21 Things I Wish I Knew While Dating In My 20s

The road to enlightenment is paved with mistakes made along the way… and boy did I make them all!

So much so that I created a career writing about relationships, and my personal experiences gave me so much more insights than a Ph.D. ever could!

One comment I hear over and over again is, “I wish I knew this sooner!” I totally relate to that sentiment and to help you make empowered choices in your dating life and get clarity before you make the devastating and sometimes humiliating mistakes, here are the best lessons I wish I knew sooner:

1. Stop looking for love; make yourself a vessel to receive it.

You will never be able to experience true love until you conquer the barriers that are preventing you from receiving it. This applies if you’re single as well as if you’re in a relationship.

2. Relationships amplify what’s already inside you.

Don’t think a relationship will magically cure you and heal your pain and trauma. The opposite is true and these things will only become more intense and magnified in a relationship because love brings up all that is unloved within us.

3.  Heartbreak is a blessing or a curse; it’s up to you.

A devastating breakup can either destroy you or make you stronger, you get to choose. It doesn’t matter how badly he wronged you, you are the only one who gets to decide if you will be cast as victim or heroine in the story of your life.

4. You can’t win them all.

One day I was lamenting to a friend about this guy who just wouldn’t commit to me. I couldn’t understand why or what the issue was. Instead of dishing out sympathy and the typical “You’re too good for him anyway” pep talk, she looked me dead in the eye and said: “You can’t win them all. Let it go.” Whether it’s in dating or life in general, these are words to live by.

5. You won’t recognize the right partner for you until you are in the right place internally.

Despite what you’ve heard, you won’t just “know” when you find “the one.” You need to be in a healthy place internally, otherwise, you can feel an intense pull toward the wrong people for the wrong reasons.

6. You teach the world how to treat you.

Stop putting yourself on the clearance rack, if you do then you’ll be treated like you’re the bottom of the barrel. No one will raise your value for you, it’s on you.

7. If you think all men are jerks.,.. maybe you just have bad taste in men.

If every guy ghosts you or has commitment issues, then it’s time to look at who you’re choosing and why.

8. Stop texting him… you don’t need to remind him you exist.

I promise, if a guy really likes you he won’t just forget about you. You won’t have to poke him every so often to remind him you’re out there and to pick things back up again.

9. Happiness doesn’t just happen.

We create our own happiness. It doesn’t come from having the perfect body, the perfect job, the perfect relationship (as if such a thing even exists!), or any external trappings. Happiness doesn’t just show up at your door as a consolation prize for years of suffering. You have to plant the seeds of happiness and tend to them daily.

10. Fairytale love doesn’t exist.

The mad, passionate, can’t-eat, can’t-sleep type of love does exist…it’s called infatuation, and it has a very short shelf life. True love isn’t something that just takes you over, it’s something you work for and toward, and it isn’t always pretty or easy.

11. Relationships do not determine your worth.

Maybe this one cheated and that one didn’t text back and the last one ghosted on you… so what? None of them are the arbiters of your worth, only you are.

12. Love isn’t what you get; it’s what you give.

So many of us fall into the trap of focusing on what we’re not getting in our relationship. He doesn’t call me enough, he isn’t affectionate enough, he doesn’t take me out enough. Instead of dwelling on what you aren’t getting, shift your focus to what you could be giving. Focus on how you’re showing up in the relationship, on what you’re putting into it, and on how you can love better.

13. Sometimes you’re the problem.

It isn’t always easy to recognize and admit this, but it is a sign of maturity and true self-awareness.

14. Ask yourself: am I in love or am I triggered?

These things can feel the same and cause the same sensations in your body. Look back on your life, reflect on what your unmet childhood needs were and see how this may be driving the people you are drawn to.

15. You don’t need a closure talk that wraps everything up in a pretty bow.

Stop waiting to get closure from your ex before you move on. There will never be a perfect explanation for why things ended that answers all your questions and still manages not to hurt your feelings too badly. You can give yourself the closure. Closure means it’s over, it’s done, and it’s closed.

16. It’s not what happens to us, it’s the story we tell ourselves about what happened that determines if we suffer or we grow.

If you internalize the idea that you were rejected because you’re unworthy or unlovable or nothing will ever work out the way you want… then you will suffer. Challenge the narrative and consider you might be wrong, consider alternate explanations.

17. The beginning of a relationship is not real.

The beginning is just an illusion, you’re both on your best behavior, presenting yourself in the best possible light. If you are sticking it out in a bad relationship because of how great it used to be, or you can’t move on from a situationship with a guy you barely got to know, realize you’re holding onto a fantasy.

18. Ditch the regrets.

There are many paths we could have taken, choices we could have made instead, and things we wish we had done differently. There is no point in stewing in regret. Look back long enough to find a lesson that will help you grow and prevent you from repeating the same mistake, and not a minute more.

19. You will never have to convince your soulmate that he is your soulmate.

You don’t need to plot or strategize or do social media deep dives. If this is the right person for you, they will know it too!

20. Not everyone is a match.

Sometimes it wasn’t you and it wasn’t him, it just wasn’t a match and that’s fine!

21. You will be OK.

Above all, make this your mantra: I will be OK. If you can truly surrender to this idea, you won’t have any more fears when it comes to dating. What is there to fear when you know everything will be OK in the end?

Sabrina Bendory is a writer and entrepreneur. She is the author of You’re Overthinking It, a definitive book on dating and self-love.

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