If you've perused women's dating conversations on TikTok lately, you may have noticed an influx of women — typically in their mid-20s or older — maturely and openly talking about how they've yet to be in a relationship or have their first kiss. And as the many comments confirm, it's actually super normal and common.
So in an effort to further normalize this, here are 21 stories by women who have chimed in as self-identified "late bloomers" on Reddit to share how their dating lives worked out:
1."I did not date or kiss anybody until I was 24; now we're married. I would have told you in high school and college that it was because I was unattractive and unlovable. In retrospect, I was extremely shy and always more interested in 'true love' than in flings or casual relationships. I met my husband in grad school, and we really hit it off. He never cared about my lack of experience, and the timing was perfect because we were both mature enough for a long-term relationship and marriage — which is pretty much what I wanted all along."
2."I was extremely shy and closed off in middle and high school. I had crushes on several guys, but that was the extent. Many people would ask why I didn't date, but it just wasn't something I was pulled to do. I'd have loved to have someone around, but I was too scared to initiate anything because anyone I liked didn't feel the same. I also had never been asked out, so why bother? I didn't have my first date and boyfriend until I was 26. It lasted a year but never got physical. He was really odd about it. Come to find out, he's gay. (No wonder he didn't like to make out, LOL.) The first time I got physical with someone, I was extremely nervous. I felt dumb and didn't know what to do. I then met my current partner in 2018, and it's been magic. I'm glad I waited, and I feel extremely lucky to have found someone who didn't judge my lack of experience."
"That first time I got physical, I felt so out of the loop. He was very physical — that's all he seemed to want to do while we were dating for the month. On the other hand, I was like, 'Can we do anything else?' I just wasn't ready. He didn't pressure me or anything, he just seemed to want to get in my pants more than he wanted to do anything else together."
3."In some ways, it worked out for me to be a late bloomer. I have a bad habit of giving too much in relationships, and the younger me would've been unable to balance being a student and a girlfriend. I think I avoided or delayed a lot of stress and heartbreak during those years, but I also delayed learning about myself and what I wanted/needed in a relationship. I was a late bloomer partly due to my personality, my religious upbringing, and having a family that sheltered me. Getting into the dating pool in my late 20s was nerve-racking, but honestly, I don't think guys noticed much. Despite hearing horror stories, I think the response was better than expected. I'm not in a relationship now, but I'd say things worked out."
4."I was a late bloomer, but I don't feel that I was behind or that I was the problem. I just knew what I wanted. I didn't date as a teen because I watched my peers jump in and out of relationships as if it meant nothing. I didn't want that. I had my first boyfriend at 23, but that didn't last long. About a year later, I met my significant other, and we've been together since."
5."I started dating at 22. I was a self-proclaimed commitment-phobe and didn't see the point of dating around, as I didn't want to be in a relationship anyway. Essentially, I thought it was a bit cruel to go on dates when guys asked if I'd only end up leading them on. Once I turned 22, a switch flipped, and I found I might want to try dating. Actually, my friends changed my perspective on this. They told me to think of dating as just meeting someone new — like networking but more fun. If there's a spark, great! If not, that's also great. You put yourself out there, and that's what counts. Anyway, my birthday is in December. After I turned 22, I decided that one of my New Year's resolutions would be to go on dates and meet new people. In February, I went on my first-ever date with this wonderful guy. In a few days, it'll be 10 months for us!"
6."I was in my mid-20s when I started dating. Looking back, what was the rush? Everyone I knew who dated back then and earlier than I did never spoke to their exes again — lots of teenage angst. Never mind college; it was the same thing. I was almost 30 when I met my soulmate. Like everyone says, there is no timeline."
