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Ashley Kelsch Explores the Differences Between Dating at 30 vs. 40


SXSW was a moment to be had this year!

Not just the music and events, but the PEOPLE. It’s been easy to forget all the people we haven’t seen over the last few years and why — until this last week. It was nothing short of a reunion, one where you don’t take for granted the usual faces you see. It was a classic South By collection of moments that was all about exciting run-ins with friends from the past, combined with the suspense of making new connections with visitors and people new to Austin. Who needs a dating app when you have SXSW in full throttle?

Unlike South By weeks of the past, where I would find myself annoyed that my husband wasn’t cool with me being out with friends, being ghosted by the guy I had been dating or being led on by someone else I just met — SXSW’s that were all about guys — I made a rule for myself. This time would be all about being with my friends and doing my own thing.

And if something happened, (let’s face it, spring is in the air) I’d be open to it, but I wouldn’t let myself get wrapped up in it. It’s safe to say my plan went well. Really well.

Although, I have to wonder if this mindset has less to do with my plan to spend time with friends and do my own thing, or if I’ve gotten to an age where most of this stuff doesn’t phase me the way it used to.

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While at a private event, a woman I’ve known for years, but haven’t seen since I started writing my column asked why I didn’t share more personal stories about my experiences, the sexual details, etc. She was hoping for more of a Sex and The City take on my life. I explained to her that A. When you write for a reputable publication, you can’t be completely explicit about that part of your life, and B. As much as I’d like to think I have a colorful dating life, I’m pretty sure no one cares to read about it. Plus “colorful dating life” is up for debate and is probably considered boring by most standards. Anyway, she did ask me one question, that stood out from all the my exchanges this South By Southwest:

“What is the difference between dating in your 30s vs. in your 40s?”

It took me little to no time to answer. The difference is that I’m no longer dating as if my life and happiness depend on it. I’m very clear on how great and full my life is with or without a partner.

Tribeza columnist and relationship consultant, Ashley Keslch.

In my 30s though? No matter how good and great things were, no matter how much I had going on, all of it was shadowed by finding my person or defined by my relationship.

Everyone I dated was a candidate and taken very seriously as a potential life partner. I was always preoccupied by someone or the thought of meeting someone. My 40s have become an era where I’ve come to value my time alone and not being interested in just anyone encroaching on it. Letting people into my life deserves, and in many ways has, a pre-qualification process to it.

And South By is a great example of this. In my late 20s and 30s, I can’t even say that I was present for the world around me. My memories are a panoply of men gone right or wrong scenarios.

I could write a mini Netflix series that would start with episode one: my first SXSW showing the seams of my marriage collapsing; to the second one, where the collapse of my marriage occurred due to an affair I briefly got caught up in during and was exposed; to the third one, where the person I was dating told me about all the events his company was hosting and that he wanted me by his side only to never call or give me access to the events; to the fourth or possibly fifth one, where the man I had the affair with circled back (divorced) telling me he wanted to pursue something with me (but who was also, unbeknownst to me, talking to the girl I was going to shows with and we all three ended up at Luck Reunion looking at one another like “WTF.”) That hit a hard stop after that year’s South By because it turned out he had a girlfriend in Nashville. And on it goes….

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None of those men exist in my orbit today. I mean, writing all of this out knowing that there are more events that happened in those SXSW years leaves me thinking that it’s no wonder I’m not doing the fest the way I used to. Either it broke me or I finally smartened up. (You’re probably wondering about my actions, along with the men I was choosing. I’ve also spent a lot of time questioning this…)

Regardless, today, going out is about meeting up with my friends, spending time with my kids, actually SEEING the shows, meeting new people and connecting socially. If I meet a romantic interest as a byproduct, great. If not, great.

Perhaps I’ve entered a Self Partnered in the City epoch. Is it as colorful as the dating stories? I’ll let you decide.

Ashley Kelsch, former owner of Teddies for Bettys, a lingerie and well-being store, is a top-certified coach who works with parents and caregivers of teenagers and young adults who are struggling to understand their child’s gender identity and sexual preferences. She helps guide her clients from confusion and conflict to curiosity and connection by teaching them how to manage their thoughts and emotions. She also has a weekly podcast called House of Other: a modern update and sex-positive education about human sexuality, gender sexual diversity, intimate justice, trauma healing, consent and loving relationships. Ashley continues to explore “your brain on dating, love and relationships” through her writing and with her private clients. You can follow her on Instagram @house_of_other and read more of her Tribeza columns here.