I attended the University of Florida for five years: four years undergrad and then one more year as a graduate student, because I just couldn’t get enough. Sitting here after a full three months as a post-graduate (long time, I know) I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on my experiences during my time as a student – particularly, in the realm of dating.
Now in this piece, I’m using the term “dated” very loosely. For my purposes, “dated” is synonymous with “talked to,” “was in a relationship with,” “had a fling with,” or even just admired from afar a handful of times (I’m talking to you, blond Cantina bouncer who formerly had a man-bun). Looking back at the past five years of experiences and taking into account the good, the bad, and the “oh my GOD no he didn’t,” here are seven pieces of advice I learned dating in college:
1. Throw Away your Idea of your Perfect Type
For those who believe they have a “type,” I have a counterpoint of view: no one is truly the same entering college as they are when they leave. In college, you grow. You develop new interests and become more comfortable and familiar with who you are. For those of you who entered college with a significant other and left college with that same significant other, I give you mad props. But I think the more common story is that somewhere along the way, your paths and ideas of what you wanted changed.
Maybe you have a physical idea of what you want your dream partner to look like. But college is essentially a well-distributed sample of what the population looks like. I urge you to date people much like yourself, but also people very different from yourself. Dating someone who has different views from your own will either urge you to consider new opinions, or will strengthen the ones you already have. In the process, you will grow and learn more about yourself and how you see the world.
2. Trust your Gut
I dated my fair share of sketchy college guys. And while after these relationships collapsed I was shattered and heartbroken, I can say that 90% of the time I saw it coming but refused to listen to my gut. If someone you are dating is giving you signs that they are unsure about their feelings, not on your same page, or are potentially being unfaithful – listen to the signs!
It is always hard to end something with someone once you are gaga for them, even when you think they’re being dishonest with you… Infatuation can play silly tricks on us. But by leaving a situation that is doomed to fail, you will be doing your pride a huge favor.
3. But at the Same Time, Listen to Your Heart
Now I know I’m contradicting myself here. But in the immensely complicated world of college dating, your gut and your heart can sometimes be at war. I mean this “follow your heart” thing more toward entering ambiguous relationships that don’t necessarily scream “danger.” Entering the unfamiliar with someone and in turn, giving them all your trust and confidence can be pretty scary. But by avoiding dating someone because you’re scared of what the future might hold, you might be denying yourself a great deal of happiness. Being with someone you really care about and who mutually cares about you can be a wonderful, nurturing experience – even if it doesn’t last forever. So if fear is all that’s holding you back, take a leap of faith and see what happens.
4. Not Everyone you Like is Going to Like you – and Vise Versa
This probably seems like a no brainer, but have you ever dated someone who was seemingly perfect for you but you just weren’t all that into? I certainly have. And while your friends can tell you “OMG BUT HE LOVES YOU WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU!” all they want, you know that if you’re not feelin’ it, you’re just not feelin’ it.
I’ve also been on the flip-side of this situation, overly infatuated with someone who did not see me in the same light. Where I would have been better off channeling my emotions elsewhere, I wasted a lot of time and energy thinking about this person. There’s lots of fish in the sea (and plenty of guys on campus), so better to put your efforts where they can be appreciated and returned.
5. Heartbreak Sucks – but You’ll get Over it!
Time heals all wounds. Your mother, your horoscope and I cannot stress this enough. Even the most cringe-worthy forms of heartbreak eventually fade away. And what’s even better? If you were the victim in heartbreak, chances are you’re going to look back and say “what was I thinking?” Because in time you’ll learn that things were likely not as great as you thought they were. And in time you’ll learn that there is no merit in wasting energy and emotions on someone who does not want to reciprocate.
6. Timing is Everything
This is one the hardest lessons dating at a young age can teach you. Sometimes you may find yourself involved with someone who cares deeply for you and likes you a lot, but just isn’t ready to be with you. This is a hard pill to swallow because our need to rationalize rejection wants to create a more tangible reason for the relationship not working: “He doesn’t like me.” “He wants someone else.” “I’m not good enough.” But people grow at different paces, and in turn, may not be ready to give the respect and attention a good relationship deserves. And that’s OK!
I like to think that time has a way of sorting itself out. If you and that person are meant to be, then perhaps later on the timing will be right and you cross paths once more. But if not, you’ll likely find someone else you find just as special and have experienced the “time heals all wounds” phenomenon.
7. It’s all a Learning Experience
Looking back at the ups, the downs, the what-ifs and the fleeting memories, I can say with confidence that I learned a lot throughout my various dating endeavors in college… about myself, about what I want, and about what I have to offer.
It is only by opening yourself up to another person and exposing yourself to hurt and vulnerability that you can experience all the learning and personal growth relationships can bring. So I leave my five years at UF with a couple heartbreaks, a lot of memories and insight that I wouldn’t change for the world.