When To Dive In To A Long-Term Relationship

06/12/2009 05:12 am 05:12:01 | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Dear Christine,
From your experiences and research about 20-somethings, at what point in life do you suggest young people start looking for a long-term committed relationship? I understand that getting your life in order and learning to be an individual while concentrating on a career are very important, but what are some specific triggers as far as life events that might signal the time is right?
Questioning timing, 26, Phoenix

Dear Questioning timing,

The perfect time to step into a long-term committed relationship is when you are exactly 27 years and 3 months old, preferably during a full moon when the outside temperature is about 72 degrees.

I'm kidding of course. My sarcasm is not intended to poke fun at your question because it is indeed a relevant one that I get asked a lot. I threw out a random number and set of circumstances as a metaphor for when and how relationships begin. There is no magic number that I can offer to answer when the right time to enter into a long-term relationship is because it is different for each and every person. But I can say that from my own experience and years of work with twenty-somethings, don't rush it. Of course there are exceptions to this comment but I assert that getting into a serious relationship in your early to mid twenties can get in the way of your own development.

In our twenties, we are still figuring out who we are and if we jump into a serious relationship, the tendency is to redirect our attention to trying to figure out someone else. Without realizing it, we delay our own evolution if we focus on the "we" before the "me." The twenty-something decade is rich with learning opportunities - you probably already have and will continue to discover things about yourself that surprise, inspire and challenge you. Milk this time.

When your life feels whole and complete independent of being in a relationship with anyone else, that is usually the healthiest place from which to enter into a long-term committed relationship. Why? You will be more likely to attract a person who is not looking for you to complete them and you will not be looking for someone else to fulfill you. This affords two people the opportunity to be in a relationship based on shared values and common intentions, rather than on need. A long-term relationship then becomes less about "what can you do for me?" and more about "what can we do together?"

Now you may think, well hey I feel pretty whole and complete, why isn't Mr. or Mrs. Right walking into my neighborhood Starbucks and locking eyes with me across mutual over-priced lattes? Well as much as we'd like to think differently, we actually have no control over when a long-term committed relationship will come into our life.

However, we can do things that may affect the probability of it happening. Our relationships with others are a reflection of the relationship we have with ourselves. The degree to which you are committed to yourself will be the degree to which you are able to attract, participate in and maintain a long-term committed relationship. So the question to begin with is, "What is my level of self-commitment?" I define self commitment as keeping your word with yourself, making self-honoring choices, dedicating time and attention to your personal growth, and consciously taking steps towards goals in life that are significant and meaningful.

In summary, there is no magic number or formula for when to be or how to be in a long-term committed relationship. Take your time, enjoy your twenties and continue to focus on creating your best life. One of the main purposes of relationships is for our continued learning and evolvement. We cannot look at the timing of relationships like the real estate market or investments in terms of when it's a good time to "buy in." Trust that when it is time for you to embark on the amazing learning journey that comes with a long-term relationship, the perfect companion and teacher will walk into your life.

- Christine
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