I wouldn’t wish being 24 on anyone: it’s an age wrought with complete confusion, desperation, irresponsibility, raging hormones and being completely broke. The only thing worse than being in your early to mid-20s is being in your early to mid-20s in the dating world.
We all have to jitter our way through our 20s eventually, and my only hope is to make it out fairly unscathed. That hasn’t quite been the case thus far, so as I approach turning 25 in a month and a half, I am praying the latter half of this decade is (slightly) less of a vodka-induced haze with a side of heartbreak.
Not only have I endured my own dating nightmares, I also have the pleasure of being the resident pseudo-psychiatrist amongst my group of friends, which allows me to experience by proxy the horrors I haven’t had the pleasure of weathering. Along the way I have managed to compile a small but valuable collection of knowledge about the complete chaos that is the dating world.
I will dispense this information now.
Cheating is entirely a reflection on the cheater, not you.
One of my best friends has had the misfortune of dating some complete slugs, a few of which have cheated on her. Every time this happens, she feels like complete shit about herself (naturally), and every time it happens I reassure her that this is in no way because she isn’t good enough. This particular friend is some sort of ethereal goddess: long flowing blonde hair, immaculate Mad Men-worthy curves, a university education and a well-paying job she loves. She literally has men stop her on the street to tell her she’s beautiful (and they aren’t always complete creeps, either!). While it’s obvious that these factors matter not to a cheater, it simply proves my point. He wasn’t cheating because you aren’t good enough: He’s cheating because he isn’t good enough.
No relationship is better than a bad relationship.
While it’s easier to stay in a comfortable, familiar situation, it is never ever worth it if you are unhappy. Most of my friends are getting to the stage where they are either shedding their first serious relationship, or getting married. I myself ended a five-year relationship last year that began when I was about 18, and it was the best decision I ever made (luckily he is still one of my best friends). Not only was I miserable every single day, but I stopped liking the person that I was when we were together. He treated me like a queen, but it was no longer fulfilling (for either of us), and we’ve both been extremely happy since it ended. There’s nothing worse than resenting the person you’re with simply because you were both too scared to face the alternative: being alone (gasp!).
Which brings me to my next point:
Being single doesn’t equal being alone.
Nothing frustrates me more than hearing fellow 20-somethings say they fear being alone. Well, obviously everyone fears being alone, but those are two completely separate meanings of the word. The alternative to being in a relationship isn’t being imprisoned in a dark, nondescript room with no contact with the outside world: THAT is being alone. Not having a partner is not the same thing (duh!). You have plenty of friends and family who love you, and they can help you fill whatever void has been left from the elimination of a romantic partner, until you discover a new conquest. Frankly, I’m substantially more social and busy now that I’m single! When you’re dating someone, you tend to stay in together on Friday nights, alienating your group of friends. I never felt more isolated than I did when I was living with my boyfriend (and we lived in a 300 square foot bachelor apartment: trust me, I was never ever alone).
The grass is always greener.
Another of my very best friends got married this past year to her high-school sweetheart, and they recently announced they are expecting. They have been together for seven years, and I’ve honestly rarely encountered couples that are as happy as these two (I love them!). I look at them occasionally and sigh as I recount my endless awkward and unpleasant dating ventures, and wish I had what they had. But at the same time, I could have had what they have (remember that five-year-long relationship I was in?). When you’re single and looking, all you see are happy, cutesy, cuddly relationships. But when you’re spoken for, all you see are free-spirited sex gods and goddesses running through fields of flowers, having casual sex with lingerie models or David Beckham lookalikes (whatever you’re into). There will always be someone you envy, and there will always be something that forces you to question your relationship decisions. Look at what you have and remember why it makes you happy (and if you realize that it doesn’t, move on).
I’m pretty confident that I still have a lot to learn about love and relationships (and I’ve mostly come to that conclusion because when it comes to my own love life I am utterly clueless), but I am also confident that navigating my way through the remainder of my twenties won’t be nearly as rocky as the last four years. Or at least, I’m praying it’s not…for my own sanity’s sake.
About the author: Alex Payne is a fashion student living in Toronto, and a complete pop culture junkie. She's an avid blogger, writing about fashion, dating, music and film. She's obsessed with cupcakes, Kate Spade and The Simpsons. Oh, and vodka. Visit her blog: http://firstlastcall.tumblr.com Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/alexpaynexox