22 Things I Wish I Knew About Dating When I Was 22

For the last few years, I’ve been a mentor to a former student of mine from my days as a junior high school teacher. Now that she is out of college, we have become friends, or more like older sister/ younger sister, or somewhere between parent and peer. I met her when she was 15. Now she’s 22. The other evening she was telling me about this guy she’s been dating on and off. In short, I do not approve of him. Listening to her talk, I remembered how when I was her age, I was in a very similar dating situation. I wanted to shake her and say, “Dump his ass now!” But that wouldn’t be right. If someone had said that to me, I would have laughed at them and then told them to f**k off. I wanted to spare her all of the pain, all of the mistakes I made myself. But I suppose I can’t. Sigh. Such is life. People learn in their own time. Instead, I offer my unsolicited advice about what I wish I knew about dating when I was 22 and hope that she reads it and figures it out for herself. Add your dating wisdom nuggets in the comments.

  1. Try not to take anything personally when it comes to dating. Someone always has their own deal going on. We waste all this time trying to figure a dude out when really their motivations are beyond our grasp and often have absolutely nothing to with us at all.
  2. Don’t chase after a guy who has rejected you. Not even as a friend. Move on.
  3. Protect yourself and protect your heart, because no one else is going to.
  4. There’s no such thing as soul mates. There’s just guys who are well suited for you and guys who are not. If you stop looking for “the one” you will be open to “the one that’s good for you.”
  5. Let the guy pursue you … at least for a while. They enjoy that. Don’t spoil their fun.
  6. If you fall in love with a fantasy, your fantasy of love will surely be crushed. There is no perfect man with a white horse and a cape … or whatever. Men are hopelessly imperfect (as are women). Don’t idealize him, try to see him for who he really is.
  7. Chemistry can be unexpected and it can grow. It happens. It does. I promise. Attraction is such a mystery. Sometimes you’ll be shocked by who you’re attracted to. Be open to different kinds of guys.
  8. It’s okay to date lots of people to find one that is special. In fact, it’s necessary. The more guys you date, the easier it will be to know when you’ve found a keeper.
  9. Having sex too soon often ruins all chances for a serious relationship. It’s fine if casual sex is what you’re after. Just be forewarned.
  10. There’s always another guy out there if things don’t work out. In fact, there are tons. Plenty.
  11. Even if he was a total a**hole, he was probably doing the best he knew how to do. His best just wasn’t nearly good enough for you. Remember that when you’re about to throw a flaming bag of s**t at his house.
  12. It’s best just to be honest. It may feel uncomfortable in the moment, but you’ll be able to sleep better at night. So grow a pair and say what’s on your mind.
  13. You are looking for a feeling someone gives you and not a list of qualities. Throw out the stupid list with hair color, eye color, job, etc. Tune into the way you feel when you’re around him.
  14. Keep your dating karma in check. Treat people’s hearts the way you would like yours to be treated . That is all.
  15. Timing really is important. And so annoying. But so essential. All the stars have to align with you and the other person. It’s rare that it happens … but it does occasionally.
  16. There’s never any reason to rush into anything. A guy who really likes you will still really like you tomorrow.
  17. Make sure you figure out who you are before figuring out who you want to love. You must know yourself and love yourself to share love. Sounds cheesy, but it’s true. Work on your relationship with yourself first.
  18. Having a man in your life will not solve a single one of your existing problems. Not a one.
  19. Drinking and dating. Sigh. Not usually a good idea in excess. Usually just embarrassing.
  20. Listen to what he tells you about himself. It’s usually true. If he says, “I don’t want a relationship” or “I am not able to commit,” he means it.
  21. If he’s involved with someone else, forget that s**t.
  22. No guy is worth losing good friends and family over. If everyone in your life hates him, there is probably a very good reason. Pay attention.