As of late, I’ve seen tons of articles trying to reason why being in a relationship in your 20’s will be the death of you. It’s a decade of self growth and discovery and the last thing you need is to worry about someone else. There are many ways a relationship can be detrimental to your growth; but if you’re smart about it, you can use it to help you rather than work against you.
Of course, the only way this could work is with the right partner. Someone who has goals, aspirations, and shares the same values as you is more likely to get you farther rather than push you down. This type of relationship requires two mature people who have their priorities straight, but know not to let the good ones go. Here are a few tips that I like to follow in this situation:
1. Set goals for yourself and the relationship
Establishing goals for yourself is crucial when you’re in a relationship. Whether it’s a career goal or project, have something consistently in your mind that encourages self growth and failure. It prevents you from blindly moving forward and wasting time working solely on the relationship or short term goals. It is a reminder that there is something to work towards after the relationship ends (IF it does, don’t get mad).
2. Be Independent
Have a life of your own. Your happiness should come from multiple sources. Traveling…with your lover, cooking…with your lover, and hanging out with your friends…with your lover doesn’t count. Having space and time that is exclusively yours builds personal experience rather than joint ones. Personal experiences build character while joint experiences are more like memories.
Go on your own trips. From time to time I’ll ask a friend if they want to go on a trip with me and they’ll say “I have to check with (insert significant other’s name here)” or “Can (ISONH) come?” or even “I can’t, (ISONH) won’t be okay if I’m gone that long”. Imagine all the experiences you’re missing out on if you have to consider another human being in your life! Making sacrifices like this may lead to resentment or lack of motivation. Maybe you’ll start telling yourself, “I don’t need to travel anyway, it’s not necessary”. Then you start getting into the comfort zone and experiencing less and less on your own time. In my perspective, your significant other should be happy that you’re gaining life experience with or without them; it makes for a healthier relationship.
3. Set Time For Each Other
If you and your partner find that your time apart is straining to your relationship, then set some alone time. Whether work is keeping you busy or distance is a factor, it’ll keep you from guessing when you’ll see each other next. Your relationship can’t always be perfect. As much as you want everything to “fall into place” in the hands of serendipity, sometimes you have to put in the effort to make it happen. Don’t leave it to fate. If you want it, you’re going to have to work for it. Make it a rule to go on a quick trip once a month or movie night once a week.
Say it with me, communication is key. Everyone knows it and it’s because it’s so true. Establish some ground rules on how you want to manage your relationship. How long do you want to explore and discover before you settle down? How much freedom are you willing to give your partner? This is something I always think about when it comes to my relationship. When you’re single and in your 20s, you’re more inclined to meet new people and sometimes that can lead to harmless fun. But of course in a relationship, this would spark jealously and insecurities. It’s also one of the main reasons why people want to stay single during their 20s. It’s definitely something you’d want to discuss with your partner. It seems like a very controversial, millennial trend but it allows you to have the best of both worlds! No matter what your limitations are, let your partner know what you want and find a common ground. I digress. Communication! Have it!
Things are going to get frustrating and difficult. You’re not always going to see eye to eye. You may find yourself waiting or being waited on. Relationships run into their rough patches and trying to balance a personal life will leave you feeling like you’re swimming with 50 pound weights around your ankles. This is where patience and understanding are crucial. You both have multiple things going on and priorities will take their place. If you feel like you’re being left behind, announce it. If the strain to your relationship is important to them (job, etc), then try your best to understand it. It is highly unlikely that they’re purposely distancing themselves away from you so don’t victimize yourself. If you can, do something to help them. If not, be supportive; you’re both boosting their confidence and building your relationship.
Sometimes when you’re attempting to reach your goals, life punches you in the face and yells “DON’T THINK SO”. You might forget what you want, you might get lost, you might run into the other million things that can go wrong. Who wants a partner who doesn’t have their shit together? Who wants to be with someone who can’t observe the adversities we face in life. Someone who is strong out of hardship will always defeat someone who is strong without it. That’s the person you want around. Someone who accepts the lows but never takes shelter there.
6. Be ready to let go
I know you don’t want to hear it but maybe it’s because subconsciously you know it’s the right thing to do. During this whole journey, timing is against you and sometimes it wins and it’s not your fault (technically). Your time is precious and you’ve weighed out the costs and benefits. Benefits: You, Cost: Relationship. Your love for someone in time of growth should never exceed the love for yourself. Maybe the emotions are the other way around; either way, the love shouldn’t die. If it does, then that says something about your relationship already. That is your best friend going out into the world. You may not be able to hold their hand in the journey but you can always be proud of them, you can always support them, and you can always love them.
Don’t be afraid of hard work or heartache. Don’t love recklessly either. Treat it like a goal and remember that there can be failure. Failure is not the end of the relationship or the inability to hold on for as long as you can, it’s the lack of “me” and the fixation on “we”. All that being said, love the hell out of each other.