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Opinion: Date yourself

Being single for a significant period in your 20s is the best thing you can do for you.
Image by Wejdan al Balushi
Learn to find happiness in your own company.

All my life, I have never been in a relationship. I am only 20, but I have still never experienced the bittersweetness that is teenage love. 

Of course, I’ve gone on dates and had flings, but there was never a point in my life where I exclusively gave my time and energy to another person.

While I’ve always thought this aspect of my life was upsetting, I’m quite relieved to have never gotten into a committed relationship, especially as a teenager. I learned so much about myself that didn’t just include surface-level details. 

By living through experiences on my own, I dug deep into the core of my being without even realizing it. 

Sometimes I wonder how differently those experiences would have turned out if I had officially been with somebody, how different this current version of myself would be.

To Yasmine Laaraj, a third-year student at the University of Minnesota, capturing identity before beginning a relationship is important, especially in our 20s. 

“You’re in such a transitional phase in your life,” Laaraj said. “At least there needs to be a period when you’re single just because it’s really important for self-discovery and growth and coming into your own.” 

The world seems like such a complex place when we’re in our 20s. While we make our best attempts at solving its intricacies, we have yet to solve all the intricacies that make us who we are. 

What moves you? What excites you? What stops you? 

While we may have gotten closer to answering these questions in our teenage years, life seems to constantly shift and our answers adjust with it. We must answer these questions completely on our own without the influence of and dependence on another person. 

Lauren Allen, a recently divorced woman in her 30s, said being single in her 20s would have been crucial to her growth. 

“[With] the millennial generation as well as Gen Z, there’s been so many great strides of understanding mental health, and I feel, had I been able to explore that more and explore myself more, it would have just been a lot more beneficial,” Allen said.

Allen and her ex-husband got engaged when she was 23 and married when she was 25. 

“I was in a relationship with the same person throughout my entire 20s,” Allen said. “That was my first serious relationship.” 

Our 20s are such a pivotal era of our lives. Not only is the world around us significantly shifting, but it is shifting as our brains are fully developing. The experiences we have considerably affect the decisions we make. 

Establishing the state of your well-being will foster healthier relationships later on. When we are completely aware of how our individual brains function, we allow only what we find good to enter our lives. 

Although we must unravel the knots of our minds and hearts on our own, it doesn’t mean we can’t have some support to guide us. 

“Focus on your relationships with your family and your friends and learn what’s important to you in those relationships,” Allen said. “Then they can hopefully translate to your future partner one day when you’re ready for that.

Building and curating strong and valuable friendships and bonds in our 20s is extremely helpful for discovering what we want in a relationship. 

Genuine friends show us how we deserve to be treated and cared for. They help us understand the boundaries or standards we require from a romantic partner. 

“You cannot have a relationship where that is the only relationship in your life,” Laaraj said. “You need to have friendships. You need to have things beyond the person you’re with.” 

Being single does not have to be discouraging. If anything, it has made me find contentment in my solitude, which is something that can benefit us all. 

A partner, or any relationship for that matter, should not be the root of your happiness but instead, the one to enhance it. 

“It’s just a matter of thinking of your own self-discovery and personal growth,” Allen said. “Who are you? What do you want from the future? How’s your self-esteem? Don’t settle for something just because you feel like it’s the right way to do something.”

Our 20s are the years to try on different versions of ourselves. While there is no problem with being in a relationship, having someone glued to the hip may discourage you from taking on new experiences. 

That being said, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Go on dates, meet new people and form new bonds. Find what your deal breakers are and the qualities you most admire in a person. 

No matter what age you are or wherever you may be in life, we are all still learning and will continue to learn about ourselves with each day that comes. 

Granting significant time solely to yourself will allow you to seek out important virtues within yourself as well as in a partner.

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  • Yve
    May 6, 2024 at 7:54 pm

    I think this article does a good job at examining the tricky thing that is relationships. Being young is hard – being young and in a relationship is hard. Same as when you’re older, the point is that “A partner, or any relationship for that matter, should not be the root of your happiness but instead, the one to enhance it.” I think it is just as great to be single as it is to be in a relationship during your 20s.

  • Ted
    Apr 29, 2024 at 10:33 am

    Hi Claudia I have been Married for 32 years. She is wonderful. I don’t know what I could be with out her. There is hope for you please hold on. I finally saddled down at 40. Now I’m 73 and still working at the U of M part time. The right some one is out there, I just know it. Please keep your chine up, it can be A wonderful journey. May the good Lord bless you on your journey.

  • Gina
    Apr 12, 2024 at 8:34 am

    Opinions like this always seem to ignore people who are actually just in healthy relationships already. Should they just break up for the sake of it? This article is clearly aimed at people who are single already or hanging onto an unhealthy relationship. That’s fine, but don’t pretend the advice is for everyone!

  • lionfishy
    Apr 10, 2024 at 12:29 pm

    If you’re afraid of commitment, need a year or two, or just want to chase the butterflies, it’s okay to say so. Not everyone needs to be married at 22, but most people just don’t want the responsibility that comes with living in the real world in a committed relationship.

    What “moves,” “excites,” and “stops” you will change as you age, and you’re not going to “solve the world’s intricacies” at 30 any more than 20. You don’t “try on different versions of in your 20s,” but continually grow and develop over time.

    You’re going to change – why not build a serious, meaningful, committed relationship now, with someone you want to build a life with, so you can build each other up and grow for each other? It requires maturity, but also builds it up.

    If a deep relationship with your partner isn’t the root of happiness, what is? $7 boutique local coffee? A BMW? $150k/yr?

  • Dave
    Apr 10, 2024 at 8:58 am

    Nice article. As a 30-something who’s now a few years into marriage and father to an almost two year old, who has reentered the college world, I can tell you I’m still figuring myself out. It never ends! Whatever path you take, don’t settle and do listen to what your heart is telling you. Whatever experiences you have you will learn from if you try. Be thoughtful, kind, and things will come to you!! Being single can be a great thing! Being in a relationship can also be beneficial! Don’t get yourself into the mindset that the grass is greener on the other side. When you find the right person, it’ll be like no other relationship you’ve ever had. Find that.

  • Alex K.
    Apr 10, 2024 at 8:49 am

    I definitely disagree with this opinion better to get the awkwardness out of the way young and work out the kinks and learn the ropes as a minor can’t keep pretending to be children into your 30’s 31 is not the new 21 guys and gals.