7 Life adjustments that made me ready to date for real

Dec 18, 2013 at 9:27 a.m. ET

Some of us become ready to date before others do — we all grow up at different rates. I was a late bloomer.

happy man

I spent a lot of time blaming various women for my singleness — she's not ready, she doesn't know what she wants or she's crazy (OK, some were crazy). Looking back, it seems like I wasn't ready to date because I essentially hadn't grown up.

Don’t get me wrong — women I date don't actually think I'm a "grown-up." But my internal growth from spastic/angry 20s to thoughtful and laid-back 30s led to a slight shift in thinking that made all the difference. Some of us become ready to date before others do — we all grow up at different rates. I was a late bloomer.

Here are seven changes and developments that helped me go from floundering, confused single to single with a purpose.

I started to enjoy being alone

It started when I got older and my friends started settling down. Without so many friends going out, my FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) dissipated. I then cherished my personal Friday nights after work: bourbon, YouTube and Wikipedia. In fact, once I started dating again, that alone time became even more valuable.

I mastered the use of time in dating

Time is mastered somewhere in between realizing you have a lot of time to find the right person and not wasting time on the wrong person.

I stopped getting wasted

Alcohol amped up my natural propensity to say stupid things, and it caused me to lose focus. With my low tolerance, it never took long for me to morph into a haggard town drunk. Eventually, the fun of being wasted wore off, and I learned my limits. Getting wasted only led to negative outcomes.

I discovered there really are many fish in the sea

In the old days, I used to hyperfocus on one woman. I thought there were only a few women who were actually compatible with me. Once I realized there were lots of women out there, I was able to move on with no regrets after things didn't work out. Of course, there were "ones that got away," but I was able to learn from them and keep the experiences in perspective.

I started to care more about my career

One day, I woke up and said, "I'd better try to make as much money as I possibly can while I'm single."

I originally paid much more attention to dating. Once I started moving along in my career, I not only got more comfortable being alone (see No. 1), but I gained confidence that helped me in the dating world.

I stopped looking for the perfect woman

I finally accepted that even "The One" would sometimes annoy me or might not look flawless every minute of our lives together. Looking for that walk-on-air dream girl eliminated 95 percent of potential girlfriends in a bar or at a party. Plus, I'd be setting myself up for serious disappointment when she didn't turn out to be perfect.

I found more practical dating circumstances

I used to only be attracted to situations with insurmountable challenges. My dating requirements included never-ending, magical whirlwind romance, long-distance triumph or replacing a boyfriend to rescue a damsel in distress. Things got better when I looked for situations that were more of a natural fit. I avoided the dramatic stories I once sought. My dating life took off once I stopped trying to get the square peg into the round hole and instead started looking for a complementary puzzle piece.