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Dating in Your Twenties

As you know by now, because I mention it all the time, I have been single for over 5 years. But in my sordid past, I was one of those girls who had lots of lots of boyfriends (not at the same time but you could rely on me to have a constant stream of boyfriends one after the other between the age of 12 and 17). Then I had my super duper serious lovey dovey relationship and then that ended when I was 19 and now I’m 24. So there’s your context to how I ended up like this –

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Even though I haven’t had a serious relationship since then I have done a lot of dating and boy oh boy is dating in your twenties different from navigating love in the playground. Here are just some things that I’ve noticed:

Will you be my girlfriend? aka Labels WTF?!

In school it was simple. You had crushes, if it was reciprocated then one person would ask the other person out. The askee would then reply ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and if the answer was a yes you were officially “going out” until maybe a few months later when someone sends a “you’re dumped” text. Teenagers are brutal.

But when you’re in your twenties things are bit more complicated. There are so many different kinds of romantic/sexual relationships you can have with people and not everyone is always on the same page. Dating, seeing each other, casual, friends with benefits, one-night stand, in a relationship, exclusive, open etc. And different people place different meanings on the same description – language is cool, right? I told a friend I was dating someone, which to me meant that we’d been on a few dates and I liked them and wanted to see where things would go but I was still open to other people. But to my friend ‘dating someone’ meant they were my boyfriend and so he thought I couldn’t be dating someone and also still looking elsewhere. Throw into the mix if your partner has a different idea of what you are then things might get a bit messy. Not really sure what my point here is except that it’s a confusing, beautiful mess in your twenties and communication is good!

Making out for hours

Do you remember in relationships when you were 14 that you could be perfectly satisfied from just kissing and making out forever. No pressure to go any further, no burning desire in your crotch to get physical, just complete bliss. And it may have been months between kissing and a boob feel and then another month between a boob feel and a hand job. Slow and steady.

But then… once you have sex and as you get older you just want to have sex all the time (is this just me?). People talk about hormones during puberty making teenagers super horny but what about us twenty-somethings who are horny and frustrated? I would also like a scientific explanation for it so I can feel more normal please. Relationships move much faster now. Making out for hours just isn’t enough – before you know it someone is naked. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that but sometimes I do think that everyone feels rushed, like sex is something to get over and done with. But actually waiting and taking your time can be just as exciting, sensual and satisfying. So I’d like to take this moment to come out in support of adults-making-out-for-hours. It’s a wonderful cause and I hope that you get behind it too.

Meeting the parents

Basically every teenage relationship you have, the meeting of the parents happens very early on and isn’t a big deal (this does not apply to people who have parents with very strict rules when it comes to dating due to things like culture or religion). But when you’re a teenager you live with your parents so there is really no avoiding everyone meeting. Even parents meeting parents is fairly likely. When I was 15, my parents met the parents of my boyfriend and my mum had a crush on his dad and my dad had a crush on his mum so I don’t think it could get weirder than that!

For most people in their twenties, you’re no longer living at home which means you can literally tell your parents nothing about your relationships. I tell my parents things about my love life somewhere between nothing and enough to satisfy their curiosity. But if you do introduce someone to your parents then it is A BIG DEAL. Okay, I’m saying this as someone who has not gone through this rite of passage yet so maybe it’s not as big a deal as I’m making it out to be in my head. But the idea of bringing a hypothetical boyfriend up to Manchester to meet my parents and stay in my family house for a couple days scares the living daylight out of me.

I think we should just be friends aka BREAKING UP

Again, everything was simpler when you were a teenager but at the time it really did not feel simple. It felt like your whole world was about to implode. And heartbreak was and still is one of the worst feelings in the world. That combo of emotional and physical pain really gets ya. When I was a teenager, breaking up with someone or being dumped was horrible but it was over fairly quickly. Someone would just say, ‘I don’t want to go out anymore, I think we should just be friends’ and the other person will just say ‘okay’ and then everyone will go on their merry way. Maybe some tears.

