According to statistics, at 26, I’m creeping closer to the national marrying age of 28. The game is changing, and it’s time for me to start getting serious, so here's how my rules must change as well:
1. Date with the intention of marriage
When I was 16, it was important to date someone who would open up my social circle, introduce me to new friends, and ask me to prom in some kind of extravagant, showy way. When I was 18, it was important to date someone who looked much older than I so he could supply me with prohibited things. When I was 22, it was important to date someone who could help me transition from being a poor college student to a poor working class citizen.
Now that I’m 26, it’s important that I date with the intention of marriage. This means having those deep, philosophical conversations about money and raising children and futures. This means acting like we are married, going places like a couple, doing things like a couple, making decisions like a couple, just so that we know it could, or could not work.
There is no sense in dating someone for two years only to find out there is some kind of significant flaw that has been out of view the whole time. And this also means recognizing that what I like and I am attracted to may actually not be good marriage material. I may really like boys who play in rock n roll bands, boys who spend all day playing video games, or boys that eat fish every day (I have an irrational fear), but that may not work in a marriage. So, I have to date accordingly.
2. Date with honesty
Time is really of the essence here. At 26, I know myself pretty well. I know the kinds of things I like, and the kinds of things I don’t like. I know what my give-aways are when I'm mad, what my pet peeves are, how I respond to confrontation. So when someone asks, “What are you looking for in a spouse?”, I have to be honest in my response.
I want someone who can fix things, who can manage finances, who is gone often; someone who can schedule around my yoga classes, gets along with my friends/family, enjoys going on adventures, dislikes technology for the same reasons I do. And, if this isn’t you, that is perfectly fine, but it’s important for me to be honest so you can figure that out as soon as possible; I can’t beat around the bush and try to curve my answers to what I think YOU are looking to hear (like I might have when I was 16), for us to find out later on down the road we are too different for each other.
3. Be forgiving
People have all kinds of skeletons in their past and wounds they are still healing from. Heck, I have a whole slew of my own that someone will someday have to just accept. But I believe that skeletons, wounds, baggage, trials and tribulations, if we overcome them, make us better people and give us a deeper understanding of the world. I also have to forgive people for making mistakes. The whole point of dating is to go on a journey of self-discovery, to try things out and see if they work for us.
Sometimes, we reject someone in a really bitchy way, then we feel really horrible about it and vow to never do that again (though we can’t take back the original action). Sometimes, we are dating someone, then we meet someone else, and realize we shouldn’t actually be dating the other person, and we have to break up with them. Sometimes, we stay in relationships way longer than we should, make commitments that we should not have, treat people in ways outside of our characters. And, as a dater myself, I have to forgive people, because I’m guilty of doing all these same things, and it’s just part of the dating process.
4. Just plan on going stag
You usually know about your friends’ weddings six months in advance, get the invitation two months in advance, and feel this pressure to decide if you are going to bring a date or not. It’s awkward to bring as your date someone that you aren’t quite into, just because they happen to be your only option at the time. Weddings put all kinds of lovey-dovey feelings in the air, and I hate having to reject someone after we’ve been through this love-experience together.
So, at this point in time, I plan on going stag; if my situation changes before the wedding, I either beg my friend to let me bring a plus one, or I just tell the guy, “Sorry, I RSVPed before you existed, find something else to do tonight! No point in wasting my time, planning for things that may or may not happen. Plus, I think it’s really important to learn how to navigate situations as a single person before you do it as a paired one.
5. Take other people’s ideas into consideration, but not to heart
By this time, 95% of the people I hang out with are already paired off, which is great. Things happen at different times for different people. Of course, people LOVE talking about their love stories, and they LOVE giving advice, and I have to keep in mind that the reason they are sharing these things with me, even if it feels like criticism, is because they care about me. They know how great it is to be loved, and they want the same experiences for me.
Part of dating is learning about ourselves, so we try on different hats, insert ourselves into new experiences, and shed these personas once we realize the persona does not work for us. While I sometimes should listen to friends' advice (that guy might give off creep-o vibes that I’m not picking up), I also have to keep in mind that what works for them may not work for me; like, you may think it's sweet when your significant other calls you three times a day. I don't need that. So when you offer your opinion on that matter, I will take it into consideration, but not to heart.
6. Don’t take rejection personally
Growing up, we are taught that ‘rejection’ means there is something wrong with us: I get rejected from the baseball team because my athletic abilities are sub-par; I get rejected from that group project because I’m unreliable; I get rejected from that birthday party because I haven’t showered in a while and no one wants to sleep next to me.
But, at 26, rejection could simply mean someone knows I am simply not a good fit for him, and I have to be appreciative of the fact that he’s not stringing me along and wasting my time. I mean, being ghosted is embarrassing, and being dumped sucks for sure, but I’d rather someone tell me those things sooner rather than later. I’ve for sure rejected people for the same reason- not because there is anything wrong with them at all– but because they were just not a good fit for me.