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“Dating has taught me what I want and don’t want, who I am, and who I want to be.”~ Jennifer Love Hewitt
Navigating the world of dating in your 20s
Dating can be both exciting and overwhelming, especially when you’re in your 20s. But, although it can be exhilarating, it can also be quite exhausting. You’re searching for the love of your life – your forever partner, after all. Whoa! Searching for “the One” takes work – real work. Unfortunately, however, when you’re in your 20s, everyone expects you to naturally know the ins-and-outs of dating, when, in reality, you’re fairly new to the game.
You can’t know everything…
How can you be expected to know how to handle everything, from playful crushes to crushing breakups without any guidance? That’s crazy, isn’t it? The truth is, dating experiences vary from person-to-person, however, having a trusty guide can help you avoid dating pitfalls, so you don’t end up saying, “I wish I’d know that in my 20s…”
Dating doesn’t have to be a hot mess; in fact, it could be the best time of your life – if you follow the steps in this article. Are you ready to have some fun? Great, let’s go!
Your 20s is a time to let loose and live your best life ever. It’s also a time to be introspective and cautious. So, have fun, but be smart about it.
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Figure out what you want
Next, you’ll need to get more in-tune with yourself. Figure out what you want in a partner and relationship before jumping into the unpredictable dating waters. How can you identify what you want? By making a list of deal-breakers. More specifically, make a list of criteria that would disqualify a potential match. Think about it and be honest about what you will and will not accept from a partner or in a relationship.
Examples of deal-breakers are:
1. A person who smokes cigarettes or e-cigs, and/or someone who does illegal drugs or drinks too much.
2. A person who has poor hygiene or missing teeth.
3. A person who doesn’t have a sense of humor.
4. A person who is already in a relationship or married.
5. A person who already has children.
Then, make a list of things you like in partner and relationship, such as:
1. A person who has a dry sense of humor.
2. A person who is thoughtful and kind.
3. An intellectual person.
4. A person who wants to eventually have a family – spouse and kids.
5. A person who puts others first.
Lastly, make a list of your best qualities, such as:
1. Compassionate and understanding.
2. Thoughtful and kind.
4. Loving and affectionate.
5. Smart and a true “go-getter.”
The goal of these lists is to stop you from ending up with the wrong person.
Use your time wisely
Another thing people don’t tell you in your 20s is to use your time wisely. What does that mean? It means that contrary to popular belief, you don’t actually have all the time in the world. This is especially true if you are a woman and wanting to start a family. But, this applies to men too!
If you play around, breaking hearts right and left and/or become so picky and indecisive that you miss out on “the One” until you are in your late 30s or later, you may experience a rocky path to starting a family together.
Disclaimer: Now, that doesn’t mean it won’t happen at more “advanced ages” (Cough…I had my son at 40), however, there are more obstacles and “concerns” the later you wait. Therefore, it is probably wise to start dating with intent in your 20s, if you want to get married and start a family in your 20s or early 30s.
Listed below are ways you can date with intent:
1. Do not become obsessive about finding “the One.” In other words, get out and live. Go out with friends for dinner and drinks after work, train for a marathon, volunteer at a local shelter, take a class on a topic that sparks your passion – you get the point. But, do not make finding a partner the highlight of your life.
2. Try to genuinely connect with your date. Try to find something you share in common and build on that connection. Ask questions, pay attention, and put away your smartphone for goodness sake!
3. Pay attention to red flags. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. So, if you get a bad feeling on a date, abandon ship (not during the date, of course), but afterwards. Call your date the next day, and explain to him or her that you need time to figure out what you really want and once you do, you’ll let him or her know. Then, continue searching for “the One.”
4. Try to have fun on your dates. In other words, don’t get so caught up on finding someone to marry and start a family with that you forget to have a good time with your date. Therefore, refrain from talking non-stop about “getting married” and “having kids.” In fact, do yourself a favor and plan a date where you are bound to have a ton of fun. Then, go from there.
Be patient and use your time wisely. Finding the right partner takes time, so don’t rush. Get to know your date, and allow him or her to get to know you. Dating in your 20s should be a marathon – not a sprint to the finish.
What does “date around” even mean? It means going on lots of dates with different types of people. It can take a while to find the right person, so do yourself a favor and get to know those who interest you, whether they are your “normal type” or not. Be open-minded.
How can you meet people you don’t normally interact with? By taking a class (i.e. psychology or sociology class) that brings all kinds of people together. Or, meeting people at sporting events, a bookstore, a church service, a festival, a concert, the mall, or even the movies.
There are so many ways to meet a partner, it’s insane! You can even meet people online – in the comfort of your own home! Here are the top-rated online dating sites. Note: I’d refrain from dating people at work because it could get a little dicey if things don’t work out.
The key to getting the most out of dating in your 20s is being open to new people and experiences. How else are you going to meet the person of your dreams? So, get up and start dating!
Be yourself when dating in your 20s
Another great tip is to just be yourself. Cliché, I know, but oh so true. No one is worth comprising your morals, values, and dignity. You are better than that, and you deserve better than that. If a potential match doesn’t like you for who you are inside then he or she isn’t worth your time and effort.
Be you, because you are awesome just the way you are. Don’t believe me; ask your friends, co-workers, and acquaintances to share with you what they LOVE about you. I guarantee you’ll get a lengthy list of all of the ways you are special. Be yourself and allow people to like and love you for who you really are – not who you are pretending to be to attract someone else.
You can only “fool” someone for so long before the person sees who you really are, so why not be upfront and allow him or her to decide if he or she wants to go the long-haul with you. If not, there are other fish in the sea, so pout for a day or two, and then keep looking.
Also, don’t forget to be cautious. Dating in your 20s can be dangerous if you don’t pay attention to first impressions and red flags. This is especially true for online dating, but also for in-person dating. Rely on your gut to lead you in the right direction. It will tell you everything you need to know about a person, so listen to your gut before you dive head-first into a bad relationship.
Lastly, if you’re not feeling the love from your date, move on. Don’t hold on to someone whose heart, attention, and effort has left the building. Also, don’t hold on simply because you’re lonely. Keep your eyes on the prize: finding a long-term partner.
Read the longer version
You can learn more about dating in your 20s by reading the following articles: Why Dating in Your 20s Is Terrible by The Cut, Dating in Your 20s by AskMen, 9 Reasons Dating in Your 20s Is the Worst by The Flare, and The Lost Art Of Dating: Learning How To Date In Your 20s by Elite Daily.
About the Author
Dr. R. Y. Langham
Ph.D. in Family Psychology
Ree has a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy (M.M.F.T.) and a Ph.D. in Family Psychology. She spent over ten years counseling families, couples, individuals, and children on adjustment issues such as blended families, same-sex couples, dysfunctional family relationships, relationship issues, etc. Now she writes for famous health organizations and is a published author.
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