How life after 25 changes the dating game

Last week, local netizens went nuts over a viral post on the Facebook page NUS Confessions, where an anonymous student complained that her boyfriend took her to Sushi Tei for her birthday dinner. 


PHOTO: Ingimage

Last week, local netizens went nuts over a viral post on the Facebook page NUS Confessions, where an anonymous student complained that her boyfriend took her to Sushi Tei for her birthday dinner.

“For a birthday celebration, Sushi Tei seriously? This would be the kind of restaurant I would casually meet up with friends at, and not some place I would patronise for a special occasion. A card and no present? Yes, a card is sweet, but another way of looking at it is: cheap.”

You’d think that we’d agree with the commenters who called her a shallow gold-digger, but we couldn’t help but sympathise with the girl. Then again, we’re no longer in university. A decade ago, we would have been content with takeaway zi char and a movie for special occasions. Now that we’re approaching 30, the choice of Sushi Tei for a birthday dinner seems a little underwhelming. We’re not asking for a 5-star Michelin restaurant, but somewhere with linen napkins wouldn’t hurt.

While dating was once easy, even fun, entering adulthood pulls up the stakes, making you measure potential relationships according to standards that don’t apply when you have the luxuries of time, youth, and a large pool of potential partners. So if, like us, you’re on the “wrong side of 25,” read on and bask in the feelings.

1. You have to deal with the prospect of aging

We know, we know, 25-year-olds who bemoan their “old age” probably deserve to be slapped, but tell that to a guy who’s experiencing premature hair loss. According to a study by the inventors of Alpecin, a caffeine-based shampoo formula for the prevention of hair loss, hair loss threatens nearly 1 in 5 relationships in Singapore. While 7 percent of people who contemplate dumping someone who was going bald, about 10 percent would feel embarrassed even introducing their hairless partners to family and friends. Even if you aren’t going bald, you have to deal with the effects of lower metabolism, wrinkles, and for women, the dreaded biological clock.

On the bright side: If your age has granted you maturity and experience, then you’re probably more discriminating in who you date as well. While the younger you would have simply gone for the rich, charming, and attractive partners, the older you will have an eye for people who are actually spouse material. You might not even have to meet anyone new – given your perspective, the men and women you overlooked before may suddenly look a lot more appealing in the long run.

2. Dating becomes more expensive

This isn’t just about first dates, either. We’re talking Christmas presents, anniversary presents, Valentine’s Day bouquets, and even gifts for each other’s families. Suddenly, his friends all get engaged. Now you have to contribute a red packet. Sure, you’re making more money now than you did when you were younger, but a chunk of your salary will have to go into an HDB or wedding fund. And if you two really do end up together, well, that S$300 you spent on her birthday present is only the beginning.

On the bright side: You can afford to be generous. There’s a certain thrill in pulling out all the stops on a nice gesture. While 22-year-old you could afford a watch and Cedele at best, 30-year-old you can now bestow an iPad Air and a reservation at the CUT by Wolfgang Puck.

3. You become too tired and busy to date

You work from nine to six every day. Sometimes you stay until 10. At night, you go to the gym or hang out with your friends at the same old bar, where you see the same old ineligible people. On Saturdays, you stay home to recoup. On Sundays, you clean the house and do laundry. Live like this, and you can easily go five years without getting into a single relationship.

On the bright side: You’re a lot happier being single when you have things to focus on other than your relationship status. Maybe you don’t have time to date intensively right now, but you might as well enjoy the opportunity to “do you” for a while.

4. It’s tougher to meet people

Meeting people is easy when you’re young, especially when you’re in school. You’re always changing classes, going to parties, and participating in campus activities. This is not the case when you enter the real world. Unless you have a job that allows you to meet lots of new people, you see basically the same folks day after day. And if none of them are dateable, then you’re pretty much stuck. You’ve either got to give some of the prospects you overlooked a second chance, or you’ve got to bite the bullet and ask your friends to help set you up.
On the bright side: University-aged you would feel super embarrassed admitting that she needs help meeting people, working-age you has finally relinquished the dream of a Hollywood meet-cute in favour of asking her friends if they know any good candidates. Once you get past the idea of making magical eye contact with a stranger across the room, you’ll appreciate having friends who can vet dates for you before you even go on them. Plus, if all else fails, you finally have a legitimate excuse to try speed dating, online dating, and other cringe-worthy singles meetups.

