There's plenty of hard-won wisdom on the internet, and no wisdom can feel harder, or more awkward, to win than the kind you gain when you're a woman in the dating world. Luckily, those who have that sort of wisdom are more than happy to share it, as evidenced by the many responses to redditor u/coffeenodonuts when they posed this question to r/AskWomen: "Women of Reddit in their 40s and 50s, what’s the biggest suggestion you would give to women dating in their 20s?" Here are 21 pieces of advice to keep in mind the next time you open one of the apps.
Responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.
1. "If you have to ask 'should I' (break up, stay, whatever), you already know the answer."
2. "If you get talking and you're both so excited about it that you stay up all night, it's a fantastic sign. If you struggle to talk even when you get over that initial idiot brain thing we get when we're super attracted to someone, the relationship, no matter how sexy, is probably going to start dragging fast. And if you value your future self, don't let your friends or yourself push you into dating someone who's great on paper but (who knows why) your body feels zero attraction to. Even if you are friends. He could be the best person, and that will not change. Trying to make it change is going to give you the ick."
"Also, share the mental load of planning dates. It can be such fun to share the things you like and try new things together with someone who has a different background and point of view. Movie dates are for people who enjoy two hours of awkward silence."
3. "Imagine where would you be if you invested all those resources in yourself, instead of this relationship that drains you? Invest in yourself first."
4. "Do not marry or have kids until living solely with your partner for two years, minimum. There is a lot you will learn about them in that time, and it may not be what you like."
5. "Late 30s here. Know your worth. If you’re confused about whether he likes you or not, he doesn’t. If he’s constantly pushing and testing your boundaries, even if it’s for little things that you think don’t really matter, it means that he doesn’t respect you. It’s not you; you’re just not compatible. And there’s others that are much better, and better for you."
"Also, changing yourself for your partner and your partner inspiring you to become the best version of yourself are two very different things."
6. "Listen to the way they speak about their ex. Not only what they say, but how they say it. It says more about them than their ex."
7. "Listen to your friends. If they don’t like him, there is usually a good reason. Also, if you ever have to say 'he’s not always like this' or 'he’s just having a bad night'...if you have to make excuses, then that’s a red flag."
"I’m actually making a book of red flags for my daughter to take to college."
8. "Don't make having a successful relationship your whole life's goal. Don't spend time thinking too much about it. Relax and enjoy the ride."
9. "Love isn’t enough. You also need emotional support, financial stability, and shared goals. You need a partner. Love alone will have you making stupid decisions and putting yourself last. Make sure that if you’re putting yourself last, that you’re with someone who’s putting you first."
10. "Dating sucks, and you will kiss a lot of metaphorical frogs. But you only have to get it right once, so keep trying until you find who you are looking for."
11. "What ends up mattering is finding someone who shares similar values. But I don’t mean religion or whatever as much as I mean things like work ethic, career goals, and family goals. If you like to do a bunch of stuff on the weekend and he doesn't, that can be a problem if neither of you is willing to adjust. Someone who is willing to pick up the slack when you can’t is a relationship jackpot, in my opinion."
12. "Never settle. Settling is probably one of the biggest mistakes people make, in my opinion. It drains you mentally and physically."
"Seconded. The effects of a breakup are fleeting next to the consequences of a long, mediocre relationship."
13. "Don't put all your eggs in one basket for one person. If an amazing opportunity comes up, take it. People will come and go, but the opportunity to travel or do cool things only comes along once in a lifetime, maybe."
"And if someone you are dating makes you feel bad, BYE. Life is too short for that."
15. "Be a fully formed adult on your own before getting hitched. Live alone for a time, and become financially independent. Do not go straight from your parents to your husband, even if you marry your college boyfriend."
16. "You don't have to be in a relationship to be happy or successful. Concentrate on building yourself and your career, because those will be foundational for your future and that of any family you may have."
"And date a lot of different guys just for fun with no expectations. I used to call it sport dating. I did finally marry, but I had an established career and skillset first, and I owned a home."
17. "Don’t ever date due to peer pressure or any kind of societal expectation. Only date for your own pleasure and satisfaction."
18. "Before you even start a relationship, find out their future expectations. If they don't match up with yours, walk away."
"Yup, you need to have the same values and want the same things at the same time out of life. Can't be with someone who wants kids in 15 years if you want them now, etc."
19. "If you’re getting married, think about whether you’ll be able to live with their quirky traits and bad habits when the honeymoon phase is over…and guaranteed, that phase will end. Whatever annoys you a little now could drive you crazy in 20 years, and you have to go into the marriage knowing that. You will never be able to change them, and it’s not fair to expect them to."
"Hubby and I have been married for 22 years, which is mind-blowing to me, given I didn’t expect to ever want to spend my life with one person. Now, I’m certain we’ll grow old together, and almost every day, I wonder how I ever got so lucky."