Dating is hard. Especially nowadays, people just don’t meet the same way they used to. I feel like 50 years ago, people met so easily, got married and stayed together for their whole lives. I might have watched too many movies. But anyway, you would think that the rise of social media and online dating apps would make it easier to meet people – however, it’s actually made it harder.
As is usual, I am going to be honest with you and I will definitely share too much, as I always do. But I hope that being transparent will help some of you that are either in a similar situation as me or that feel alone with their struggles. Just remember that we all go through and experience different things at different times. Remember the quote at the end of last week’s post (go read it if you haven’t already)! So here are a few things I have learned from trying to navigate dating in my early 20s.
Don’t be ashamed of your experience
In this day and age where scrolling through Instagram has become second nature to most of us, comparing ourselves and our experience to others is a big issue. In my case, I’ve never been in a relationship before and haven’t experienced more than a peck and holding hands. For the longest time I felt like there was something wrong with me. I felt like I was the only one on the planet that was going through that. I still catch myself sometimes thinking like that. And when I do, I remind myself that we all experience things at different times and that I have definitely done things that others haven’t.
Thing is, we all compare ourselves to others. So when you look at someone wishing you had what they had, I can promise you that they see something in you that they wish they had to. Remember that no one can judge you. They don’t know your story – and if they do but they still judge you, don’t be around them. For girls especially, having “too much” experience can be a reason for people to judge them. Let’s stop slut-shaming girls and praising guys for their numerous sexual “conquests”. As long as everything is consensual, you can do whatever you want with however many or few people as you wish. Don’t ever feel ashamed about your past (lack of) experience and stay safe no matter what.
Figure out what you want and need
As you grow older, meet more people and experience new things, you will figure out what you want and what you need – from life, from yourself and from a partner. It takes time to figure out what you look for in someone else and usually it is through bad experiences that we figure out what we don’t want. Don’t be too freaked out if you don’t really know what you’re currently looking for. Don’t be scared to meet new people that aren’t necessarily in your comfort zone (if you usually only go for blondes, try a brunette!) and figure out what is important to you: humour, kindness, respect, looks, body, etc. Whatever matters to you. I think you will be surprised by what is truly important to you in the end.
It’s not always easy to meet new people. It depends a lot on your current situation. Many people meet through uni, work or mutual friends. If you go out sometimes, you might also meet someone then. If you don’t go out as much and aren’t in an environment where you could easily meet people, try putting yourself out there more. Go to the library or to your local café. Message a friend and ask them if they’ll go out for a meal or for a drink with you. Most of the time you will meet someone when you least expect it.
Trying to meet someone online is a rollercoaster. It’s personally not for me. I’ve tried Tinder and Hinge – I did enjoy Hinge much more; if you’re looking for something more serious it’s much better than Tinder. I have met different people on there but it didn’t end up working out with any of them. That’s one thing about actively dating: you will probably be talking to loads of different people from different backgrounds. So it’s a good way of figuring out what you look for in someone.
You can try online dating but if you don’t want to or if you’ve tried it and just don’t enjoy it, don’t feel pressured to use it. You will meet someone great, whether that’s online or in real life. So don’t ever feel pressured to try online dating, even if you feel like you’ll be forever alone if you don’t. You won’t be alone forever, I promise.
Going on dates
Going on a date with someone is both exhilarating and nerve-wracking. I didn’t go on my first date until I was 19 and I remember having to run to the toilet every 10 minutes before leaving my house because of how nervous I was (thanks IBS). As I got older and went on more dates, I found that thinking of it as hanging out with a friend (rather than “a date with someone I fancy”) took a bit of the nervousness away. Think of it as spending time with someone and getting to know them.
When you think about it, you experience “dates” almost everyday. Every time you have a meal with someone, travel with someone, go grocery shopping with someone or call someone. It’s often with friends, family and colleagues, but a date is exactly that, just with someone you might feel differently towards. Being nervous is normal, it just means that you care.
A way to help with the nerves is wearing something that you feel comfortable and confident in. I also find that acknowledging that you are nervous can help. A light-hearted “Not gonna lie, I’m a little nervous” will take some of the tension away and make you both laugh and loosen up a little. I went on a date once where the guy kept pointing out any awkward silences there was. Don’t do that and you’ll be fine. Just be yourself, if they don’t like you for who you are then it’s not worth wasting your time. You deserve to find someone who loves you for all your quirks.
Being rejected or ghosted
So you’ve been talking to someone or even went on a date, you thought things were going well and suddenly they stop messaging you back or tell you they’re not interested anymore. This sucks. A guy I recently went out with (that I had met on Hinge) asked me out on a second date and then ended up turning around and saying he was scared of commitment and needed time to think. He has since been ghosting me. Please don’t ghost people. It’s the shittiest thing you could do. Just be honest and let them know what you’re thinking.
And don’t worry, although you’ll probably feel awful at first, you’ll get over that person. It will end up being something you laugh about with your friends over drinks. We all have horrid date stories and this will just be added to that list. You deserve better than someone who’s not going to message you back or who won’t truly love you for who you are anyway.
Letting someone down easy
I’ll keep this one short and sweet. If you’re not feeling a connection with someone, that’s okay. Just be honest, do not ghost them and treat them the way you would want to be treated. Don’t be too harsh.
One of, if not the biggest struggle I have had with dating in my 20s and it not being very successful has been the loneliness I have felt. Especially when all your friends are starting to get into serious relationships, it’s even harder not to feel lonely. I have a whole post dedicated to feeling lonely so go give it a read if you like. It’s important to focus on what you do have (the people around you that make you laugh and that you love, your hobbies, your job/uni, your flat, etc). Stay hopeful about the future. Rather than thinking “I’m never going to meet someone”, try “I will meet someone amazing when the time is right and I’m ready”.
In the meantime, sleep with a hot bottle (the warmth will bring you the same kind of comfort that sleeping next to someone will), focus on taking care of yourself and improving yourself, work on hobbies, have some “me” time, meet up with friends, call your loved ones, go to cafés more often, travel more and enjoy the freedom you’ve got. And speak about it with people you trust, especially is one of your friends recently got into a relationship and it’s triggered your loneliness. You’re not alone so there’s no need for your to feel like you are. Don’t suffer in silence.
It’s their loss
If you do meet someone and things don’t work out or someone doesn’t feel the same way that you do, it’s their fucking loss. You are a gem, you are amazing and if they don’t want you then it’s too bad for them, because you will find someone great that knows your worth and treats you like the queen (or king) that you are. Don’t lose hope.
Finally, whatever happens, please do not settle for someone because you feel like it’s the best you’ll get. You deserve to be truly swept of your feet and have someone feel the same way about you. So if you’re not convinced that this person is right for you, if you’re not head over heels but feel like “they’ll do”, go back to my point about letting them down easy. You shouldn’t feel like someone is “enough”, you deserve to feel like they are everything you ever wanted and so much more.
I don’t think I’ve ever ended a post in such a cheesy way, lol.
Anyway, that was today’s post about dating in your 20s. I hope you enjoyed it and would love to hear some of your stories or words of wisdom you have about dating. Take care and I look forward to seeing you next Sunday!