Dear Eyeopener: An advice column for late bloomers

You asked, we answered; there’s no right or wrong time to learn about love.

words by serena lopez
visuals by laila amer

Dear Eyeopener: An advice column for late bloomers

You asked, we answered; there’s no right or wrong time to learn about love.

Do you feel like you haven’t had as many experiences in the love department as your friends? Haven’t had your first kiss yet? Or have yet to experience your first relationship? Never fear! For this year’s annual Love and Sex Issue, The Eye is offering our advice to you lovely “late” bloomers to help you navigate the nuanced world of love and relationships.

Am I doomed? I’m a third-year university student and I’ve never been in a serious relationship. Every time I get close to someone my anxiety gets the better of me and I unintentionally distance myself from them. I’m not exactly sure what I’m afraid of, what I want from a relationship or if I’ve even ever had a serious crush. I just know that anxiety and denial make the decisions before I can. How do I become the ruling force in my potential relationships?

— Anxious Andy

When it comes to getting involved in a serious relationship, there’s no right or wrong time. If you start developing feelings for someone, ask yourself why you feel that way about them. Try writing down what you have in common, why you like spending time with them and how they make you feel about yourself. We often try to mirror or recreate a feeling or a scenario that we’ve seen in movies or heard from others, rather than checking in with ourselves about how we actually feel. Take the time to get to know people without any expectations; maybe a friendship is all you're ready for.

Another important thing to keep in mind is that there’s absolutely no rule that says romantic attraction to someone always has to result in a serious relationship. It’s OK to enjoy each other’s company, even if it doesn't go anywhere. Instead of concerning yourself with the possibilities of what a relationship with this person could look like, acknowledge that what you’re feeling is scary and new and you can take as long as you need to figure it out.

A way to lessen some of the uncertainty that you’re feeling with relationships is to strengthen your connection with yourself first. What are your passions? Who are you when you’re alone and no one is watching? The more that you know and love about yourself, the less scary it is to let someone else in on your greatness. Only you can decide when that feels right to you. When you are ready to take that next step, I’m sure it’ll be great.

How do you initiate a kiss? Every time I think about it I get super stressed out because I don't know what to do with my eyes, hands or mouth. Help!

— Sophomore Smoocher

First things first, does the other person want to be kissed? Besides reading their body language, ask them if you can kiss them before making your move. No, it won’t ruin the mood, I swear. Being on the same page about a kiss is not only necessary but also alleviates some of the stress of kissing someone.

After you’ve established that both people involved are interested in macking on each other, one way you can initiate is by slowly moving your hands to the side of their face, neck or waist. Lean in, relax your jaw, pucker your lips slightly and press them into the other person’s lips. Start simple; once you get comfortable with doing that, if your partner is into it, you can maybe try kissing with tongue—just not in the way Edward practically eats Bella in Twilight. The more you try it, the more natural it’ll feel. Before you know it, you’ll be on your way to charging people at kissing booths.

I'm in my second year and I’ve never been in a labeled relationship before—I've always thought I would've had one by now. I've done all the things that are involved in a relationship, but the people I’ve talked to always say they can't commit the time or effort I'm looking for (I don't think I'm that high-maintenance?). I haven't met many people who've also never been in a proper relationship, so it's usually hard to relate to others.

— Situationship Veteran

The most important aspect of being in a romantic relationship is establishing that you both agree on its status and your expectations of one another. If you know what you want from a partner, don’t be afraid to express that to them at the beginning. Vice versa, it’s important to respect what they want from you. And if their expectations don’t align with yours, remember that it’s not personal.

Being in a relationship takes a lot of time, effort and communication. If the people you’re meeting can’t offer that to you quite yet, it’s OK to recognize that you deserve someone better suited to you and where you are in your life. Not everyone is in the right place to maintain a serious relationship, so why force anything if they’re not ready? I’m a huge believer that nothing happens before it’s time. The more you continue to learn about yourself and meet new people, the more likely you are to attract the right person who can give you what you need and deserve. Your special someone is out there, I promise, and situationships aren’t any less valuable of a life experience.

I'm inexperienced with dating. I feel like I "should" have more experience at my age but probably due to fear of failure rejection, I’ve put off dating entirely. What should I do?

— Dater-in-waiting

Society has done a great job of convincing us that our value stems from our ability to tick off accomplishments from a list—by 18 you should have your driver’s license, by 25 you should have your own apartment, by 35 you should be married with kids in a house with a two-car garage.

More recently, a 2018 U.S. study by the General Social Survey found that 51 per cent of adults aged 18-34 said they were not in a serious romantic relationship. In other words, you’re not alone. There’s nothing wrong with taking the time in your early twenties to learn about yourself and figure out what you want from a relationship. Maybe your priority right now is focusing on your studies, traveling or simply having fun with friends and family without having to navigate another person’s emotions along with your own. There's absolutely no rush.

Whatever the case may be, don’t be afraid of failing at dating. Part of the fear of stepping into the dating world for the first time is that it’s new, and no one tells you what the heck to do or how to do it. The best way to get better at anything in this world is to try it, fail at it and try again. This way, you’ll figure out your expectations for dating and you'll probably have some hilarious stories to joke about with your friends for the rest of your life. If you feel like you're ready to start dating, do it because you want to, not because you feel like you have to. Your future self will thank you for being patient.

What advice do you have for a girl who thought she was straight well into her teenage years and has only ever been with guys? Flirting with girls is totally different. How do I do it?

— Fresh Flirt

I think the one foolproof flirting trick that works with girls, gays, theys and whoever else is to make the other person laugh. Joking with someone is a great way to break the ice and initiate a conversation. You don’t have to be a comedian but banter a bit, tease them and try to develop inside jokes.

Always remember to pay attention to consent and body language, but you don’t have to be afraid to actually express your interest. It can be easy to fall into the trap of over-politeness and a purely platonic approach because we all know what it’s like to receive unwanted attention. But if she’s expressed some form of interest as well, you don’t have to feel guilty or creepy for making a move. Compliment her, ask her about her interests, whether she’s seeing anyone and most importantly, listen.

If you want to really impress her, bring up topics she’s talked about in your next conversation or send her things that make you think of her. It shows her that you care about what she’s thinking and what she likes. And hey, maybe by then you’ll have a good gauge on whether it's time for you to confess your feelings for her and see where things go.

Questions have been edited for length and clarity.

chevron_leftReturn to homepage