5. Breakups get scarier
Breakups suck no matter what, but breaking things off with someone at age 20 is way less stressful than the prospect of being dumped at 27-30. Rather than starting over, plenty of men and women just marry their long-time partner and trust that it will work out. Conquering your grief, meeting someone new, and forging a relationship is simply too daunting when you know that you’re close to the purported “expiration date” for marriage.

On the bright side: Great, you’re single again at age 28 after getting out of a seven-year relationship. At least now you have a better idea of what you want in the long run – what type of lifestyle you’re comfortable with, what types of traits you value in another person, and what you want to do in the future. Knowing these things will help you be more discriminating with you date once you’re ready to go back on the market.

6. Your family, family, and social media serve as a constant reminder of your singleness
When you’re in your early 20s, you have to do everything you can to convince people that your relationship isn’t affecting your studies. When you hit 25, you have to deal with your family and friends asking when you’re going to get engaged. And God help you if you reach 30 without having a wedding ring on your left hand. People assume you’re either a player, a commitment-phobe, or socially awkward, when the reality is that you simply haven’t met the person you’re going to marry. It doesn’t help that even Facebook and Instagram serve as constant reminders of how everyone’s getting married except for you.
On the bright side: If you’re going to spend the next 50 years with someone, what’s a few more left to enjoy your independence?

7. You start to become set in your ways
Old habits die hard. And now that you’re out of school, you’re well on your way to being an old dog. While university-aged you could conceive a relationship with someone completely different from you, the adult you puts a higher premium on people who share your values. The pool becomes a lot smaller once you realise that you need to eliminate people whose personalities, character, and vision are on a different planet.
On the bright side: Being realistic doesn’t mean being unromantic. It just means that you and whoever you end up with will fight over fewer things, since will have so much more in common than you did with your university boyfriend. Plus, you maybe never have to deal with an “either the cats go or I go!” type of ultimatum again.

8. You start comparing your past experiences
Unless you’ve been single for the past five to seven years, you’ve probably dated more people as a 25-year-old than you did as an 18-year-old. The more people who date, the more you mentally size them up against each other, meaning that you rejected a perfectly good guy because he looked like your evil ex-boyfriend.
On the bright side: Hey, at least you’ve had a couple of “practice relationships” before getting into the permanent one. Thanks to your previous boyfriends and girlfriends, you’re better at handling conflict, at making more of an effort, and being emotionally available for the other person.

9. You have to take relationships seriously
Want to be the next George Clooney or Leonardo DiCaprio? Then go ahead and stop reading. But if you ever plan on getting married or starting a family, then you’ve probably started feeling pressure to stop dating aimlessly and to start getting serious about choosing and becoming someone’s spouse. Not only is it tougher to meet new people, but you also have to consider whether or not you can be with them in the long run. While 20-year-old you could date someone on the basis of attraction and common interests, adult you has to think about child-rearing, standards of living, and what both of you want in the next five years or so.
On the bright side: Your relationships have a stronger foundation when you start dating intentionally. The cycle of breaking up, making up, and having flings might finally be over.

10. You must fight to avoid getting jaded
Despite your best efforts to take dating more seriously, you might still end up heartbroken, alone, and with no prospects well into your 30s. You’re so bitter and disillusioned that you swear off dating completely, claiming that you have the “gift of singleness” and that marriage just ain’t for you. Before long, your stubborn refusal to fall in love becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and you die alone in your flat, surrounded by cats and bottles of wine.
On the bright side: Okay, there’s probably no bright side if you’re already dead and alone. But as long as you’re alive, there’s always a chance that you’re just a late bloomer. And marrying late has its benefits. For one thing, you’ll enter into the relationship with stronger finances (luxurious newlywed flat, anyone?). For another, you’ll give hope to fellow singletons who fear dying alone. And of course, you’ll walk down the aisle with gratitude that you found love after all. 

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