Dating for You in Your Twenties

A lot of 40-something women recommend not getting married before 30. Give or take a few years:) But that means 10 years of navigating the uncertain world of dating in your 20’s. Some people love dating and take the bad with the good. It always makes for good stories. Some people have to force themselves to date. To make dating more enjoyable, whatever you do, don’t think about whether the guy is the one. Some 89% of 20-somethings still aspire to finding their “soulmate” (when they are ready) and plenty of 20-somethings I talk to still want to get married. Whether you are of that ilk or just wanting to have fun, here’s some 40-something wisdom on finding the right balance.  Some women swear by playing games…the last thing you want to be is available. Other women wear their heart on their sleeve. I’d have to say that is fine but beware of rolling up that sleeve too quickly. You may wear your heart outside but that might scare more than a few men off. I know one woman gave a guy a photo album of their dates together after a few months. That was a bit too cozy for him. So enjoy the pics but keep them under wraps for a while longer if you are not certain where the relationship is going. Of course you should do what feels right for you but don’t do it to try to please him or convince him. Maybe it’s really about playing a little mind game with yourself, don’t let that thought, “is he the one?” enter your mind for the first stages of dating. Just focus on how you feel and what makes you happy and that will naturally happen. You’ll be available when it is right.

“I think there’s this balance between enjoying the moment of the interaction and trying to decide “Is there anything I should be investing here?” You don’t want to go through all your dates thinking, “Is he the one?” But after a couple of months if you don’t think it’s going anywhere, how long do you want to invest?  Try to figure out where that line is and knowing that  it’s probably a good thing to date a number of people somewhat casually to get a sense of what you like. But there comes a point where you may want companionship more than just these dates. It’s finding that line. You don’t want to start asking after a couple of dates “Is this gonna go anywhere? If not, nice knowing you.”  Then I think there’s the flipside of it is you can stay so, so casual that at the end of the day, you never do find someone who want to do that. Try to find that balance.” — 40-something, working mom, wife, Oakland, CA

“Don’t worry about whether the phone will ring if it doesn’t there will be another boy. If you don’t need anyone else, you will be so much happier. Much stronger. And you will find someone who brings out your best and who you will bring out their best.” – 40-something, doctor, wife, mother, New York, NY

In your twenties especially don’t be in a relationship just to be in one. Even if it seems lonely at times, try as much as you can to savor your time. Some people date a lot and always have a boyfriend because they want to find the right person.  But don’t be in a rush. You’re going to look back and be like wow, maybe that was great that I didn’t have a boyfriend for 10 years because I did XY and Z instead. I had all this time when I was just doing things for me rather than being in a so-so relationship. I think I would say what my Dad said to me when I was growing up.  You want to be with someone who puts you up in lights. Someone who really gets you. Looking back, you kind of know it. There were people you were dating you that you know they don’t think you are the end all, be all and that’s not what you want. He’s probably not gonna put you up in lights every single minute but you should feel like they make you feel special.” – 40-something, – 40-something, working mom, wife, San Francisco, CA

I always prescribed to the idea that you had to be happy yourself before you can be happy with someone else. But I found out that finding your happiness doesn’t automatically come with the reward of Prince Charming.  It’s simply a pre-requisite. A happy woman isn’t looking for a man to fulfill her happiness so she isn’t looking.  That’s why so many women in healthy relationships say, “It happens when you least expect it”.  You really aren’t looking for “it”. But after I realized this I said, okay, it’s not automatically happening. So rather than thinking now I was ready . . . I decided to live my life based on the assumption that I would always be alone. What would truly make me happy if that was my path. Of course the minute I started living my life that way, my energy did attract someone I wanted to share my life with.” — 40-something, New York, NY

“Don’t be in a hurry for that relationship. I think when you’re not looking that’s when it happens. I think when you’re out there looking that’s when you make the mistakes. You’re so eager.  Yeah you’re desperate. I need to use the word “desperate.” Sometimes you are and that’s why some women make the same mistakes over and over. I don’t know if all women feel this way but I have always loved to have somebody in my life. I loved being in love. It’s not that I don’t mind being alone. It’s just that companionship. Maybe because I’m from 1 of 11, I don’t know. But I think when I look back, you make the mistakes when you are looking for it. It will find you when you’re not looking for it.” — 40-something, wife, mom, Williamsport, PA

And the last word here is from a 40-something guy. As I have traveled the country interviewing women for their 40:20 Vision, more than a few guys have weighed in. Every now and then I will offer the “guys eye view”:

When you are dating put the question, ‘Is this a guy I could marry?’ out of your head no matter how programmed you are to think about it at the age of 20. Don’t think, ‘OMG, it’s love, it’s real, it’s going to last forever.’ You don’t know enough at that point in your life to actually leap off that cliff and make yourself whole with someone else.  You will only have to say later on, ‘Wow, I didn’t know enough. I wasn’t whole in the world, how can I be whole with someone else? I just thought it was important to get married to that guy and I swept away all the problems I was going through with him to get married to him someday. Ignore the expectations and pressures you feel from friends or family on that level.  Listen to what you think inside about the person you are currently dating. Never waiver from that.”

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