It’s Not Them, It’s You: How To Make The Most Of Dating In Your 20s

Dating in your 20s can feel like Ron Burgundy sitting in a dark, dank bar with old clothes on, drunkenly singing songs about fart noises: you know it’s not exactly what you’re supposed to be doing, but you aren’t really sure what the right thing is.

And when the gruff bartender tries to offer some sage advice, Ron snaps back, “I’m sorry, were you saying something? I don’t speak Spanish.”

Just when we’re on the verge of a breakthrough, perhaps actually doing some introspection, we bury our heads in the sand once again. Dating, maybe more than in any other part of our lives, we self-sabotage, whether out of ignorance or intentionally. We lie to ourselves because it’s easier and makes the thought of finding the “right person” (whatever that means) much less scary.

Dating in the 21st century frightens most people. It’s why online dating has become the wave of the future: it’s fucking hard to meet people when you’re trying to pay rent and follow your dreams, all while attempting to also have a social life. And hobbies? Lolz.

But it doesn’t help that your friends placate your delicate sensibilities with cliches like “Well, you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince,” or columns blaming men for not being interested in intelligent women. Or websites like TheChive and BustedCoverage for giving men unrealistic expectations when it comes to women. And let’s not forget literally centuries of tradition that says men are in charge of relationships and get to date pretty girls even if they don’t actually deserve them (Seriously do you remember how many pretty women Drew Bleeping Carey dated on his show? IN OHIO?!)

You can tell yourself whatever you want to make yourself feel better about being single, but it’s not going to get you any closer to actually finding someone.

That’s on you. If you want guys/girls to like you more, then be a better you. In your 20s, you get to decide who you are as a person. What you stand for you. The things that are important to you. The qualities you’re looking for in a partner and what you think you can bring to a relationship.

Why have you not been finding the right people? No, really. Think about it. If the answer is “Because they’re all stupid and they suck,” then you’re really bad at picking potential partners. That’s not their fault for being shitty mates for you, you’re picking shitty people to try and date. Those same people might work perfectly well for someone else, but who cares? That doesn’t help you.

We all have a role to play. Men are behind the times when it comes to embracing the growing role of women. Divorce rates have skyrocketed due in no small part to the fact that women want to take responsibilities for their own fortunes and it pissed men off.

Figure it out, dudes. Women who want to be in the workforce and be in control of their own destiny are a thing and spoiler alert, it’s a good thing.

But that means women must stop expecting men to treat them like helpless princesses locked in a tower. You don’t need rescuing no matter how many Disney movies tell you otherwise.

Women have careers now. That’s amazing. Offer to pay on a first date. The arcane rule of men paying for everything is born out of a single-income household where men took care of the family. Want to be an independent woman and kill that? Maybe start by putting your money where your mouth is.

And men. Jesus, bros, grow up. Stop acting like it’s a personal affront to your testicular region if a woman shows intelligence and independence. It’s OK if your girlfriend/wife makes more money than you and it’s OK if she is strong-willed, with ambitions and aspirations. In fact, those should all be desirable qualities. If they’re not, then that’s a ‘you’ problem and you should figure your shit out.

You play the most central role in your own romantic success.

When I went to college at Syracuse, there were gaggles of rich, beautiful, east-coast girls who I thought would never want to date me because I didn’t have enough money — or perhaps more specifically, my family didn’t.

Then I realized if my financial standing is a key factor in my datability, I don’t want to date such a vapid girl. Ray Charles to the bullshit.

Love yourself, of course. You have to be happy with who you are as a person FIRST before you can expect anyone else to love that person. I’m not saying change for anyone else, I’m insisting you change for yourself, to be the best version of yourself for you.

It’s why being single in your 20s is one of the most essential times in your life. Being in a relationship is, in part, a defining factor to one’s identity. No matter what is going on in your life, you are someone else’s partner. To have a partner, a true partner in a scary, confusing world? That’s amazing.

But it’s not a healthy place for people who don’t have clear visions of who they are. I had a friend recently tell me she was in a wonderful, loving relationship early in her life where she was challenged to be the best version of herself. It was storybook. The only problem was she had no idea who that self was.

How can you expect someone to fall in love with you, if you don’t know who that person is? Or what they stand for?

That means heavy, deep, and real introspection about your life. It means honestly assessing your strengths and weaknesses, where you can get better and the potential qualities in a mate to help you deal with the shit you’ve inevitably accrued when it comes to baggage.

Do some people stumble into amazing relationships? Of course they do. You know what we call those people? Lucky. People win the lottery too, but those people tend not to be… ya know, you.

Just after the bartender in that dive bar yells at Ron Burgundy for singing drunken tunes, Ron explains the reasons he’s so upset is that he’s had his heart ripped out. He closes his monologue by saying the worst part about it was Veronica Corningstone was “better” than him.

It was a key recognition in his own neurosis. She made him feel insecure. That type of clarity only comes from genuine perspective, although doesn’t usually come from wallowing in a debauched despair of inebriation like Mr. Burgundy.

That is a key moment of self-recognition, the kind you need in order to grow out of the paradox of insecurities and arrogance that define youth.

It’s easy to fall into the habit of relying on platitudes to get you through your struggles as a single 20-something. It’s easier still to go on Tinder — or if you’re feeling frisky, 3der — to hook up with people until you feel sufficiently shitty about yourself.

But if you truly want to change something, change your fortunes and find a suitable mate, then the number one thing you need to change is you. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

featured image – That Awkward Moment

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