The pressure to find a man, move in, get married and settle down is all too real when you're in your twenties. It's the underwritten storyline we've been sold since we were toddlers that we should be married by thirty and ready to bear children.
But really, you should be staying single in your twenties (whether that's your early or late twenties) and here's why.
You're actually still a teenager (at least your brain is!)
Firstly, there's a biological reason you should hold off rushing into a relationship in your 20sthat follows the usual relationship escalator of "perfect" family life. Research tells us that our brains aren't fully developed until the age of 25. You're not a fully grown adult mentally speaking until your mid-twenties (or even later for some) thanks to the pre-frontal cortex, the rational, logical part of your brain. Before that, your reactions are being run by the emotional, literally reactive part of your brain, the amygdala, and is the distinct difference between an "adult brain" and a "teen brain". That's right - you're operating from your teen brain centre until around the age of around 25. Would you trust the teen version of you to make big decisions about relationships, marriage and maybe even children? We operate from a completely different place until that age, so waiting until we've developed that area, might help us in the long term.
You know NOTHING in Your Twenties
Secondly, and running alongside this, with age comes experiences. If you went to university, the reality is that you haven't really lived as an adult at all in your 20s. The earliest chance you get to be independent of a timetable or education is 21. To think that we would have to know what we want and be able to get it within the nine years beyond this seems like a rush - we haven't even STARTED. We've been experiencing life in the bubble of school and university for 16 years. We know little about the big wide world and what it's really like. We're learning to shift from constant external validation of praise from our teachers and parents, of doing well in exams and getting GCSEs and A-Levels to entering the 9-5 world of working which seems pretty endless. Whilst we might want to strive to be in a relationship to form part of our lives then, there is a whole lot of normal life to experience, yet alone all the interesting things in the world there are to learn about and explore before we settle into coupled up and family life.
Staying Single In Your Twenties Is All About Opportunity
Being and staying single in your twenties should be seen as an opportunity. Without the pressure and stress of a relationship (because we know the reality is not all sunshine and daisies!), we get the benefit of "finding ourselves". It's incredibly cliché to say it, but it's true. This is the time for trying things out; from jobs, to hobbies, to living arrangements. It's about discovering what matters most to you without any prescription of school constraints, your parents or other social circles. And this isn't something that once you find it you're stuck with. It continues on for the rest of your life and changes as your life changes. But your twenties offers the freedom to go out there and do it, so the results are exponential in unlocking who you truly are and what you value most. And if you get that right, the decisions you make later are going to be more aligned with you.
Your Twenties Are For Figuring It Out and Making All The Mistakes Along The Way
I did what you were "supposed" to do and followed that story line of partner, house, pets, good jobs and marriage. But the reality was I was doing what I thought would lead to happiness, and I didn't really know who I was, what I stood for and what was most important to me. It's an easy path to fall into, but it makes me wonder that if this alternative were more commonly shared and promoted, that maybe I and many other people, may not rush to secure a relationship but instead take our time to work it all out instead.
With the pressure off, the freedom to choose for ourselves and internal validation being encouraged as an alternative, we'd make less drastic mistakes. Our twenties are meant to be full of mistakes because it's the point at which we know least (even though we think we know the most). By this point, we've been lulled into a false sense of security with our 2:1 Bachelor's degree in our hand being waved about, preceded by the GCSEs and A-Levels we have lined up. We really do think we have it sussed.
Unfortunately, the real world is different to school and university. It's real, it's messy and not everyone does as they're told or as you'd expect them to. You're dealing with work, people and yourself at any given moment and so it's full of errors, misjudgements and mistakes (not to forget, we're still reacting with our emotions early on so we don't always take a minute to breathe before our colleague makes that blunt comment towards us that gets out backs up).
Being single in our 20s means we get the chance to make the mistakes without the additional pressure of a relationship, of trying to make it work with another human without causing hurt and damage, even if it is unintentional and innocent in the process of learning to be an adult.
Your Find Out Who Your True Friends Are
As well as getting to know yourself, one of the benefits of remaining single in your twenties means you have time to work on the other relationships and connections in your life. This is the time to solidify your friendship network. You may be lucky and have a strong group of friends from high school that have survived the university gap, or you might have swapped a few people out and have a mix of friends from school and university. But as everyone's lives start to diverge in terms of work and living arrangements, here's where you see who makes it through the next ten years with you. You get the chance to go away on holiday with these single friends, to have experiences with one another and be there for each other when times get tough. Every year you're not spending in a relationship is another year securing the friendships that support you outside of any future relationship you'll be in, and there is nothing more powerful than a girl who has a choice to be in a relationship or not because she doesn't need a man to validate her.
Staying Single in Your 20s Isn't Easy
Being single in your twenties isn't an easy gig though. If everyone around you is following "the path", then there's the potential feelings of FOMO that will arise as you don't follow the same trajectory. And even if your friends aren't fussed about family and relationships either, you can bet that the older generations have your pathway pre-determined for you, and so the conversations they have with you and comments they make will imply you should be out securing your Mr Right.
It takes courage to deal with the comments, especially when you've heard them multiple times and the person you're talking to doesn't seem to approve of your decision or believe that's what you truly want. But more and more people out there are learning to celebrate their single life. It's exactly what I work with clients on as a Life and Love coach, helping singles to gain their confidence of being on their own, and to get back into dating once they're truly ready too.
Staying Single In Your 20s is True Freedom
If you've missed the boat on this because you're in your late 20s, or even in your 30s or 40s, it isn't too late to start. It's important to note that this sense of freedom and finding yourself is a key period of your life and if you've missed it, it's time to do it. Commit to some time away from being in a relationship and, in fact, dating at all. Live a more care-free life, try new things, go to new places, and make your friendships the strongest relationships in your life. And once you've got your single life sorted... then you can see what man deserves to fit into your life.
If you're worried about being single in your 20s and want to work out your first steps to feeling confident in your single life, you can book a FREE 15-minute Sort Your Single Life Out session with Chantelle. During the session, Chantelle will help you identify what's working best for you and what area you can focus on. To book your free session click HERE.
Don't want to wait? Take the Single Life Confidence Quiz HERE for instant, personalised feedback on your Single Life.
Listen to the Episode #30 of The Single Girl's Guide to Life podcast in full below: