15 Dating Tips I Wish I'd Followed While I Was Single

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man and woman having a picnic date

I could've written three novels, started a business, and hiked the Appalachian Trail with all the wasted time and energy I spent not knowing how to date. I'd been going about finding a match all wrong, and I didn't have very much fun. I realize my past experiences made me who I am today, but I still wish I could go back in time and give some dating tips to poor, clueless, younger me.

There are probably more alternate universes where I'm still living solo than where I'm married because so much luck was involved in finding my guy. When I started seeing my husband, I was gobsmacked to realize how much I didn't know about dating, so it is no surprise I didn't meet my husband-to-be until I was in my 30's.

Don't let yourself waste as much time as I did, maybe you can learn from what I wish I had known about dating.

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Here are 15 dating tips I wish I'd followed when I was single.

1. Get your priorities straight.

Finding a romantic partner is only one of many goals you can have at the same time. 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.

One of the best pieces of dating advice I have gotten is that relationships are great, but don't obsess over them!

2. Know exactly what you want in a person — and don't compromise.

For example, when you like a guy and your mutual friends have multiple anecdotes about him projectile vomiting after excessive drinking, you may need to rethink the infatuation. You didn't like it when your godson hurled on you, and he's a toddler.

3. Know what real love is about.

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.

"Speak up and be authentic, connect over your dreams and goals, and evaluate if you two are a values match. This is how you create a long-lasting, soul-satisfying partnership that will last a lifetime," suggest dating coaches Orna and Matthew Walters.

4. Don't assume someone's sexual orientation.

I've been one to fall for a guy who is never going to be sexually attracted to me — or any woman, for that matter. Here's a tip: work on finding out what their sexual orientation is before going after them. It'll make your life much easier.

5. Don't let anyone take advantage of you.

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. Look for love in the right places.

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 you might actually enjoy to go next weekend.

If your friends don't want to join you, go anyway. Bonus dating advice: you don't always have to bring your friends!

7. Know your worth.

Stop worrying about potential paramours rejecting you for being too fat, too short, too whatever. It's entirely possible 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.

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8. Understand your feelings.

If you don't understand your feelings, things could get messy fast. "Feelings are terrific servants but terrible masters," Relationship Coach Tony Vear advises. "If you don't know how to manage your feelings, you won't be able to treat people the way they want to be treated because love is for giving, not for getting."

9. 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 and allowing for a great time.

10. Remember that 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.

11. Believe what a man tells you.

If a man says 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. Plus, it's probably just a euphemism for "I'm just not feeling it."

12. Don't stay out late every weekend.

Nothing good happens after 2 AM. If you keep staying out later than late, you may over drink, and meeting someone while intoxicated doesn't make a fairytale ending. It just leads you down the walk of shame.

13. Beware of technology.

The internet and social media have created paranoia when it comes to the dating world. The crazy guy you went on a first date with can find you on Facebook, follow you on Instagram and find out where you are with tagging and checking in. Of course, dating apps are still an effective way to meet others, but do be careful and send a trusted friend your location when you first meet someone in person.

14. Don't social media-stalk your dates.

Social media can be a great tool to get to know someone, but it can also be the luring witch of insecurities. Don't go down the rabbit hole of creeping on his ex-girlfriends and the accounts he follows — your mental health is more important than seeing what he used to want in a girl.

15. Understand the five stages of dating.

It's important to know the process so you can tell when things are moving in the right direction.

In the first stage, there's romance and attraction where you are starting to get to know each other. The second stage is when reality sets in where you decide if you want to be together. The third stage is disappointment where things get dicey when you try to work out your differences and find stability.

The fourth stage is stability where you got through the rough waters of stage 3. The final and fifth stage is commitment, which is when you are officially a team with a mature and sustainable love that lasts forever in an ideal world.

Following all five stages will bring you to a healthy long-term relationship. If not, you may be wasting your time.

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Jen Anderson is a freelance writer and editor who has been featured in Forbes, MSN, Healthline, Us Weekly, and more.