As I’ve mentioned numerous times I have a half-sister who’s turning 20 soon. Occasionally, she asks me for dating advice and then ignores it, proceeding to make the same mistakes I made when I was young, impressionable and innocent.
I can’t always protect my sister from the evils of this world (and I don’t think it’d necessarily be a good thing, if I could) but I can share some words of wisdom loosely based on these conversations.
To a young idealist they may sound harsh but my hope is they’ll spare someone another heartbreak. Here goes.
Dear Young Girl Who’s Just Started Dating,
What I’ll share with you probably won’t prevent you from your first or second false start but maybe will inspire you to think twice before getting emotionally involved in a third one.
Chances are you’ll ignore my advice and think that rules are different for you. Whether you like it or not, the rules are the same for everyone. There are nice, valuable people in this world and there are those who are not so nice. I’m afraid it’s your job to learn to differentiate between them.
Here are some things I think you should know about dating and relationships:
1. You’re unlikely to marry your first boyfriend (and you may sorely regret it, if you do)
When you’re young, more often than not, you don’t know who you are. Between peer pressure, trying to impress others and obeying your parents’ rules there’s little space to find out what it is that YOU really want and like.
Chances are that your first boyfriend is also the first guy who’s showed a lot of interest in you and who at the same time is not totally reprehensible. You take the chance and you date and you should enjoy it to the fullest. Unfortunately, as you mature you may notice that you and your first boyfriend have little in common or your opinions on things that matter to you differ.
It’s okay to have a break up. If you’re scared you never meet anyone again, let me tell you it just won’t happen. What’s more, in time, you’ll probably think with horror about the thought of potentially having married your first boyfriend.
2. Not everyone interested in you is looking for a relationship
People will be attracted to you. This may mean that they just want to have sex with you once off or repeatedly. Having sex with someone is different to dating someone. If this isn’t what you’d like and you want a relationship with that person, don’t sleep with them.
Knowing who’s just trying to get into your pants isn’t as straightforward as just not being sent any dick pics by that person. Yes, some men will ask you straight to come over for sex or in an online conversation tell you they’re looking for sex.
Other guys think that pretending to be really interested in you is a better idea. A good indicator of whether what they say is true is looking at whether their actions are congruent with their words. You can read more about guys who are all talk no action in these posts:
3. The world is full of people
Especially, if you’re young it may seem that there aren’t many cool people around. That makes sense! You went to school, maybe you had some extra-curricular activities but how many eligible bachelors were there for you to date? Maybe you, like me, went to a former girls’ school that still hasn’t caught up with its male population.
Your teenage years may not have been full of men (or women!) but the world is. There are countless opportunities to meet people who you could like: work, studies, courses, groups oriented around interests, parties, online dating… Don’t make your experience so far make you feel like you need to settle for anything. There are plenty of choices out there!
4. You should explore your options
There’s a Polish saying “Where there’s no fish, a crab will do”. This means that if you think there are no options you’re more likely to get desperate and see something mediocre as something special.
Desperation isn’t good because it’s the opposite of attractive. It’s natural for the other person to wonder what’s wrong with you, if you’re chasing after them just because you had a pleasant convo at a party.
More importantly, for you, desperation means that you’re likely to see value where there’s none. For instance, if you catch yourself telling people that this new guy you’re chatting to is great because you both like food.
5. Experience is a good thing
A lot of women, thanks to mainstream media, chick lit, patriarchy and other crimes against humanity, think that having experience when you’re a woman is a bad thing. It’s not.
Most people have no idea about what they want when they’re 18! It’s okay to have sex and get rejected by someone. It’s okay to have sex because you wanted to. It’s okay to go on a date and block someone if you think they’re a creep.
You should talk and flirt with as many people as you want to. In fact, you should probably flirt with more people than you want to, to realize that flirting on it own means nothing. Chatting is chatting, flirting is flirting, having sex is having sex and a relationship is a relationship. All these things have their place and sometimes they mix but often they don’t.
Online dating is a miracle because it allows you to get a lot of experience with banter and first dates much quicker than you’d get thanks to organic dating.
Once you’re a pro at not getting hung up on chatting to someone and hearing wedding bells just because they said you’re cute, you’re ready to enjoy it and sift through the dead wood to find valuable people.
6. There’s nothing wrong with being single
Some countries are better than others but in general in many communities people like to make a woman feel like she’s not enough, if she doesn’t have a partner.
There’s nothing wrong with being single! In fact, being single can be a great time to focus on yourself and find things you truly enjoy in life. Some people decide to be single for life and it’s their choice (I may not like it but I accept individual choices).
