It’s said that women reach their sexual peak at the age of 30. Unburdened with the anxiety of trying to understand their identity, they’re more comfortable with who they are and also have fewer financial problems than they did in their twenties. However, some women find it more difficult to find a romantic partner at this age.

Lerato Moloi* says she struggles with dating and finds that it’s more to do with what women have done right than what they’re doing wrong.

“The problem with dating today is that women tend to excel quicker than men in terms of their careers and financial aspects, as well as the monetary things they acquire in terms of investments.”

Moloi says women are getting opportunities at a younger age and are looking for people who are on their level. But she thinks they often struggle to find suitable partners and so go for someone who is older, and perhaps already has children and even a marriage behind them.

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One would think that a woman who’s come into her own, doesn’t have as many hang-ups about who she is and doesn’t need support would be a catch. Not so it seems. A controversial study conducted by dating website OK Cupid found that men generally prefer women when they are in their twenties.

Co-founder of OK Cupid Christian Rudder found that people on the site showed that, “A woman is at her best when she’s in her very early twenties. Period.”

If you look at it from another angle, Rudder says that a man’s expectations of who he wants never really changes. “A 50-year-old man’s idea of what’s hot is roughly the same as a college kid’s.”

Ntombi Mabena* (44), a mother of one, says the fact that men in her dating circle go for younger women is also what makes things a bit harder.

“These men prefer younger women because they are naive and inexperienced,” she says.

Given the challenges that women face in a diminished dating pool, there is the temptation to drop their standards. Mabena says that much of the time, sheer desperation forces some women to make compromises in order to get a man.

“When we reach a certain age, especially over 35, I think there is an element of desperation, for lack of a better word. So we start settling, and that makes the dating game very complex,” she says.

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She adds that the worst thing a woman can do is settle for a mediocre relationship.

“I don’t understand why it is that when we meet the opposite sex, we end up putting in so much effort to get the other person to like us. If either of the [parties] try to convince the other that they’re a great person for them, when we eventually win that and find we’re in a relationship, there comes a point where you don’t want to be there any more.”

Moloi says there’s no need for women to drop their standards, no matter what age. “I don’t think you should drop your standards at 30; you can wait until 40 to find the love of your life if you haven’t yet. Just date the best person, date someone who complements you and who you really like.”

The reason women might feel pressure to find “the one” after a certain time is because of societal norms that declare that great dates are in limited quantities, according to The Dating Truth. Another belief, the site says, that creates a sense of scarcity is the idea that, “You only have one soulmate. Women outnumber men so it’s hard to find a good man.”

Mabena says she hasn’t given up on dating and is still waiting for a classy man who will complement her.

“I like jogging; I like exercising; I like dancing – so we can do these things together,” she says.

*Names have been changed