Struggling with dating in NYC in your 20s and 30s? You’re not alone, and therapy can help.
N ew York City is full of glitz and glamor, which makes it seem like a great place for singles to put themselves out there and find someone to spend their life with. However, if you’ve lived in the Big Apple for a while, you’ll know that dating in NYC is full of challenges no matter where you are, or whether you’re interested in in-person dates or online dating.
As a licensed NYC psychotherapist, I often work with young adults on navigating dating, relationships, boundaries, communication, and much more. During my sessions, I often notice common themes emerge that many of my clients share. While dating is difficult anywhere in your 20s and 30s, I recognize from my own personal experience that dating in New York City presents its own unique set of challenges.
How Therapy Can Help With Dating Trouble
In my experience, people typically initially enter therapy for trauma, anxiety, depression, etc. These mental health concerns that many experience, and many incorrectly believe are the only “valid” reasons to engage in therapy. However, therapy isn’t restricted to just one issue – many different therapeutic approaches can be tailored to resolve many different situations, and dating in NYC is one of them.
Approaching a therapist about dating and relationships might at first feel a bit silly. I find that far too many of the people I work with hold these struggles back, as they feel they are not “worthy” or “important” enough to take up space in a therapy session. On the contrary, they usually find through our work that it can be an incredibly uplifting experience to realize that you don’t have to struggle alone through the trials and tribulations of dating.
Dating deserves space in the therapy room, just as much as any other aspect of our life. We are all humans who innately strive for connection with others. It is normal to want relationships in our life. Your thoughts and feelings surrounding these relationship milestones, goals, or difficulties, are valid and deserve to be discussed and explored if that is something that is important to you.
You don’t have to struggle alone through the trials and tribulations of dating in NYC.
Common Challenges That Therapy Can Help You Resolve
When you’re in your 20s and 30s, dating can feel like a rollercoaster you didn’t sign up for. The highs are highs, but the lows are lows — and can leave you feeling like you’re going to be alone all your life. Trying not to let it get you down can feel exhausting, but always remember that you’re not the only one struggling with loneliness, and there is support out there.
Through my work with adults struggling with dating in NYC I have noticed some common themes that my clients have shared. How many of these resonate with you?
1. Feeling Like Your Emotions Are Invalid
Everyone has worries, anxieties, fears, and complaints. However, when yours are related to dating, it might feel like they aren’t valid or worth taking up space in a therapy session.
Have you ever thought to yourself, “I feel so silly for even complaining about this”? Well, you’re not the only one — it’s just that nobody ever talks about it. You probably find when talking to people around you about your feelings towards dating you often feel dismissed. Being told things like “you’ll find someone” “you just have to put yourself out there” “are you even trying?”
It isn’t always as easy and others may want it to be for you, and it can feel invalidating to get these responses, so we simply stop speaking up about it. If you talk to a therapist about dating, you’ll find that it’s an incredibly common sentiment between clients, and you are not alone in these very valid feelings.
Dating can sometimes feel like a rollercoaster you didn’t sign up for.
2. Getting Left Behind
When it seems like your entire friend group is either getting married, having kids, or both, it can feel incredibly isolating. Everyone handles married life and becoming a parent in different ways, and most of the time you won’t even know how you’ll react until it happens. You might find that, when your friends are talking about how marriage or kids “changed them” and all you can do is placidly nod along, a sudden fear of missing out begins to fester inside of you. Even if marriage or kids isn’t something you want, the simple fact of being unable to relate to the conversations surrounding these milestones, can leave you feeling isolated and out of place.
Being unable to relate to the conversations surrounding major milestones, can leave you feeling isolated and out of place.
3. Social Anxiety
Social anxiety is difficult enough to deal with on a “normal” day, but dating with social anxiety is a whole new ballgame. While you might be okay with meeting new groups of friends, this doesn’t always translate over to new dating prospects. For example, when meeting new friends you might ask yourself, “Do I like this person?” but when you’re going on a date, you realize you’re just trying to impress a potential partner and are more concerned with “will they like me?”
