Aside from my own experiences, I genuinely feel that dating in your early twenties is generally a learning and growing experience to say the least.
" I learned that it wasn't about the age of the guys I dated, it all had to do with me. If I wasn't healing and growing, that aspect I feared in a relationship (communicating about my losses and how different my life became) would continue to follow me in every relationship I entered."
In combination with my low self esteem and trauma I felt that I needed to be happy and fun all the time and not reveal the cascade of changes in my life following loss in order to be wanted and loved. I remember how uncomfortable I felt explaining to a guy that I had to leave early to pick up my brother from work. He asked me, "there's no one else to get him?" No there wasn't and that was the last time I saw that guy.
These were the online dating years - oh boy. These are the years where we want all of the options available even though I was in school and working; meeting new people often already. Somehow it wasn’t enough.I wanted to see what else was out there. Nothing wrong with wanting to explore that as long as you're safe about it. I lived in a small town at the time, where everyone knew everything about everyone and who was dating who. I hated it and longed for more opportunities to connect with people beyond that.
Toward the end of university I started working at a large department store. That along with going to school downtown opened my eyes to new opportunities to connect with various people from all walks of life. I was sheltered and confined to suburbs for most of my life. No travelling or going out further than a city over. I loved these early twenties years - the city was really essential to my growth looking back on those times. It gave me the courage to start discovering who I was as an individual beyond my grief. At this point I developed this mantra that I needed to expose myself to different opportunities that would arise and I was going in more open minded.
I faked my confidence until I made it in terms of developing new relationships. After breaking up with my high school boyfriend it did give me a bit of a boost and empowered me because I felt in full control of walking away from things that didn't serve me or were getting in the way of me doing well in school and ruining my opportunity to be successful for myself and my family.
I was drawn to dating slightly older guys who lived in the city. I was becoming more self aware and for years felt stuck in feeling that no one my age that I was around could possibly understand what I've gone through or have the maturity to be with someone like me who had experienced trauma. I had been let down in the past. But again I was seeking that connection. I wanted so badly to feel connection in the way I was seeing it around me. Happy, fun, lighthearted easy going young love. I thought maybe if I dated older people they would appreciate this more. I was so complex and maybe learned into that notion too much. I was trying to look out for me in the best way I thought and knew how to. I was just so worried about not being understood. Unfortunately I would continue to experience that. I learned that it wasn't about the age of the guys I dated, it all had to do with me. If I wasn't healing and growing, that aspect I feared in a relationship (communicating about my losses and how different my life became) would continue to follow me in every relationship I entered.
My reflections on these years and lessons learned:
That last point is an excellent spot to stop and say, TO BE CONTINUED.