I can’t believe I am saying this, but I wish I dated more when I was younger. Through dating, I would then only learn more about myself, what kind of person I needed (not just wanted), and to understand the deeper complexities of finding a life partner. I never wanted to be one of those girls in a relationship, just to be in the sake of one. I was always focused on myself and building my own path forward, with little to no regard for men except when I started my last year in college.
I have also been quite independent, made good financial decisions growing up, and relied on myself for most things—maybe too much to a point where I now need to learn how to make space for someone in my life. I spent my early 20s working in tech, traveling and working abroad, as well as building businesses and going into content creation.
Strangely enough, no one really cared as much as they did about my dating life. As I came back to Bay Area from Asia, the slew of questions began. How’s dating? Are you excited for being 30? You need to date more.
Comical, but annoying comments from my older sister would come through time and time as she kept casually mentioning her 35+ year old friends who were still single. It was a sobering moment, when I realized that I did not want to end up alone and find myself only to be in a small pond of men who had low EQ, toxic, or divorced (not that anything is wrong with them). Suffice it to say, the chances of dating and finding quality men are much better when you’re younger. As I have jumped into the ocean (with arms flailing, but having fun) to find a life partner, these are the interesting things I’ve been learning about while dating intentionally.
You’re single until you’re not
Thank online dating, but situationships are more common than you think they are. Due to the unlimited swipes and hoping for “something better,” people sit in a grey area of “what are we?” but are too afraid to ask. I was dating someone for a while, made the effort to check in with him about being exclusive and he said he wasn’t sure, while wanting to date other people. That was fine with me, but after two months, I realized he may have just wanted the benefits of being in a relationships without the label. I said my goodbyes and firmly walked away. Some friends said I should have waited more, but in reality, I also didn’t like the person I became with him, which was an Emily who was unsure, worried, and anxious. If I wanted to be with someone, I wanted to feel secure and happy, not wondering if he was dating 5 other women at the same time.
So basically, the idea comes with…just because you’re dating someone does not mean you’re in a relationship. Until the relationship has been clearly defined, you are single until you’re not.
Mature, effective communication is communicating your needs, not expecting him to read your mind
I also realized how immature I could be sometimes, and it has taken a lot of self regulation and inner work to work through my irritations or when I’m a bit reaching. While I can be patient with friends, for some reason, my expectations of a partner are high and this causes rift when my needs aren’t met, but I haven’t clearly discussed it with the person I’m dating. After another kerfuffle and ended texting situation, I was talking to a close friend who told me I needed to communicate better. “They’re going in blind. They have no idea who you are, what your preferences are, and what you’re thinking. You need to tell them if you’re feeling a kind of way.”
This was good for me to hear, as my first reaction is to end things because expectations were not met. As I date more, I have been articulating my needs more and if it cannot be met, this match is not right.
What I realized I actually need
I admit, I am one of those girlys who wanted to date a 6 ft man.
I stand at 5’7 myself, and would have liked to date someone taller, ambitious, successful. But those qualities may come with other by-products, like business, curt, impatience, etc.
Most recently, I have been more open minded about the men I date. While I date guys from all backgrounds, sizes, and shapes, I realized that these resume characteristics aren’t going to be helpful when we have children, marital fights or disagreements, or when I’m feeling at my worst.
It is kindness, compassion, patience, and hard-to-find values that will keep a relationship alive and thriving. These are the important qualities to find in a partner, not the guy who is hot and cold, but charming.
It is his thoughtfulness of bringing me my favorite boba when I have a shit day, his willingness to take the dog out or take care of the baby when I’m on my period, or covering the bill and being like “I got this” than always splitting 50/50. I would contribute as well, but I am still old school as I’ve seen the way my father takes care of my mother and dotes on her. I want that too.
I still believe in chivalry and the guy being able to provide if need be if I am 8 months pregnant and stumbling around with a watermelon belly. I am a contributor, but I wouldn’t date a man who wasn’t caring and chivalrous in his actions because that would be telling to me how he would treat me down the future.
You’re not perfect, so you can’t expect him to be too
I also strongly believe that you attract the energy you give off, so it was a lot of self work and asking myself too, “Am I someone I’d date myself? Do I have all these good traits and strong values that I want my partner to have?”
Am I kind, patient, understanding, and there’s one that I see this on the internet a lot: do I bring him peace? Do I make his life better or happier?
I am definitely not perfect, so I wouldn’t expect my partner to be either. The “perfect” person simply does not exist, but the “right” person does, and that’s through a partnership of working through things together, communicating, and loving each other along the way. That is what I’ve learned.