no, I am not anti-Tinder. If you want to best position yourself to meet a potential partner in a relatively organic way, get Tinder. If you want to make some new friends with similar interests, get Tinder. If you are simply single and looking to mingle, get Tinder. It's the app for meeting people, regardless of your end game. The only hard part is deciphering the agendas of others, so save everyone the time and make your intentions clear; no point in wasting someone's time if you're looking for different things. Why Tinder and not online dating? Tinder is a simple app, you don't have to create an elaborate profile, you connect with people immediately and you only connect if both individuals are mutually attracted to one another. The app has a bad rap but if you're selective on your swipes (this is absolutely key, as otherwise the app is a huge time killer and waste of your hours), you can meet some real gems without the hassle and expectations of online dating.
Do Something You Love
You might not be able to spend the majority of your time on the thing you love (you have to pay the bills somehow!), but outside of work you should find something you love and commit to becoming proficient at whatever it is. If you can make a career out of it, more power to you- this should be the goal for everyone, but it's not necessarily realistic for us all. The more time you spend doing the thing(s) you love, the happier you'll be, and the more likely you'll be to meet someone who shares a similar passion. Please note, I'm not talking about playing video games or knowing the ending to every HBO DVD box set. I'm talking about something productive, either for your own development, or for the community at large. Ambition is an extremely attractive trait and if you exude it, you'll attract it. Worst case scenario is that you'll spend a lot of time doing something you love and become an expert at whatever it may be; so why aren't you doing this yet?
Accept Fleeting Happiness
Saving the best for last, people need to take things for what they are. Happiness comes in many shapes and forms, and they aren't all permanent. The same goes for relationships. You can be looking for a long-term relationship and at the same time enjoy the company of someone who isn't the long-term answer. As long as intentions are made clear and you're honest with one another, nobody can get hurt or be offended. Maybe you get along with someone super well, but you know they aren't a long-term match. Are you wasting your time with this person? Unless you're devoting all your time to them, the answer is no. It's OK to enjoy the ride while pursuing the elusive long-term solution. If you can find joy in the little things day to day, it takes the stress off the big ones.
The message I'm trying to convey is that the quest for true love doesn't have to have a timeline and shouldn't prevent you from enjoying your peak years as a single adult. The journey starts with discovering who you really are and if you skip this step by trying to rush into a committed relationship, you run the risk of living the rest of your life without knowing what truly makes you happy as an individual. Live for yourself, discover what makes you love waking up every day, and when you meet the right person you'll both be in the right headspace to make it last a lifetime.
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