The big wide world of dating is a complicated one. Early on, it’s the struggle of are we or aren’t we and trying to decide where to go on date night, while struggling to decide if you should invite him to that “family thing” you have coming up… You don’t want to frighten him away, right? Combine that with the very relatable struggle of trying to decide what you both want to eat on any given day, and play-fighting over the blankets or gambling on who’s going to do the dishes on a game of cards. You’ve come a long way since your first date at 16… you’ve certainly learned a lot and you’ve grown as an individual… you probably know yourself infinitely more AND you know what you are (or aren’t) looking for in a potential partner. But it was an uphill battle to get here… you battled confusion, heartbreak, misinformation from your friends and the boys you were seeing, all while trying to find yourself in a sea full of way too many fish (and sharks).
Sounds like a Taylor Swift song, doesn’t it? You will fall in love – or you think you are in love – with the wrong person, when you are extremely young. You wanted to be an adult and you wanted to be grown up and have all the answers but you didn’t. And it killed you. You probably even made the wrong decision about a boy or two… nonetheless, you overcame this and realized that boy you were “so in love with” at 16, isn’t all you thought he was back in the day.
Oftentimes you try and try as you might to make a relationship work, even when it’s so far past working that you don’t even know what to do… Yet you stayed in crappy relationships - if you could even call them that – because you wanted to make it work, at the expense of your own happiness. You lied, or you didn’t speak up when you wanted to, for him. Having a boyfriend was everything to you. Now it’s important that you’ve learned that honesty is way more important in a relationship.
Sure, you probably have caused a share of your own personal break-ups. Maybe you didn’t put in as much as you could have, or maybe you broke his heart because you realized he wasn’t what you wanted… but you also took on a large share of blame you didn’t deserve. When people are hurting, they go on the defensive and play the blame game and take ZERO responsibility. Just remember, it’s not always your fault. Sometimes, it’s just not meant to be.
What you want is what you want. You are allowed to want to be single and you are allowed to want a boyfriend, but what happens when you fall in the middle? Sometimes, you just don’t know, and that’s okay, too. You may get into a relationship because you think you want it, and soon learn that it’s not actually what you want. You are allowed to change your mind or make realizations that are different than what you originally thought.
Now you might be thinking, HELLO CAPTAIN OBVIOUS, but is it really? How often do you try to be the person you think they want you to be? You pretend to like stupid comedies or to like rap music to fit into a relationship with a guy you really like. It’s too much work to pretend you're someone you’re not. Chances are, they will like you more for you, and if not, do you really want to live a lie with that person?
Most of the time, you are not going to meet your soulmate on the first date – that’s to say, you probably won’t experience this magical love at first sight thing you’ve heard so much about. There really is no point in over-stressing about every detail about the first date; put in some effort, but don’t let it stress you out. Dating is supposed to be fun and if it’s not, what’s the point? If it’s not perfect, and just okay, that’s great! Don’t strive for perfection because it’s overrated.
You probably flitted through the “are we exclusive” phase for at least a while with your boyfriend, especially, if expectations weren’t brought up from the beginning. Were you a main thing or a weekend fling? You quickly learned to differentiate the two and how to approach each. If he was always rescheduling, it meant that he’s just not that into you, or he just wanted to have a weekend date. The bottom line: guys that want to be with you will literally make time to be with you.
Everyone has experienved the awkwardness of involving themselves in a “fling” and then deciding that you wanted more. And it terrified you. In some scenarios, you learned you will lose that person, just because you were in two different places, but in others, speaking your mind wasn’t a bad thing. Dating doesn't have to be a secret. Tell them how you feel and let the cards fall where they may.
Many people have a formula, so to speak, about what they are looking for. It will contain some physical traits and some personality traits that they want to find in a partner. You don’t have to be a “Hollywood 10” and be skinny as a rake to get noticed. You don’t have to be outgoing and funny and charming all the time. You’ve learned that there are just some people you aren’t compatible with, and that suits you just fine.
Most people have a “type”. Whether that means he’s into tall, leggy blondes or freckly redheads with glasses, there are physical attributes that people possess that draw other specific people to them. You may be the coolest, most awesome person in the whole world, but if you don’t possess characteristics that they find attractive, they aren’t going to take the time to get to know your true colours. Those people aren’t worth your time.
Some people get so hung up on the idea of having a boyfriend that they jump from guy to guy at the risk of ending up alone. And somewhere along the way, you realize you lost yourself and ended up with someone who isn’t what you wanted. You don’t believe that you’ll find your Prince Charming (Disney lied), because you’re a realist, and no one is perfect, but you’ve decided over the years what you need and want in a partner, and what you can give a little wiggle room for.
As stated earlier, it’s okay to not be 100% sure what you are looking for. That’s why dating apps exist. You can go out and meet all sorts of people who are looking for a variety of things, but it’s important to communicate what you think you want up front. More importantly, you’ve learned that sometimes, guys will lie to you about what they want; maybe they just want to get laid, or they change their mind, or they just want to date multiple women (and don’t want you dating multiple men). Either way, be true to you and you’ll learn to scope out those who aren’t being true to you.
You’re allowed to date. You’re allowed to buy a drink for the cute guy at the bar or accept a drink from a charming stranger. You don’t have to give them your number or dance with them. You most certainly don’t owe them your body. Just because he buys dinner or flowers, doesn't mean he's "earned" your affection; don't think you owe him anything - this isn't a business deal or a contract, it’s dating. And anyone who thinks otherwise, is certainly not worth dating.
Everyone has deal breakers. Some people would never date a smoker; some wouldn’t consider dating someone of a specific cultural or religious background; and some don’t want to date someone who has kids. If you say “no parents” and they admit to having a 2-year-old, you’ve realized that you're not obligated to sit through the entire date with them. Of course, you can always choose to, and that is entirely your call, but let the choice be yours and no one else’s. You only get one life to live, so why are you wasting it with someone there’s no chance of being with long-term?
Sometimes, you have the wonderful, and horrific, experience of going on a date with someone who you love immediately, like a brother or a best friend. This feeling is not always going to be reciprocated and sometimes, hearing it from you is going to really hurt them but you owe them (honesty is key!) to tell them how you feel. Remember, steak and ice cream are great on their own but really don't go together.
Some time in your life, you will fall for the wrong guy. Sure he caught your eye and was absolutely beautiful and had pearly whites and all the girls were crazy about him. But he chose you. Beauty isn’t all it’s cracked up to be when this guy turns out to be jerk of the year. Yes, it’s important to be attracted to your partners, but being hot doesn’t mean you can be a terrible person. You want the whole package, not just the sour eye candy.