Five Facts from a Guy #12 {about 20-something dating}

Happy Friday, little friendreaders! I'm checking in from Charleston today, where I'm spending the weekend with my mama. We're drinking coffee, exploring this sweet town and being friends, so, for you is another round of Five Facts from a Guy. 

This week's comes from Kevin, who is engaged to my dear friend Maggie. Kevin and Maggie met, fell in love and got engaged quickly and, I heard it all from her perspective throughout the last year and a half. It was so much fun reading about the relationship from his perspective. It made me so happy! And, I loved his advice on 20-something dating.

And, in case you've missed them, catch up on the previous Five Facts from a Guy posts.

Maggie and I were in  Jamie's wedding  together in June. A few of the bridesmaids' dates couldn't attend the wedding, so Kevin was the stand-in for all three of us. He definitely got the best dancer award :)

Maggie and I were in Jamie's wedding together in June. A few of the bridesmaids' dates couldn't attend the wedding, so Kevin was the stand-in for all three of us. He definitely got the best dancer award :)

Happy reading, happy Friday!

1. Timing is everything. In my view, ambitious young professionals in their early to mid-20s make poor boyfriends and girlfriends, particularly in an urban setting. This formative stage in our lives is often characterized by long hours in the office, financial stress from budgeting an entry level salary, postgraduate academic pursuits, family commitments, and a crowded social calendar. Wondering where sleep and exercise fit into the equation? Me too. It’s a time in our lives when we tend to behave selfishly in order to balance all of our obligations and establish our careers.

I’m no relationship expert, but I don’t think “behaving selfishly” is one of the qualities an expert would attribute to a healthy relationship. That’s not to say don’t date or have intimate relationships at this time in your life, because looking back, it was a great time (for me, at least) to learn. Just don’t be surprised if you don’t always feel like a priority in your significant other’s life. More importantly, if your relationships seem to always come to an unceremonious ending, don’t worry, because the right time, and ultimately the right person, is worth waiting for (to be continued in #5).

2. Boys will be boys. Let’s be honest, boys never grow up. We still drink too much, too often, laugh at the same jokes we thought were funny in high school, and are perfectly content to spend all day Sunday on the couch watching NFL Redzone and checking our fantasy teams. But there is a critical inflection point at which we achieve the emotional maturity to hold up our end of the relationship bargain.

We stop blowing you off to go out drinking with the boys 2 or 3 times a week. We recognize a handwritten card to celebrate a special occasion goes a long way. We learn date night means going out to a respectable establishment and having a meaningful conversation. And what’s more, we might finally have the disposable income to pay for some nice things. This happens at a different time for everyone, but for me, it was around age 26 or 27.

3. Shut up and listen. My fiancée told me that one of the first things she noticed about me was how well I listened to her. I didn’t rush to interject or judge the things she was saying. I let her speak until she felt she explained herself well, reflected on what she said, and then responded thoughtfully. She once told me that it was from our early interactions that she gained the trust that now serves as the cornerstone of our relationship.

I believe listening is a skill, perhaps the most important skill in a relationship, and like all skills, it takes time to practice and develop. But, also like all skills, some guys are better than others, and some will never learn. You are best served to avoid guys who don’t listen to you from the outset if you are looking for a meaningful relationship.

4. Other areas of your life start to improve. When I started dating my fiancée, I started to experience unprecedented success in other areas of my life, and I don’t think it was a coincidence. I completed a grueling 3-year process to earn a professional designation, I bought my first home, I achieved an ownership stake in my company, and my relationships with friends and family were stronger than ever.

While there is always a bit of luck involved in all of life’s successes, I attribute much of my good fortune to how optimistic my world view became once I found a healthy relationship with a woman I truly love. I spent the first 5 or 6 years of my post-college life as a cynic, always quick to point out what was wrong with the world and everybody in it. Not to say that a healthy level of skepticism doesn’t have a place in our lives, but optimism often pays off, and it can be hard to be optimistic when you are not in a fulfilling relationship.

5. When you know, you know. Shortly after college, I spent nearly four years in a relationship that never should have happened. The relationship was one of convenience. We met years earlier through mutual friends while still in high school, went to the same college where we hardly talked to each other, but got reacquainted one night in the city after college when we went out with our old high school friends. We both desperately wanted companionship, but went looking for it in the wrong place at the wrong time. I was immature, selfish (see #1 above), and liked the idea of a stable relationship much more than I liked the actual relationship. She was much more mature than me, and for a while probably believed I was “the one,” but 2-3 years into our relationship, cracks started to emerge. We were fundamentally different people and we grew apart. At no point over the course of almost four years did I go ring shopping. The thought never crossed my mind. It wasn’t meant to be.

My experience with my (now) fiancée was completely different. We clicked immediately after being introduced by mutual friends. I had never been so excited as I was for our first date, which started with a Friday afternoon Cubs game, and then led into a bottle of wine looking over Diversey Harbor at the Chicago skyline, and ended with a late dinner at one of her favorite restaurants in the city. The conversation was effortless. There was an immediate comfort level like I had never experienced before. Our relationship took off from that point like a launch pad. She was the one.

What may be apparent as a theme throughout this post and what I am trying to say is be patient. Don’t expect to find the one a couple years after college when you are still trying to find your place in the world. You might be closer to 30 than you would like by the time you find the one, and that’s ok. You will know yourself better, and so will he.