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What I learned from being with the same man throughout my 20s

This is my personal story of spending a decade (and counting) with the same guy, without even breaking up once. Here’s what was great, and what I wish I would have done differently.

Young couple getting married

Ten years with one person doesn’t seem like that long in the whole scope of life. Unless you’re 30. My first date with my husband was on my 20th birthday, and we’ve been inseparable ever since. We got engaged when I was 24. Married when I was 25. And at 30, we had our daughter. So we literally spent the entirety of our 20s just the two of us.

Your 20s are a pivotal decade. You’re graduating from college. You’re figuring out your career and deciding where to settle down. You’re contemplating if you even believe in marriage or want to have kids. It’s a decade of growth. Which brings me to number one on my list of things I’ve figured out after spending my 20s with one guy.


You either grow together or apart

People do change. They grow up. They mature. Their beliefs and values sway as they learn more about themselves and the world around them. Who I was at 20 years old, is absolutely nowhere near who I am at 30. I’m confident and secure in myself. I’m savvy with finances and successful in my career. I’m more compassionate and empathetic now that I’ve experienced hardship and loss. The list could go on forever.

We could have either grown in different directions, or grown together. We’ve made an effort to grow together.


Finding your purpose is crucial to happiness

In your 20s, you explore your options. Maybe you don’t want to settle down. Maybe you want to travel the world, and your significant other doesn’t. Maybe you never want kids, and that’s a deal breaker for your partner. You need to find your own purpose in life before you can commit to combining that life with another.


Doubting your relationship is normal

There are many fish in the sea. If you’ve been with someone for several years, you may start to doubt your relationship. You might start wondering who else is out there, and what they have to offer. Or, you realize that your current partner is perfect for you.

When it’s smart to just call it quits >>


New interests can come between you

Maybe you’ve become a vegan and he found a taste for leather coats and cheeseburgers. Can you ever make that work? Relationships are about compromises, so as you find yourself, you’ll have to decide if there’s room in your life for him too.


Priorities do change

Obviously my priorities have changed from age 20 to 30. I used to love partying with my friends, spending money (that I didn’t have) like there was no tomorrow, dolling myself up just to go to the grocery store. Now I spend weekends at home with my family, clip coupons and can hardly bother to put on mascara before work.

If your significant other liked the “old you,” that could be a problem.


Sometimes an ultimatum is necessary

After college graduation, my (then) boyfriend had to go on to graduate school. He wanted to go to Arizona State University, and asked me to move with him. It was a turning point in our relationship. If he wanted me to pick up and move across the country, I would need a bigger commitment from him. He proposed a few months later.


You have to be accountable for your actions

Every couple fights or argues. It’s how you handle disagreements that will determine if one blowup causes you to break up, or makes you stronger. It’s not your significant other’s job to make you happy. Or vice versa. Always treat them with love and respect and require that it be reciprocated.

How to stop picking stupid fights >>


Expectations are vital

I have a friend who wants her husband to call her from work once a day to check in. That’s totally not something I need or would expect. But, I do expect him to clean up after himself. Every couple needs to figure out both big and small expectations, and decide if those expectations can be met.


Don’t worry about money

Rather than worry about finances, figure out who is better at managing them, and let that person take control.

Should you separate or combine finances? >>


Show him you still love him

Kiss him hello every day after work. Tell him you love him before bed. Surprise him with those game tickets he’s been dying for. Relationships are easy to take for granted. Don’t.

More relationship advice

5 Things 20-somethings think they know about love
Timeless advice from Old Hollywood stars
How to create magnetic attraction in your relationship

Photo credit: Nerida McMurray Photography/Photodisc/Getty Images

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