I was in a relationship for almost three years. I was just barely 21 when I met my ex, meaning I was one of those select few that spent the majority of their early twenties in a committed monogamous relationship. I can’t say 100% that I didn’t regret that decision, but what I can say is that being thrown back into the world of dating post college has been interesting. 4 months ago I didn’t even know what Tinder was, and now within the short span of a summer I’ve received a crash course in everything “hook-up” culture related.
In a lot of respects, I was lucky to fall in love when I did. I didn’t spend my early twenties getting my heartbroken, which means I’m about a 1/3 less cyclical about romance in this day an age than my chronically single friends. But because of that I’m also not very thick-skinned when it comes to male rejection. I never needed to play hard to get, the last time I had seriously dated anyone I was a junior in college and to be honest I wasn’t really looking for anything “long-term”. The last time I had been single my idea of a date was going to get pizza together after crashing someone’s house party. Suffice to say my dating perimeters are a little different this time around.
In the beginning my default mode was still “girlfriend” — I didn’t know how to play hard to get or keep my feelings at bay, or even slow down enough to catch a breath when I was dating someone I liked. I’d forgotten how to be a single person. Everything was a “we” and an “us” … almost like I needed reprogramming after being in a cult. I was nervous to want someone who wasn’t my ex and at the same time I still yearned for the comfort of being in a relationship. Nothing about dating felt familiar and I lacked any confidence that I could do it again.
But, after a while I started to become more comfortable with myself and being single felt awesome. I loved that I didn’t have to answer to anyone, it was like the first few weeks of being in college after moving away from home. I was relearning the dating game and every time I made the right move I got a little high off the feeling of “winning”. Being in a long term relationship you miss that thrill sometimes, the risk of going all in and the excitement of not knowing how it will turn out in the end. I finally felt the way I had read about being single in your twenties, like every guy was just another adventure of finding out what I liked.
That part of dating after my relationship was somewhat short lived and in it’s place a sense of how rough dating can be on your self-esteem and energy levels. I won’t complain about some of the fun guys I’ve met in my random dating escapades as of late but sometimes I would get home from dates only to feel a loneliness so intense I couldn’t bare it. I missed having someone who just knew me around. If I had to explain what I did for a living one more time I thought my head would pop off. I didn’t feel excited and with ever okay first date and subsequent game of texting tag I just felt jaded and over it. Though I had voluntarily ended my long-term relationship, one that was probably headed for marriage, I had forgotten just how arduous getting to know someone feels. I had taken for granted how my ex knew me like the back of his own hand, how he could wordlessly know what I needed and in the times we weren’t at each other’s throats could communicate with me without the use of actual words.
Overall dating after being with someone else for all of my early twenties has been a remainder of just how much I have left to learn. It hasn’t been the Sex in the City fantasy I had hoped nor has it been some girl version of 500 Days of Summer nightmare. Somewhere in between it has just been an adventure, just like everything else in you twenties.