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In college, the dating world involves tequila shots, Snapchat convos, and meeting up in a group setting. It’s got all the chill you don’t have. There’s no pressure or expectation when you’re “dating” in college. The moment you graduate though, it all changes. Suddenly, it’s not enough to keep everything casual and potential prospects become few and far between.
When you’re no longer dedicating your ample free time to whatever the hell you want to do (because there’s no such thing as ample free time after college), there’s intense pressure to meet someone worth actually seeing in your hours off from work. Sure, casual dating is still a thing, but for the most part, it’s more important to find something serious and substantial. Sporadic invites to meet up at the bar, “relationships” entirely dependent on Snapchat, and mind games are no longer acceptable.
Dating after college comes with high stakes — everyone feels time slipping in a way it never did in college. Suddenly, you have to worry about finding the one and settling down with someone you would want to have children with, ideally all before you hit 30.
1. Finding Someone is Hard
No longer can you walk into a party or a sketchy bar and spot three worthy candidates to share drunken conversations with. After college, you become choosier. From the moment you meet someone, you start checking them against the list of qualities you’re looking for. Are they able to hold their liquor? Are they sexist? Do they have career ambition? If someone doesn’t meet the essential criteria, you mark them off the list, even if they offer you free shots. You take the shot, of course, but then you walk away.
2. Taking it Slow isn’t Really a Thing
When you do meet someone who meets the criteria, you want to jump at the opportunity. “Taking it slow” isn’t something you say when you meet someone you want to pursue. That’s something college kids say because love is a scary, four-letter word. You don’t want to wait three days before dialing their number. You don’t want to wait three weeks to ask them out on a second date. Adults know that dating someone you like isn’t a slow thing. It’s something you jump into full force or not at all.
3. “Talking” is no Longer an Acceptable Phase
In college, it’s totally cool to merely text someone regularly. It doesn’t feel like you’re being cheated from a real relationship because everyone just wants to have fun. After college, this type of interaction is infuriating. “Talking” feels insincere, inconsequential, and like you’re just an entertaining option. Even if you’re not trying to settle down, it’s just not worth the time or energy to “talk” to someone consistently if you don’t want a relationship. You won’t find this stage outside of high school and college.
4. You Don’t communicate 24/7
Adulthood comes with a lot of demands, so few people can spend the entire day texting someone else. Texting, emailing, and calling each other all dang day means there won’t be anything left to talk about later anyway. That’s not a realistic dating expectation. However, when you do like someone, you’ll move Heaven, Earth, and appointments in order to spend face-to-face time with them.
5. It’s All or Nothing
Dating in the real world is solely for the people you actually want to spend time with. If there’s even an inkling of disinterest, you don’t date them. No one has the time to date someone they can’t feasibly see a future with. You can forget messing around in a casual way because no one wants to play games anymore.
6. Dating in the Real World Feels Impossible
When you spend the majority of your time at work (a dating wasteland) and then handling your other responsibilities, it can appear like you don’t have the time to go out and meet someone. After all, what are the odds you’ll catch the eye of Tall-Dark-and-Handsome in the grocery store or pumping gas? Pretty much zero. And who wants to say they met over a display of sweet potatoes or across the gas station trash can? No one.
Everything changes after college. Friendships, responsibilities, priorities, and dating. You can’t approach the romantic world with the same expectations you got by with during your college years. The key to surviving this shift is knowing what the changes are and knowing you’re not alone in the struggle. Next time you find yourself lamenting loneliness over a bottle of wine or belting out “I Need a Hero” because every guy at the bar is a skeeze, remember you still stand a chance. The game has changed, but you can still play to win.