6 Brutally Honest Phases Of Dating After College That Feel Way Too Freaking Real

by Annie Foskett

I left college kicking and screaming, but looking back, I have no idea why. The first few years after college were some of the best years of my life. There was no more homework, an abundance of independence, and an actual adult apartment where one actually hangs things on the walls properly! Dating after college is equally great, because you still have the stamina to have late weeknight drinks, but you also have an actual income to go out with. Wild!

At first, dating after college feels like a natural progression — you're still young, you're all about having fun, and you might be living in a big city where there are lots of interesting and successful new people to meet. The possibilities seem endless: at any given moment, you could stumble into a new career path, a sick new apartment, or a life-changing friendship. Or, like, you could discover that the world's greatest pizza spot happens to be in your neighborhood. But life moves fast, friends, and post-college dating changes just as rapidly. From friends who get serious with their SOs, to grad school and cross-country moves, a lot changes post-college in relationship territory. Here are the phases of dating after college that are all too real.

You date all the time and drink all of the drinks.

Drinking is fun in college, but drinking is even more fun when you can afford an actual cocktail. Bring on the three-martini first dates! The first few years after college, your evening responsibilities of homework and studying are gone, and you're free to do what you want. This means a lot of happy hours followed by weeknight dates... on which you get fully smashed with your date, and still manage to make it to work on time the next day. I fully envy your stamina, but it fades fast. Plus, getting drunk on every date you go on makes things confusing, because everyone looks better four drinks in.

You go home with someone to their "mature" apartment for the first time.

I distinctly remember the first time I went to home with a guy I was dating to find myself in a gorgeous downtown Manhattan loft. He wasn't that much older than me, but he quite was successful. The first time you realize that you're dating someone who has an actual set of towels, not just one beach towel hanging over the shower, it's eye-opening. Mrs. Meyers soap?! Really? Actual furniture and framed art on the walls? 600-thread-count sheets and not flannel extra longs?! Just hold on, we're going home...

Your first friend moves in with someone.

Well, that was fun while it lasted. As soon as your first friend moves in with a partner, or moves to another city with them, the reality that life isn't always "having fun at all times forever!" will set in. It's so strange to feel like you're second in the "important people" chain to your BFF, but it's real. Just wait until the rings start coming...

You try upping your age limit on dating apps.

After dating one too many 26-year-olds who are "leaving for business school," or "not ready for a relationship," you decide to give 30-year-olds a try. It's sort of cool, and the apartments get exponentially more impressive, but if you're a femme-identifying person dating cis straight men in a city like New York, you quickly realize that age is nothing but a number. Some people Peter Pan forever and never grow out of their f*ckboy ways. Does it sound like I'm speaking from experience? BECAUSE I AM! (Rant over.)

Your first friend gets engaged.

It's like the time you found out that your friend got her period for the first time — even though you don't really want it yet, you're a little bit jealous. Or at least, concerned. At 29, I'm still not ready for a ring, but when my first friend got engaged, I suddenly felt like a literal teenager. Each and every life and relationship decision flashed before my eyes, and I started freaking out about timelines and what I "should" be doing with my dating life. If you can relate, first breathe, then Google "famous single celebrities," and I promise you'll feel better.

You start going on more dates... or not.

As you edge closer and closer to your thirties, you start realizing that all of your friends' dating lives are taking different paths, and that no one way is better than the other. Friends will get married, others will stay single, and others will date people who have been married or have kids. It's not college anymore, you don't have to all be on the same page when it comes to your love lives (or anything else).

The best thing about cresting 30? I've never felt more confident about all the time I've taken and all the failed relationships I've endured to finally figure out what I want in a partner. If I could redo my post-college dating life, I wouldn't change a thing. (Except maybe spend a bit more time in therapy.) I learned so much from each experience, and no longer feel anxiety whether I'm single or in a relationship. My friends from college are in many different places in life, but we still have each other. And at the end of the day, that's what matters most to me!