ot to quote One Direction, but most of us have one common desire in this life: “to love and to be in love.” Some people are born with magic in their veins that helps them find lasting love without much struggle. The rest of us aren’t quite that lucky. We have to work for it.
And in your twenties, working to find love--on top of trying to keep in touch with all the friends you suddenly have a lot less time for, to keep your head above water while student loans and the cost of living threaten to pull you under as you’re lured into comfort by the low tide of your life (a.k.a Graduation), and also to discover who you are in this world--isn’t easy.
Most of us aren’t living in a coffee shop AU. We aren’t going to walk into our nearby Starbucks tomorrow and buy a $4.89 mocha, only to spill it all over ourselves because we didn’t notice the beautiful stranger rounding the corner as we went to sit down at our favorite table. (They would, of course, buy us a new one. *Insert sly grin.*)
No, most of us have to be proactive if we want any chance at a relationship, which is easier said than done.
With “active” in the name, proactivity requires some degree of energy, which, depending on our personality types, the energy we expend at our jobs, and even our mental health, can be difficult to come by. Because of this, we have to be extra conscious of how we’re spending our time, lest we fall victim to burnout.
Still, we can’t help being in love with the idea of being in love, and some days the crippling anxiety that we’ll be alone forever is enough to leave us crying into a pint of cookie dough ice cream while we replay the “If you’re a bird, I’m a bird” scene from The Notebook for three hours straight. Ahem.
We’re all just out here trying to navigate the dating field to the best of our abilities so that we’re never, ever tempted to get back together with our trash exes just so we aren’t alone. So how do you navigate the dating world when it feels you barely even have time to breathe?
No matter what stage you might be at within a relationship, communication is key. Whether you’re just thinking about maybe going on a few dates with a few different people, or you’ve been in a relationship for five years, the imperative to talk to anyone you’re seeing doesn’t go away. Communication is the building block of any relationship, but that doesn’t just disappear the moment you mutually agree on the status of your relationship.
People and situations both change. No one wants to get used to being loved by someone-- only to have the rug pulled out from beneath their feet-- so keeping an open dialogue with the people you date will save you, and potentially them, a whole lot of heartache. That being said, the best way to begin a healthy line of communication starts with yourself.
Ask yourself these questions:
How much time do I have?
It’s easy to get swept up in the idea of love. The thought of finding someone you can force to watch Hot Fuzz with you every weekend, or to listen to every Louis Tomlinson single on repeat with you-- even though you’ll be staring up at the ceiling with your head in a puddle of your own tears thirty seconds into every song-- may or may not sound as appealing to you as it does to me. Either way, the sentiment remains true: we all want to find that sweet creature to share our lives with.
Before we can do that, though, we need to take a good look at our own lives.
How many hours do you work a week? Do you have pets? Do you set aside time for your friends? For volunteer work? How much sleep do you try to get per night? At the end of the week, how much energy do you have left over? And how much of that energy are you willing to spend on another person?
Each of these questions can help you determine just how much space you have for another person in your life, or whether you need to make space. They can also set a precedence for our next question.
What am I looking for?
Realizing that you want a relationship and that you have time for one is an important first step, but there are also other questions to consider. For instance, what kind of relationship are you looking for?
Are you looking for something long-term? Something to potentially last forever? Something casual? Or just for something you can enjoy in the present? There’s nothing wrong with any of these, but knowing what you want when you enter the dating game will save a whole lot of confusion later down the line.
A long-term or serious relationship is going to require a lot more of your time and energy than something casual. Something casual might take less out of you, but it may also contribute to communication issues between you and your partner if you don’t discuss it beforehand.
The most important thing is to know what’s going to be the most fulfilling for you. Forcing yourself into a relationship that doesn’t suit your current goals will leave both of you unhappy in the long-run.
What are *my* relationship Do’s and Don’ts?
We all have our ticks. Knowing what they are and when they’re most likely to rear their ugly heads is pertinent to keeping an open line of communication with your partner. If you don’t know what you do and don’t like within a relationship, how can you tell your partner?
Once you can answer all of these questions for yourself, you’ll be able to bring them up in conversation with potential or long-term partners. And that’s the whole point, isn’t it?
Unless you take the time to sit down and talk about your feelings (I know, I know, eugh) with a potential or long-term partner, any discomfort you feel might start to fester until what was once just a mild inconvenience now feels like it could make or break your relationship. These don’t even have to be conversations about something serious! Even something as simple as telling someone on the first date that you’re perfectly capable of telling the waiter “when” on the parmesan can save you an unnecessary argument down the line. It can also help you to gauge their reaction to confrontation early on.
Dating Apps: To Swipe or Not to Swipe?
Even if you feel as though you’re ready to begin a new relationship, it may not be as easy as you’d hope. We can try, but I don’t think any of us have been able to master willing something into existence. And in this world, finding a partner isn’t as easy as it might have been back in our parents’ day.
People who are in their twenties today don’t necessarily think about dating in the same way that, say, our parents may have when they were in their twenties. We have busier lives, which means trying to fit traditional dates, like movies, dancing, or even a nice dinner into our busy schedules can be difficult. We do have options, however, and with the rise of technology, we’ve become much more susceptible to meeting someone we would’ve never met otherwise. In fact, technology is one of the easiest and most efficient ways for us to enter the dating field in this day and age. Most notable among these are Match.com and Tinder.
Having been around for a bit longer than some more recent dating sites, Match is structured similarly to how we’d see most traditional dating websites. You enter your name, upload a picture or two-- or twenty-- of yourself, select some general interests, and add a brief bio about who you are. You’re then matched according to who is near you and has similar interests to you. If you match with them, you’re able to message each other to see what you have in common. It’s a bit more time consuming as far as online dating goes, but it could be worth it if you’re the kind of person who likes to take things slow, even as you’re getting to know someone through the internet.
Tinder is a newer dating tool. Rather than a fully-blown website, it’s an app. When you download it, it asks you to enter your birthdate, phone number, school, gender, preferred gender of your partner, and to allow the app to access your location. It’s fairly simple in that respect. From there, you’re given a picture and short description of someone in your general vicinity, and you swipe right if you like them and left if you’d like to pass at that time. It’s very much based on first impressions and can be a simple way to find something casual or serious.
For some of us, online dating is a little too modern. It’s hard to get a sense of who someone is when you’re only talking to them through a screen. If that’s the case for you, don’t fret. There are still some low-maintenance ways for you to meet people in person.
This is something we tend to think of as a bit of a joke. How much can you really get to know someone during a thirty-second to a minute-long conversation? In truth, not all that much, but you can get a good read of their body language and how you feel about them by the end of that short timespan. Speed-dating is a great way to get a first impression of someone while they’re right in front of you, and to save yourself the same kind of time you would save through online dating.
Blind dates are probably some of the most questionable ones for twenty-somethings to partake in, but there is actually some logic to them. Your friends (should) know you better than most other people. If you don’t have the time or patience to shop around for a significant other, they can be one of your next best resources. Who knows? They could introduce you to that friend of a friend of a friend who winds up being the love of your life.
However you choose to go about trying to find someone to share your life with when you’re in your twenties, don’t stress. Life doesn’t end after them, so even if you find someone who’s right for you for a while, but not forever, there’s still hope. You can still find someone to love and to be loved by.