#2. Don’t pretend to be “chill.”
Whether you’re figuring out dating in college, making connections in a new city, or slowly initiating yourself into the online dating scene, there seem to be endless tips on dating. “Don’t have sex on the first date,” “have sex on the first date,” “don’t call or text them right away,” “text them specifically three hours after the date ends” — these opinionated dating rules can make dating for beginners feel complicated and overwhelming. Of course, everyone’s approach to dating, regardless of your age group, can be different. However, because my fellow 20-year-olds are at such a pivotal point in their lives — establishing careers, making friends, leaving the nest — dating tips that prioritize your comfort and personal growth can be helpful as you put yourself out there. There are certain dating tips to know by the time you’re 20 that can help you navigate this tricky point in your life. If you’re having trouble meeting the right people or you find yourself in toxic romantic situations, maybe it’s time to set some strict boundaries and start expecting more than the bare minimum.
Katie Lasson, sexologist and relationship advisor, says prioritizing self-love before romantic relationships is the most important at 20 years old, as you’re constantly evolving and becoming a new version of yourself. “Before you date anyone, you have to be in a good place with yourself first, especially at this point in your life. Spend time working on yourself and practice self-care,” Lasson tells Elite Daily. “When you’re in a good position mentally and physically, your future relationships will be better.”
Lasson encourages the practice of being picky with your romantic interests — just because you’re 20 doesn’t mean you have to say yes to every date. “Stay single, remain fussy, and wait until you find someone that suits you and your lifestyle,” Lasson says. Because you’re beginning to truly establish your life at 20, it’s important to make sure you’re finding someone who fits within your evolving plan — instead of someone who detracts from it. These 15 tips on dating can help you figure out what you want and don’t want in a romantic relationship, while still developing the personal and professional life of your dreams.
1. Expect Healthy Communication
"Choose a [partner] who values communication and likes sharing [their] feelings," dating expert Evan Marc Katz tells Elite Daily. You and your partner need to understand each other’s communication styles — if you don’t, it could leave confusion, uncertainty, and a lack of trust within the relationship. If you want a partner who will respect you and communicate as openly as you want, don’t settle for someone who is only playing games. Raise your expectations: Texting you back at a reasonable time is the bare minimum.
2. Don't Pretend To Be "Chill"
"If you really want to start a relationship off right, show that you're interested. Don't play games. Once games begin, they never end and someone always loses in a game," dating expert John Keegan tells Elite Daily. Trying to act “cool'' all the time might lead to miscommunication between you and your potential partner — they might want a friends with benefits situation while in reality you want something more serious. Just be yourself.
3. Ask For What You Want
You can't complain about a f*ckboy if you said you were cool with a casual hookup, you know? Stating what you want upfront means risking that the person you are dating doesn't want the same thing, and that can hurt. But wouldn't you rather cry a little bit now than cry a whole lot down the line, after you've wasted even more time on someone who isn't right? Barbara Santini, psychologist, sex and relationship adviser, says to be clear about what you want right from the first meeting. “Since dating for marriage is a thing of the past in the modern dating world, you may want to be clear about what you want in the relationship before starting something serious. Being clear about your interests helps you avoid wasting time on the wrong people,” Santini tells Elite Daily.
4. Don't Prioritize Someone Who Doesn't Make You A Priority
"Waiting is ‘weighting.’ Waiting on someone to respond or initiate communication weighs on you, so don't wait on them," says dating expert Chris Armstrong. Recognize that your time is valuable. If you notice that you’re always the one making plans or they’re always “busy,” it’s totally understandable if you want to move on. Life is short — too short to wait around for some potential Saturday night fling to text you back. You're worth more than that.
5. Don't Change Yourself For Someone Else
"[Stay] true to yourself," says sex educator Eileen Kelly. "Don’t bend for others. I think that’s something you learn as you grow older." At the end of the day, if you end up seriously dating someone, the gig will eventually be up, and your true colors will show, so why not be yourself from the beginning? Being authentic is way easier than putting on a good performance. Put yourself and everything you offer on the table. If your partner doesn’t love and support every single one of your quirks, they’re not truly dating you. They’re dating a version of you that they approve of.
6. Make Sure Your Dating Life Feels Easy
"You should be able to live your normal life without any problems when you’re dating," says drag comedienne and writer Miz Cracker. A healthy relationship should feel easy and won't leave you in consternation night after night over missed texts. You might feel like your relationship is causing you more stress than happiness, and if that’s true, it might be time to reevaluate the situation. Your 20s should be about exploring new opportunities, trying new things, and finding what makes you happy. Yes, there are issues within partnerships, but you should be able to work through them with your partner.
7. Don't Stress Your Relationship Status
Being in a serious relationship is not a necessary component to having a happy life. If you find yourself single for long periods of time, don’t worry! There is not a due date when it comes to finding a partner. Along with this, try to ignore timelines. If you break up with someone and find a new partner in the next few weeks, that is totally valid. It is your journey, your love life, and if you want to date around, do it! On that note, if an ex starts dating someone new, "remind yourself that it's not a competition," says Dr. Susan Edelman, a board-certified psychiatrist specializing in women's issues. "Relationships don't work out because of timing, compatibility, and other factors that are also important."
