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What I Learned About Myself From Dating

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I’m just going to come out and say it, dating can be friggin’ exhausting. Spending countless hours swiping right and left—hoping to land on a match or two that won’t make you want to pull your hair out. Only to go on a date, not find a connection, and/or be ghosted after spending your time and energy getting to know someone.

Dating has evolved into something that previous generations would have never seen coming. Gone are the days of “The Notebook” romances where you’d be forced to write your love interest snail mail and meet your significant other in real life. The options are endless for our generation. You can spend hours swiping. And if something doesn’t work out, you can hop right back on an app. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people are just another swipe away.

Part of me is happy with this sort of access through apps like Tinder or Bumble where I can be exposed to guys I would normally never meet. However, there is also part of me that wishes things could go back to how they used to be. I can’t remember the last time someone asked me out that I didn’t meet through a dating app. Does that happen anymore?

couple standing on mountain, datingPhoto by Hannah Busing on Unsplash

My dating life has gone through waves of excitement and wanting to throw my phone off my balcony while accepting the fact that I’m going to be alone forever. At this point in my life, being in my late twenties, I’m ready to find the one

I want a plus one to events and lazy Sunday afternoons with someone who can binge Netflix with me. But trying to find that person is turning into a second full-time job. In fact, my friends and I developed a podcast about our dating misadventures called, Somebody Date Us.

However, in my quest to find the one, I have learned so much about myself. Things I didn’t even realize were important to learn. 

1) It’s okay to have a checklist

Does having a list of things you want in a partner make you too picky? I’m sure some of you feel this way. I was worried about this when I first started dating—torn between friends telling me I needed to lower my standards, and other friends demanding that I never settle for something less than what I wanted/needed in a partner.

Now I don’t think my list is a ridiculous ask. Sure, if the list was comprised of things like: must play hockey, own a dog, stand at 6’1, have dark brown hair and green eyes—well, we would be getting a little too specific. But my list is made of non-physical attributes that are in line with my morals and what I need in a partner: they are someone with a job who doesn’t live with their parents, can pay their own bills, wants to get married and have children, and lives in Toronto (where I live). 

It’s perfectly normal to search for a partner whose values and goals align with your own. Having a checklist is completely okay, so long as it is reasonable. 

2) Someone may check off the boxes without being the one

Someone who has everything on your checklist could still not be the one. That was a weird learning curve for me. My first Bumble date had everything I thought I needed in a partner. We dated for 4 months but I couldn’t put my finger on what was missing. I just knew that something was. 

The best thing I learned through dating is to trust and listen to my gut. If something doesn’t feel right—even if you can’t pinpoint why—it’s probably because it isn’t right. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. You will get to know a lot of nice people while dating, but that doesn’t mean you have to date them. In fact, you’ll discover new wants and needs along the way.

3) Sometimes you need a break

Dating is emotionally, mentally and physically draining. It can be disappointing—full of highs and lows. So, taking a break to do you is important for your sanity. If you’re feeling negative about the whole dating thing (maybe you aren’t feeling like yourself), then you’re probably not going to attract the best energy while on dates. Try filling your time with things you love instead, like extracurriculars and friends. Focus on the positive things you enjoy doing and come back to dating when you feel ready. I am an active dater, eager to find my match, but sometimes a break from the dating game is completely necessary.

4) You need to love yourself first

There is truth in the saying, “You can’t love anyone until you love yourself.” Taking care of yourself, and making time for the things you need, is important in any successful relationship. And your mental health. I witnessed relationships fail because there wasn’t enough time for the two to figure out who they are and what they need from a partner. If you feel as though you lose sight of yourself when you’re in a relationship, try focusing more on you. Look inwards to feel more confident and loving towards yourself.

This can take some people years to figure out. Sometimes it simply comes with age. Other times, this knowledge comes from acknowledging a need for more self-love. One of the biggest compliments I ever received on a date was how “honest and myself I was.” My date liked that I wasn’t trying too hard or saying what I thought he’d want to hear. When you discover self-love, you discover a new form of happiness that attracts the right people who will admire this quality. This can also lead to a healthier and more successful relationship because you’re in touch with you.

Dating can be draining, but it can also be exhilarating and motivating. It can offer hope that your special someone is out there, swiping away too. For further dating advice, check out A Student’s Guide To Dating When You Don’t Own A Car, here. Or Cheap Date Ideas For Broke Students, here.

We have a whole podcast episode on this topic (available on January 13th). You can listen to Somebody Date Us, a dating podcast run by three Toronto single girls, on all your favourite podcast platforms or online here

Lauren Marinigh

Lauren Marinigh

Lauren is a Sheridan College graduate now working in social media marketing… yes, she gets paid to Tweet. When she’s not living in the social media realm, she’s off traveling the world and writing about it on her travel blog.

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