Being a therapist who helps both individuals and couples develop, enhance, and strengthen their relationships, I was intrigued by a couple different articles a colleague sent to me that discussed the recent trend of young adults to delay getting married. Young adults seem to be prioritizing their careers, independence, and stability, and after that, then looking to find a romantic partner with whom to settle down. It is not uncommon for young adults to consider and try out multiple majors, jobs, and graduate programs before ultimately settling on a career path for life. Perhaps this up and coming generation of adults have had so many choices at their fingertips from such a young age that it feels scary to choose one and stick with it. Or, perhaps, even after choosing one direction, the grass is always greener in that next job or career path, and why settle for anything less than complete happiness?
Regardless of the reason, young adults seem happy to prioritize themselves, a career, or the freedom to have flexibility and choices, over getting married and starting a family in their 20’s. What this means for relationships is that both partners are now often entering the relationship having lived their adult lives with a high degree of independence, freedom, and focus on their own needs. While these are things I value myself and think are a sign of positive health and maturity for a young adult, they can also lead to significant tension when the relationship calls for sacrifice, sharing, and focusing on the needs of one’s partner. Fortunately, I believe most people are capable of ultimately finding a balance between independence and cohabitation, and the needs of oneself versus the needs of another, that will work for a rewarding relationship. However, it is critical that both partners are in a similar phase of life in terms of how they prioritize these things. And, current trends suggest that timeline might be shifting later and later, especially as the opportunities for women across several fields continue to increase, and the number of people pursuing higher education increases.
It may take time to figure out who you are and what you want to do with your life, but that does not have to come at the expense of a relationship. If young adults do decide to hold off on relationships until they have achieved better stability in their lives, then perhaps this means the relationships will start off in a different stage as well, with both partners having a clearer idea of what they want, what they are willing to sacrifice, and how they can make it work. And, if it seems like one or both partners wants the relationship to work, but does not seem able or willing to make the necessary sacrifices or give the support that is requested by the other partner, it may be time to visit your local friendly couples therapist!
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