At 19, I Don’t Have Enough Dating Experience

I want to hear the relationship/dating problems that are stressing you out. Tell me what’s on your mind. Submit your own question here. You can also email [email protected].


I’m 19, in college, and want to start dating – although what I really want is to be in a loving and stable relationship. I’m aware that I have to go on dates before that happens. The problem is, I have no idea how to make that happen. I’m struggling with a lot of shame around my lack of experience (which is zero). At this point, all of my friends are in long-term, stable, romantic relationships. None of my friends in high school dated or really seemed to think about it much, so I feel like someone’s pulled a bait-and-switch on me. I assumed that everyone would be in the same situation as I am, navigating this for the first time, but it seems like everyone just fell into a relationship, and now I have no one to relate to.

I also don’t understand how they found someone (and why I haven’t). Thinking about dating brings up a lot of feelings of inadequacy and loneliness, because I feel like no one has ever seen me that way and no one ever will, and it makes me feel left out since everyone around me is dating. I desperately want to experience a relationship before I leave college.

I’ve made a dating profile but feel too shy/anxious to actually meet someone off of there. Also, that’s nothing like the romantic scenarios I’ve always imagined, and that makes me feel disappointed. Do I have to suck it up and get on the apps? If I want to meet someone in person, how would I do that? And more importantly, how can I feel better about where I’m at dating-wise?

– Lost and Lonely


You can’t experience everything at once. Please know that while your friends are learning how to be in a relationship, you’re learning what it’s like to be a single person in college. Different lessons, all of them important. Maybe they’ll figure out single life later, while you’re coupled. You might be an outlier in your community at the moment, but you’re not missing out on anything. You are getting experience at something.

You might not know the other 19-year-olds who are new to dating, but I assure you, they’re out there. The world is big, and everyone’s just trying to figure out how to do the next thing. The single people are on those dating apps. Some having intentions that match yours, some don’t. Chatting and meeting up with them is how you figure out who’s a match.

Now let’s talk about the “romantic scenarios” you imagined. How lovely you have a great imagination! After many years of writing this column and doing a podcast, though, I have learned that meeting on an app might be the most romantic thing possible. We did a podcast episode about meet-cutes – these perfect ways people meet in movies that are possible in real life. What we learned was that the “cuteness” of the meet didn’t match the quality of the relationship. Also, it seems kind of easy to be drawn to someone in a perfect setting like a library, or at a friend’s party, or by bumping into them in a park. But the odds of scrolling through a zillion faces, landing on one, and making the effort to get along? That’s harder. Less likely. It takes intention. It’s more serendipitous, in my opinion.

Take a small risk and see what happens when you post your profile. Remember that the people you talk to might have experiences you don’t, but they’ve still learning. They’ve never met you. Every interaction is something new.

Keep me posted.

– Meredith

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