Having said that, if you don’t want to be single because you’d like someone special in your life because YOU’d like that but it’s never happening for you, it may be for a number of reasons:
- You think there’s something wrong with youListen now, there’s nothing wrong with you. Skinny, curvy, flat-chested, C-cup, gorgeous, with crooked teeth or with a difficult personality – it doesn’t matter what your disadvantages/advantages are, most people find not one but a number of people who want to be with them.
However, if you think that there’s something wrong with you because you didn’t experience unconditional love at home, your parents used to put you down all the time or you were bullied at school, it’s a problem. People pick up on how you feel about yourself and you make subconscious decisions based on that. If that’s true you probably need therapy or self-help books and ideally both.
- You refuse to put any effort into it and you keep waiting for your Prince CharmingIf you think that you can just sit at home and keep waiting for the right person to come your way, you can but don’t expect to meet anyone that way. Besides, when you’re super inexperienced with dating, chances are that if Prince Charming landed on your lap you’d chase him away.
Not sounding like an idiot or not being speechless around someone you really fancy, are skills that don’t come naturally to most people. Yet again, experience is a good thing.
- You keep fantasising instead of focusing on realityMany young women get into a habit of fantasising about people they fancy. My guess is that it has to do with the lack of options as teenagers, especially if you’re not Miss Popular.
Seeing that you may have already experienced some rejection, you choose fantasising about someone you often don’t even know. The perk is that in your head anything is possible! The disadvantage is that these things are unlikely to come true. Such fantasies also keep you away from actually noticing these people you could be interested in, if only you weren’t in a committed relationship in your head already.
Fantasising is perhaps natural for teenage girls but when you enter the dating scene it’s a terrible thing to do. In other words, I’m glad you’ve chatted to someone for a few days on Tinder but if you guys stopped talking, imagining that he’ll find you and propose to you because he’s realised what he’s lost is a bit silly. He won’t, wake up and keep swiping!
7. You’ll get hurt and it’s shit but also it’s not the end of the world
Some people are great, other people aren’t nice at all and like to take advantage of young, impressionable girls. Yet other people are nice but you and them are not a longterm match. The point is that you will get hurt and you’ll suffer in love.
For most of us, apart from some lucky bastards, it’s an unavoidable part of the dating game.
The fact that you’ll get hurt should not prevent you from exploring or putting yourself out there. Do it wisely, though. Learn from your mistakes, see what works for you, don’t just blindly follow your heart or anyone’s advice.
For when you do get hurt, remember that it’ll feel shit for a while but one day you’ll be fine again. It may feel in the moment of someone hurting you that you’ll never trust anyone again but you should trust people as this is the only way to live.
8. Do or don’t do but don’t backpedal out of fear
You didn’t feel like you wanted to kiss someone, go out with them or sleep with them? That’s okay. These choices are always up to you. Whether it was a well thought out decision or something you said “no” to in the spur of the moment, do NOT backpedal out of fear of losing someone.
It feels horrible to sleep with someone, just because you’re scared they’ll lose their interest. If it’s not meant to be, you won’t manage to keep anyone around, even if you learn to clap with your labia. It’s important to your self-respect to only agree to things you want or you’re truly willing to compromise on. Otherwise, when things don’t work out your way, it leaves a bitter aftertaste.
Backpedaling out of fear not only makes you feel weak and disempowered but also can create a habit of using sex or consent as a way to manipulate people. Sex, kissing and co. are there for you and the other party to enjoy not to go on power trips.
9. Not everyone is worth listening to
There’s this idea about women that they’re bitches to one another. I don’t like to spread it and even though there’s a lot to improve on, no one has been more supportive to me during bad times than my girlfriends (okay, my husband is now, but we’re talking about when you’re single!).
You should make sure to always have people around you, who are there to catch you when you fall. Whether it’s a bad break up or just a disappointment after a few dates, it’s nice to have someone to confide in.
Most of your friends are not mean-spirited but they also don’t always know what a healthy relationship means, because they’re as inexperienced as you are. Listen to people who have in their lives what you want to see in yours.
10. Don’t let others set age limits for you
Married by 25 at the latest, first kid before 28 and DEFINITELY both things before 30. There are many age limit prescriptions people like give to women. Don’t listen to any of it. You’ll get married when you’ll get married or not at all. You’ll have children, only if you want to.
We all mature at a different rate and some people are simply not ready for a healthy relationship, well, before they’re ready for it. Similarly, motherhood can be done at any age when you’re biologically ready but the timing is crucial to how you’ll experience it. Don’t let people tell you by what time you should “settle”, stop travelling or pop one out. Make your own choices and smile at those who are trying to tell you when the right time for you to do something is.
Dear Young Girl, I hope you’ll use some of this to your benefit or equally you may ignore it too. We all need to make our own mistakes but sometimes it helps to listen to someone who’s lived for longer.
Anything to add, oh wiser and older Rinsers? Young girls reading, any comments?