Your twenties are a time of exploration and getting to know yourself – and, of course, of dating. It’s also a decade where you learn a lot of hard, but valuable lessons. Lessons learned at 21 are usually pretty different from lessons learned at 28 – hearts are more fragile, lack of experience reigns and time doesn’t seem to help any healing processes. That being said, those lessons help shape our future selves, guiding the decisions we make for the rest of our lives.
Curious what you learned or have left to learn? Here are some of the most important lessons you’ll learn about dating while in your twenties.
Broken hearts suck, but you’re going to be okay.
When you have your heart broken, it can feel like someone literally pulled your heart from your chest and chopped it to tiny bits with a meat cleaver. However, as much as having your heart torn out (figuratively) hurts like hell, broken hearts do heal. It may not feel like it right now, but they do.
“Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.” – Maya Angelou
We’ve all spent time chasing people who had lukewarm (if that) feelings for us. Don’t prioritize people who aren’t willing to prioritize you. That guy or girl who only reaches out to you when it’s convenient for them isn’t worth your time.
The people who want to be in your life will make an effort.
If someone wants to be in your life they will take the necessary steps to make that happen – a lesson that’s true for both friends and lovers. While a little bit of a chase can be fun, if the person is interested in being part of your life, they’ll slow down and meet you halfway.
Not everything is meant to be.
You’ll date some wonderful people who you hope will be around forever, but, sometimes, even the most perfect-seeming relationships won’t work out. These breakups will be confusing and painful at the time, but, with a little perspective, you’ll realize that some people are meant to be in your life just long enough to teach you important lessons.
Look for someone who loves you just the way you are.
You don’t need to change yourself in order to be loved. You’re perfect just the way you are. The right person will totally get this.
Bad experiences teach you what you want out of a relationship.
It’s easy to look at all those bad dates and relationships that didn’t work out as a waste of time, but they’re not! Instead, these experiences teach us what we do and don’t want out of future relationships. Embrace the learning curve.
The person who doesn’t plan ahead isn’t serious about you.
If you only hear from someone when it’s very late at night or they make plans on the fly that sound something like, “Yeah, I might be able to hang out, but I got to swing by Jerry’s at 9 p.m. then meet some friends for drinks later. Maybe we could grab a nightcap. Let’s play it by ear. Deal?” – they’re not that serious about you. If someone is legit interested in a relationship with you, they’ll respect your time and make space for you in their life.
Trust your gut.
Our intuition gives the best dating advice. If something feels off about a particular person or situation, it probably is.
The “one that got away” is a myth.
They didn’t “get away” – they left you. It sucks and it hurts and you’re going to cry over these people, but it’s for the best. I promise. Have the feelings you need to have and then move on. Don’t waste time obsessing over or longing for people who simply didn’t choose you. They. Didn’t. Choose. You. (Keep this in mind when these people resurface requesting a second chance.) Spend your time loving the people who have chosen to be in your life. Start with yourself.
Demand respect from the people you date.
As a single 20-something, you joke that your motto is, “Have low expectations and you’ll always be pleasantly surprised.” You adopt this motto to protect yourself after you have your heart broken a few days. You start asking for less, when really you should ask for more. Don’t do this. You should expect things from the people you date – like respect, honesty and integrity. Be picky. Ask for what you want out of relationships. It might mean that you spend more time alone, but it won’t matter in the grand scheme of things.