I missed out on the whole dating scene in my 20s. I feel lucky for this because, I think, I’d be rubbish at dating. That whole awkward getting to know you thing… I can imagine I’d just end up having too much to drink and launching into massive over-share territory. A bit like my default setting on a night out with my mates.
Looking back, I don’t regret any of the dating decisions I made in my youth (mainly) because they led me to where I am today. I think being in past relationships that didn’t work out helped to make me more aware of how great things were when I eventually found a man who I was properly happy with. This is cheesy beyond belief, but it didn’t take long for me to just know things were right, because it was all so easy. No trying to be someone you’re not, no feelings of effort on any part, no intense irritation (well, only sometimes!) at stupid habits or whatever.
So while I don’t regret my early dating decisions, I do wish I’d known a few things I know now. These few pieces of information would have saved a long of angst (and listening to Sia’s Breathe Me on repeat) at various times in my 20s.
1. Be true to yourself – even if you’re not sure who you are yet
Isn’t life hard when you’re still figuring things out? Not that I know the meaning of life or anything, but these days I’m pretty comfortable with who I am, what I like, who I like, what drives me up the wall etc. Ten years ago I was still figuring all this stuff out and, man, it was HARD WORK. Although I didn’t really do the whole dating thing, I did have boyfriends (who I knew through friends, met on nights out, that sort of thing) and I cringe a bit when I look back to some of the things I said and did. There are times when I wasn’t always true to myself and tried to be someone I wasn’t in an attempt to fit in with various crowds. What a mistake that was. My number one piece of dating advice to my girls when they grow up will be to never, ever, do this. Trying to fit in and be someone you’re not never leads to happiness. True fact.
2. Play the field
I’m not saying you have to date the entire football team, but there really is no rush to settle down when you’re young. Making mistakes, figuring stuff out, dating different people… these experiences don’t have to be negatives. There are many things you can learn along the way which will prove to be valuable lessons later in life. Like I said before, without my previous relationships I’m not sure I’d have known quite so soon that the NLM was the man for me when I eventually met him.
3. Use dating sites
When I was in my early 20s there was a certain cringe factor associated with meeting people online. These days, many of my real life friends are people I’ve met on Twitter or through blogging, and there’s definitely not the stigma associated with online dating that there used to be. In fact, a couple of our best friends met (and later married) the people they found through dating sites. I’m no pro when it comes to dating sites but my blogging buddy Alice at More Than Toast has written some great posts about her experiences dating as a single mum. Check out her Dating In The Digital Age post for some nuggets of wisdom. The internet’s a treasure trove of information on this subject, whatever your situation, whether you’re a single straight mum, single lesbian mum, woman in your 40s, 50s, 60s, man in your 20s… you get the idea.
4. If it doesn’t feel right then it probably isn’t
Relationships shouldn’t be hard work. Obviously, once kids come along and you have all the pressures of parenting and being a grown-up and all that stuff, things get a bit trickier. But still, it shouldn’t be hard work. Arguing all the time is not normal, or healthy. And if you’re arguing all the time with someone you’ve only just met well, that should be your signal to walk away pronto. This is definitely something I wish I’d known in my early 20s.
5. Have fun
Yes I know we’ve heard this oh-so-many times before, but being young should be FUN! In fact, being old should be fun too, for that matter. Basically, don’t get bogged down in the “Will he call?” “Should I text him?” “Is he The One?” sagas because they will just take up valuable time that could be spent having fun. Easier said than done, I know, but if it’s right then it’s right. You don’t need to analyse it. And if he doesn’t call then it’s his loss (or, you know, you could always just stop waiting around and call him instead?!). And if you have to question it all and look into everything so deeply then, chances are, it’s not right and you should just stop wasting brain space and time thinking about it.
What dating advice would you give your younger self?
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