I am by no means a relationship expert.
In fact, a majority of my relationship expertise comes from the numerous mistakes I have made while dating and a fair amount of "Sex and the City" episodes. And while I am no Carrie Bradshaw, I have spent the last four years in East Lansing attempting to navigate the dating scene. Over that time, I have learned a few things.
When I first started at Michigan State University, I was still dating my high school boyfriend. Let's just say it ended poorly, with him driving out of my parent's driveway blasting "Cold as Ice" by Foreigner.
So, not great.
I was fresh out of a yearlong relationship and ready to see what dating at MSU had to offer. I had a pretty good attitude about it. I figured with a population of 50,000 people, it shouldn’t be hard to find someone I was compatible with. But I had no idea what I wanted or what expectations to set for myself, which leads to my first lesson.
Be clear about your expectations
Make it known what you are looking for. If you are looking for something long term, then say so. If you are looking for something casual and just for fun, then say so. This can surprisingly solve a lot of problems and save you a lot of time. If Chad from Sigma-Whatever seems like he only wants something casual and you are looking for a serious partner, he might not be the guy for you.
This is why it's important to ask the other person what they are looking for as well. You shouldn’t waste your time on someone who clearly has different expectations than you, and this goes both ways.
If someone tells you they are looking for something serious and you are not, then don’t waste their time if you know you don’t want a serious relationship with them. This is definitely easier said than done, but really does help in the long run.
Always be honest, but don’t expect others to tell you the truth
Honesty is always the best policy, even with small things. Lies tend to come to the surface one way or another, especially if you hope to be in the same relationship for a long time. But you also shouldn’t expect everyone to tell the truth — sometimes people just suck.
I, unfortunately, learned this the hard way. After dating someone for a few weeks, I got a text from her boyfriend asking me why I was texting her about our next date.
You shouldn’t always be snooping for lies expecting to have been lied to, but trust your gut. If something seems shady, it probably is.
Set boundaries, but be reasonable
It is always important to set boundaries in a relationship, whether it's small things like setting time to spend alone or with friends, or big things like when you feel it’s the right time to meet each other’s family. Boundaries keep you from feeling uncomfortable or rushed, but they should also be reasonable.
If someone's boundaries seem sketchy, like refusing to let you meet their friends or go out with them in public, it could be a red flag. Boundaries are there so you don’t cross a line, but that shouldn’t involve cutting out seemingly normal steps in a relationship. And if someone's boundaries are not aligned with your own, it’s OK to ask why but also respect their feelings.
Don’t take things so seriously
Sometimes you just have to go with the flow, and that’s when I’ve personally had the most fun dating. You are probably not going to meet your soulmate on Tinder, so don’t put a lot of pressure on finding someone. Having short-term relationships that don’t go anywhere is okay; it’s perfectly fine to just have fun.
Be spontaneous and even a little reckless. Sometimes those moments make for the best memories.
But don’t ever get into someone’s car at 2 a.m. in Cedar Village.
Trust me, just don’t do it.
At the same time, don’t waste your energy on people who don’t seem interested. If someone isn’t texting you back right away, they are probably busy. But if you only hear from them after 1 a.m., it might be time to rethink things.
Dating in college is supposed to be fun and provide you with new experiences. Don’t let unrealistic expectations drag you down. Have fun, be safe and Go Green.