Chances are, if you’re reading this website, you’re somewhere in the same broad demographic that I am: 18 – 35. I read a lot of similar sites and try to consume content written by people who are in similar places in their lives. It helps me, in some ways, to know that people go through the same struggles as other people. To that end, many of the columns here and other places regarding relationships and relationship advice focus on people in their early to mid 20s; jumping from relationship to relationship or navigating the treacherous waters of bachelor (or bachelorette) hood.
There are those few of us though, who are in some kind of middle ground. I’m not married but I’ve been in the same relationship for over four years. In some ways, this is an awkward time. The reason for this awkwardness boils down to one idea: expectations. Everyone has different expectations about where you are, what you’re doing and what you should be doing. This ranges from your mother (God help us), to your best friend to your favorite bartender who has an unfortunate attachment to the phrase, “Shit or get off the pot already.”
It is also because we’re in a minority here. My social circle right now is divided into two clean groups: my married friends and my single friends. Both groups are happy what they are doing because their expectations are clearly defined. The married friends are focused on staying happy and tackling the other challenges in life – like careers and training the dog to stop stealing food off the table already for Pete’s sake. My single friends, though they have a lot of struggles and problems of their own, are not burdened by expectations in quite the same way. At 24, there is nothing wrong with being single. There’s also nothing wrong with being married.
There just seems to be something wrong with being in a long relationship without getting married. Everyone around you is either waiting for you to get married or break up. It’s almost like we’re not playing the game if we’re not on one side or the other. Maybe I’m alone in thinking this but I just don’t get it. Aren’t there enough challenges? If you’re trying to find a good job, pay your student loans and by some miracle finally starting to lose those 20 pounds you were upset about, isn’t that enough? I can do those things and be in a relationship. Times have changed. My mom had me at 24. Last night I ate a leftover burrito. The gulf between our lives in the same stage is immense. I’m just asserting that it’s not a problem.
Back in 1989, a 24 year old family could subsist on one income comfortably. Today, I have a boatload of debt because I went to a prestigious private University. Back in 1989, finding a job with the right education was a piece of cake. Today, it’s common to hear stories of people sending out 100 resumes without a call back. The challenges are immense and it should be a perfectly viable choice to tackle them with someone you love without being expected to get married and pop out babies immediately.
There is plenty of time for that. As for us, we’d like to get back to drinking and being irresponsible without the challenges of having a baby or even a dog. Maybe it’s all we can afford right now or maybe we’re just happy doing it.
I guess the lesson is to do what makes you happy, not what anyone else thinks you should.