I used to believe that the 20s was the best time in life to snag a mate.
From my perspective as a 13-year-old girl, the 20s seemed like the prime years of life. A time for independence, freedom, and for falling in love. I’m imagined I’d be young and fresh, exciting and energetic, inspired and in love…what a perfect time for a romance.
Finding love would be easy, in your 20s.
I don’t know that I believe that, anymore. Now that I’m married and also passed my 20’s- I look back at some of those earlier years and realize how little I actually knew. There was a world of experiences and lessons yet to be had in the decade that followed. There’s so much that I know now, that I didn’t know back then, that I had to learn along the way.
If my teen years taught me how to be “self-centered”, my 20s taught me that I really had very little grasp of my “true self”. I had no idea who I was or where I was going- even when I thought I had a clue.
If I could write a relationship manual to my 20-year old self, here’s what it would say:
1. Date…Yourself: The 20s really are an incredible time in life. As your independence develops, the world opens up in ways it never could have before. But more than anything, your 20s is actually a time of transformation. You are changing, growing, maturing, and evolving more rapidly than you could even imagine. Your personality is just starting to take shape, and the seeds of interests, passions, talents that were planted in your teen years are only now starting to grow.
While it may be so tempting to search for love, don’t do it without first taking the time to date yourself. Before I get into relationship advice, in my book True Love Dates I start by introducing the concept of Dating Inward. In other words, get to know yourself. Know who you are, what you need, and where you’re going. Get a good grasp of the story you’re creating for yourself, because only then will you be able to recognize the kind of person who fits into your story.
2. Don’t Fixate on Being Single: I’m sad I wasted so many years focused on “being single” because looking back, my 20s was a time filled with relationships and life. I was surrounded by amazing friends in college, mentors and professors who invested in me, an incredible church community, and relatives who supported me. God had surrounded me with a community of rich and life-giving people that I often-times missed out on because I was so caught up with the fact that Sally across the hall just got engaged, and Megan was planning her wedding, and Jessica just got flowers from her boyfriend. I wasted too many opportunities to connect with significant people in my life, because I was focused on finding a “significant other”.
3. Don’t Act Desperate, Because You’re Not: If age was actually an indicator of being “desperate”…your 20’s definitely doesn’t make the cut. Why is it then, that there are so many 20-year-olds feeling like they need to catch the marriage boat before the clock strikes midnight and they turn the dreaded 3-0? So much compromise, settling, and life-altering mistakes happen in a person’s 20s because they would rather be with someone than deal with the fear of being alone. So many people are left with the biggest regrets of their life, things they wish they would have resisted in their 20s.
Sadly, we’re all part of the problem. We’ve created a culture that puts pressure on men and women to get married at a certain time, a certain age, in a certain way. But at the end of the day, finding the right marriage has little to do with our timing- or anyone else’s for that matter- and everything to do with God’s timing. Remember the only way avoid looking desperate is to stop believing that you are, because a person will appear as desperate as they feel. Block out all the voices, the expectations, and the fears- and keep your eyes fixed on what God is saying. Look at all that He is doing in your life, and then relax, let go, and trust Him for the rest. Greater things are yet to come.
4. Don’t Wait to Live Your Life: Stop waiting, and start living. That should be the motto every 20-year-old hangs on their wall. The 20’s are filled with so much “waiting”: waiting for the right school, the right job, the right opportunity, the right spouse, the right income….waiting for that house, that car, that insurance plan. Waiting for love, for marriage, for family. Whatever it is you are waiting for, stop waiting and start living.
So much of our life is wasted in waiting, when God is calling us to enjoy the life He’s given us right here and right now. Tomorrow won’t make things better, if we can’t learn to enjoy TODAY in Jesus name, by His all-surpassing power, and all-consuming grace. We don’t need another thing to happen in order for us to live our lives, we just need more of Him. He’s given us so many blessings in this day and we were made to rejoice in it. Right here, and right now.
My prayer for you who are single and 20 is that you learn to enjoy every moment of the life God has given you. I pray that you wouldn’t allow the enemy to rob of you of the joys that are fully yours in Jesus. It’s okay to long for love and for marriage, but it’s not okay to stop living life because of that longing. You were made for so much more. May your eyes be opened, your heart be strengthened, and your vision be ignited as you step into this day that the Lord has made….and enjoy every moment.
*Stay tuned for my Guide to Singleness: 30s, 40s+
Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, speaker, and author of the book True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, where she writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love. She’s also the creator of this True Love Dates Blog! Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter!