The twenty-something dating dilemma

While in college, I found myself faced with a slew of new relationship problems. Where to meet men? What happened to getting asked out? Who should text who first? How do you celebrate an anniversary if you don’t actually know when you started dating? I had a lot of unanswered questions and learned a lot about myself and what I wanted in a relationship as a result of trying to answer them all for myself.

At a younger age, I dated who I was interested in and even had serious long-term relationships with people who were on a completely different track in life than I was. This difference was always in the back of my mind, but even through college I still found myself settling for a little less than I deserved when it came to relationships. Ok, a lot less sometimes. I dated guys with different religious beliefs, different views on marriage, and some guys who were flat out wrong for me.

Reflecting on all my dating experiences as a single twenty-something versus my present home in a committed and adult relationship with the man I love, I got to thinking about the real problem we face when entering the dating scene as twenty-somethings. It’s no longer about dating someone just because you like him/her, instead we have to start dating with purpose. One could argue that we always date with purpose (i.e. to be happy and share life with someone we love) but what I’m talking about here is something bigger. This “dating with purpose” roughly translates to dating in search of an eventual life partner.

Suddenly we “grow up” and we’re faced with the challenge of searching for someone who’s not only great and makes us happy, but also for someone whom we could presumably spend the rest of our lives with. Even worse, we can’t meet a guy during class or walking around campus, we have to go out into the real world and put ourselves out there in order to meet someone. It’s an incredibly hard and frightening transition to make, especially since we’re faced with so many other challenges at this time in our lives (becoming financially independent, finding a job, etc.)

My advice? Understand what you want and need in a relationship. More importantly, have the courage to walk away from people who don’t share any of those same needs and wants with you. If you’re dating a guy who never wants to get married while you’ve already planned your entire dream wedding on Pinterest (and want him to be the groom), you’re probably going to have problems. It’s important to get all the heavy stuff out of the way early in the relationship, like religious views and background, marriage, children and finances. If a relationship just doesn’t feel right, then get over it and walk away. Realize that people are going to walk away from you, too. And all of this is okay, because every time you walk away you make room for the right one.

What challenges did you face when you entered the “real” dating world? Do you think it’s important to discuss major views upfront when entering a new relationship?

Photo source.

24 thoughts on “The twenty-something dating dilemma

  1. Megan

    Great post. I’ve only had 2 boyfriends (married my 2nd) but definitely focused on dating with purpose. A lot of my friends just went out with someone for the hell of it, but I didn’t much see the point of beginning a relationship with a guy I didn’t see a future with.

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      It’s so much better that way…I feel like sometimes people date just for the sake of not being alone, and there’s really no point to it. Glad you enjoyed the post!

      Reply
  2. lffashionable

    Haha! I love this “If you’re dating a guy who never wants to get married while you’ve already planned your entire dream wedding on Pinterest (and want him to be the groom), you’re probably going to have problems.” I watch so many people I know do that to themselves. I’m at a point where I’m more focused on getting my own life together than finding someone to date. However, I do keep an eye on my friends in relationships. Many of them fall into that category. Unfortunately, it seems that they have to realize the problem themselves.

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      Haha I’m glad you enjoyed that bit! And what you are doing is awesome – I’m a firm believer that you should always be happy with yourself and happy with your place in life before entering a relationship with someone else. And you hit the nail on the head, like most things, it’s difficult to fix the problem without making it first. It’s so easy to fall into a relationship and stay there out of comfort when in reality it isn’t right and each person has radically different beliefs in life. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this!

      Reply
  3. Rachel

    Loved this post- I enjoy reading personal posts like this a lot. I dated someone for 3 1/2 years because I loved them, but our lives were very different and I wasn’t thinking about that in the long run (would he move to a city with me for my job, would he ever move in with me, etc.). Now I’ve found someone who shares a lot more values that I do and the purpose of us dating is just a lot better- which is what you mentioned in your post. I think after college a lot of your reasons and requirements for dating change, at least it did for me.

