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When I started seeing my husband, aka the first guy I wasn't embarrassed to tell my therapist about, I was gobsmacked to realize how much I hadn't known about dating before then.
In fact, I'd been going about being single all wrong. I didn't have very much fun at it, which is depressing since I didn't pair up until my 30s.
Besides, so much luck was involved in my finding my match that there are probably more alternate universes where I'm still living solo than where I'm married.
I realize that my past experiences have made me who I am today, but I still wish I could go back in time and have a sisterly chat with poor, clueless, "younger me."
I could've written three novels, started a business and hiked the Appalachian Trail with all the wasted time and energy. It's too late for me, but maybe you can learn from what I wish I knew then.
1. Finding a romantic partner is only one of many goals you can have at once. There's a difference between making something a priority and having an obsession. No one wants to be the Captain Ahab of the dating world.
2. When you like a guy, and your mutual friends have multiple anecdotes about him projectile vomiting after excessive drinking, you need to rethink the infatuation. You didn't like it when your godson hurled on you, and he was a toddler.
3. It's not about getting someone to think you're good enough for them. It’s about finding someone you can stand to spend a ridiculous amount of time with. It's about finding the puzzle piece you fit with and the Ernie to your Bert.
4. Work on your gaydar. It'll make your life much easier.
5. Sometimes boyfriends have little annoying habits. And sometimes they have small behaviors that indicate a complete lack of respect. If you wouldn't let your friend's sweetie talk to her that way, don't put up with it yourself.
6. If you're bored out of your mind at the local bar on Saturday night, you're probably not going to meet anyone there who's going to liven up your evening. Instead of downing an extra cocktail to numb the ennui, think of somewhere else to go next weekend that you might actually enjoy. If your friends don't want to join you, go anyway.
7. Stop worrying about potential paramours rejecting you for being too fat, too short, too whatever. It's entirely possible that you would've had to reject them for never having seen Star Wars (your essential piece of pop culture may vary) anyway. People who simply are "not the right fit" exist. The sooner you weed them out of your life, the happier you'll be.
8. Go to movies by yourself. The same goes for museums, parks and concerts. When you're part of a couple, you miss being free to follow your every whim. Being unattached means not having to compromise on your plans.
9. A first date is not an audition for marriage. It's just a tryout for a second date. No one ever fell in love while analyzing every detail of their momentous first meeting.
10. If a man says that he's too damaged for you (or too neurotic, or too anything), just take his word for it. Even if it is his low self-esteem talking, you're not going to be able to fix him. And it's probably just a euphemism for "I'm just not feeling it."
It's easy to be happy with someone when you're feeling good about life. But what about when you're not doing so well? Do you want to see him when you've been denied a raise, or your cat died or you had a plain old bad day? He should be a comfort during tough times, not a burden.
You don't want to change the essence of who he is. There may be stuff that irritates you in everyday life—he insists on wearing his favorite, holey T-shirt, he eats sugar cereal for dinner, he still watches Saturday morning cartoons—but you like him, plain and simple.
If you do have crucial differences that will impact your future together—different opinions about religion, money or something else—you want to work them out with him, and you believe you can come to a conclusion that will satisfy both of you.
Sometimes it's that easy. You feel like he understands some essential part of you that you can't explain or articulate. It's a warm, comfortable feeling—and one you should have with the person you marry.