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How to Navigate the Dating World After College

Published:
June 14, 2024
June 10, 2024
Read this article for advice as you navigate dating after college. With an intentional process, it can be both fun and fruitful!

Post-grad dating life can be an unexpected challenge. While college presents opportunities to meet friends and potential partners, life outside of campus can be tricky — from office work to paying student loans and all the responsibilities in between, the dating game changes. And although many of us were led to believe in the rom-com possibilities of quite literally running into your future spouse in the quad, the fact of the matter is that most serious relationships don’t start in college. According to market data from Pew Research Center, only 2 percent of all marriages in the United States occur between two people who met on campus. This means that most couples connect in a world outside the walls of academia. 

Despite the statistics, the world of dating can seem daunting. Putting yourself out there to make a new connection can be overwhelming at times, but patience and an open mind — and heart — are key to meeting the right person, and maybe learning more about yourself along the way. 

There are no rules in dating

Previous norms around dating have changed tremendously — antiquated rules such as following one person's lead or footing the entire date bill are not as applicable today. According to “Cupid on Trial” author, Dr. Jory, “Traditionally, women were expected to follow a man’s lead, zero in on his topics, ask questions and draw him out. This only reinforced the inequality of the relationship.” She explains that couples should seek “mutual entitlement” when on their dates and focus their conversation on common topics. 

Dating games are also on the outs since playing “hard to get” is a waste of time for both individuals involved. Dr. Eliza Belle, licensed psychologist, explains that this used to be a “tactic” that forced a “pursuer” to initiate and maintain a relationship. But it ultimately results in one person being “inauthentic” and “misrepresented” when it comes to showing true feelings. 

And let’s not forget the complicated and awkward uncertainty that comes when paying the bill on a date. The expectation used to be that one person, most likely the man, would cover the check on a first date. But in our world of modern partners, this rule isn’t part of the woo-ing process anymore. Life coach April Davis noted that “65 percent of women opt to pay on the first date.” She advises her clients to split the check because it shows that both individuals are self-reliant. 

Essentially when it comes to dating, rules are made to be broken. If you want to finance the entire date, great. If you want to approach a potential suitor first, that’s great too. Making dating work for you is more important than changing yourself to date. 

Dating takes more effort

College is the epitome of organized community, where the ability to meet a potential partner is statistically more likely when you are surrounded by your peers on the regular. But, when it comes to dating off campus, in the working world, meeting a new friend or love interest isn’t so organic. Hayley Baird Riemer, advice columnist for the “FairyGodBoss” encourages graduates to get out of their comfort zone when it comes to dating. She writes, “Meet new people wherever you can. Prioritize making friends, which is going to be a whole other battle in post-grad life.” Riemer also suggests that by building a new social circle, you will ultimately connect with people who will interest you romantically too. 

According to Riemer, dating takes time. “Dating apps, blind dates and casual encounters can all take some time to work exactly the way you want them to.” She finds that remaining positive and having an open mind are two important qualities that will be beneficial when dating. 

Elly Belle, a college graduate, explains, “It’s your responsibility to create opportunities if you want to meet people.” Belle notes that she wishes she put herself out into her community sooner, but admits dating post-university does take more effort. Thus, it's important to join that dating app or meet new friends for dinner because these outings not only cultivate your personal growth, but they expand your social connections as well. A little effort goes a long way when taking the plunge into the dating world. 

Dating feels more serious

Being able to discern the qualities and characteristics that are valuable to you in a romantic partner takes a certain level of seriousness. And post-grad life is a great time to evaluate what qualities you want in a significant other. This means that dating just for fun may become frivolous, while dating in an intentional way just makes more sense. According to psychotherapist and relationship expert, Julie Orlov, “Before you start dating around, it’s a good idea to figure out what you value in a partner or relationship.” She writes that understanding your values will help you avoid getting swept away by a relationship that will not work in the long run. Orlov also notes that it is appropriate to ask your date direct questions about what they are looking for by the third or fourth date. 

Online dating coach Damona Hoffman seems to agree with the idea of intentionality too. Her tagline, “Date Like It's Your Job” suggests setting up dates that are worth your time. She explains, “You can date by chance and hope you connect with your dream partner, or you can date strategically and find someone who is an ideal match for you.” 

And while dating in the ‘real’ world may feel more serious, it doesn’t have to become a chore. Having an open mind and a willingness to ask deeper questions can help you discover your values when it comes to choosing the right partner. 

Meeting (a date) may come through your own hobbies

As crazy as this may seem, dating yourself is a great way to meet new friends or even new love interests. Filling your own cup, as some may say, means finding time to do an activity that you enjoy — whether it’s learning pickleball or joining an art club. Honing in on an interest is also a way to meet others who share the same interests as you.

Dr. Tina B. Tessina, author of “The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again,” finds it important to “focus on making friends, not on finding romance.”  She further explains that the more friends you make, the better chances you have of meeting someone you’re interested in dating. Most importantly, taking a chance on yourself may be the most significant step when it comes to dating. 

Dating post-college can seem a bit overwhelming, especially if you live in a new city or find yourself at a new job. Yet, this is where intentionality comes into focus — by finding out more about yourself, you ultimately will draw in the right person at the right time.

Creators:
Lauren Lawson
Published:
June 14, 2024
June 10, 2024
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