Often, this results in you working hard to make them like you and neglecting your own needs, desires, and feelings in the process. Sometimes you realize later that you didn’t even like them that much, but at the time, you were too busy trying to get them to like you to notice. Stepping out of this mindset can be extremely difficult, and speaking with a therapist to work through this can be a huge help.
4. Assessing Your Motives and Needs
If you’ve been dating for a while, you probably have a list of dating deal-breakers. It’s good to know what you’re looking for in a partner, but sometimes you might grapple with a seed of doubt. There’s nothing wrong with being single, even though you may at times feel insecure as the only single person in your friend group. Don’t jump into a relationship and settle for someone just because you’re both available. Take a step back and assess your motives for dating. As you begin a dating relationship, be sure to take your time and check in with yourself. Here are some questions to reflect on:
What do you get out of this relationship?
Do you like how you feel when you are around this person?
Do you like who they are, their unique qualities?
When exploring a new relationship, be sure to honestly check in with yourself and your needs.
5. Setting Boundaries With Loved Ones
Are you constantly hounded by your friends and family members about your love life? Many older family members especially often pester their younger family members about dating, getting married, and whether or not they’re going to have children soon. This is commonplace but can feel extremely invasive.
You may have just started feeling good about your life and being single when your grandpa asks why it’s been so long since you’ve been on a date. Even when this comes from a well-meaning place, for example, your family member stating how they can’t believe you don’t have a partner yet with how “great of a catch you are.” However, it really serves to remind you that you are single, and that others are commenting on it as if it is a negative. Suddenly, you feel insecure all over again.
Setting boundaries with your family and other loved ones — even well-meaning friends whose jokes land too close to home — is important for your emotional and mental wellbeing. They may be offended at first but should respect you if they really love you. If they don’t respect your boundaries, there’s nothing wrong with putting some space between you until they can respect you better.
Setting boundaries is important for your emotional and mental wellbeing.
6. Celebrating Non-Typical “Wins”The most common achievements and milestones that are celebrated in our early to late adulthood are engagements, weddings, or baby announcements. If you’re renting your first apartment as a young professional or starting a new job, which are exciting new phases of your life, your accomplishments don’t receive as much fanfare. This can be draining, especially since you’re expected to show up and celebrate your friends’ and family member’s milestones. No matter how excited you are for them, it can feel unjust that they have party after party. Your nontypical wins are still important. If no one else will organize it for you, throw yourself a party! Or if you’re happier staying in, cozy up with a celebratory glass of wine and watch a show or read your favorite book. Even if no one else does, make it a point to celebrate the milestones in your life that are important to you.
7. Staying Grounded Amidst Pressure
It’s not surprising that you may feel a lot of pressure to have a picture-perfect romance in your 20s and 30s, especially when so many of the love stories you see portrayed in the media happen during those years. It’s difficult to stay grounded in a world with so much pressure, especially in a city like New York. It may be easy to start looking for a relationship because it feels like the “correct” next step in your life, but don’t be afraid to take a hard look at whether or not you actually want to date. What you want for yourself is way more important than what society or other people in your life think you should do.
What if I’m not ready to start therapy yet?
Even when you fully commit to start therapy, finding the right therapist can be an intimidating task. However, support is all around you — you can ask for referrals from your inner circle or turn to the internet and look for websites or reviews for nearby therapists.
Additionally, there are many helpful resources and articles on related topics if it doesn’t feel like the right time for therapy just yet. Here are a few articles that you may find useful in your journey:
The Bottom Line
If you take anything away from this article, remember it’s human to want connection and intimacy in your life. You’re not alone, and your feelings around relationships and dating are completely valid.
Did any of this article resonate with you? If you’re interested in learning how therapy can improve your outlook and your dating life, I encourage you to book a complimentary phone consultation with me today. You can also get to know me by visiting my profile before we connect. I’d love to get to know you and help you make lasting improvements to your dating life.
Your Turn: How have you experienced dating in New York city in your 20s and 30s? What’s helped you along the way? Share your thoughts in the comments below.