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9 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Relationships In My Twenties

The most important relationship you have is the one with yourself.

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1. Be prepared to deal with drama even though you've left your teen years behind.

Paramount Pictures

In a way, your love life and all of the messy stuff that comes with it is only just beginning. While my first love did indeed break my heart in to a million tiny little pieces, at least it was a memorable learning experience, practically a rite of passage – which is more than I can say for a lot of the dalliances of my twenties.

First relationships are incredibly intense, and the effect of them never entirely leaves you. But as you get older, the burn when things go wrong scalds you in different ways. Once you're in your twenties, it's no longer crazy to see yourself being with a partner forever, and the disappointment, and even shame, you can feel when it becomes clear that won't happen is acute.

Even the one-night stand who never called you or the guy you liked who ghosted you can send you in to an existential crisis – it doesn't have to be serious to cause a tailspin.

2. But hold on to the fact that people rarely mean to hurt you.

Instagram: @danielinalsmith / Via

Relationships, and the ends of them, can be painful. We're all human. People are selfish; we lie, we cheat, and we suit ourselves in matters of the heart. Sometimes we take the easy way out because it's, well, easier. But I learned that the truth is, when you're following your heart, it's almost impossible not to hurt or disappoint someone else, even when it's on accident.

While it's healthy to feel pain, dwelling on the ins and outs, whys and why nots of being hurt by a partner or friend can be more damaging in the long run.

In my experience, it's best to try to let it go and realise that sometimes, people are just shitty, and that's OK. When you're the person doing the hurting (which you inevitably will be one day), you'll understand how not-personal it probably was.

3. You can have a disgusting crush at any age.


I thought I was way past the hideous stage of omgifeelsick crushing, but nope. At 27, I developed the most intense, mind-blogging, tingling, vomit-inducing crush I've ever had, and it took over my mind and body.

There are some attractions we can't control. Some people are totally attracted to bad boys or psycho hose beasts, and that's something they have to overcome (god bless). My pheromones were going haywire for an absolute gem of a guy, but I still had to get over the crush before I could have a relationship with him. Because crushes aren't real, and you can't be with someone who's on a pedestal in your mind.

The crush does leave you in time, and if you're lucky it will leave you with something better, or at least something to learn from.

4. You've got to play the game, at least a little bit.

Paramount / Via

When I turned 20, nobody was using hookup apps, few people were online dating, and everyone was on Bebo and MySpace – the world was a simpler place. But nowadays, when we have so much damn choice and so many options, it's wise not to put all your cards on the table right away.

In other words, play it cool at first. Be chill. No matter how excited you are, giving a brand-new relationship your absolute all right away; don't put off all of the other cool and important factors in your life for a shot at love. You'll know when the time is right to go all in (or not). It's tempting to go hell for leather when you meet someone absolutely amazing, but holding a little bit of yourself back for reasons of self-protection is essential.

You do you first, and if if the right person wants to come along for the ride, you'll have plenty of time to get closer.


5. Breakups with friends are just as hard as romantic ones.

Instagram: @nacho

When you've had your heart broken by someone you loved romantically, others expect you to be traumatised, nonfunctioning, and devastated. But in your twenties, it's very likely you're going to have a big falling out with some close friends because people change and shit happens.

I've been there; it hurts like a motherfucker. But it can very difficult to talk about how it's affected you, because it's so difficult to make sense of. Friends are tied so much to our sense of identity and belonging, far more than most lovers are.

It's OK to break up with friends, and it's OK to make lots of new ones. It's nobody's fault and it doesn't make you a bad, callous person. While it's important to have BFFs who always have your back, you don't need #SquadGoals. You are not Taylor Swift, and you don't have to be.

6. You deserve a relationship with real chemistry.

New Line Cinema

Sometimes it's instant, sometimes it grows over time, but attraction should never be diminished or thought insignificant. Having chemistry with the person you're sleeping with is incredibly important, and not at all shallow – something I learned relatively recently.

Chemistry, yearning, sex appeal, whatever you want to call it, is what keeps the fires lit through rough patches and can aid intimacy like nothing else. Sure, relationships built entirely on chemistry won't last long. But if the chemistry is gone with someone you love and can't be revived, it's a rare relationship that gets through it.

Don't just get with someone because they're nice – get with someone because they're nice AND they make you weak with want.

7. You NEVER have to stay in a dead relationship.

Instagram: @jmshiels / Via

One of the biggest mistakes people make in their twenties is staying in a long-term relationship because it's fine. It's not terrible, your other half isn't an awful person and life is OK. But in doing that, and eventually maybe even marrying this person and having kids, you could be doing yourself a terrible disservice. Sure, things could definitely be worse. But could they be much, much better?

It's easy to think that if we've made our bed we have to lie in it. That we're stupid to think there might be someone out there that could make us happier, and that if we leave we'll regret it. But there's no way of knowing what the heart wants until you're brave enough to take action. If you have doubts, you could just need a break. You could need a permanent breakup. In either case, you owe it to yourself to explore that side of you that you've been denying.

8. There is no set age to “settle down”.


A lot of people in their late twenties think that the person they're with now is the person they're going to end up with, purely because of timing. That edging towards 30, we should also be edging towards the "perfect" romantic scenario we've been envisioning, whatever that may be, but the truth is, that's bullshit.

I know I've been there, thought, We've been together X amount of time so we should be doing X, but it's complete crap. You should never do anything because you're scared, or because you think you're getting to that age, or it might be time to have children because it's expected of you. Hell, you might not ever want to have children, and that's OK!

Don't ever get married because all your friends are, or stay with somebody because it's less frightening than being single on the cusp of the big 3-0 (or 4-0, or 5-0). Doing those things could lead to a lot of unhappiness and regret.

You control your own destiny, and your timeline. Your love life doesn't have to follow the same pattern as everyone else's, and you will make your own path work for you, trust yourself on that.

9. The most important relationship you have is the one with yourself

Instagram: @healing / Via

OK, I might have learned that one from Carrie Bradshaw, but it's so true. You can't love someone properly until you feel like you deserve to be loved, and you certainly can't do things you don't want to do in order to keep other people happy. You MUST prioritise yourself and your own feelings, because who else is going to?

Having high self-esteem and being a selfish narcissist are two entirely different things, so don't feel like putting yourself first is a bad thing. You need to be OK with you, first and foremost – and then you can worry about other people.