Ah, for the days when dealing with boys was simple: They all had cooties, so we kept our distance. Yet even when we grow up and start looking for a partner, we still maintain a certain level of choosiness. They have to look a certain way, or earn a minimum salary, or share our love of The Walking Dead. Those parameters change, though, as we get older. That's why some things that aren't dealbreakers in your 20s definitely are in your 30s.
What accounts for the change? "There's a level of freedom and independence that we step into as we go from the post-college 20s to the 30s," explains certified love-life coach Lisa Concepcion, founder of Love Quest Coaching. In an email interview with Romper, she adds, "We mature and want to create our own lives without the influence of our parents. Also, around 30, [many women] want to be a mother. This is why we see more women aged 30 dating men 10 years older, who are more established and ready to be a parent."
It can work the other way around, too, dating coach Damona Hoffman, host of the Dates and Mates Podcast, explains to Romper. What turns us off in our 20s may not be as big of an issue as we age. "The biggest dealbreaker that I've seen shift is that women in their late 30s become open to dating men who already have kids, while most women in their 20s and early 30s say that is a dealbreaker," she says.
We take our dealbreakers pretty seriously. A 2015 study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin analyzed men and women's turn-offs for both long- and short-term relationships. The researchers found that both genders reported being more likely to avoid dating someone who had one of these undesirable traits than they were to date someone who met one of their dealbreakers.
We're not talking about the definite, no-compromise red flags that apply no matter what your age: Mental and physical abuse, unrepentant horndoggery, and hateful ideologies are always a sign to run far and fast. But other, less shady factors can be a problem when it comes to dating in your third decade. Here are some of the biggies:
1. They're not marriage-minded.
By their third decade, most people know their ultimate relationship goals. "The biggest dealbreaker I see in this age range is an unwillingness to settle down, and that usually means marriage," says Hoffman. If you know you want to say yes to the dress (and all that goes with it), then you're not likely to stay with someone who's reluctant to commit.
2. They lack ambition.
In our 30s, we may say we want someone well-educated with a good job. But what really makes or breaks a relationship, says Concepcion, is whether the partner has the drive to succeed at whatever they do. As she points out, there are plenty of college dropouts who have turned their side hustles and online businesses into successful ventures, as well as educated people with good jobs who find themselves stranded after a layoff. "So the thing to look for is their work ethic and self-discipline," she says. "If that's missing, you'll always be waiting for them to stop drifting and get serious."
3. They're not on the same page as you about having kids.
Unlike other big couple-decisions such as having a joint bank account or whose family to visit over the holidays, the to-parent-or-not issue is one that has to be resolved ASAP if a relationship is to survive. "Whether or not to have kids is an issue that I've seen break up otherwise happy partnerships," says Hoffman. "There isn't much compromise on having kids if one partner is strongly opposed to the idea, or insistent on having kids, and the other partner is on the opposite side of the spectrum."
Dragging out the decision for months on end only makes matters worse. By age 30, women have only a 20 percent chance of getting pregnant each month they try, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. After 35, those odds plummet, and the closer you get to 50, the less likely it is you'll conceive even through IVF.
"If you are both a 'maybe,' then you have room to discuss it and find a middle ground," explains Hoffman. "Otherwise, it is a dealbreaker issue that should be discussed before things get too serious."
4. They're still living at home.
Yes, there are legit reasons to go back (or stay) at home temporarily — rebuilding after a messy divorce, paying off college debt — but if your date doesn't have a game plan for living independently, that's a red flag, affirms Hoffman. "Living with his parents might not be a dealbreaker in your 20s, but if he gets to his 30s and he's there to save on rent and not to take care of an ailing parent, that can indicate a resistance to adulting in all the ways that would most affect a relationship," she says. Adds Concepcion: "By the time an adult is 30, they should want the freedom from the security of their parents. They should also be a few years into a career path, or at least done dabbling and ready to enter their primary earning years confidently with focus."
5. You can't agree on finances.
Money is one of the top sources of friction between married couples: how to save it, how to spend it, who pays the bills, plans for getting out of debt. If you're not on the same page about money while you're dating, according to the website A Conscious Rethink, that's a sign this relationship isn't working. "Money isn't everything until it is," explains Concepcion. "Anything from careless spending to hoarding and being fearful can create major issues." She adds that money attitudes aren't necessarily tied to income; a partner earning $150K a year can be cautious about spending, while someone earning a lot less may be a lavish gift-giver and trip-planner. "Ultimately, if one person is lack-minded and the other is abundant-minded, they will have to work together to balance one another out and get on the same page," says Concepcion. "It all begins with an open, honest discussion about money, and it can start as soon as the early days of dating."
6. They don't take care of their health.
A partner in their 30s who doesn't care at all about their health — not even the basics like eating veggies or getting regular exercise —is setting themselves up for problems later on, relationship expert Megan Weks told Reader's Digest. For some women in that age bracket, that may be a turn-off. Still, adds Hoffman, "If they've made losing 20 pounds their New Year's resolution for the last three years and never done it, you're unlikely to stop loving them for it." More of a dealbreaker, she says, are health-related habits that interfere with daily life, like alcohol or drug addiction.
7. They're still in party mode.
By our 30s, many of us are ready to leave behind the bar and club scene we loved in our post-college days. "I see plenty of 35-year-olds who are spending weekends with their kids; I also see divorced 45-year-olds at clubs buying bottles for 30-year-olds," says Concepcion. "It all depends on where one is in their lives. The one thing that's important to note is that no one could or should try to convert a partier." If you're more into binge-watching Netflix or hitting the bike trail during your spare time, you're not likely to enjoy dating someone who sees their weekends as one long happy hour. "Find someone who is on your level and wants the same things," advises Concepcion.
8. They have unresolved relationship issues.
When you're a 20-something, it may not be a huge deal to date someone who still talks to a recent ex. But as the years go on and you start looking for a more long-term commitment, having a partner who seems to be tied to a past relationship may be less appealing. Consider it a potential dealbreaker if the person you're dating is secretive about their contact with the ex, talks to them as often as they talk to you, or becomes defensive when you bring up the topic, relationship experts told Elite Daily.
Similarly, dating someone from a dysfunctional family may not necessarily be a dealbreaker, psychologist Dr. Michael Bennett told The Cut. It all hinges on how your partner deals with it and how willing they are to set boundaries on their family. However, someone in their 30s who's marriage-minded may see this as a red flag. If you have Hallmark Channel visions of happy Christmas gatherings with your in-laws, you may be wise to reconsider getting serious with someone who hasn't spoken to their family in months.