I didn’t start dating until I was 25—here’s what I learned

By 25, almost all of my friends have been in long-term relationships, were engaged, and even married. I on the other hand, had never even been on a date. Call it an effect of the quarter-life crisis, or pressure from my traditional South Asian family in finding a life-long partner, but I decided that at 25, I would take the plunge…by online dating. I remember filling out my online profile, completely not knowing what to expect. Two years, countless dates (some exhilarating, some bizarre), and a couple failed relationships later, here’s what I learned as a dating newbie.

Start dating when you’re ready, but know it’s not as scary as you imagine

It’s easy to get caught up in following the “norm” when you’re getting pressures from family, friends, your Facebook newsfeed, and society. It’s good to not give into pressures, but once in awhile, they actually help. Being busy with pursuing an education and career, dating was the furthest thing from my mind. Even though the pressures were always around me and while I considered them, I never stopped to try dating until I felt that I was ready—and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It was after a chat with some co-workers that I finally decided to take a shot. After all, you never know unless you try!

Don’t be afraid to make the first move

You really have nothing to lose—whether it’s sending the first message, or initiating the “what are we” conversation. Whether the response is positive or negative, you at least gain some clarity. After receiving a lot of messages from guys that just didn’t click with me—from the one-worded “Hey,” to the cheap and creepy one-liners, I started to feel discouraged. It wasn’t until after I decided to take matters into my own hands and sent the first message that I actually had decent conversations with guys I wanted to know.

Use it as an excuse to try something new

When will you ever get the chance to spontaneously explore San Francisco at 2 AM, or eat your first oyster ever? Yes, I also never had an oyster until I was 25! Dates are the time to try everything you’ve always wanted to, and those you’ve never thought you would. There’s no better way to make a date fun than trying something unexpected and new.

Talk it out with friends you trust

It can be easy to ask anyone and everyone you meet about relationship advice…and that can get confusing since everyone has different opinions on what to do. Find a few, trusted friends or family members who you can be yourself with and pour your heart out to them.

Throw away your checklist

When I got into the dating world, I had expectations about the type of guy I wanted: same culture and religion, must be 5’10’’ or taller, etc. It was after dating guys from different backgrounds (and heights) where I realized where the truly important factors lay: if you can carry a good conversation with them, the chemistry you have with them, and if they treat you with respect.

Embrace your mistakes

I’ll admit that I kept seeing a guy I KNEW was bad news for months, even after swearing him off to my friends and family. It was after things fell through the second time around that I finally got the picture. Don’t let the “I told you so’s” get to you. Sometimes what you need is the reality of your actions (and that second break-up) to help you learn and move forward.

Don’t force yourself to give a second chance

I’ve always been told that if I’m unsure about a guy after the first date, then to always give them a second chance to see if you connect the second time around. While I agree with this, I also believe that if you have that sliver of doubt that’s really bugging you, then it’s not worth going on the second date. I once was on a first date where I had a somewhat good conversation, but the chemistry was lacking. I had strong doubts about this and after going against it, I still went out with the guy a second time…where I still felt absolutely nothing—and I knew this from the first date! I spent the rest of the night trying to be interested, when all I wanted to do was go home. If you have a doubt from the beginning, go with your gut feeling and don’t go for the second date. It will not only save your time, but his as well.

Don’t feel like you have to do anything you don’t want to

There are some people who will say anything and do everything to try to get you to sleep with them. I’ll be honest in saying that I was naive (and a little bit in denial) about this happening to me, but it has. NO ONE should ever pressure you into having sex, even if you have a great connection. It took me some time to accept this, and I had to gather up a lot of courage to say “No”. Being physical with them won’t change the disrespect they treated you with by pressuring you in the first place.

Be completely open

Some of the best conversations I’ve ever had in my life were on dates, where I’ve been completely open about myself and my (lack of) dating life. It’s when you’re honest with each other that you reach a level of closeness you never thought you’d have. Talk about what you want and what your boundaries are from the start. Those who are worth it will respect that, and for those who don’t, kick them to the curb.

Get closure if you need it

Sometimes relationships don’t work out. Sometimes, nothing needs to be said about why it ended. But sometimes, you really want to know why. If it’s closure you need, don’t be afraid to get the closure you want. Reaching out to initiate an honest conversation is never a sign of weakness or craziness. Even if you do reach out, be prepared to not get a response. This is closure in itself—knowing that you have the strength to be open and honest. And sometimes, you do get the closure, answers, and clarity you’re looking for!

Dating is all about luck

You either click with someone, or you don’t. You might have to date 100 guys before finding someone worth settling down with, while your best friend ends up finding “the one” after only dating one guy. And that’s OK. It’s not about finding and securing a boyfriend/fiancé ASAP because everyone around you is doing so; it’s whether or not you find someone the meshes well with you. And that could happen 5 years from now, or even tomorrow.

It’s OK to take a break

Dating can be exhausting! From the slew of options when it comes to dating apps and websites, to the emotional ups and downs of good and bad dates, sometimes you just need to step back to regroup. Start again when you’re ready, but most importantly, enjoy all the blessings that singledom has to offer—I know I am! I’ll take weekend outings with girlfriends and finally taking a solo vacation to Hawaii over worrying about a guy any day.

Mukkitu Hossain is a 20-something-year-old woman living in the San Francisco Bay Area. When she’s not perfecting her downward dog, she can be found scouring the Internet for design inspiration, shamelessly binge-watching Netflix, and planning her next travel adventure.

[Image via iStock]

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