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Yellow notecard with "Dear Past Self" written on it. Notecard is in striped, rainbow-colored envelope.


Sage advice from seven experienced daters who’ve been there, done that

The Vibe Staff   |   Fri, 6 Oct 2023

Recently The Vibe asked members of Couple’s “senior class” (i.e., older millennial and young Gen X users) this question: “If you could share one piece of dating advice with your younger self, what would it be?” The dating scene has changed a bit since our respondents first entered it, but the fundamentals of love and connection are the same today as they were then. As expected, they responded with some stellar insight, so if you’re a single Gen Zer, give their sage advice a read and carry it with you as you date on Couple and beyond.

Focus on self-discovery first (Jimmy, 46)

The most important thing I’d tell my younger self is that there’s no need to rush into a relationship just for the sake of being in one. Learn about yourself and be willing to date casually. Rushing romance ultimately led to my failed marriage, and sometimes I wonder whether things would have been different had I taken more time figuring out what makes me truly happy. Did I really want to be married to my first girlfriend at 22? Or did I feel like that’s what was expected of me? I have to believe that better self-awareness would have led to better choices. So, younger folks, learn from my mistakes: resist timelines, outcomes, and expectations, and focus on self-discovery before jumping into anything serious prematurely.

Speak up despite self-consciousness (May, 43)

Most of us are aware that communication is the foundation of any healthy relationship, but understanding it and engaging in it are two very different things ... especially when you’re inexperienced or overly concerned with making a good first impression on someone. My advice for my younger self would be this: be more honest and transparent with your partners about your feelings, needs, and boundaries. I sold myself short in a lot of my early relationships, and ignoring my own needs became a bad and hard-to-break habit.

Learn from past relationships (Jeff, 44)

I think my younger self didn’t take the time to learn from my experiences. I was too eager to forget and reset, something that’s even more tempting to do now that dating apps make it so easy to move on. But the fact of the matter is that every relationship, even the ones that don't work out, can teach you valuable lessons. So my advice is to slow down after a relationship ends. Take the time to reflect on what went wrong or what you should do differently in your next relationship. A little introspection will spare you a lot of repeated mistakes and heartache.

Embrace rejection (Steve, 44)

Rejection is a natural part of dating, so don't always take it personally. Sometimes it's not about you; it's about compatibility or timing. Learn to handle rejection gracefully and move on. I didn’t get that as a younger guy, and my love life was worse for it. My confidence suffered and I often had a chip on my shoulder, two traits that aren’t super attractive. Maintain humility, learn what needs to be learned, and let go of what needs to be forgotten. It’s a practice that will serve you well.

Be patient and don't settle (Laurie, 47)

I wish someone had told my younger self that finding the right partner can take time, and that's okay. It’s smart to be patient – you should never settle for someone who doesn't meet your core values and desires. In my younger years I dated far too many people who were clearly wrong for me simply because I was worried about ending up alone. Guess what? Being single is waaay better than dating someone who doesn’t treat you right. It’s such an obvious thing to say, but it took me almost twenty years to understand that.

Balance independence and togetherness (Ben, 39)

I think many young people (my twentysomething self included) make the mistake of devoting themselves completely to their partner and abandoning their own interests, wants, and needs. Spending a lot of quality time with your partner is wonderful and necessary, but it’s all about balance. Make sure you maintain a sense of independence on top of fostering togetherness, and encourage your partner to do the same. You’ll be better together if you encourage each other to grow as individuals.

Have fun, but trust your gut (Becca, 40)

I 100% would tell myself to stop being so damn serious all the time. Dating should be fun and enjoyable, not just a means to an end. My preoccupation with “what’s next?” was a bit of a buzzkill sometimes. If you can, avoid over-analyzing every interaction, try hard to laugh, and remain in the moment instead of being obsessed with where it might lead. Being young and single is a privilege – live it up! However, that doesn't mean you should let things slide. If something doesn't feel right, trust your instincts. You don’t actually owe anyone the benefit of the doubt, and that’s a lesson I learned way too late in my love life. If I had used my intuition as a valuable guide in dating instead of dismissing it with “oh you’re just paranoid,” I could have avoided a lot of messy situations. Red flags are real, people. Heed them.


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