5 Life Hacks To Dating The Right Person In Your 20s

As someone who’s had a total of two, count them, two boyfriends, I know tons about dating and relationships. But being with someone for this past year has taught me a lot more about finding and knowing if you’re with the right person.

The world of dating and relationships is filled with questions (which I know because I’ve Googled them all):

How do I know he/she likes me?

When will I find the right person?

How do I know if he/she is the one for me?

Will I ever find someone who likes Cheetos as much as I do?

Before I started dating my current boyfriend, I remember having all the questions and none of the answers (because Yahoo! Answers is worthless). But in this past year of girlfriendom I’ve relationship-ed my way to the answers I was looking for. Some of the answers turned out to be a lot simpler and more obvious than I thought they’d be. Others I never thought I’d find the answers to, but here I am, sharing my wisdom (you’re welcome). So for those currently Googling “How do I know my boyfriend/girlfriend is right for me?” while their significant other is in the bathroom and for others reading an article in Cosmopolitan titled ’12 Ways to Tell If He’s Into You”, take peace – the expert is in.

First, let me state that most importantly – you are a strong, independent woman (or man) that don’t need no man.


Sometimes I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be in relationships, to be with the right partner, to be coupled. Sometimes we see our friends or peers in relationships and we start to think, “What’s wrong with me?” But the answer is nothing. Regardless of what magazines, movies, books, tv shows, and your mother say, being in a relationship really isn’t that important. What’s important is you: understanding you, knowing who you are and what you need, being with you, loving (or at least liking) you. Because at the end of the day, when everyone is gone, you’re left with you. And if you don’t like being with you, how will you convince someone else to? We’re all messes regardless but before you start looking for someone to mesh their mess with yours, learn to love your messiness first, which can take a while, but that’s okay. It’s cool to wait!

Just kidding. Waiting is the worst. I’ve spent plenty of nights alone eating animal crackers and watching Law and Order in my bed. And I’ve kissed dozens of frogs (not that all of you boys were frogs, some of you were lovely). But it wasn’t always fun and sometimes it felt lonely. But I waited. I kissed frogs. And then a prince showed up and all that waiting was worth it. All the waiting and complaining and crying and listening to friends say, “I can’t believe you’re not dating anyone yet, you’re like PERFECT!” was over. And that will come for you, which I can only say because I know it will, because it happened to me when I was convinced it wouldn’t.

And it’s thanks to the guy who came along that I’ve learned these five things to look for while trying to find someone to be with or when trying to figure out if you’re with the right person.

Find/stay with someone who:

1. Loves your quirks – My boyfriend thinks it’s cute that I have an obsession with eating ice cubes (did I ever mention I have an obsession with eating ice cubes?). Most people think it’s weird. I think it’s weird. But he accepts it. Because he accepts me. And along the accepting lines, find/stay with someone who…

2. Loves the things you’re insecure about – I always thought I had weird thighs. For a while, my legs reminded me of tree trunks. And not like long, Rihanna leg tree trunks. More like stumps. That is until my boyfriend gave me a little perspective: “They’re perfect set-ups for your butt. And I like that butt. But you couldn’t have that butt without those legs.” Okay, while completely true, that’s a fairly silly example…wait, here’s a better one:

I have vitiligo on my lips that I developed when I was 14. And I hated it. I thought it made me ugly. I did everything I could to hide or get rid of it. But it wouldn’t go away. Sometimes I would look in the mirror and feel miserable because of it. One day, I mentioned that I was ashamed of my lips, that I hated the way they looked. And all my boyfriend said was, “I like them.” “Really?” I asked. “Yes. They’re different. They remind me of a calico cat. And I like calicos.” And he smiled at me. And every so often, when I’d take off my lip color, he’d say, “You don’t have to hide them you know. I like them.” Over and over. “I like them. I like them. I love them.” And now, my lips are no longer a feature I’m ashamed of. I don’t try as hard to cover them up. I go to school with no lip color on. I run errands. Because someone said that they loved something that I struggled to love myself.

