As February comes and brings on Valentine’s Day and assignment due dates, I’m reminded of the possible incompatibility of my relationships and my future plans, something I’m sure I share with others.
With no guarantee of where you may end up after finishing your undergraduate degree, having a long-term partner during your early 20s comes with a series of questions that force you to evaluate your future and your relationship.
Every once in a while, I will check on some old acquaintances from school only to find out that they are not only married, but have children on the way. Others have settled into stable jobs after completing technical, professional degrees.
Whenever I do this, I ask myself, “where is your life going?” and I start taking stock of everything and everyone in my life. Most importantly, I consider my relationship with my partner and how he fits in with my post-grad plans.
While my partner and I have only been together for a little over a year, relatively speaking, we’ve been together for a long time. He’s been a constant in my life for the majority of my undergraduate so far, and it’s hard to picture McMaster without him here.
As someone who loves to plan everything out, I hold a ton of anxiety over how my partner will factor into my post-grad life. Will we end up in the same city? Will we have similar schedules?
I already stress out over grad school applications even though I haven’t even finished third year, so trying to coordinate it with a whole other person is my own personal hell.
I maintain that having a long-term partner while young isn’t really the issue. No matter how old you are, you’re making a commitment to someone without any concrete evidence that your relationship will succeed, using only inferences made from your past. So long as you’re honest with your partner and willing to compromise, most relationships can do well. The problem lays in the insecurity of your early twenties.
Very little in my life is set in stone right now. While I have some concept of where I want to end up after my bachelor’s degree, nothing yet is confirmed. Like most 21-year-olds, my life is a crushing monotony that I must follow, lest I ruin my future, and it’s essentially the same case for my 24-year-old partner.
There isn’t necessarily a fear of breaking up. Social media makes long-distance relationships easier than they have ever been before. For me, the fear is in how these changes may diverge from each other and inadvertently colour an otherwise healthy relationship.
Much of the research surrounding development agrees that people continue to mature well into adulthood and it’s no secret that a change in environment will cause someone to behave a little differently.
I often wring my hands worrying about how my partner will change once he leaves Hamilton at the end of this semester, mostly concerned that our dynamic may change when he starts the next part of his life.
That’s not to say change isn’t good; ideally you would want to grow with your partner and mature together, especially if you started dating as young as we did, and if you’re changing your environment, you’re going to have to grow.
But a quiet voice in my head will always remind me of how easily things between us could shift, and how quickly we may lose sight of each other. This is especially a concern when you’re a little younger than your partner, as I am, because I’m always going to worry that I’m not achieving my goals at the same rate as he is.
These thoughts are, in my case, unfounded and easy to overcome since all they really require are good communication. So long as you’re talking about your issues, you can grow as a person and still maintain a good relationship with your partner, something that I have found with my partner in the last few months.
You might still break up, but you will at least have the infrastructure to productively talk about your issues. And to me, that’s really what’s most important: even if things don’t work out, there’s no reason for your breakup to be a bitter affair, especially when so much of what happens in your 20s is outside of your control.
At times it feels like I fell in love too young, but that discredits the support and fulfillment me and my partner offer to each other.
While it would have probably been easier to fall in love after I found a stable job, I wouldn’t trade my relationship with my partner for anything. No matter where we end up, I’m glad we’re together.