I recently declared myself a feminist, and with that realization has come having to view my life experiences from a new perspective. Some of these things have been easy, such as writing these articles for example, but other experiences have been more difficult. Dating is one of them.

I’ve been in four relationships total, one of them being serious. The one thing these relationships had in common is they all happened before I became a feminist. Looking back now, I am not proud of the way I acted or let myself be treated by the men I dated. I struggled a lot with what role I should take on in these relationships, the needy girlfriend or the independent woman. Ironically it was the independent woman instincts that usually kicked in and got me in trouble for being “non-communicative,” “cold” and “uncaring” in the eyes of my boyfriends. I see now though that my actions were a result of the inner feminist waiting to get out.

You may worry about how to react in an abusive relationship.Instead of telling them to accept me for being independent, I did something else: I felt guilty for acting this way and proceeded to apologize. Anything these men asked of me, I delivered. I even let these men tell me who I could and couldn’t talk to or spend my time with. I put these men before my friends, family and myself. At the time, I didn’t realize I was allowed to say no or choose an alternative. I thought I was being a bad girlfriend, when in actuality I was being a bad feminist.

I let these guys treat me like crap because I convinced myself that I probably deserved it and they deserved better. I don’t wish I never dated them, because each one taught me something about myself, but I do wish that I would have stuck up for myself more. I wish I would’ve told myself that I deserved better too.

Now that I have moved on from these relationships and am dating with a different perspective, things have actually gotten much harder. I have never been the “one night stand” kind of girl, so meeting guys at parties is out of the question. If I do say no to a guy simply because I’m not interested, however, I am usually called a tease or considered stuck-up. There is a double-standard in the fact that a guy will approach a girl at a party because he finds her the most attractive one in the room, yet when a girl doesn’t reciprocate those feelings she is automatically labeled negatively. As a result, I’ve resorted to telling them I have a boyfriend because I’ve learned the best way to get a man to back off is to bring another man into the picture. Dating is hard when the opposite sex is offended by me respecting my body and reputation. Body Language cruicial for dating with confidence

Even when I do finally find a guy I am interested in and is interested back, it still doesn’t get any easier. We are in an age where women should be able to go after a guy she wants and ask him on a date if he’s taking too long to do so. I am all for women asking a guy out first, instead of waiting around for a guy to do it, but then we run the risk of coming off desperate or scaring the guy off. If I do keep my distance and wait to be asked, then I am told I’m “playing hard to get” or “cold.” Meanwhile, a guy who approaches a girl first is seen as confident and desirable. And if he just decides to ignore you altogether, he receives no repercussions.

Like I’ve said before, I think your twenties should be a time for dating around and just having fun. The guys I’ve recently come across, however, wait until two in the morning to contact me. My friends tell me I should be flattered that he’s thinking of me and I should just take what I can get, but I can’t help but think all I am to him is a booty call. Obviously I am not for this, but suddenly I’m being too hopeful in expecting a date? It’s not like I’m asking men to get down on their knee and propose, all I’m asking for is a harmless date to get to know them. This ideal is apparently too out of the box, though, even for 2014. Dating is hard when the ideal surrounding it has been changed to one that focuses less on getting to know a person and more about getting to know what color their bed sheets are — we have apps like Tinder and Grinder to thank for this. love-316640_640

What I struggle with now is maintaining my independence in a relationship. I have grown into a strong person who is pretty stuck in her morals, and I definitely don’t want to give that up for a man. I don’t want to have to become a one night stand kind of girl just to get a guy to notice me. I don’t want to have to apologize for coming off as cold or playing hard to get when really I just want respect. So I won’t, and hopefully a guy will come around soon enough who will accept me for who I’ve become and not be intimated by it.