In your twenties, not only are  break ups more intense and complicated but if you’ve only been casually seeing someone then it’s hard to even tell if you have to break up with them in the first place. A very popular break up style at the moment is ghosting – you don’t say anything, just start ignoring calls and texts and eventually they’ll get the message. And even though this is annoying it has kind of become socially acceptable in more casual relationships. Sometimes it’s just as simple as not fancying someone which shouldn’t be taken personally. And then there’s the real full on break ups of serious relationships but we’re not going there because I have been single for 5 years. Have I mentioned that yet?

Even though it may have been simpler in my teens, I love a good bit of drama, anxiety and adventures in my dating life so I’m very happy to be single and dating in my twenties. This was very much based off my experiences now and when I was younger so I’d love to hear some of your stories in the comments!

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13 Comments

  1. Try dating in your 40s after being married for 20ish years! 😉 Not to belittle your experiences, but jeez, this is complicated! Also, I agree about the making out thing!

  2. The closest I’ve ever come to dating/being in a relationship was when I went clubbing for the first time when I was 19 and ended up making out with one of my best friends for about 2 hours. In the end we decided to just stay friends but to this day she brags about being the girl who turned me queer. I maintain Lucy Liu had already done 90% of the groundwork.

  3. Never been in a relationship (26 soon), used to want a relationship. Now I’ve… given up? Or I’m simply not interested. Why? Because I’m a mess. I don’t want to drag anyone down into the abyss with me.
    So now I’m slowly working on myself and I’ll just let whatever happens when it does happen. For now I’ll just be a good friend to whoever I come across and make others happy 😀

    But when I look at other people and relationships, I often wonder if it’s worth it. Drama is annoying and bores me. People need to stop feeling … “attacked” so fast.
    Then again, when I see a couple just “being close” I do feel a bit of envy.
    Hmm relationships, I should add this onto my “think about” list.

    Plus side of being forever alone, I don’t go through painful breakups!

    #IncoherentThoughts
    #WhyDoIEvenReply

  4. Amazingly written, and I don’t know how different thing really are, or rather how much they have changed since you were ins school – maybe its just me being oblivious and thinking we (as in my “generation” (which is more or less the same as yours) and/or me and my friends) are special – but even though I’m sure you’re right about everything concerning serious relationships in your Twenties I’m not so sure about the levels of dating.
    I am 16 and have friends casually sleeping with each other from time to time, friends going out with each other without it being serious really, people who are dating someone but occasionally hook up with someone else (and everyones fine with it), and more serious relationships (that are still high school relationships though so I’m not sure what to think about them…).
    I think the last time someone asked if I want to be his girlfriend I was 12 years old, same goes for my friends, from what I’ve been told.
    I don’t want my parents to meet the guy I’m seeing and only few of my friends have ever met parents of people they were going out with.
    I think its still easier, less and important and long – lasting. I don’t know. Maybe I’m only speaking for myself or its just really different in the UK…
    Still a great post as always!

  5. When i used to date, i used to get really attached cause if i dated someone was becaused i liked him… so when i overstayed somewhere, i felt really bad, unwanted, insecure, so i stayed by myself and nobody really caught my ey.

    UUUUntil my now current boyfriend got in the picture, and being in a exclusive relationship with someone you actually really like it’s so much confy and the feeling you get is that it’s not being toxic at all… i’m only 21 now and i learn in my teens how i wanted to be trated or not… i guess it depends on what and where is your state of mind. (That or i really do not know anything about anything)…

    Love!

  6. I think the making out aspect is a valid point and there is pressure to perform sexually. As a 20 year old who has not yet slept with anyone, this is difficult for me as people automatically assume I have. As a sex positive person, I think you promote having a healthy attitude towards sex. I think it would be great if you explored this concept of sexual pressure further, taking into account people not having sex and their reasons for this.

    1. I relate to this a lot as a fellow 20 year old sex positive person who hasn’t had sex. I also feel like the pressure to be better is higher the older you are.