7."Until I was almost 21, I'd never had any sort of relationship that wasn't text-based (or was longer than three weeks). I'd never been asked on a date or had anyone express interest in me. Throughout high school and college, I had many friends, met many people, and went out often. But for some reason, nothing ever worked out for me — not even casual hookups (and I frequently used dating apps). During my second year of college, COVID-19 hit, but I still dated four guys over the summer. After some reflecting, I realized I wasn't necessarily having trouble 'finding the right guy,' 'coming into my own,' or 'getting more confident in and loving myself.' Rather, I didn't have a strong sense of identity. I've always been someone who mirrors others' energy in social settings — usually to help everyone feel more comfortable or while interacting at my customer service jobs — and I didn't know who I was in a relationship."
8."At around 9 years old, I developed anxiety and depression. I couldn't put myself out there in middle and high school. I also had terrible acne that ripped apart any shred of my self-esteem. I had my first kiss at 26. That guy ghosted me, but I found another guy a few months later. We started dating and then — when I was 28 — got married. I'm now 30, and things are great. I don't regret not having more experience because I love my husband a lot, and he's my best friend. We started as friends, as I wasn't initially into him romantically. It's certainly been a challenge learning to be open with someone after keeping to myself for 26 years, but he's patient and tries to be as helpful as possible."
"Because I found being inexperienced embarrassing, I tried not to talk about it a lot."
9."I didn't start seriously dating until I was 23 (I'm now 26) due to fear of rejection and general discomfort. While I agreed to go out a few times when asked, I had no interest in the dating scene. Eventually I wanted to see what it was about. I waited a while to see if anyone (specifically the guy I was interested in) would ask me out, but it didn't happen. So I decided to ask him myself. He said yes to the first date — a wonderful and elating feeling — but afterward, he had no interest in anything further. I thought I'd be sad, and for a moment, I was. But then I realized I could finally put this guy behind me. Obviously, he wasn't the one. I did my part, and it didn't work out. Instead of feeling rejected, I felt free to move past whatever silly ideas I had about him. Since then, I've gone on many other dates."
10."I didn't get into dating, kissing, etc., until my mid-20s. I think I knew myself pretty well and was happy with who I was alone, so I didn't feel as desperate to date when I was younger and in college. I wanted someone to add to my life, but the time alone actually made me not care as much. I would have still liked myself if dating didn't work out. I've since met my now-partner of eight years or so, and we're still happy and having fun."
11."I was a late bloomer because I was very shy growing up and had an overprotective family. In high school, guys were afraid of my dad and older brothers, so no one asked me out or expressed interest until I went to college. Once there, I realized that I am conventionally attractive and that men do like me. However, I beat them off with sticks because I was so inept and scared. I was so far behind emotionally that I just wasn't ready at all. After college, I had to care for a sick family member for a few years, so I didn't start dating until my mid- to late 20s. I didn't have great self-esteem and was unaware of red flags and emotional manipulation. As a result, I had a few terrible relationships with guys who didn't deserve me. A few years later, I took a multiyear break from dating to focus on myself and learned to establish boundaries, get right with loving myself, and figure out what I wanted and didn't want in a man. I met my husband in my 30s."
12."My dating life ended up going awesomely. I waited a really long time to date, for a lot of different reasons. I just wasn't ready when I was younger."
13."I lost my virginity at 20 and had my first boyfriend at 24. I was so desperate that I didn't see he was a dick who treated me horribly. My friends then started getting married, and I was still single. Four years later, I met a guy and had a connection with him I'd not experienced until then. He called me every night, made dates a week in advance, and showed me what it was like to be pursued, but he eventually ghosted. Another four years went by, and I met a guy from work. We didn't talk right away, but once we did, there was clearly something between us — but he had a girlfriend. I'll let you imagine what happened, but I realized I never spoke up about how I truly felt in so many instances because I was so desperate not to be alone. Being late to the game meant it took me longer to figure out how to act around men, what I should or shouldn't put up with, and how to value myself over others. I finally realized I'm awesome the way I am."
