If you're ready to start dating later in life or someone who started after you friends, it can be easy to feel like you're the only one. I promise— you're not. There's nothing wrong with entering the dating game a little later than average. In fact, a lot of my friends didn't start to date until their mid to late 20s— and quite a few of them are hitting 30 without have ever being in a relationship. They are amazing, lovely, sex people who will totally find a relationship if they want one, they just haven't yet. And that's totally OK.
"I think that the best thing a person who starts dating later in life can do is to try not to be terribly self-conscious about it," relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW tells Bustle. I know that men and women who haven’t dated much in their youth can feel like they are at a real disadvantage compared to those who have had more “practice” but the truth is, lots of the early daters haven’t had great experiences anyway! It’s not like the people who dated in their teens and early 20’s have perfected the art of dating and relationships!" No, no we certainly have not.
So don't stress about it. But there are a few things you should be aware if you start dating later. Here are some tips:
1. Remember You've Had Other Relationships Before
Just because you haven't dated, doesn't mean you don't know how to negotiate a relationship with another person. "You might not have had much experience actually dating, but you’ve likely had experiences being in relationships with friends and family members," Hartstein tells Bustle. "All you need to know is that the same rules apply. Be yourself, try to make good conversations, treat other people the same way you’d like to be treated yourself - if you follow those rules you’ll be a great date!"
It's such a good point. So when you're dating or getting into your first relationship, remember that you have the interpersonal skills to make it work.
2. You Don't Need To Compromise Or Settle
If you're on your late 20s, people are starting to panic about being 30. And, for some, that means getting the urge to start settling. I hate it. “In our thirties, people take dating more seriously — which can be a good and bad thing," relationship expert and therapist, Dr. Karin Anderson Abrell tells Bustle. "It's good because people try to avoid game playing and wasting each other's time but this desire can work against us if the pressure to settle down causes us to try to force a relationship that isn't meant to be or stay in a mediocre relationship just because we think ‘it's time’ to get married."
Just because you're in your late 20s— and because you haven't dated before— doesn't mean you have to settle. You don't need to think the first person you click with is the one or your only shot. Insecurities can grow if you're single for a long time, but you don't need to give into them. Make sure that you actually want to be with the person you're dating, rather than just wanting to be in a relationship. It's always worth holding out for what you actually want and deserve.
3. Let Go Of Your Expectations
Along with not settling, means letting go of expectations. Not your priorities and deal-breakers— those are important— but the idea that your life and your future partner need to look a certain way.
“In their 20s, women have this idea of exactly when things are going to happen and fall into place in terms of relationships, marriages, kids," psychologist Dr. Nikki Martinez, Psy.D., LCPC tells Bustle. “They date and get involved with people that might not be genuine long-term material. But in their 30s, they are calmer about when things happen, realizing not many things happen when and how we want and plan them to. We have had enough experiences that we know what we are and are not looking for, and what we will and will not tolerate.” Try to embrace that calm and let go of how you thought things should look.
4. You Can Share As Much Or As Little As You Want
I'm never an advocate of lying, but I will say you don't have to share everything on the first date. Personally, I would try own it and be totally up front— if they don't like it, that's their issue. But I get that you might not want to do that. If you're feeling awkward about sharing that you haven't dated before, you can gloss over it. As long as you're honest with them at some point in the early days, you don't have to lay it out there on the first couple of dates.
5. You Can Still Sow Your Wild Oats (If You Want)
It doesn't need to be super serious dating. Just because you may not have been having random hookups in college, doesn't mean you need to miss out on them. They're not for everyone, but you shouldn't be denied your experimentation and learning period of hedonism just because you started a bit later.
But make sure to be honest about it. "While it may be tricky telling someone you just met that you are only into [sex right now], the best way to open the conversation is to just tell them," Loveologist and Sex Coach, Domina Doll, tells Bustle. "Beating around the proverbial bush only prolongs the inevitable talk... honesty and integrity are just as important in any relationship, even a casual one."
As long as you're up front about what you want and being safe, you deserve to have as much fun as you like.
6. Don't Be Afraid To Ask For Advice
I remember one of my friends saying, when we were about 25, that she felt uncomfortable and self-conscious in groups because so often friends would be talking about sex and relationship, but she had experienced neither. It was embarrassing, because I realized how thick headed I (and so many of my friends) had been, not even realizing we might be making someone we care about uncomfortable.
But also, if you are feeling unsure, don't hesitate to ask for your friends advice. Whether you haven't done it all and want to start— or you're in the early stages of your first relationship and feeling a little lost— talk to them. And don't shy away from sex talk. "I think talking about sex with your friends can help normalize interests and behaviors and it can also spark your imagination," Sarah Watson, licensed professional counselor and sex therapist, tells Bustle. "Friends can encourage you to try new things and expand your horizons. In my experience most people aren't educated on how to talk about sex so starting with your friends in a loving and safe environment can be very helpful!"
7. Have Fun
Finally, dating will have its ups and down, but it should be fun. So, if it's just feeling hard and scary, work out what you can change. Maybe online dating isn't for you, maybe active dates work better than drinking dates, maybe you want your friends to help set you up. But don't be afraid to find what works for you, what makes it fun for you, and stick to that.
And remember, a date is just a date. “I tell all of my clients that a first date is not a trip down the aisle.” Certified Matchmaker Marissa Ventura tells Bustle. “It is simply one human being, getting to know another human being and figuring out if there is a connection or not. That's all.”
If you get further into a relationship and it's not feeling fun, remember what I said— you need to make sure you're in the right relationship, rather than just riding of the high of being in a relationship at all. We all are especially vulnerable in our first relationship, at any age, so make sure you're being honest with yourself.
Starting dating in your late twenties isn't as uncommon as you think. There's nothing to be embarrassed about and, no matter what, don't settle for the first person that comes along just because you've been waiting so long. You deserve better— and you'll find it, whatever age you start.