Excerpt from Twenty-Something, Twenty-Everything ©Christine Hassler
Finding “the one,” seeing fireworks, feeling butterflies in your stomach, falling deeply, passionately in love,
and then living happily ever after — that is how a relationship should go, right? We are told that the twenties are when we will find the loves of our lives and the fathers of our children (no pressure there). Yet many of us haven’t found our “soulmates” and are questioning whether they exist. In our early twenties, we are under less pressure to settle down than we will be later, but as the calendar pages turn, many of us find ourselves thinking of wedding bells (or, at the very least, a person to spend Saturday nights with). We wonder how to find the “one” and if we will know for sure that marriage is what we want.
The way women answer “Who am I, what do I want, and how do I get what I want?” in relationships is different from the ways women of previous generations answered these questions. Our grandmothers and most of our mothers had the goal of becoming wives in their twenties — marriage was their job, and many of them stuck with it no matter what. Today many of us choose to postpone marriage, and even relationships. Others find life partners in other women, which is not seen as taboo as it used to be.
Additionally, we as a generation are more vocal about our needs, less willing to compromise, and more satisfied with our independence than women of the past were. Still, many of us yearn for soulmates and the blissful relationships that they supposedly bring (for that idea, you can thank every sappy romantic movie you have seen). Our relationship status occupies a great deal of space in the mental “hot-air balloons” of most female twenty-somethings, whether we’re looking for love, fed up with love, recovering from love, or in love. This is okay unless we become so consumed that it distracts us from attaining our self-security.
Exercise: Fantasy versus Reality
To clarify what we want and need in relationships, we have to check in on our expectations. Ask yourself if you suffer from the Fabio syndrome. To find out, list all your expectations of a mate and a relationship, including everything you ever wanted or dreamed of. Be both extreme and realistic. As you make this list, think about what you have learned from past relationships and what each one did or did not have. Also, recall your parents’ relationship and what you liked and did not like about it that may have influenced what you expect from a partner.
Next, looking over your expectation/desire list, distinguish those items that are realistic from those that are fantasy. In order to do this, you have to commit to being reason rather than idealistic thinking. For example, a fantasy expectation is that a man will always know exactly what to say because he is so in tune with your needs. A realistic expectation is that your mate will be open and ask you questions when he does not understand you. Also, anything related to time, such as, “I expect to be married by thirty” belongs in the fantasy list since we have absolutely no control over time. So now make two columns: “Fantasy” and “Reality.” Relist each item in the appropriate category.
If it is hard to identify your realistic expectations, talk to a few of your guy friends (choose ones who are fairly self-aware) about whether they think your expectations are realistic. The more firmly we live in reality (leaving fantasyland for occasional visits), the more empowered we will feel, whether we are single or in relationships.
Don’t forget to check out Christine’s latest book, 20 Something Manifesto.