There are tons of articles and lists online of things you should and shouldn’t do in your 20s. Being in my 20s, I like to read them. And I’ve noticed something that always comes up on the “don’t” lists: “don’t enter into a serious relationship.” Writers talk about how your 20s are a time to experience new things, discover who you really are as a person, and not let anything tie you down – and apparently being in a serious relationship prevents you from doing all of those things. Well no offense to all the writers of all the lists, but I disagree. So from the voice of someone in a relationship in her 20s, here are 4 reasons why it not only isn’t a bad thing, but it can be a very good and healthy thing, too.
You learn how to care for someone. From when you are born until you go off to college, or enter the work force full time, your parents are there to take care of you. Then while you are in college, you learn to take care of yourself. Sure, college isn’t quite the “real world,” but you do need to learn how to manage your time, participate in activities, and do your own laundry frequently enough to be a functioning human being. Even if you don’t have a five- or a ten-year plan at that time, you know that eventually you’ll probably have to take care of someone other than yourself, whether it be a dog, a parent, or a significant other. Being in a relationship in your 20s, while you’re still growing and developing as a person, helps you discover how to care for someone in a way that works for you. And because this is such a crucial time for you to develop, and out of just plain necessity, you figure out how to do this without forgetting your own needs in the process. Plus, caring for someone, as cheesy as it sounds, can give your life a meaning that it might be missing. Or, on the other hand, it can justify a selfish decision every once in a while, because you know you aren’t making them every day. Then, when it is time for you to make caring for someone a top priority, you have cultivated a healthy approach that you can maintain and cherish.
You have someone to care for you. I recently graduated college, started a new job, and moved to a new city. My parents are four hours away. My sister is five hours away. My best friend is 1,000 miles away. But my boyfriend is here. And there is a good chance I would be rather unstable and stressed much more often than I am if he wasn’t. Sure, we learn how to be independent and how to take care of ourselves in college. But like I said, college isn’t the “real world.” Here, we have responsibilities like grocery shopping and car repairs. It may not seem like much on paper, but there are days when you, when I, just want to curl up in a ball, sit in the corner, and let the world happen without me. But the real world doesn’t let you do that. And if your significant other happens to be in his or her 20s as well, he or she understands that and is going through it with you. Having someone with whom you already share an intimate connection who understands the changes happening in your life can be irreplaceable on those days when the corner just seems to be calling to you. And knowing you have a hug waiting for you after sitting in traffic for over an hour can mean the difference between a terrible horrible no good very bad day and one that could’ve been better, but maybe wasn’t all that bad.
You can start a family before you’re 35 (if you want to). If you ask any random person walking down the street, they will probably tell you that everyone is settling down and having babies later in life now than they did 20 years ago. But a recent Gallup poll showed that public opinion hasn’t actually changed much, if at all, in the last two decades: the majority of Americans still believe women should have their first child by the time they are 26. I’m not saying that means this is every woman’s dream, but if it is, how is she supposed to accomplish it if everyone is telling her she shouldn’t even be in a serious relationship yet? Could that make her change her plans, even if changing her plans isn’t what she wants? It might. My mom was 28 when she had me (I’m the oldest in my family), and we have an amazing relationship. I hope that I can have the same kind of relationship with my kids, when I have them, and I think my age has a lot to do with how that relationship will develop. Do I know how this “plan” will affect the career I just started? No. But aren’t my 20s about trying to figure all that out? And who says I can’t figure it out while in a serious relationship?
You found the one. It’s gotta be that can’t eat, can’t sleep, reach for the stars, World Series kind of stuff, right? Well, what if you find that in your 20s? Are you supposed to say “no thanks, I’ll pass, just give me, like a decade, then we can hook up”? You aren’t going to do that. You’re going to grab onto it, build it, nurture it, and if it really is the real thing, you aren’t going to let it go.