8. Be Honest About Your Sexual Boundaries Or Expectations
Sex involves a lot of power dynamics. It's important to make sure you and your partner are on the same page, no matter how casual the relationship is. "Empower both you and your partner and be transparent in your motivation(s)," sex therapist Stefani Threadgill tells Elite Daily. Talking to your partner about sex can be nerve-wracking, which is why it’s best to have that conversation outside of the bedroom. Devote specific time in your day to inform your partner on your relationship with sex. It will definitely pay off in the future.
9. Recognize That Heartbreak Is A Chance To Grow
Here's the thing about dating: Don't take it too seriously. Worst case, you will end up with a broken heart, but looking back, my most productive and creative periods in life have come after times of deep heartbreak. "It is not how long you wait before you move on and look for love again — it is how effectively you used that time to get brave enough to examine yourself psychologically," says Dr. Leslie Beth Wish of lovevictory.com. Through heartbreak, you will be able to assess and decide what aspects of your previous partner were healthy, and what caused you pain. Not only does it teach you to value and love yourself before you love anyone else, but it also shows that you’re not going to get along with everyone you meet. Throw those people-pleasing tendencies out the window. Not everyone’s going to love you as much as you love yourself.
10. Treat Dating Like An Experiment
Treating dates like a way of gathering information about yourself and what you want and don't want "allows you to de-emphasize the other person and empower yourself," says behavioral scientist Clarissa Silva. Dating takes effort, but it shouldn't be overly stressful. Dating is character development. Every person you meet has the chance to be a hero in your story, or a villain. You have the power to choose which role they get.
11. Learn To Say “No”
Saying “no” to people, events, or situations is just as important as opening yourself up to more opportunities. It’s important to learn how to prioritize your boundaries in your romantic life. If you’ve had a long work week and you scheduled a date for Friday night, but you’re exhausted and just need some self-care time, don’t feel guilty when you cancel. Katina Tarver, MA, a relationship expert with experience in mental health and wellness counseling, says feeling guilty is often a recognizable trait among younger generations. “For Gen Z, many things happen unwillingly — going to college when you’re not ready, having toxic friends, or not being able to set your boundaries — which is unhealthy,” Tarver tells Elite Daily. Learning to say no without worrying if they’re still going to “like you” is incredibly hard but so beneficial for your mental health.
12. You Don’t Have To Post Your Relationships On Social Media
If you’re the type of person to keep your love life private and locked away in your journal, please don’t feel obligated to post about your dating accomplishments and disasters on social media. You may feel pressure from the Romeos and Juliets of Instagram who only post relationship content, but trust me, only share what you’re comfortable sharing. Your IG followers don’t need to know which Tinder match you met up with last night. “Your relationship is between you and your partner. It’s not anyone’s business what you get up to as a couple. Keep it private between the two of you,” Lasson tells Elite Daily. If you enjoy sharing personal tidbits of your love life on social media, make sure you talk to your partner about it and see if they’re comfortable with it as well. Because social media can be invasive, it’s important to get your partner’s perspective.
13. Using Dating Apps Is Not Embarrassing
Relying on Tinder, Bumble, or Hinge to find connections is not something to be ashamed of. Maybe at one point, being on dating apps was embarrassing and something people kept hidden. But now, it’s quite surprising to not be on dating apps. Just make sure dating apps don’t consume your life. Michelle Herzog, LMFT, CST, certified sex therapist and dating expert, says to set aside time each day to use your dating apps, instead of being on them all the time. “Sign up for one or two apps that you like and stick with those (you don’t need to be on all of them); and when you’re with your friends and family, stay away from interacting on dating apps and be in the moment,” Herzog tells Elite Daily.
14. You Don’t Need To Have A Hookup Phase
Yes, hookup culture might seem like the new normal. Having sex on the first night, having a friends with benefits situation, or hooking up with some random person at a bar is all well and good, but it’s not for everybody. If you’re looking for a relationship, but the people you’re interested in all want hookups and nothing serious, you don’t need to force yourself to have a “reckless” phase just because. “Getting clear on what kinds of sexual experiences you want, and who you authentically want to have them with, can help you have a more satisfying and toxic free dating life,” Herzog says.
15. Don’t Limit Yourself To A Specific “Type”
Having a type (blondes, 6’0” or taller, baseball players) can help you in your initial quest to find a connection, but it can also limit you immensely. You could develop a great connection with someone, but because they may fall outside your type’s typical attributes, it could be easy to close off that possibility and miss out. Herzog encourages younger daters to break out of your typical “type.” “Your early 20s is a great time to date people from different backgrounds, beliefs, and experiences. Explore who else might be out there for you,” Herzog says.
As you start the exciting, somewhat chaotic journey of your 20s, make sure you’re prioritizing your individual needs in your romantic pursuits. Unfortunately, not everyone is going to turn out to be the next Anthony Bridgerton (if only). However, that doesn’t mean you should lower your standards.
Take these tips, feel free to adapt them to fit your individual dating style, and don’t be afraid to expect all these things and more. Be yourself, trust your instincts, and most importantly, do whatever you want. Go out on a Tinder date on a Monday night, ask out that coworker who’s been making “eyes” at you during staff meetings, or slide into that hot person’s DMs that you met at Trader Joe’s last week. You’re in control.
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