  7. For me, relationships always used to be a head-over-heels type thing. There are very few relationships from my younger teen years where I thought of it as casual. I completely agree on the ‘breaking up’ part of this – and that ghosting has become a common way of ending casual relationships. This was a lovely post, I’m glad I got the chance to read it 🙂

  8. Great blog post Hannah!
    I am super for ‘adults-making-out-for-hours’! I stayed in a guys bed the other night, “as friends”… but then he kissed me.. That would have been fine and a bit of making out and light petting would have been quite nice… but before I knew what was happening his dick was out and he was groping me… If I had been in a less vulnerable position I would have told him to f*** off… but instead I went along with it and was highly disappointed, both in the experience and myself! Being a single woman in my twenties is great really… but it would be nice to be wooed every once in a while!

  9. I’ve never heard of ghosting, but now I’m wondering if that’s happened to me before and I didn’t even realize (I’m not good at picking up subtle hints like that). People pretty much just have to tell me, Go Away. Of course, I’ve never dated anyone, so I’m just running through friendships and acquaintances in my head at the moment…

    I’ve only recently considered the possibility of dating, but that would require finding someone I’d want to date first (and who’d also want to date me). This all sounds overwhelming! Maybe I should just do an arranged marriage and be done with the whole thing. Lol. *gah* I’m still not even sure if I want another person in my life. I don’t understand how that works. How do you make room for someone else in your life?

    The idea of making out for hours does sound fun though … maybe. Hypothetically. I guess with the right person it’d be fun. Otherwise, it sounds kind of icky. (Can you tell I’m asexual?) I go back and forth on the idea of sex sounding fun and sounding tedious. I’m not really date material, I guess.

    I have no useful advice to give you, but thank you for sharing all this information with us! It gives me a lot to think about. It’s nice to hear the perks and downsides to dating all together like this. Thanks! : )

  10. Wow, this was a bizarrely well-timed piece for me as I’ve been thinking through a lot of the same stuff at the moment. Similarly my last serious relationship ended when I was 19 and i’m now 23 (looking forward to that fifth year). Dating in your twenties has seemed an equally confusing and at times baffling experience to me as well. I’ve never been one to approach someone I don’t know and ask them to have a drink or whatever so I’ve used dating sites before to various outcomes.
    One thing I’ve noticed as well, and it seems to be highlighted in dating and fledgling relationships among people around my age I know is a high frequency of anxiety and issues like that with dating. (After a date with someone i’d met online I had a weird sort of delayed anxiety thing where I felt really scattered and nauseous and ended up wandering around the southbank for an hour after the date- one of the lesser outcomes of my online dating). I’m not sure if it’s anything unique to the generation or medium of dating we have now but there seems to be a realfluctuation between meaningless or banal dates and romantic encounters and unnacountably charged ones.
    Also, the semantic minefield you spoke about was very relatable as was the new methods of ending quasi-relationships- you never feel more shame than bumping into someone after having stopped replying to their messages.
    I thought this was a great, funnypost, with some very relatable observations, thanks.

  11. It’s funny how people in their twenties actually don’t take the time to do things slowly. Like, once you start kissing someone, they automatically think they can just start taking off your clothes and that now is the time to have sex.

    For example, met this cute guy, he was 25, had a great job, apartment, his life figured out etc, he also is a huge nympho, which i also like, cause well, i’m the same. I do like having good sex, but that doesn’t mean i don’t like making out before longer than 5 seconds. We were sitting on the couch, just talking, smoking shisaw and i kissed him for longer than 5 secnds and then stopped, to talk again and continue watching the movie. He freaked out because i actually didn’t meant to start anything at that moment and i really just wanted to enjoy his company, without having sex at that very moment. Then he started saying that i was a huge cockblock, and it really pisses him off if girls are ”playing” with sex. I started laughing and said that if i make out with you more than 5 seconds, it doesn’t really mean that i want to have sex with you right this very moment. He sort of understood me, but we haven’t spoken since.

    So, what is so wrong about wanting to just make out?? It used to be so normal and a part of being together?

    Just to say, love your blog.

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