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 many embarrassing moments, I have garnered pretty excellent dating advice.
However, 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 realize what you want in a person and a relationship, and you also get to know yourself better. It may take a few years, and you have more to discover.
Here are 20 crucial things you’ll learn about dating in your 20s.
1. Games are overrated.
That’s not to say they don’t happen because they 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 lame compared to how you 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 will be awful. So 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 hookups kind of suck.
When you’re in high school or college, something is fascinating about getting wasted and having a crazy drunken hookup. Maybe it was because you weren’t old enough to drink and felt rebellious, or perhaps it was because you could handle your alcohol better.
But when you get drunk when you’re 27 years old, you 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 a good time.
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 fantastic; if someone can’t realize that, that’s their loss.
6. Freedom is so important.
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 day and 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 want the days you spend with the person you’re dating. You may enjoy those days more because you have a little freedom.
7. You must let go of the past to move into the future.
You’ve probably been hurt before, maybe really severely, perhaps more than once. It’s hard to let go of that and be vulnerable with another person, but eventually, you’ll get there and 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 your devotion. When you’re in your 20s, you’ll be even happier with a little gift with 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 their relationship status every other day.
But when you’re in your 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 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.
You’ll realize that your partner can’t either if you don’t respect yourself. 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. So it would be best if you spiced it up with something more fun sometimes, or the connection will fail.
13. Date nights are essential.
Once you both have full-time jobs and are always tired, you’ll realize that date nights are the key to keeping the romance alive.
14. Breakups suck, but you can get through them.
This was a massive lesson for me in my 20s. I discovered that even when I thought I couldn’t handle it, I could. So it’s a pretty great feeling.
15. You probably need to lower your expectations.
That whole “waiting for Prince Charming” thing now seems slightly silly. You’ll realize that no one is perfect, and that’s okay.
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16. Being single is better than being in a weird 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. Intimacy 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. Then, when you’re in your 20s, you realize that if you can’t, you’ll never enjoy yourself as much as possible.
18. Being honest and straightforward is better than waiting for him to speak up.
This was another huge lesson for me. You’ll get tired of sitting around waiting for him to make a move at a certain point, and you’ll do it yourself.
19. The guy who won’t commit is most likely wasting your time.
This is a realization you’ll make as you get older — you’ll see that those excuses don’t have any hidden meaning.
20. Relationships are boring sometimes, and that’s okay.
Yeah, adult relationships can be 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 dull are the best.
Jessica Booth is a writer and former contributor to YourTango who focuses on relationships, self-love, and celebrity news.