And while these are fairly superficial examples, the principle for any insecurity is the same. It’s important to be with someone who will embrace the things you’re insecure about and who won’t just gloss over your insecurities with a compliment or a “Don’t be silly”, but will do their best to help you see yourself in a brighter light and help you learn to love the things you’re insecure of until you can get to the point where you say, “You know what? This thing I was insecure about isn’t that bad. And I do like this about me.”

3. Who is nice to you – Now this one seems obvious but it needs to be said. I have seen too many individuals, myself included, forget that one of the most fundamental qualities in a partner should be that they’re actually nice to you. Somewhere along the line, we started to allow not responding to text messages and acting uninterested and being disrespectful to be acceptable. “That’s just how guys are now,” or “Maybe it’s me,” or “She’s just playing the game” started to become our excuses. And when something nice was done for us, we immediately think the person doing it is weird or clingy (God FORBID someone wants to talk to or even hang out with you) as opposed to thinking, “Hey, maybe this is how I’m supposed to be treated”.

Fun story: During the time when my boyfriend and I first started hanging out, there was an instance where I was texting him about my day, which had been a rough one – long and tiring. After getting home late that night, I walked into my room and saw a bouquet of flowers on one of my pillows. And I started bawling. Literally. On the floor, crying.

Zooey crying

It was then that one of my best friend’s greatest lines was uttered in the doorway to my bedroom: “You know, most girls would be thrilled to have flowers brought to them after a rough day. You’re on the floor crying.” To which I responded by half-crying/half-yelling, “WHY IS HE SO NICE?” I couldn’t even compute it. After being so used to being used or manipulated or ignored or forgotten, someone genuinely showing, not only that they’re interested, but that they cared about me, literally fried my circuits.

Looking back on that day from where I am now, happily in a relationship with the guy who brought me flowers that made me cry, it’s hilarious to think that at one point, a boy being nice to me was such a crazy idea to me. Because, duh, I deserve someone who’s nice. I deserve someone who wants to brighten my day when I’m having a rough time. I deserve someone who wants to be around me and wants to talk to me. I deserve someone who will treat me like they cherish me. And so do you. And the best thing about dating someone who’s nice to you from the get-go: they stay nice to you. You can tell when someone is just being nice to get what they want out of you or to keep you around. But you can also tell when someone genuinely cares and wants to treat you the right way because they want to be with you. And those guys/girls don’t change.

4. Makes you better – Relationships aren’t just about having someone to steal french fries and blankets from (although those are pretty important too). The best partner is one that accepts you for who you are but wants to see you be even better. The best partner  wants to see you achieve your goals and wants to help you achieve them. They want to see you make choices that will better you as a person. They want to see you succeed. And they’ll be there when you feel like you can’t do something or when school is too hard or when work is getting you down and they’ll pick you up because they know you have it in you to keep going. They believe in your ability to be amazing, to be the best you can be. And that’s what they want. They believe in you.

5. Makes 365 days go by in a blur – Or makes a day go by in a blur, or an hour go by in a blur, because you’re too busy living in the moment with them to keep track of the time. When you’re with someone who you love or are head over heels for, you can’t believe how quickly the time passes. One minute you’re taking a walk in the park at noon, the next thing you know the sun is setting. (One day, he’s giving you a ride home, the next, you’ve been in a relationship for a year.) And at the same time, a day without them, without hearing from them or seeing them, feels like a week because all you want is to be with them.


As I stated previously, I know all of these things are true because I’m practically a relationship expert. But I also know they’re true because, after a long time being in the dark, feeling my way through the dungeons of dating and douchebags, I found a light at the end of the tunnel. And he’s been my light for the past year. And I never thought I’d find him. Which is why I decided to write this post, as a reminder to those with people to cherish and as a hope for those who are  feeling their way through the dating dungeon and hook-up catacombs. I never thought I’d find someone like the one I did. I thought I was destined to be discouraged and dangled on strings forever. But here I am, happier with someone than I’ve ever been.

It’s achievable.

It’s worth it.

And if you hang on long enough and find it, it’s absolutely wonderful.



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