About a month ago, I turned—huge gulp—27-years-old. While I know I have so much more to learn about life, love and everything in between, I’ve realized that I’ve learned quite a lot about the world since I was a stubborn, selfish 18-year-old who thought she had learned everything she needed to know already.
After years of bad dates, terrible “relationships,” regrettable decisions, and lots of embarrassing moments, I have particularly learned a lot about dating.
It took me a while to realize that dating in your 20s is so different from dating in high school or the early years of college.
As you get older and become more mature, your priorities change and you start to really realize what you want in a person and in a relationship—and you also get to know yourself better.
It may take a few years and you definitely have more to discover, but here are 20 things you’ll learn about dating in your 20s.
1. Games are overrated
That’s not to say that they don’t happen, because they definitely still do. But in your 20s, you realize that playing hard-to-get and trying to win the who-can-go-longer-before-texting-back game is pretty lame compared to saying how you really feel.
2. You deserve someone who does things that make you happy
ALL the time, not just sometimes.
3. If you have to fight for chemistry, it’s not worth it
You’ll go on a lot of first dates in your 20s. Some of them will be great, but most of them will be awful. You’ll probably spend some time trying to find a spark there. But eventually you’ll realize that if you have to search for it, it’s probably never really going to appear … and that’s just a waste of your time.
4. Drunk s*x actually kind of sucks
When you’re in high school or college, there’s something really exciting about getting wasted and having a crazy drunken hookup. Maybe it was because you probably weren’t old enough to drink and you felt rebellious, or maybe it was because you could handle your alcohol better.
But when you get drunk when you’re 27-years-old, you just want to eat some mac and cheese and pass out—the last thing you want to do is get naked and move your body around enough to have enjoyable s*x.
5. Being someone you’re not to impress someone else is exhausting
And it’s not fair to you! You’ll realize that you’re actually really awesome, and if someone can’t realize that, that’s their loss.
6. Freedom is so important
By this I mean setting aside time for yourself when you’re in a relationship. You’ll realize that you don’t have to see your significant other every single day, and that you don’t have to text them constantly when you’re not with them.
You’ll enjoy the days you have to yourself just as much as you enjoy the days you spend with the person you’re dating… in fact, you may enjoy those days more because you have a little freedom.
7. You have to let go of the past in order to move into the future
You’ve probably been hurt before, maybe really badly, maybe more than once. It’s hard to let go of that and let yourself be vulnerable with another person, but eventually you’ll get there and you’ll realize that not everyone is the same, and some people might be worth trusting.
8. It’s not all about expensive gifts
When you’re in high school, you want your boyfriend to get you heart necklaces and expensive items to show their devotion. When you’re in your 20s, you’ll be even happier with a little gift that has a lot of meaning, even if it didn’t cost hundreds of dollars.
9. Putting your relationship on social media is the worst
Everyone had their days where they posted their relationship all over Facebook—pictures, statuses about fights, changing your relationship status every other day. But when you’re in 20s, you’ll (hopefully) be so over that phase… and you’ll just be rolling your eyes at the people still in it.
10. Keeping your relationship private is necessary
When you meet someone you really care about, you’ll find that you don’t need to get your best friend’s advice on every argument you two have. You realize that even your closest friends shouldn’t know every detail.
11. You have to respect yourself or your relationship will fail
At some point, you’ll realize that if you don’t respect yourself, your partner can’t either—and then you’ll mentally curse your parents for being right all along.
12. A standard dinner-and-a-movie date won’t always cut it
Once you’re in a serious relationship as an adult, dinner-and-a-movie gets boring fast. You need to spice it up with something more fun sometimes or the relationship will fail.
13. Date nights are essential
Once you both have full-time jobs and you’re tired all the time, you’ll realize that date nights are the key to keeping the romance alive.
14. Breakups suck, but you CAN get through it
This was a huge lesson for me in my 20s. I discovered that even when I thought I couldn’t handle it, I could. It’s a pretty great feeling.
15. You probably need to lower your expectations
That whole “waiting for Prince Charming” thing now seems a little bit silly. You’ll realize that no one is perfect, and that’s okay.
16. Being single is better than being in a weird on-again/off-again hookup type “relationship”
I hope you’ll realize this. Because being single in your 20s is pretty awesome, but being strung along by someone is always lame.
17. Sex isn’t great if you can’t learn to ask for what you want
When you’re younger, you’re scared to speak up to ask for what you want. When you’re in your 20s, you realize that if you can’t, you’ll never enjoy yourself as much as you could.
18. Being honest and straightforward is 100 times better than waiting around for him to speak up
This was another huge lesson for me. At a certain point, you’ll get tired of siting around waiting for him to make the move, and you’ll do it yourself.
19. The guy who won’t commit is most likely a waste of your time
This is a realization you’ll make as you get older—you’ll see that those excuses don’t actually have any hidden meaning.
20. Relationships are boring sometimes, and that’s okay
Yeah, adult relationships can pretty tame sometimes. And once in a while you’ll miss being single. But if you’re with someone you love, you’ll learn that that’s normal… and that the little things that seem boring are actually the best.