A Change of Perception

The world is a very different place in your 20’s than in your 30’s. Expectations, desires, and attractions change forms and mean something completely different and, in my opinion, something better.

In Your 20’s:

This is the era where dating is mainly for sport, unless you’re one of the rare few who are ready to settle down this early in life; the time when you are getting to know who you really are and coming in to your own. This decade is all about trial, error, learning what you want out of a relationship and better yet, learning what you absolutely DO NOT want in a relationship.

When I was growing up my Mom used to always tell me that I won’t really know who I am until I am 30. For the longest time I would roll my eyes and say “OK, Mom…”, until it happened; I turned 30 and somewhere between 29 and now something clicked and I am more comfortable with myself than I ever have been before.

My 20’s (actually, backdating to my late teens) were mostly spent trying to find myself and rebelling against everything that I was growing up. I thought that I knew how to live life better and different than how I was raised. I was bartending so it was easy to fall into a lifestyle of partying, not having a lot of responsibilities, and not wanting to take life seriously. I dated older men, men who were totally wrong for me, players, alcoholics, and there was always a constant game I was playing with myself to date the “hard to get” guys. What’s worse is that I was willing to change myself (and in some cases did) for a guy I was dating. I had a lot of fun and learned a lot of hard life lessons.

One big life lesson was the experience dating my “big ex” in my 20’s. He was an incredibly sweet, loving guy, but he had a dark side. He was an alcoholic and no matter how he tried and how much support I gave him, this was something that he couldn’t conquer and inevitably ended our relationship. If any of you have family or a spouse that suffers from alcoholism, you know how truly difficult this illness is. It consumes them and they can be the greatest people in the world, but when they drink it’s like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. When that relationship ended, I went through a time when I did not want anything to do with a serious relationship. I was exhausted and desperately craved freedom. I found myself attracted to men that I knew I wouldn’t have a future with. It gave me a sense of peace knowing that these relationships weren’t going to become anything, and then when they inevitably ended it didn’t faze me at all.

The majority of your attractions in your 20’s are purely physical. For many of us, it’s basically a competition to see who can bring home the most attractive partner. You find yourself in bars trying to find “Mr. Right”, and you think this is the best ways to meet guys. You always find true love when you’re intoxicated, right? Yeah… not so much. You are mainly driven by sexual connection and no matter what ambitions or aspirations a guy has (if any), as long as you have a strong sexual connection you feel like your relationship can beat all odds. You don’t care what job he has, what he wants for his future, or if his beliefs align with yours. You are too busy enjoying this new found intimate connection with another human being than caring about what your future holds for your relationship. You also have a naïve idea that love will conquer all. With all of the romance movies portraying perfect perceptions of love at first sight and the knight in shining armor, you’re blind to reality and you confuse lust with love. You are willing to sacrifice your hobbies, interest, friends, and even sometimes family to be with a person that is probably not right for you. At this point, the relationship has become toxic and you can’t see how bad it is from your tunnel vision. This may not be true for a lot of you, especially those who found their spouse in their 20’s, but this unfortunately rings true for those of us that were single in this decade of our lives. Thank god this phase is over…

In Your 30’s

If you’re still single by the time you reach 30, you’ve discovered who you are. Thanks to your trial and error relationships in your 20’s you also now know exactly what you want in your partner and you are not willing to settle for anything less. Here’s what I have discovered I want:

  1. Stability; financial and emotional (no, not gold digging)
  2. Loyalty
  3. Someone who makes me laugh and who will be my partner in crime and my best friend
  4. Someone I can truly be myself around
  5. Someone who is masculine without being chauvinistic
  6. Mutual respect and communication; a relationship where there is no “control”, you are equal partners
  7. Someone I share interest and hobbies with, but we are different enough to bring complexity to the relationship
  8. Someone who respects others’ beliefs, culture, and social status
  9. Passion and romance
  10. A foundation of trust to let each other have freedom

It’s funny how things work sometimes. Just when I find out what I’m looking for and know who I am, I don’t know how to date. I’ve always been notorious for staying in my comfort zone and dating guys that I was friends with first. This has always been easier for me. I don’t know if it’s a trust thing or just that it’s difficult for me to let my guard down, but I’ve always found comfort in getting to know someone first, then forming a relationship. Even the last guy I dated for almost a year was my friend first. Not a great friend, but we had enough mutual friends that we hung out quite a bit before we went on an actual date. As a result of this approach I’m used to things moving relatively quickly once I get romantically involved since that foundation is there. But once you’ve exhausted your friends and have given up on that approach, how do you meet people? How do you form relationships that are romantic from the beginning and not just platonic?

One of two things happens now when I try to date. I either don’t feel the same way the guy feels and take off running, or I really like the guy and have trouble letting my guard down. The second part is what I’ve been working on for the last year or so. I’m letting my guard down, but to my own detriment. Since this is something I’m not comfortable with, I am doing some trials and I have failed quite a few times. I’ve let my guard down and become vulnerable too quickly and scared men off. I’ve also waited to let it down and have scared men off. This usually happens around the third or fourth date when feelings get stronger. There is a very tricky balance act between the two, and I have to gauge how the guy is feeling and how emotionally available he is. These are silly stupid mind games that I hate playing. This has become so EXTREMELY frustrating that I’m at the point where I’m just going to say f*** it and just be me, because who else can I be? I’m not crazy, I’m not needy, and I know that I will be a great partner once the relationship proves to be worth the effort.

Another reason why it’s hard to just start dating a random guy is that these days people don’t court like they used to. Guys seem to take the cop-out approach and text, Snapchat, or Facebook instead of actually talk on the phone. I’m sure you all know from personal experience that it’s so hard to tell a person’s tone, humor, or lack of humor over text messages when you don’t already know what their personality is like. Fortunately, the last guy I went on a few dates with did things the right way calling to ask me out, lining up the next date and being extremely chivalrous, so this gives me hope that real men are still out there.

So this is where I leave you today: trying to figure out this whole dating world basically starting over again. The good thing is I know what I want now and am not willing to settle for anything less than what I deserve, but it may be a while before “Mr. Fantastic” comes along. Luckily, I feel like I’m finally on the right path. So on that note, there will be plenty more posts to come.

“It’s better to be single with high standards than in a relationship settling for less.”

One thought on “A Change of Perception

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