What I Wish I Knew About Dating in My Early 20s

Have you ever looked back in your past relationships and said to yourself, “ah that’s quite embarrassing, wish I knew a better way to handle it”?

Don’t worry. Same here. It happened to me quite a lot, to be honest.

Dating in your early 20s can be somewhat fun, free but also confusing and… chaotic.

You don’t know what kind of partner you want — or maybe you do, but most likely they are based on your friends’ opinion, not yours.

I remember when it comes to my past relationships, it’s so cringy like you wouldn’t believe.

I spent so much time chasing guys and looked down on me thinking I didn’t deserve them, and endlessly filled my mind with one crush after another.

It took years for me to get a “wake-up call” and realized how stupid I was. But the damage has been done and my self-esteem was already really low.

Had I known all of these mistakes earlier, I wouldn’t have spent so much time being lost.

1. Practice self-love earlier

“Ah another “self-love” preach”, you said.

… I know right?

But hear me out, as cringy as it sounds, it does play a big role if you want to have a healthy loving relationship.

Just like in this one quote — “you cannot truly love another until you know how to love yourself” that we’ve heard so many times, there’s some truth to it.

I found it hard to be a loving partner when I don’t even feel like myself. When I lack appreciation towards my body or when I judge myself too much and put others’ opinions first.

Looking back these things are pretty obvious, but you probably already know what did I do instead.

Yup, I kept seeking for guy’s approval and always trying to fix what’s wrong with the relationship — not with me.

2. Listen to your guts more

Your gut tells you over and over again that the guy you are currently dating lies about serious stuff? Most likely it’s true.

I’ve bumped into this kind of scenario in the past that I shouldn’t have been surprised when I found out because my gut has told me so.

I’ve learned that ignoring your guts for too long will lessen the trust you have in yourself and more importantly, it’s harder for you to be emotionally stable.

3. Be careful with who you trust

As fun as it seems to date in the early 20s, it does have some big risk if you aren’t being careful.

I know you want to believe every guy/girl is nice and they won’t treat you wrong but that’s not just the reality.

Especially nowadays when dating is as easy as swiping left and right, not many deep serious thoughts involved in the beginning because you are madly in ‘love’ with somebody you haven’t met before.

There are lots of scams out there that you can avoid by using your logic more in the early dating stages.

I know it can be tempting to impress the new people you’ve just talked to/met but you still need to be extra careful when it comes to sharing your pictures and any other personal details.

4. You don’t have to compare your relationship with others

I used to do this and still feel guilty sometimes.

I knew our relationship would be easier when I didn’t put any unnecessary stress on it. Though I couldn’t see it as a big problem back then.

The thing is, comparing your relationship with your friends or even random people on Instagram wouldn’t take you anywhere.

Sure, theirs might look perfect and they seem to get along all the time, but how do you know really? You don’t live with them.

Truth is, every relationship has its own problems. I know it’s hard to believe it but a good healthy relationship takes a lot of work. No matter how compatible you both are.

If they keep telling you how perfect their relationships are, the chance is there is something wrong in it that they don’t want people to know.

5. Stop chasing people who don’t love/respect/care about you

The best thing you could do when you encounter a rejection is to just… leave them alone.

I know it sucks to feel rejected by someone you like, there’s no way to make it better other than to accept it and move on.

During my college years, I used to cling to this one guy who’s clearly not into me. He even told some friends that he didn’t like me.

I cried for days and instead of accepting the hard cold truth, I kept chasing him and refused to let it go.

For the next 2 years, I would try to ‘fix’ what’s wrong with me and did whatever I could to impress him. Which eventually gave me nothing but more heartbreaks.

Of course, when you get older it’s easier for you to notice how insane this thing that I did to myself.

I learned in a hard way that no matter how much you like somebody if they don’t respect or see you the same way, it’s way better for you to move on as soon as possible so you can open a new door for the right person.

6. Avoid jumping into a new relationship just because you are lonely

You got your heart broken but hey, you still young and free so why wait to get into a new relationship, right? well — this is what I thought at that time too.

It’s true that the chances for you to get more matches on Tinder/Bumble are higher when you are still young but I highly recommend not jumping into a new one right away.

The main reason is whatever you are feeling right now, the heartbroken you got from your last relationship, those needs to be taken care of first.

Otherwise, you’ll just go through the same cycle again, and again then a couple of years later, you’d wonder why you always end up in a toxic relationship.

If I could turn back in time, one thing that I’d like to change is probably this;

It’s completely okay to be alone and not rushing into a new relationship after the breakup because in order to get a better one in the future, I need to heal first.

7. Stay sane by not obsessing too much over your relationship

Your life doesn’t revolve around your relationship — no matter how much you love your partner.

To have a healthy sustainable relationship, you need to have a life outside of it and actually work on them.

One thing that I regret is that I didn’t put too many efforts into my career life but when it came to my relationship, I was willing to drop everything to keep it going.

And that’s the biggest mistake I’ve ever made. Not only I didn’t progress much in my career life but also I wasn’t in a good place emotionally.

So if you happen to spend too much obsessing over your relationship, ask yourself,

“Is there anything else that I can do outside my relationship that I can work on?”

By asking this question every time you caught up in the same cycle you’d eventually find the courage to ditch the habit completely.

The takeaways

There are definitely things that I’ve learned along the way even though those times were full of unpleasant moments.

In summary, here are those 7 things that I wish I knew earlier when it comes to dating.

  • Practice self-love, especially when you have low self-esteem. Because by doing this, you’ll stay stable in your relationship.

  • Never ignore what your guts are trying to tell you. The more you ignore it, the less connection you have with yourself. This can result in you get manipulated easily by people in the future.

  • Don’t just trust people blindly especially when you haven’t met them in real life. Try to use your logic over your feelings as much as you could.

  • Comparing your relationship with others is just a waste of time and hence, it’s another way to disrespect your partner because you somehow trust other people’s opinions over your own partner.

  • Let go of people who don’t respect/like you back. Have full confidence that you deserve to be loved and someone better is coming in your way.

  • Take time for yourself and build a relationship within you instead of jumping to a new relationship right away after the breakup. This is to avoid the same pattern of being in a toxic relationship.

  • Don’t obsess over your relationship too much. Yes, it’s doing well and yes, there are some areas that you both can improve but also know that your career life wouldn’t progress if you don’t work on it.

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