I’m not old, by any means. But I have had some, let’s call them, ‘accelerated’ dating experiences where a lot of perspective was gained in a shorter amount of time than normal – whatever normal is.
Aside from that, while I am not old, I am still older, and have done my best to be observant about how wants, needs, and expectations changed when it comes to dating and relationships through the years. Here are a few things I have noticed along the way.
You begin to have a much greater appreciation of someone’s depth.
In your late teens and early 20’s, there is a lot of emphasis on going out and having a good time. College, after college, Thirsty Thursdays, all that (a lot of) people really focus on is getting through their week and having some fun along the way. With this general fleeting attitude comes the same perspective on dating – it is what it is. Find someone you’re attracted to who enjoys going the same places as you and likes being around the same people, and you’re a couple.
As we get older, we begin to realize the importance of having someone who complements us accordingly. Someone who we can build a real, deep, emotional connection with. The desire to find someone we can go out and have a good time with gives way to the desire to find someone who we can not go out and have a good time with. Real, live, coexisting adults.
You have a much lower tolerance for nonsense.
Mind games, drama, whatever you want to call it – when we are in our earlier 20’s I think a lot of us have a much greater tolerance for this kind of instability. Maybe it comes along with being a little less serious about life in general – which of course is replaced by real goals and ambitions as we get older. Goals and ambitions that we do not want sidetracked by somebody who will drag us down.
We begin to recognize red flags much earlier on and know when to cut ties.
You are generally more comfortable being single.
When we are younger, everyone around us is hooking up with someone or dating someone or spending time with someone and there is some more pressure to be doing the same. I think as we get older, our focus shifts to building our own lives – working towards personal and professional accomplishments, and understanding the importance of being fulfilled while we are single.
This allows us to raise our standards and only accept someone into our lives who will enhance it, not complicate it.
You are much more focused on what you want.
As an extension of the previous point, when you have a better grasp on who you are and what you want out of your life, you have a clearer focus on who you want to share it with. This, usually, only comes along with working on defining your own path first.
Someone’s looks get moved down your priorities list.
Of course physical attraction will always be important in a relationship – but as we get older we realize it’s not the most important thing. Far from it.
This, obviously, is part of the deal when looking for a more serious relationship because we understand that a great smile and gym-fueled body will only hold your attention for so long. Now, you need the substance to go with the packaging.
You will begin to understand your own value.
Recognizing your own value is the first step to having a happy, healthy relationship. The most powerful relationship you will ever have is with yourself. If that one isn’t healthy, none of your others will be.
As we get older, we start to understand what we deserve from a teammate and should stop making excuses for them when they don’t hold up their end of the bargain. You are now strong and independent – so if they are not going to bring value to your life or treat you as you deserve, you are in a much more secure position to walk away.
You have a greater desire to work at something.
By “something,” I mean a relationship. And by “work on,” I mean stick with someone through thick and thin, good times and bad, bright days and dark days (provided that they never mistreat or abuse you – then you will know to leave immediately). But rather than just walking away at the first sign of inconvenience, the deeper relationship that your new found personal development has allowed you to cultivate with someone will keep you standing by their side.
You begin to understand you can’t change people.
When we are a little younger we tend to see someone’s potential, and maybe even fall for it. Who they could be if they would just listen to you. If they would just stop being so lazy. Or apathetic. Or do more with their skills, or whatever it is.
As the years go by we realize the importance of not only working on becoming ‘whole’ ourselves, but also finding someone who has done the same to share our life with. We understand that we need an equal and a teammate, not a project.
As we get older, our tolerance for games decreases in proportion to our desire to find something real, but what also increases is our comfort and happiness with ourselves even if we stay single for awhile. We understand that a significant other is someone who fits into and enhances our life as we fit into and enhance theirs – they are not someone who we should revolve our days around or sacrifice our self-worth or independence for.
Perhaps the most important lesson we learn on our journey, though, is that it is always better to remain single and only accept the love we deserve, than it is to settle for negative relationships along the way.
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