As I approach my 25th birthday, I look back at many of the relationships (and non-relationships) I had in my early 20s with the reaction, “What was I thinking?”
Here are some mistakes I made not once, not twice, but habitually that I hereby vow not to repeat in the future.
1. Trying to hunt down people who were ignoring my texts
I can’t go running A/B testing campaigns to determine the best time of day to text you and get a response. I do that enough with my work emails.
I’m embarrassed to admit I even dated someone in college who said he “didn’t really text” so we’d have to just hang out when we ran into each other! (Unfortunately, it worked, and I “just happened to be” near his dorm way more often than he deserved.)
The sad truth is, if you need to put in that much effort to get in touch with someone, they’re just not that into you — even if they enjoy the times you “happen” to run into each other.
2. Blaming myself for every conflict
Through cleverly crafted rhetoric like “you’re taking it too personally,” “do you really want to fight?” and — my personal favorite — “don’t be a ball buster,” several partners successfully thwarted my attempts to discuss real issues in the relationship that were their fault.
Nope. No more. You don’t get to be mad at me for being mad at you. I was mad first. And it was for a reason.
3. Manipulating partners into telling me what I wanted to hear
Sure, it’s nice to have reassurance that your boyfriend doesn’t think you’re fat. But those words don’t actually mean anything if you ask him to say them. What else is he going to say? He has no choice. That’s not reassurance; it’s coercion.
4. Dragging along people I hoped would “grow on me”
Despite what I learned as a child from Beauty and the Beast, if I’m not attracted to someone from the beginning, it’s unlikely that any attraction will develop ever. This isn’t true for everyone: demisexuals, for example, rarely feel attracted to anyone from the get-go. However, for most people, it’s better to say “let’s be friends” and know you can reopen the possibility of dating later if you change your mind than to keep dating someone you only like as a friend. It wasn’t fair to force myself to settle or to lead on people I wasn’t attracted to.
5. Dating people I was only sort of into
There can be a fine line between not feeling anything and not feeling anything yet. But if you’re walking that line for weeks, it’s likely that “yet” will never arrive.
I dragged on these situations because I couldn’t justify why I wasn’t more into the person. Just a few more dates, I thought, and then my heart will catch up to my head and it’ll hit me how great he really is. Nope. Never happened. In reality, those few dates only solidified that the relationship was going nowhere.
Same goes for online dating messages. No longer will I respond to messages from people I probably won’t even want to date.
6. Breaking up and getting back together
Okay, maybe this can happen once and you can still salvage the relationship. But over and over? It’s obviously happening for a reason.
During your first few relationships, the process of almost losing someone then falling in love all over again can be exhilarating. But after a while, it just becomes exhausting and pointless.
7. Playing games
If you want to hold it against me for not following the three-day rule, I hold it against you for being completely ridiculous and judgmental.
I’m an adult. I’m busy. I don’t have time for all the “when are you going to text me back?” nonsense or the “did I reveal too much about myself too soon?” nonsense or the “who’s going to make the first move?” nonsense. I’ve got to save my analytical skills for work.
8. Asking people why they’ve rejected me
Asking why your romantic prospects aren’t interested in you reflects the assumption that their lack of interest is personal, as if you should change something about yourself the way you might revise your resume after receiving feedback from a company that didn’t hire you.
But unless you’ve done something rude or unkind, the rejection wasn’t personal. Even if they don’t like you, it’s still not personal because that’s just their opinion. And you shouldn’t revise your personality based on the opinion of one person.
9. Letting someone else define the terms of the relationship
“I wasn’t really looking to be polyamorous, but I suppose I could give it a try,” began no beautiful relationship ever.
10. Spending an hour primping for a date
Nowadays, it’s 15 minutes tops. I’m busy — and too jaded to expect a high return on my time investment. No point glamming up for the ball when you’re unlikely to meet Prince Charming.
11. Placing myself in situations that I know will be awkward
For example, if I am hanging out with friends before a first date, I will say goodbye to my friends before I arrive at the date location — because no period of time passes quite as slowly as that awkward moment standing between your friends and someone you’ve never met trying to decide if you should first introduce them or yourself.