Today on the blog we hear from Kate McGrath Burgess, our super talented junior writer with a fresh and unique writing style with the ability to get to the heart of a topic through real life context across a range of issues and talking points relevant to modern women. This article is all about relationships in your twenties and we hear from some real life twenty-somethings in very different relationships to get their take on all things relationships!
Being in your twenties is a confusing time. You’re meant to be an adult now: finish uni, find your perfect career and move out, all while trying to juggle the relationships in your life, platonic and romantic. It’s a very odd and limbo stage of your life. Although it is a busy and confronting time in a person’s life, it is also very rewarding. You are really discovering who you are and the kind of people who should be in your life. Finding that person who is a great addition to your life while still being able to have the freedom to discover your own sense of self is very fulfilling. Which is today’s topic: how to have a relationship and still have the freedom to discover yourself.
I called upon some of my friends and my partner to give their own take on this matter. A quick introduction to everyone:
Maddie: “Currently single and under construction”
Sarah: “The mum, settled down in a long-term relationship”
Brenton: “Modern day Ted Mosby – Single, just very single”
Connor: “In a committed relationship with some girl, she’s pretty cool.” That pretty cool girl, that’s me!
Up until my current relationship, I always felt I lost myself in relationships and didn’t have the room to discover who I really was. These important years of self-discovery and growth should not be halted by the person you choose to date. If anything, the person you date should be cheering you on and pushing you to be the best version of yourself. This was a hard lesson for me to learn and for many others to as well. One of the best bad examples of this is in the movie The Devil Wears Prada. When Andy starts killing it at her new job, her boyfriend, Nate, starts to not like the person she is turning into. He does not give her the room and support she needs to fully discover her potential in this job. In the end, they break up and Andy quits her fantastic job.
Sarah has been living with her partner for about two years now and when I asked the question “is space healthy for a relationship?”, she replied, “sometimes it’s not space so much as you’re apart from each other or space away from each other. It’s just acknowledgement of each person as an individual still.” Figuring out what kind of space works for you and your partner can allow both of you to continue living your lives to the fullest without feeling like the other person is suffocating you.
Connor and I are both very independent people and, while we always make time for each other during the week, we are content to have time to ourselves. “I like to keep a good balance,” he said, “I see a lot of my friends at uni and at footy whereas I see you twice a week.” We both understand we have other commitments during the week and just allow each other to focus on them. He added, “I trust you enough that when we spend time apart, next time I see you, it’s not going to feel like we spent that time apart.”
I have been in a relationship where that trust wasn’t as strong; I felt like we were joined at the hip and smothered one another. It made me realise how much I needed time with my friends, uni work and, most importantly, Me Time. After having a similar experience to me, Brenton said, “I was fully involved into her and then she broke it off and I was like ‘well that’s my life gone’” and I remember I felt the exact same way. After catching up on lost Me Time and falling back on our support systems, we were both able to come out of these relationships with a better understanding of what we need in our lives.
Brenton used the analogy that Daniel Sloss, a Scottish comedian, explained in his Netflix comedy special Jigsaw. “Life is a puzzle,” Brenton said, “and throughout your life you’re adding pieces to the puzzle, like family, friends, your job and hobbies. Starting from the outside and working your way to the middle. Generally, the middle section of YOUR puzzle is for ‘the one.’ You can’t just jam someone in there to fill the hole in your puzzle, you need to find someone to fits your puzzle while still keeping it intact.”
It is important for you and your partner to analyse what is in your puzzle at this point in your lives and see how you can both fit into each other’s puzzles. Do you both have the same goals and aspirations for your life? Do you see this person fitting into your family? Do you see this person fitting into your friend group? Do you need to compromise one of your current puzzle pieces to fit this person into your puzzle? These are all important conversations to have with your partner. Sarah said that conversations like this are vital to have in a relationship because it keeps you on track with what you want. “If a relationship isn’t going the way I want or if I feel like I’m being dragged away from what I want to do in life, I will be violently honest about it. To the point where it’ll make arguments, you’ll cry but it works because it’s so much better than just going with it and ignoring the uncomfortableness.”
Good communication is one of the fundamental necessities to any relationship and, when this communication is lost, it can cause all kinds of problems. Having open and honest conversations, not only with your partner, but with yourself, enables you to be on the same page about what you want out of your life and what you want out of the relationship.
Maddie and I spoke a lot about communication and importance of listening to yourself. She even said, “I have seen so many dysfunctional relationships where really the biggest problem was an error in communication.” Like Sarah, Maddie said that asking yourself questions like “how can this other person bring me up? how can this other person make me better? And are we going to grow together?” keeps you on the right track. “The best version of yourself and how to be the best version of yourself is listen to your instincts, listen to yourself. We often don’t stop and think ‘I need a minute to listen to my own body and my own brain and say, ‘what do I need? Where am I at?’ The best thing you could do, regardless of who you’re with or what situation you’re in, is actually listen to yourself and take time for yourself.”
I made it clear to everyone that I didn’t expect them to solve every relationship problem or give me philosophical answers, I just wanted them to talk about their experiences. While talking about our current and past relationships, we all said the phrases “But I don’t know” and “I’m just figuring it out as I go.” And I think that is the most important thing to take away from this.
It is okay to still be figuring it out.
It is okay to change and grow.
It is okay to put yourself first.
Your twenties are meant to be your selfish years so allow yourself to be selfish. There is nothing wrong with focusing on yourself, your career, your degree, your mental health or any other priority that makes you happy. Be willing to have that conversation with your partner and yourself about what fits your puzzle and what you need in it. In reality, there is no right way to make a relationship work. You could date for ten years, get married then divorce after just a year. Or you could meet on Tinder, fall instantly in love and be together for a lifetime. All you can do is stay true to yourself and your goals, communicate with your partner and grow together.
A special thank you to my amazing friends, Maddie, Sarah and Brenton, and lovely boyfriend, Connor, for being so supportive and helping me with this article. Love you all very much!
Stay tuned for more awesome reads from Kate on TDP across topics relevant to modern women!