What My 30s Taught Me About Sex, Love & My Worth As a Woman

It seems like only yesterday I was a naive 19-year-old who thought I knew everything. However, it was only through failed relationships, unmet expectations, and massive self-realizations through the years that I became a stronger, wiser, and happier thirty-something woman. Here’s what I managed to learn:

  1. Love is much more than I thought it was. When we’re younger, we tend to equate love with sex, romance and warm fuzzy feelings. While all that is there, it’s not always at the center of a relationship. Love is found in the times you’re at your worst, when you’re vulnerable and scared, and in those times when your partner needs you the most. Real love is so much deeper, enduring, and rewarding than anything I ever imagined it to be.
  2. I don’t need to apologize for being me. I can’t count how many guys I thought I needed to change myself for. It embarrasses me that I spent my twenties not speaking up for myself when I desperately wanted to. By the time you reach your thirties, you get so tired of the fake friendships, unfulfilling relationships, and censored answers… and then, something beautiful happens. You start being you, and you wonder what the hell took so long for you to get there.
  3. I need to embrace my body. If I earned a dollar for every time I shyly recoiled in a corner or under the covers when a man saw me naked, I’d be richer than Queen Bey herself. Being in my thirties has given me the freedom to realize my body is beautiful, sexy, and strong. I’ve learned that my stretch marks or a little wobble here and there isn’t going to make a guy run for the hills. My confidence is greater now than it’s ever been because I know I’m more than my appearance.
  4. I’ve learned who’s worthy of my time. When we’re in our twenties, we want our fairy tales and we want them NOW. Because of this, I’ve let a guy slam a door in my face, reject me in front of his friends, and break promise after promise. But I put up with it because I wanted to get to the goal: having my prince. Blech. When I got to my thirties, I had an epiphany: I’m a catch, and if he doesn’t see that, then bye Felicia.
  5. Being alone isn’t the end of the world. I used to live in fear of being single, so I’d stay in relationships past their expiration date. Spending time single in my thirties, I learned something I wish I’d learned years ago: I’m okay with being alone. Embracing the single life led me to a much-needed better understanding of myself, my wants, my needs, and my expectations.
  6. Sex is important in a relationship, but not THAT important. In our twenties, we’re all obsessed with having tear-his-clothes-off sex every night of the week. By the time you get to your thirties, you know that sex is awesome, but it’s not everything. The most important things in a relationship are your fundamental similarities, deep mutual respect, and shared interests. As an added bonus, the sex just gets better when these foundations are in place.
  7. Heartbreak isn’t a waste of time. Breakups can be devastating. It was easier for me to drag my ex’s name through the mud when I was younger because I wasn’t willing to take responsibility for my own shortcomings. With more age under my belt, I started catching on that there are lessons to be learned from relationships that failed. And the more I learned, the more equipped I became when I got into subsequent relationships.
  8. Happiness isn’t a destination. When you spend all your time waiting for that promotion or boyfriend or weight loss to bring you happiness, you shortchange your present state of mind. Life still happens even when we’re distracted by the future. When you reach your thirties, you come to terms with the fact you spent a lot of time in your twenties waiting to arrive. Being content with today, right now, is the only destination there is.
  9. I have a choice. I used to let guys pick me, and because of my past propensity to attract super-douches, I found myself stuck in relationships that were unhealthy. Fast forward to my thirties — I’ve learned to say no and that just because you pursue me doesn’t mean I have to take the bait. I can leave a relationship whenever I want. I’m not a victim, and I can choose.
  10. Fear isn’t an enemy. I’ve lived enough now to realize many of my worst fears. Relationships have dissolved, people have died, and friends have deserted me. And guess what? I’m still here. Because of this, I’ve learned to treat fear as a healthy companion and as an indicator of future possibilities. There’s no longer the need to obsessively worry about tomorrow — I’ve already lived it, and it’s not that bad.
Lauren is a freelance writer living in New Jersey. When she's not deeply immersed in pondering the cosmos, you'll find her hiking a mountain, reading something philosophical, or dancing in her underwear. Read more of her existential musings at www.laurenvenn.com