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Realistic Dating Advice From A Divorced 20-Something

I was single until I was 19. I never dated anyone, never held hands with my high school crush. I began my great love story at the beginning of my sophomore year of college. We were friends for a brief period. And then he told me he liked me. I panicked and almost fell on my face (in my defense, the stairs we were standing on were really long and wide, and I have short legs). I ran away (literally. I said, “I’m going to run away now.” And then I ran off to my dorm to tell my best friend from high school who was also my roommate in college that my heart was going to explode because the boy that I liked also liked me back). He kissed me a couple of days later, and my head almost fell off from the sheer exhilaration of having a boy’s mouth against mine. 6 years later, we were married. Less than 2 years after that, I had left him to “find myself” in New York City. Apparently, finding oneself involves a lot of take-out Thai food, endless hours in the gym trying to distract yourself from the fear of dying alone, realizing that money doesn’t magically appear in your bank account the way it did when you were married to a man with family money, and having to show up to work on time so that you can pay the bills to live in the city in which you hope to find yourself.

Finding oneself also, for me, involved dating for the first time in my life. And boy-oh-boy-oh-boy, let me tell you: this ish is cray. I’ve dated more men in the past two years than most of my friends have dated in their lives. And while I’ve met a handful of assholes, I have to say, the majority of the guys I’ve spent time with have been genuinely good dudes. So, with that in mind, let me offer some insight that I’ve gathered about the male species when it comes to dating.

1. A man will text you and/or call you every single day, spend multiple nights a week at your apartment, and not actually want to be in a relationship with you.

This isn’t a reflection of you and your worth as a romantic partner. It is a reflection of them, their acute desire for companionship with you and the incompatibility of that desire with their long-term goals or with what they want in a life partner. Basically, it’s not you – it’s him. Don’t take it personally. Knowing this, you can choose to continue or step back. But do not think that a man wants you as his woman just because he’s around all the time (it is confusing, yes. But such is life). I would say that after a couple of months, check in so you don’t fall in too deeply with someone who can’t stay in the depths with you.

2. On the other hand, a man can go days without texting you, not ask to see you for 2 weeks, and then, when you cut it off with him, declare his shock and misery at losing a woman he was building a future within his head.

Fun fact: men don’t communicate the way women do. Sometimes they share their thoughts and feelings in a way that helps women understand what’s going on, but mostly they don’t. So just because he isn’t texting you all day or even every day, doesn’t mean he’s not thinking of you. In his head, things could be going great. And when you end it because you don’t feel like he’s invested or interested enough, you end up bursting the happy little bubble in his head. So back to my point: check in after a couple of months to see what’s going on in his brain.

3. Forehead kisses mean nothing.

They are sweet and romantic and lovely. And when they kiss your forehead and kiss your nose, your little heart might get all mushy. Enjoy it, but don’t automatically assume you’re the only one he’s doing that to. Some guys are genuinely incredibly affectionate and cuddly. Another situation of it’s not you, it’s him. And he’s not wrong or sending mixed signals if he does these cute kinds of things – he’s just being himself (unless he’s a fuckboy, but that’s a different topic), just as you have the right to be yourself. Just don’t build castles in your head over a soft kiss on your forehead.

4. If a man wants to see you, he will find a way.

I have dated men with incredibly demanding jobs. I know they’re interested when they, despite their sleep deprivation and work stress, carve out a few hours in their week to see me. Do not believe the “I’m just so busy” excuse. It’s bullshit. Now, this does not speak to the possibility of an incompatibility of their schedule with yours. He might be able to carve out a few hours in his week, but they might not be times when you are actually free. But that’s not a fault in him, so don’t hold that against him. He’s sacrificing sleep and solo time (which we all need) to see you, so you should be flexible, too.

5. Men will not miss out on doing things that make them happy just to spend time with you – so neither should you.

I would skip workouts and cancel plans with friends just to see the men I was dating. But men are not like us – to them, playing video games or throwing their balls around (I meant basketballs or baseballs. Sport balls. Not the other kind, gosh) or even hanging out with their boys is a no-brainer to them. So unless he’s made it clear that you are a priority over other things, do NOT make him a priority. You come first always – your hobbies, your friends, your everything. And don’t wait around in your apartment waiting for him to want to see you on an evening you’re both free. I’ve done that so many times, lip syncing my way through Today’s Top Hits while I wait for my phone to ping, and it’s a pointless exercise. Your time is valuable; don’t waste it waiting for a man to decide if you’re worth his evening.

The biggest insight I’ve gotten from my time dating is to TALK and COMMUNICATE with men. They may not understand or see things the way you do but approach them calmly. Ask them the questions in your heart and mind, but be clear about what you’re asking. And, as you can see, there’s no rulebook. No right way to date. Do what feels right to you, but try staying informed by communicating like the articulate adult that you are. Now go forth and get that D. TC mark