1. Motivation levels.
It’s not that one of you having a Great Big Important Job while the other doesn’t know what they want to do is an automatic problem. It’s just that it often represents a deeper level of motivation to do and achieve things at a certain age which is not automatically shared by everyone around you. There are certain people who are happy doing more simple things, and there are people who want to use their 20s to create something difficult but important. And that difference unfortunately leads to resentment, envy, misunderstanding, and a distinct feeling of being held back. Motivation levels are hugely important, even if we don’t want to talk about them.
2. Social activities.
How much the two of you are respectively still going out and drinking, and how much your social life looks like it did when you were in college, are going to make a big impact on your relationship. Social lives are a defining aspect of a 20-something’s life, and it’s almost a surefire way to ensure that you will encounter problems if you don’t agree on what it means to have fun and let loose.
Not that being a feminist is a poison to any given relationship in itself, but if you are a woman who is enlightened about her own gender and sexuality and what it means to be a full human being in the world that sometimes wants to stop at “bearer of uterus,” you are going to have some problems dating someone who isn’t on that boat. If you’re constantly having to explain to your SO that catcalls are not flattering, and that abortion shouldn’t even be a question (and having to take refuge in the comments section of feminist websites to keep your sanity), you already know it’s over.
I’m sorry, but now is the time to travel. You don’t only travel at this time in your life, but it’s one of the most convenient times to make it all happen if it’s really important to you. And if one of you desperately wants to get out and see the world while the other one doesn’t ever really want to leave your home state, that’s going to be a huge problem. Because there is no regret quite as poignant as the one that arises when you don’t go somewhere when you had the chance. It’s not fair to take that away from anyone, even if you really, really love them.
5. Settling down.
Does the word “marriage” terrify you? Does it make you leap for joy in a cloud of pink emotional butterflies? Both answers are rampant in one’s 20s, and it’s up to each of you to make that choice individually. If one of you is headed towards the aisle by the age of 30 and the other isn’t interested in the least, it’s not going to work out. Even though our pressures and expectations are different now than they were, say, in the 60s, it doesn’t mean that people still aren’t entitled to go after what they want.
It’s ugly, but you have to say it. When one of you is making a ton of money and the other one is just scraping by, your lives are not the same. Your prospects are not the same. The kinds of things you can realistically do are miles apart. And unless the earner wants to be subsidizing the other partner, it’s just probably not meant to be. People on similar socioeconomic levels stay together because they are in the same world and encounter the same things, and that’s not something that can be overcome easily. Fights about money are the worst kinds of fights there are, and it’s enough to ruin even the strongest couple.
You either want them or you don’t. Your biological clock is either ticking at 25 or you’re going to the watch doctor to get it stopped altogether. Don’t try to convince each other that it’s meant to be if they don’t want it. Don’t bring a kid into that mess, especially not in your 20s. It’s perfectly normal to want kids at our age, but it’s also perfectly normal to want to avoid them like the plague, and neither of those things are wrong. But don’t start that relationship when you know it’s only going to end in a dramatic, awful way when one of you finally realizes that they can’t convince the other one to suddenly want children. Just don’t.