Dating In My 20's: 12 Tips I Wish I Knew To Prepare Myself for Love

"Who you are to somebody is going to be more important than who you are not."
07/20/2017 02:37 pm ET Updated Jul 24, 2017

Dear Younger Self,

This is your older self, writing to you from the future to let you know you’re going to be okay and that you are going to find love. You’ll be turning 36 in two months and your life up until this point has been an adventure! While you haven’t found the love you wished for at the top of that Indonesian temple when you were 17, I want you to know your journey to find love and discover yourself has been equally fun.

You will find the love you wish for very soon and you’ll still have plenty of years to enjoy that love. Forever with one person is a really long time, so don’t stress. Have fun and enjoy the people you meet along the way. Don’t stop learning about yourself and what makes you happy. The world hasn’t been introduced to social media and dating apps yet, but I want to let you know they’re going to change the way people interact and date in the future. It opens the world for you to meet more people and maintain relationships, but it does change the dating landscape and the way people communicate. Not always for the better. Knowing you’ll find love when the time is right, I want to offer you a few tips so you can relax a little easier in your 20’s and know you’re on the right path.

  1. Spend the time getting to know yourself. Know yourself better than anyone else. When you know yourself so well, and what you need and want in a relationship, it will be more difficult for someone to hurt you because you wouldn’t date a person that wasn’t right for you in the first place and you’ll understand why it didn’t work out when it ends. Until you find your soulmate focus on taking self improvement classes, reading books, mediating, and journaling about your needs and wants that are important to you. Really enjoy the process of learning about yourself.
  2. Be okay with everything you are and everything you are not. Because the person you end up falling in love with has to love you for everything you are AND everything you are not. You should get clear on who you are willing to be and who you are willing not to be. Don’t compromise if it’s important to you. Who you are to somebody is going to be more important than who you are not. When you accept what’s uniquely you, and you are able to rock it with confidence, you’ll really be able to unlock happiness and love in life.
  3. You’ll want to get clear on what you really need and want out of your partner, but don’t over complicate it. What’s the most important is to understand the primary way you like to receive love from people you date and how you show love back. Pick up the book, The 5 Love Languages, and learn which way you prefer to receive love — through words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, or physical touch. At the end of the day, it’s how a person makes you feel that is important.
  4. Find three things you passionately and authentically love doing. There’s nothing better for the heart than connecting with an individual over an interest that you both passionately care for in life. The purpose that comes from connecting over a passion will carry you a long way if you end up dating and settling down together.
  5. Don’t compare your journey to other people’s journey for finding love. Spoiler alert! You take the long path in life to find love. But don’t worry, you have A LOT of fun along the way! You spent the time learning about yourself and will be an amazing partner when you finally do settle down. Many people that you envy, and found love earlier on in life, didn’t always spend the time on themselves in the beginning and inevitably have to put in the hard work while in the relationship or they end up separating. You either put the work in up front or in the end, there’s no escaping the work that a relationship requires.
  6. Don’t hesitate to ask for someone you’re dating to clarify if they are sending you mixed signals. All you have to do is ask them if the “signal or message” they’re sending matches the “signal or message” you’re receiving and let them know how they’re making you feel. (Example: Hey Mr. or Miss Bad Communicator, you mentioned you’re interested in hanging out again, but your communication tells me differently. I just want to clarify if you are actually interested in hanging out again. No worries either way, just want to make sure I know where you stand so we’re not missing an opportunity to connect.) Once you know the truth on how they feel, you can make the decision that’s right for you or find a way to keep moving forward with dating.
  7. Beauty truly does come from the inside. You’ll meet many people that are amazingly beautiful on the outside, but ugly on the inside. You’ll meet many people that aren’t your ideal type, but have the most beautiful souls. What matters in the end is they make you feel good about yourself. Looks will fade, my friend. Focus on the feelings.
  8. Nobody is perfect. Heck, I hate to tell you this Bryan but you’re not even perfect. You’ll eventually figure this out — Sorry! Find the two most important traits for you to have in a partner and date people that align with those traits. You will communicate through everything else in the relationship and it will work out. This took you a while to figure out, but I’ll let you know the two traits you are looking for in your partner — someone who’s curious to explore life and values connection in all ways. Also, you’re a little hyper and controlling. Do yourself a favor and find someone who’s calm and focused to balance you out. There’s a reason opposites attract.
  9. Focus on how the person makes you feel. You’re going to get stuck on what your final partner looks like and how they act. That’s just an extension of your ego. Let go of all you think you want a person to look and act like. Be open to receive love however it’s delivered to you. What you’re looking for in life doesn’t always show up in the package you expect. Make sure you date all types of people. It will help you grow, push you to communicate your needs and wants, and you may just be surprised who you end up with once you finally meet your soul mate.
  10. Communication is everything. With the introduction of social media, people will have more options on how to meet potential partners. It will become common practice to date multiple people at once and even disappear, versus communicate their feelings, when they are no longer interested. You’re going to find yourself doing the latter because you’ll discover you don’t like to hurt people. If you’re interested in them, let them know that you would like to see them again. If you’re not interested, kindly let them know that you don’t want to lead them on and you don’t feel they’re a match for what you’re looking for in a long term partner. Wish them luck on their journey and continue on. You’ll actually hurt them more by not communicating.
  11. Your self worth doesn’t come from hooking up. You’ll learn later on in life that you tied your self worth to hooking up because that’s how you validated yourself when you were in the closet and couldn’t authentically be yourself. Heck, you’ll learn that all people find external validating through sexuality. Social media and dating apps are going to create a “hookup” culture which makes it easy for everyone to find sexual connections. Spend your time getting to know someone before hooking up. You love the chase and have a tendency to continue the chase once you hook up. Take them on a date and spend time exploring the city together — walks with frozen yogurt through the parks are your favorite. (Oh — You move to New York City, Bryan! Embrace that move a little bit earlier.) Once you get to know them for who they are as an individual, you can make a solid decision if that person is right for you and you won’t feel bad if you have to tell them it’s not a long-term match. Don’t worry, the sex will be better once you know you’re interested in a long-term connection.
  12. Be honest with what you really want. This is going to be a concept you struggle with for a while, but monogamy may not be right for you. If you finally decide it’s not right for you, be honest with yourself and the people you date. Whatever agreement you create in a relationship, always honor and respect the agreement you have in place. The traditional concept of love, and what you always thought you wanted as a kid, will evolve and modern love will be whatever two people want it to be and look like. You just need to find the framework for love that’s right for you. The best way to figure this out, start back at number 1!

Bryan, the short of this is know yourself really well. Even better than your parents AND they raised you! Let go of your expectations, date all types of people that align with the values and interests that make you happy in life, and focus on how people make you feel. Until you find the love that matches the dream in your head, enjoy the journey! You’re learning all the lessons you need along the way and you’re always exactly where you need to be. When the time is right, and you least expect it, you will find your love.

Sending you love from the future and enjoy the journey!

Your Older Self