Not many twenty-somethings want to be “tied down” before 30, but many of us also crave something less superficial than a series of one night stands. This balancing act – of having fun while still learning how to connect meaningfully with other human beings – is a unique challenge faced by our generation of unmarried and exploratory twenty-to-thirty year-olds.
While dating guys on virtually every continent, I’ve found that pursuing fulfilling yet usually non-committal relationships is a universal phenomena faced by sophisticated young people of every background and nationality.
In the process of crossing linguistic, cultural, and geographical barriers, I’ve discovered a few things that make my relationships of all kinds work better. I think if more people played by these simple rules, we would all be much happier and engaged in more fulfilling modern dating scenarios.
1. Make the first move.
Don’t waste time wondering if he or she is interested or if he will intimidated by a girl approaching him first. Own your self-confidence, aim for the hottest guy or the smartest girl in the room and unapologetically put yourself out there. You’ll never know what would have happened if you don’t try, and 99% of people appreciate someone genuine and forthcoming. “Hi, my name is…” is universal.
2. See different kinds of people.
Keep an open mind and date around. Date someone from another country, culture, or race. Experiment with someone who has crazy career ambitions or vastly different interests from you. I once went out with a professional tap dancer from Taiwan. Why not? Now is the time to explore and learn new things from interesting relationships.
3. Don’t play games.
You’re either interested or you’re not, so why pretend otherwise? If she calls and you want to talk, answer. If he asks you out and you’re not feeling it, kindly say so. If you’re “with” someone, don’t try to make them jealous. There’s something to be said for fostering a genuine connection with a girl or guy, regardless of how serious the end goal is. We’re not teenagers anymore, so let’s date like men and women, not boys and girls.
4. Don’t mix business and pleasure.
If you have a professional working relationship with someone, keep it that way. Things will inevitably end and it WILL be awkward. Declare your career a personal boundary for sexual relationships and defend it at all costs.
5. Always preserve your independence.
No matter how into someone you are, always have your own friends, hobbies, and career securely clenched in both fists. Your heart can get involved, but big-picture priorities should be set dead straight. How many times have you seen a girl or guy isolate themselves from their group of friends, only to come crawling back after a break-up, enduring the realization that they invested entirely too much of themselves in the other person? Or how many times has someone given up a job or educational opportunity for the sake of staying together, only to regret it later when their relationship falls apart?
6. Administer these tests of true character.
There are two things you can do to evaluate the character of a prospective partner: How does he treat (and speak about) his mother, and how does she treat (and speak with) complete strangers? If he is adoring of his mother, he will likely be the same way towards you. If she is kind to people who have no direct bearing on her life other than holding the door for her at a hotel or bringing her a coffee, it is a tremendous insight into this person’s true nature.
7. Evaluate your partner’s energy.
When a relationship gets complicated, it’s easy to get bogged down in the details. When feeling confused about someone, evaluate the situation at a high level by asking yourself: Generally speaking, does this person bring positive or negative energy to my life? Does he enrich me, teach me new things, and make me better? Or does he drain my energy, cause me stress, and hurt my feelings?
8. Don’t over-analyze after it ends.
When things are over, don’t waste time trying to figure out the other person’s motives or seeking a detailed explanation. It may mean a lack of closure, but putting your foot down and closing that chapter sooner rather than later will help you ultimately move on faster. Often twenty-something romances end due to a cocktail of external factors, which play a huge role in someone’s openness to a given relationship. Most of the time it really is them, not you. You will drain yourself trying to figure it all out, so respect a person’s decision to conclude a relationship and get busy moving on.
9. Reflect on your experiences.
Good or bad, ensure that you learn something valuable from every one-night stand, every fling, and every serious relationship. Treat each one as an opportunity to see how that person makes you feel, what they help you understand about yourself and the world, and how they fit into your life. Note the things you liked, but especially pay attention to what you didn’t like and why.
10. Practice for the future.
No matter if we are talking about a long-term relationship or a one-night stand, every sexual interaction depends on mutual respect. Have fun, but remember that the way you treat other people now and how you engage in relationships when you’re twenty-something will manifest itself in your long-term relationships down the road. Relationships of all kinds are built upon interpersonal habits, so let’s practice being good to one another while we are young so we create a solid foundation for the future, as individuals and as a generation.