By Anna Schoening
Millennials may get a bad wrap for posting "selfies" and texting 24/7, but the generation born after 1977 has wisdom to impart on building relationships. "Technology changed dating," says Millennial Hannah Brencher, writer and founder of More Love Letters. And Gen Y may be the tech-savviest group out in the dating world. But they have many more lessons to share about finding love than just "try online dating" (though that's important, too!). Here are their top tips. Photo by Getty Images.
1. Celebrate your sexuality.
Millennial expert Jean Twenge, PhD, author of Generation Me, says young women's attitude today is, "'This is who I am and I like sex'-which was a radical notion not long ago," she says. That comfort makes them more likely to seek out partners. The lesson: "When you're attracted to a guy, go for it." In addition to bucking shame about sex, Kelly Campbell, PhD, associate professor of psychology at California State University, San Bernardino, points out, "Our bodies change as we age, and so do our preferences. Examine your body. See what feels good and what doesn't so you can communicate that to your partner."
2. Confidence gets attention.
Jumping into the dating pool calls for high self-esteem, and Millennials know that well. Dr. Campbell says the best way to boost your self-image is to spend time on activities that improve it. "If you're shy about your body, go for walks, join a gym or take dance classes," she says. Besides lifting your self-worth, "it'll increase your odds of meeting a partner who shares your lifestyle." Take stock of what you want to excel in and go from there, she says.
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3. Be open to different partners.
Dr. Twenge says Gen Y is more comfortable with diversity than Baby Boomers. "For them, it's not a big deal to date outside of your ethnicity or religion," she says. Dr. Campbell adds that Millennials also don't discount someone who doesn't have a preset list of traits. Love comes in many forms, and people often find it where they least expect it but, Dr. Campbell cautions, "some people's culture and religion are central components of their lives." So if you meet someone whose background is different, make sure you're clear on how important your beliefs and traditions are-and vice versa.
4. Embrace online dating.
Millennials get criticized for how plugged in they are, but that affords them more ways to meet people, says Brencher. "Millennials use OK Cupid, Match.com and Tinder," she says. So get online or use a mobile dating app. "If the older generation could get over the stigma they associate with online dating, they'd have more options," explains Dr. Campbell. If you're skittish about meeting men online, Dr. Campbell suggests not creating a profile right away. "Just browse through profiles for three months and see if you find anyone you like."
5. Facebook can be an excellent matchmaker.
"It's a good starting point if you're interested in someone," Brencher says. "It used to be a mystery of what you were walking into, but Facebook allows you to see if you have shared interests." Dr. Campbell adds it's a low-pressure place to look for potential mates. "Unlike dating sites, there's no expectation of romance with Facebook. It's like meeting through a friend." Still, Dr. Twenge points out, "You can learn a lot, but you have to spend time together in person to know how you feel."
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6. Texting can make new couples closer.
Don't roll your eyes at the young couple texting instead of talking; it can actually help plant the seeds for real communication! "Texting keeps you in touch when there's distance or difference in schedules," Brencher says. She suggests texting a photo of something interesting you like, or just asking him how his day is. Another bonus: It can diffuse an awkward situation. "It's a great way to begin a relationship when you don't know what to say next," Dr. Twenge says. "You can contemplate your answers." But don't use texting as an easy way out. "Younger generations might be comfy breaking up via text," Dr. Campbell says, but you should still end things the old-fashioned way: in person.
7. Formal dates are overrated.
Millennials are eschewing traditional courtship in favor of just "hanging out." This approach can let a friendship develop more naturally, which is essential for building a lasting relationship, Dr. Campbell says. Instead of going to a restaurant or planning a whole day of activities, a good first date is something simple you both enjoy, like going for a walk or a coffee, she says. "Ideally, decide on an activity you both love and then do it together." You'll save money and get to know each other without worrying about spilling your food.
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8. Be picky.
There may seemingly be fewer available partners for 40- and 50-somethings, but that doesn't mean you should settle for whoever comes along. Dr. Campbell says the most important thing is to find someone who appreciates you. "Don't stick with anyone who criticizes you or how you look," she says. "Say, 'I didn't ask.'" Even if he does appreciate you, assess the whole picture. "I look for someone who's going to be a great addition to my life, not someone to complete me," says Brencher.
9. There's no shame in being single.
Millennials are marrying much later than Baby Boomers, Dr. Twenge says. Because they spend more time than the older generations unmarried, there's less judgment of women who aren't in a relationship. "If someone says, 'Oh, you're single,' in a condescending way, say, 'No, I'm available,'" Brencher recommends. "Women have so much more at our fingertips than 20 years ago. We don't need to be defined by our relationship status." The point: Never feel bad about being available!
10. Self-discovery should never end.
Don't stop figuring out who you are and what you want just because you're over 40. "There's a general tendency to become less open and more conservative as we get older," Dr. Campbell says. "But your experiences change you. It's important to get to know yourself again, especially after a divorce
." Brencher's advice: "My aunts wrote me a letter when I graduated college saying, 'Get busy doing the things you love and you'll find love there,'" she says. "Life's an adventure, right?"
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