14."I was a late bloomer — as were many of my friends and my husband — and I don't think it made a big difference. Many people are bad at dating even with years and years of experience, and it doesn't take much time to catch up. Take an honest look at your situation, and think about what you feel you need to do differently if you want a different result from what you're getting. Relationships can happen spontaneously, but dating is a skill. Maybe ask some honest friends or family members for feedback if you think it would help. From the inside, it can be difficult to identify exactly what the 'problem' is — if there is one at all."
15."I had my first kiss at 25 and first date at 29. I've only dated two people, but I was honest with them about being inexperienced — though I didn't straight-up say, 'This is the first date I've ever been on in my life.' They seemed fine with it. Nevertheless, I still feel self-conscious about it, especially now that I'm 30."
16."I didn't start dating until my late 20s. Now that I look back, I'm okay with that. But at the time, I had major FOMO because I'd never been in love or in a serious relationship. I felt behind or perhaps somehow stunted compared with my peers. However, I tend to throw too much of myself into a relationship, so I'm glad I wasn't dating as a student. (My grades would've tanked, LOL.) Most of my friends are just now getting married in their 30s, so I think that helps not to feel behind. Now that I've been in some relationships and feel as if I've adequately experienced both sides, I've confirmed that I'm happy solo, too. The younger me also had trouble keeping boundaries and standing up for herself, so I'm glad I got into dating when I was a little older."
17."I had my first dates, my first kiss, and sex for the first time all at 24. I was anti-commitment then, so I only wanted a sexual relationship. I was super picky about who I spent my energy on, and many dates I went on weren't fulfilling. I was so inexperienced, but I wanted to feel as if I was taking a risk for once in my life. All of the dates were from dating apps. Eventually I met someone, and the chemistry was instantaneous. I was floored, but I still kept my guard up. We ended up taking a break from our 'friends with benefits' situation because I was still a commitment-phobe, but we got back together less than six months later. I'm now engaged to said person, and I truly feel we are soulmates in many ways."
18."I was a shy Black teen in a mostly all-white town, so when I was younger, none of the guys I grew up with were checking for me, to be blunt. In early college, I started dating and entered a long-term relationship. However, I still struggled to overcome feeling behind my peers because I felt so undesirable in my teen years. I am now in my late 20s, and the guy I'm currently seeing started dating in early high school. He's had several short- and long-term relationships and is much more sexually experienced than I am, and sometimes it does make me feel insecure, as if I missed out on a lot."
19."I had my first relationship at 22. It seemed late, since many people I grew up with were getting married then, but I'm very grateful he was my first partner. He was very patient with me, took things slow, and respected my boundaries. I never felt guilty for being inexperienced in that relationship. When it ended, I dealt with many insecurities I didn't know I had — the biggest being I didn't feel I deserved to be loved like that. He was the first guy to ask me out since middle school, so I struggled to believe that someone wanted to be with me and liked me for all of me. He and many of my college friends were shocked I'd never been in a relationship, which made me feel worse about being behind. I told myself I didn't have time for relationships, between school and extracurriculars, so I didn't have to think about it. It also took me a while to meet someone I actually wanted to date, partially because I didn't put myself out there often."
20."I didn't have my first kiss until I was 20, didn't date until I was 21, and didn't have sex until I was 22. I often felt self-conscious about it, but here's the thing: Only I cared. Everyone I've talked to has not cared one bit. However, I do regret not having a teenage love or getting some of the relationship awkwardness out of the way earlier. Learning how to navigate a mature, adult relationship in my first relationship was sometimes difficult."
21."I didn't start dating until my early to mid-20s and always felt that I was missing out. While I sometimes wish I had more experience, I'm thankful for the time I had to grow independently and spend with friends. I wouldn't trade that for having a high school or college boyfriend. However, I have had difficulties accepting that the guys I've dated have much more experience than I do, as they've been dating since high school or college — though it's nothing they seem to mind."
What about you? Would you call yourself a late bloomer? What's your dating experience been like? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments below.
Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.