Dating as a teenager and a young adult can be exhilarating. We meet someone who thinks we’re awesome, and we think they’re awesome, too – so we start to date. We don’t really mind if it’s short-lived, because as young adults we’re just looking for new experiences. In fact, even if we were to be in a serious relationship in our early 20s, statistically speaking, it probably wouldn’t last. One part of the couple might be head-over-heels, while the other one is feeling tied down, and not ready to feel “married” at such a young age. Or maybe neither one of you is looking for something serious, so you’re both feeling trapped by your feelings.
As you grow up, though, you start to learn that the way your partner makes you feel is about so much more than just butterflies in your stomach and a tingling in your loins. You start to value things like honesty and consistency. You want a partner who respects you and is reliable, whether or not she’s also conventionally attractive. After all, maturity is what’s really attractive, and the partner who’s ready to build and grow with you is the one who’s still going to be there when you don’t get carded for alcohol anymore. That’s the person who’s going to be there when all your teeth fall out and your hair turns grey. That’s the person who you really want to settle down with.
Because your needs are not the same as your wants.
As a young adult, you tend to focus on the things you want. It’s a normal part of growing up – but it’s one that we all outgrow sometime. Eventually, you’ll realize that you need stability, honesty, and a solid foundation, so you’ll seek out partners who give you that. Not only are you being more selective, you’re being selective about the right things.
You start to understand that the things you want in a partner – green eyes, for example, or the ability to rock in drag – are significantly less important when you have a partner who gives you what you need. These things become little bonuses if your partner does have them, but you may find that you prefer your partner’s brown eyes more than you’ve ever enjoyed green eyes. You might even find that her style is sexier than the style you thought you preferred.
When your needs are met, your wants will change to meet your needs.
Because it’s time to seize your dreams.
Your early 20s aren’t the time for being productive. You’re supposed to be the broke college student for a while, or the minimum-wage burger flipper. You’re supposed to struggle in your 20s. That’s what teaches you what you need to know for the rest of your life. All the women you dated during this time are there to be examples of what you want and don’t want for your future. Maybe you’re surprised to find that your idea of perfect has changed – or maybe you’re just disappointed that you haven’t found it yet.
But those who find “perfection” earlier in life aren’t necessarily “lucky”. They may be settling, as it takes a good bit of practice and understanding to fully understand what they need out of life. How can they know their needs are being met if they don’t know what their needs are? They’ve told themselves that this is the best it’s going to be, and they’ve stopped there.
In your later 20s and early 30s, you’ve been through most of the mistakes you’re going to make. Sure, you’ve still got some learning to do, but generally you’ve gotten most things figured out. You can actually manage the balance necessary to achieve your wildest dreams because you’ve had enough time with false dreams to understand what’s really important to you.
Because you deserve the best.
No one deserves to settle in life, but it does take some effort to make yourself worthy of the life you want. Your 20s are about focusing on a few areas of your life – but as you get older, you get better at balancing more plates, so to speak.
By the second half of your 20s, you should be able to acknowledge which parts of your life you’re unhappy with. Believe it or not, just acknowledging where there are gaps does wonders toward improving the situation, but it’s not the only step. Once you’ve uncovered what you want, you must actively work toward getting it.
You must will yourself to be the person who deserves the things you want.
In your early 20s, you don’t know who this person is. You’re experimenting and trying different “yous”, and none of them is exactly right. You’re so worried about being just right that you can forget about being authentic. But in your later 20s, you’ve had time to find your intentions, and you know what you want out of life. You know that you have a responsibility to yourself to bring the life you want – including the partner you deserve. But it requires you to be the kind of partner you want to attract.
Because you are almost ready to settle down.
But that doesn’t mean settling – it just means getting comfortable. There’s a stability that you get from having your things sorted out first. Suddenly, instead of trying to build a life around someone, you’re wanting to find someone you don’t need to make a spot for. The right person for you will fit in nearly-seamlessly, and she’ll be everything. But she won’t be your everything.
Since you took your 20s to figure out who you are, you’re your number one. You’ve built the independence that was lacking earlier in life, and (hopefully) you’ve got a solid financial situation to keep you afloat. In most cases, you’ll be ready to start looking at houses – to own, instead of to rent. You want to paint the walls and build the deck, and all those other things that just seemed like so much work when you were younger.
You’ve started to value things that are customized just to your liking, and your relationships are no different. You know the only way to truly be satisfied is to satisfy yourself – and that means you’re actually putting yourself first! (Congratulations, by the way – this is a huge milestone.) Now that you’re thinking about your own needs first, you won’t settle for anything less. You’d rather have forever than instant, and you don’t mind putting in the extra work to make things just right.
But, you will need someone who’s willing to put in the work, too. Scientifically speaking, there is no difference in brain patterns between happy women in a relationship and happy women who aren’t in a relationship, but there is a huge difference in women in an unhappy relationship versus women who are single. The single women always show better brain activity in this case. Once you’re in your late 20s, you realize that it’s better to wait for the right one than it is to be with the wrong one.
Because you’ve learned the art of patience and diligence.
Most people in their early 20s are not very patient or dedicated. Many of us have no ambition whatsoever until after college, and some not even then. But once you’ve found what really motivates you, you’re already halfway on your way to achieving it – and you’re that much more likely to work towards it. You don’t mind waiting for it; in fact, you know you’ll appreciate it more if you have to wait. You don’t mind doing a bit of work, either, because that makes the difference between a job done well and a job just done.
You know that your hard work will pay off, because it has paid off so many times for you already – and you know you won’t settle for anything less.