Being single in your 20s is hard. I should know — I spent almost all of my 20s flying solo. I went into my 20s single and remained single for another eight years — way longer than any of my friends — before I met my current girlfriend. I went through casual dating, friends with benefits situations, and just not dating at all. Basically, I was every kind of single out there.
"Modern dating is moving more and more towards dating apps," Psychologist and counselor, Nikki Martinez, Psy.d., LCPC, tells Bustle. "This is an immediate gratification or rejection in many ways, and often times skips the normal courtship of talking and getting to know each other. I see the dating start and burn out much faster before they find the one."
It's intense. And, in your 20s, it's even more intense. Sure, dating when you're in your 30s can have that "Oh I need to settle down soon" vibe, but when you're in your 20s you're transitioning out of college, you're dealing with sh*tty jobs, you're often broke, and you're still finding yourself. You're spinning a lot of plates — and then trying to figure out dating on top of it.
Here's what you need to know about being single in yours 20s, because I've been through it all.
You May Do Things You Regret — And That's OK Too
I had a lot of great casual sex that was so much fun. I also had some casual sex that I'm not sure I felt great about afterward. But, like anything, I treated it as a learning experience — it taught me about what I wanted and how I wanted to be treated. I realized that casual sex meant having some parameters and required mutual respect, because you're still having a relationship with that person, even if it's not a romantic one.
And, if you're anything like me, you might sometimes have sex for the wrong reason — because you're drunk or because you're lonely or because all of your friends are hooking up with someone. But you don't have to do it because you feel like you're supposed to. And if you do? Forgive yourself, talk to someone about it if you need to, and figure out the best way move on.
Sometimes Dating Will Take A Back Seat, Sometimes It Will Be A Priority
Life happens — and a lot of it happens in your 20s. You're typically graduating college, moving cities, and starting your first full-time job. You may have family drama or friend drama, but probably both. Some months, it might seem like your romantic life is the center of your world, and other times you won't spare it a second thought.
At Some Points, You'll Feel Abandoned (But It Won't Last Forever)
If you're single for a good portion of your 20s, at some point you'll probably feel like the only single friend. I watched my friends drop like flies and there would be months — and years — where I felt totally on my own. My friends wouldn't just be coupled up, they'd be coupled up every moment of the day. It felt like agony, but then it would come back around. Either they'd become less obsessed with their partner eventually or they'd just break up.
What You Thought You Wanted At 20 Probably Won't Be What You Want At 29
Some people know what they want right from the beginning, but those people are way more organized than I am. When I started my 20s, I was coming out of a bad breakup and thought I would just want to have fun forever. And that was true — for seven or eight years. But then I realized I wanted something different. I have other friends who were married at 22 and by the time they hit 27 were divorced and on some kind of sexual walkabout. Just never say never, OK?
Some Things Are Worth It Just For The Story
Horrible dates? Ridiculously funny sexual encounters? Some of them are worth living through, because you'll have the story to tell. You'll laugh about the guy who dry humped your belly button for years.
You Will Judge Your Friend's Partners *So* Hard
...And they will judge the people you date right back. There's nobody more scathing than someone in their 20s talking about her friend's partner. Let's just admit that.
The Sex Gets So Much Better
Unless you're some kind of sexual ninja, you probably won't be amazing at sex at 20 years old and, if you are, not all of your partners will be. As you go through your 20s, you'll probably get more confident in asking for what you want and not putting up with bad sex. Why should you?
It Gets Easier
Your 20s are a minefield, but by the end of the decade, it gets easier. Not because dating gets better or your life simplifies, but simply because you chill the eff out. I did, my friend who spent every night out desperately trying to get someone to ask for her number did, pretty much everyone I know learned to go with the flow.
You will realize that it's not your job to fix people, that you don't have to change for anyone, and that there's no reason to be in a crappy relationship just for the sake of being in any relationship. And that makes it so much easier.
Dating in your 20s is exhausting, especially as you transition out of college. But make mistakes, forgive yourself, and try again next time. Remember, bad dates can make for great stories — and those last a lifetime.