Let’s start off strong here, folks: if you don’t pick up any tips in the dating game in your 20s, suffice it say that your 30s ain’t looking so good, either. Before you write off everyone for all the wrong reasons, just remember that as you age, the stakes get higher.
Maybe you’re busy fighting societal norms or embracing your inner Betty Draper, but no matter what your status, the truth remains: Your friends are settling down. Some are starting families. At the very least, you’re tired of being the only friend without a Plus One to drag to all the parties. What to do? That’s a question for another time.
For now, let’s focus what to stop doing.
1. Repeatedly dating a ‘type’.
Girl, you’ve been dating for like decades. You have a pattern. Maybe you’re happy with your pattern — you’re a blissful serial monogamist or a sometime-dater — but for the rest of you who’ve had it UP TO HERE … change it up! No, really change it up. Dare we say, go against your instinct. Date the less-than-dapper dude who might not be the best arm candy. Try out the shy guy whose sense of humor you have to draw out. When it comes to love, your gut (and by gut, we mean vagina) can sometimes lead you astray. Go against the grain; it might end up feeling right.
2. Waiting for everything to “fall into place.”
It can’t. It won’t. Stop thinking that when you finally get a promotion, Mr. Right will just stroll on in with a bottle of bubbly and a fistful of roses. Or when you land the perfect apartment that you can finally afford with west-facing light and enough closet space to fit all of your shoes, the man of your dreams will just wander into your orbit. Few things in life follow a sequential order, and your love life definitely isn’t one of them. “The Universe” doesn’t know that you’re ready to meet “the one.” You have to go find him yourself, and that (usually) takes work.
3. Being overly direct.
We get it: the clock is ticking. And yes, when it comes to salaries, martinis and aisle seats, it makes sense to ask for exactly what you want. But your dates aren’t managers, bartenders or flight attendants. Dating, getting to know someone and (especially) deciding if you want that person to be your life partner are all steps in a delicate process that requires patience and restraint. Quite frankly, that applies to being in the relationship iself, too. So be gentle: it’s good practice.
4. Holding out for perfection.
You haven’t waited this long just to settle, am I right? Er, no. If you’re someone who happens to be on the hunt for Mr. (or Ms.) Right, and your hunt has extended into your 30s, consider yourself one of the lucky ones: You’re finally wise enough to realize that being committed to one partner actually does require a dose of settling; it’s called compromise. The key is to hold onto the important things — kindness, affection, ambition or whatever it is that sustains you — and let go of the more frivolous stuff. Maybe it means you have to deal with his neat-freak tendencies, or perhaps you earn more than he does. Figure out which “undesirable” traits you can live with in the long run, because nobody’s perfect — not even you.
5. Letting self-pity win.
Yep, another Facebook engagement on your newsfeed makes a grand total of 24 friends (or frenemies) this week. Awful, ain’t it? Sure, you’re entitled to a few moments of self-pity, but after a week of downing every Krispy Kreme you see, you’ve got to let go and move forward. A diamond might be forever, but a moment on the lips and a lifetime on the hips is just as harrowing.
6. Thinking money is the key to love.
This is a tricky one. In your 20s, the idealist in you believed that money doesn’t matter. Love is all you need, you (and John Lennon) thought. Then you stopped living with roommates, had to pay the whole rent — and maybe you realized then and there that finding a partner with a big, fat paycheck might be the answer after all. Well, maybe in the short term. But after the vacations have been had, the gifts have been exchanged and the nest has been feathered, what you’re left with — besides a bunch of stuff — is a real, live human being with no monetary value. Healthy finances may make things comfortable, but they won’t sustain you through personality conflicts, health scares, family issues and insecurities. Money can’t hold a relationship together — you can take that one to the bank.
7. Thinking every partner is “The One”.
We know, we know, it’s so hard not to. It’s your first time staying over his place, he’s adorable and you’re already mentally designing your wedding dress and naming your first born. Do yourself a favor and bring your *ss back to the present moment. Let the relationship happen. Focus on the partner, not the idea of the partner. The more pressure you put on it, the easier it will crumble at the slightest touch — and you know what that means: starting again at square one (sigh).
8. Letting yourself fall apart.
We’ve all seen it: it’s about 11:58pm on a Tuesday night and there’s a cute woman crying her eyes out at the bar to an innocent bystander. Or maybe it’s an adorable guy shelling peanuts vehemently at the end of an empty bar, going on and on while the bartender tries to find an out. Don’t be that person. Your heart is big and it’s full and there are many, many stories tucked inside. Do yourself (and all of us) a favor: keep them there. They’re your stories. Two vodka tonics, a first date with a semi-decent dude or 50-cent wing night at your favorite locale aren’t open invitations to let the flood gates open.
9. Letting just anyone in.
There comes a point when loneliness will invite itself into your apartment in the middle of the night. Let it. There’ll come a time where it’s in all of our lives. Just because you’re lonely doesn’t mean you should invite your one-night stand to your best friend’s wedding, or the guy you just started dating to the holiday party where everyone else is bringing a plus one. Don’t be afraid of going it alone. In fact, fly solo and own it! Desperation doesn’t look good on anybody, sista.