    Life Unsweetened

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      Rachel, thanks so much for sharing. I too have been there, dating someone completely different from myself only to realize it wasn’t right for me long term. It’s easy to get caught up in that new/exciting feeling when you meet someone new and completely bypass the whole life plan conversation. My reasons/requirements totally changed out of college and as a result I am blessed to be with someone who shares my same views/beliefs about the big things in life. Thank you for reading/commenting!

      Reply
  4. Jessica Broyles

    Great post – I was lucky enough to meet my now husband when we were 17, and when we started dating (maybe 6 months later), it was with the understanding that we were each someone the other person could see marrying. We had similar life experiences and religions, and we have each changed each other for the better so far! (We were just discussing all this last night as we are reading a book about marriage!)

    http://www.highheelstosneakers.com

    Reply
  5. respect the shoes

    I guess I shouldn’t really have an opinion since I’ve been in a committed relationship for a while and am not actively currently dating, but I feel like for some women, “dating with a purpose” could scare off otherwise perfectly good potential mates. Like maybe choosing not to date someone because he is just a teacher and not some soon-to-be big wig, or letting a guy know on the first date that you’re looking for a husband or want kids soon, that kind of thing. But I don’t know, I think there’s someone for everyone, and we’re all perfect in our imperfections. ;o)

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      You make a really great point – it’s easy to heighten our idea of the perfect man to create unrealistic expectations of what he should be like, thus missing out on some great guys along the way. I guess what I’m addressing here is just major views of the future – like do you share the same beliefs about marriage or children, because I think that’s definitely important to discuss before things get too serious. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and you’re right, it’s our imperfections that make us perfect sometimes 🙂

      Reply
  6. thehautecookie

    I totally agree unrealistic expectations can often make you overlook a person, but as humans it is so hard to do! I love this post, I feel like I know you a little more~ !

    Reply
  7. Rachel @ Making Life Fabulous

    I agree with you that it is important to date with purpose, not just looking for someone who meets expectations or has a lucrative future, but waiting to have a relationship with a person who is compatible with you, and truly meant for you!
    I like your other point, that it’s ok to walk away from a relationship that isn’t right for either person. Dating with purpose doesn’t mean you have to get it right the first time!

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      Glad you agree! I think it’s important for both people to also be comfortable/happy with where they’re at in life before entering a relationship as well…I’m a firm believer that you have to be happy with yourself before you can be happy with another. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Rachel!

      Reply
  8. albucco10

    First of all- Carrie and Big (sigh…) love. Second, I feel like you nailed it on the head (um also, we’re totally so much alike!). I’ve never been one to just “like” a guy for the sake of it–if I fall, I fall hard, as they say. I feel like if you’re searching for any ol’ thing, it’s easier to find somebody–and true, some of those relationships end up being really fantastic, but more often than not, they just turn into flings. It’s finding a guy worth your time that’s the test–with the biggest pay off. One of the biggest things I’ve learned is that sometimes (and this sounds super depressing, fair warning), loving someone isn’t enough. It doesn’t mean it’s right, and it doesn’t mean it will work, which is a very “adult” concept. Couldn’t be happier that you seem to have found your Mr. Big 🙂

    xo,
    Alyssa

    The Glossy Life

    Reply
    1. twenty-something Post author

      I know, right? I love them too…all the love lessons I didn’t learn firsthand I learned from Sex and the City. And you’re totally right, if you’re meandering around dating just to date, you’re more than likely not going to have great/lasting relationships. Instead they’ll be flings like you said. And although it IS depressing you are so right about love, love isn’t always enough because sometimes you can love someone very much but it just isn’t right for the long term…that’s a hard one to grasp, too. And yes, I’ve found my Mr. Big (minus most of the drama so far 🙂 ) Thanks for reading and commenting Alyssa, loved hearing your perspective on this!

      Reply

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