Young Adults, Relationships, and the Realities of Life

Smiling young adult woman and manYoung adults, those in their early to late twenties, often have unrealistic expectations of life. This is not a negative statement but rather a result of moving from one living environment—being at home with the parents—to the rather unique lifestyle of college or university and then into the “real” world.

Often along the way, young adults develop a distorted view of the reality of relationships. This may be because of their experience in their home life with their own parents, their relationships and forays into the dating world in their teens, or because of trends and pressures to get into a relationship once they are out of school and on their own.

Family Matters

The first experience that anyone has with relationships and marriage is within their family of origin. If Mom and Dad were great parents and wonderful spouses, kids of that relationship generally are likely to look upon marriage as a positive, essential component to their future. Children who grew up in dysfunctional families with abusive, addicted, or neglectful parents generally will not have a positive sense of self or a positive sense of being part of a relationship.

This is a major factor in setting how young adults see their own role in a relationship. As I discuss in my book The Law of Sobriety, these children may have had to run the family, may have had no boundaries, or may have difficulty in establishing boundaries. This puts them at risk for entering into an unhealthy and abusive relationship simply because this is the type of relationship they have experienced in the past.

Young adults from dysfunctional, addictive, or abusive families typically also have low self-esteem and may, despite wonderful talents and abilities, feel they are not worthy of a “good” relationship. They may, without realizing it, choose a partner who is very similar to an abusive parent and end up in a relationship that is hostile, dangerous, and abusive.

Dating History

Similarly, when young adults have a history of dating so-called “bad boys” and “bad girls,” they may be signaling a lack of self-worth and self-confidence. They may not be selective in choosing a dating partner rather than be comfortable as a single person until they find a good match.

Many young adults stay in relationships that are mentally unhealthy or physically abusive because they fear being alone. This fear stems from their identity and sense of self-worth being tied up in being “in love” or in a committed relationship. However, the person they are in the relationship with may not be committed to them, nor be in love. As one person gives his or her all to make the relationship work, the other may simply take and take and never return the affection, effort, or desire to stay together.

Dating relationships that end with a lot of drama, multiple attempts to reunite, and extreme behaviors such as stalking, cyber stalking, or bouts of despondency should be red flags for issues with love addiction and relationship problems in the future.

Peer Pressure

According to a study by the National Health Statistic Reports in March 2012, the average age at first marriage for women is about 25.8, while the average age at first marriage for men is slightly higher at 28.3. About 48% of women aged 15 to 44 reporting living with a partner prior to marriage. The highest rate (70%) was reported by women who had not achieved a high school diploma.

With a large percentage of women either cohabitating or married by their mid-twenties and about the same percentage of men in their late twenties in serious relationships, pressure can build to join the trend.

Young adults who may not be comfortable and confident on their own may decide to enter into a relationship just to be part of what they see as the norm. This can be compounded if the young adult does not have a strong sense of who they are in the world and what they want in a partner and long-term relationship.

It is important for young adults to be comfortable as singles and to really understand themselves before getting into a relationship. As I talk about in my book, you can learn to evaluate your personal comfort as well as develop the skills needed to choose a partner who will truly be a great match for you as you move through life.

© Copyright 2013 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Sherry Gaba, LCSW, therapist in Thousand Oaks, California

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Yvonne

    Yvonne

    October 29th, 2013 at 4:18 PM

    I don’t mean to sound too critical, but reality of lie, with young people? Most of them have absolutely no idea about the reality of life! We have helicoptered them to death, and I am just as guilty of that as the next parent, and this has ultimately led us to a generation who knows how to do very little for themselves and what they do know how to do they really don’t have any interest in doing it. It makes me scared for this generation growing up because the lack of responsibility and the apathy that I see is kind of appalling, and I know that I am partially to blame for some of that so my role in all of that? Well, I wish I could go back and do some of it over again but here we are, where do we go from here?

  • blake

    blake

    October 30th, 2013 at 3:48 AM

    Really, I think that most young people know what they want out of a relationship, they just don’t have it all figured out in terms of how to get there. I don’t see that as a knock against them but I think that many of them are still very idealistic and I don’t necessarily think that this is a bad thing but I do think that this causes them to see some relationship issues through rose colored glasses until they get in the midst of living that life themselves.

  • Elaine

    Elaine

    November 6th, 2013 at 4:55 AM

    It’s all about the dress, the wedding, and the honeymoon. Most of them forget to think any further ahead than that.

  • Johnny M

    Johnny M

    February 22nd, 2017 at 1:15 PM

    I agree that young adults don’t have a realistic expectation of life. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t have dreams. You really want to go after your dreams if you have them, no matter what. What other tips do you have for young adults?

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