I am 27 and I've been in a relationship for pretty much the entirety of my 20s.
Of course, things weren't always perfect between my boyfriend and me. I spent my early-mid 20s panicking constantly about whether or not he was "the one" and fearing that if we broke up, I would have to start over at 24, or even worse, 27. I compared my love and sex life to literally everyone else I knew. We fought -- a lot. I did some things I now regret, and so did he. We broke up a few times and had periods when we were "on a break," but somehow we stuck it out and are happy as hell together today.
After doing a lot of stupid shit and watching my friends do a lot of stupid shit, I have learned a great deal about love and dating. Here are 12 things I wish I knew about relationships in my early and mid 20s.
1. You're not "wasting your time" if you don't know whether or not you want to end up with the person you're dating. How can you know if you really want to be with someone without giving it a try?
2. But you might be wasting your time if you know the person you're with has no intention of staying with you forever. Don't hang around because you think you can convince someone to like you. Don't assume someone is going to change. Don't stay with someone who doesn't take you seriously. Know your worth.
3. If you have a gut feeling that your significant other isn't the one, listen to it. Don't ignore it because your life timeline says you have to get engaged in two years and you don't want to go through the process of finding someone new again. The minute you start to feel uneasy about your relationship, take action. You don't want to wake up at 30 and decide now is the time to find someone else when you could have ended it years ago.
4. It's not worth it to stay with someone if all you do is fight. If you aren't married and you don't have kids, you shouldn't have to keep trying to fix your relationship. After all, you can only fix so much. At some point you need to give it up, move on, and remember that if it's meant to be, you'll get back together.
5. And it's definitely not worth it to stay with someone who makes you cry. You deserve to be happy, and there are plenty of people out there who would do the opposite of causing you tears. Why not start looking for that person now?
6. Don't move in together because you think it will save you money or because you have no one to live with and you don't want to move back in with your parents. Move in together because you love each other and because you are ready.
7. A shared home is not a reason to stay together. An apartment is not a baby or a marriage certificate. You don't have to keep fighting for your relationship because you've already committed to each other financially. If it's not working, it's not working, and you need to accept that.
8. Don't hook up with or date your friends. The minute you get involved physically and/or emotionally with a friend, you are taking a big risk, both with your relationship with that person and the relationship with all of your mutual friends. If it goes well, great, but if it doesn't, your friends will either choose sides, destroying your friend group, or they won't choose sides at all and will just feel uncomfortable around the two of you. They'll also never talk to you about it, leaving you with no one to vent to when things go south.
9. It's never too early to start talking about what you want in life with your partner. You might find out after dating for five years that one of you wants kids and the other doesn't. But what if you found that out five years ago? Wouldn't you want to address these types of situations now so you don't spend your 20s with someone it's just not going to work out with?
10. If someone wants to be with you, they will be with you. You won't have to convince them or force them or annoy them. You won't have to listen to excuses like "I'm too busy for a relationship" or "I wouldn't be a good boyfriend/girlfriend." You won't have to overanalyze comments like "I'm not into you," which -- by the way -- always means they're actually just not into you. If two people are into each other, they will be together. Sure, love sometimes isn't enough, but it's enough to at least spark an exclusive relationship -- no work necessary.
11. Don't compare your love life to anyone else's. It doesn't matter if you feel like "everyone is single" or "everyone is in a relationship." You need to do you. If it takes you longer than your friends to find that special someone, then so be it. And if you find that special someone before any of your friends get into serious relationships, then whatever. Life is different for everyone. Go with it.
12. Don't base decisions about your love life on a timeline you created years ago of when you want to be married and start having kids. Things will happen when they happen. The only thing you're doing if you rush into something because of an unofficial timeline is increasing your chance of a divorce. You're still young. Now is the time to try things out and make crazy, impulsive decisions. After all, there's no such thing as a bad decision when it comes to love. There are just experiences that you learn from. And you'd rather have those experiences at 28 than in your 30s, 40s, 50s or even later, right?