Dating as a woman is always complicated. My fear is that it always will be.

I’m at an age where the word “dating” understandably doesn’t carry much weight. I’m 20 years old, in my last year of college, and very much focused on myself—as is everyone else around me. But while my peers are focused on ourselves, we’re also highly social beings, which introduces the need for companionship: whether that be because we feel like we need to be with someone, or because we feel like we need to be seen being with someone. Regardless, in the midst of balancing college, internships, my own creative projects, and friendships, I still find myself at times wondering why I don’t have a boyfriend.

I don’t need one (what woman needs a man?), and I don’t even necessarily know whether I want one. But when I listen to the women around me have conversations with each other, or when I look at what women in their twenties and thirties are saying on social media, or when I listen to the music by women like SZA who are older than me but experiencing situations I can very much relate to, I get a little anxious about the future of my dating life. 

The complications of dating men (the ups and downs of being in relationships with them, and the complexity of being in “situationships” when they don’t want relationships) seem never-ending. When we were younger, the idea was to be married by 25 and have a child by 27. 

Now that I’m older, it’s a dream that I see as laughably unrealistic, even though it does go that way for many women. But a lot of the time, the truth is that finding a worthy partner is a long process in itself, and then once you find someone, there’s the possibility that they end up not being the someone you thought they were or really needed. So on to the next. 

And the next.

And the next.

I’m not one of those people who “dates to marry.” I do take myself seriously and want to be taken seriously, but I also choose to live in the present and treat dating and relationships as an opportunity to experience someone as they are now and grow with each other. If it leads to marriage, it does. If it doesn’t, I’ve learned from the experience and can apply those lessons moving forward. 

However, the chaos that seems to come with dating in your 20’s intimidates me so much that it makes me wish I did have a soul mate somewhere. Dating is messy. Wouldn’t it be nice if things were easy? If I’d already found “the one”? I’m scared of confronting the pain that comes with love, or the journey toward finding it.

It doesn’t help that I’ve also only been in one relationship in my life. This makes me feel inexperienced and less prepared. It also makes me sometimes want to be in a relationship more; I’m a different person now from who I was in high school. More adult, more intelligent, and emotionally matured. What would this version of me in a relationship be like now? How could one help me grow as a person? How do I truly know what my love language is like in action?

These questions remain unanswered, partially because many of the men in my generation don’t want to be in relationships. A lot of the things that I hear 22-year-old men say are the things that I hear just-under-30-year-old women saying they hear from their romantic interests.

 Again, my youth and my busy life make it so that I’m fine with it now, but I worry about the future. Does it never end? I don’t need to be in love now, but will it find me later on when I’m ready? Is it bad that I don’t have as much relationship experience as other young women around my age?

I don’t have all of the answers. Or any of them, really. 

What I do know is that the smart thing for me to do is remain in the present. The thing that matters most — whether or not I’m in a relationship— is me. I’m watering my own plants and letting everything else become secondary—and, if I’m thinking about the future, that makes me a better person for whatever partner I’ll be with later on. I also know that love is not limited to romance. I have an abundance of love in my life and I’m also committed to cultivating more: from my family, friends, and most importantly, myself.

As Judge Lynn Toler communicated in this video, a woman’s 20’s are a time for self-exploration, self-love, and self-growth. A time for self. The idea of what dating will be like throughout my 20’s makes me nervous, but thinking about the woman I’ll grow into during this decade excites me. 

I’m choosing to give my attention to her.

What’s your experience of love in your twenties? Let us know in the comments below!

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