But I’m Too Young To Settle!

I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of being “too young” when it comes to relationships. We seem to have reached the conclusion, as a society, that the longer we wait to find the person we want to spend the rest of our lives with, the better. Statistics seem to back it up, financial security is definitely a huge factor, and we live so much longer now than ever before — why rush things? I get it. But, perhaps just in a desperate desire to cling to the notion of romance, I’ve always felt that finding “the one” should be so much more based on who you’re with than your chronological age upon finding them.

It should be mentioned, of course, that I’ve seen both sides of the coin up close. My parents met at 23 years old and were married within nine months of meeting each other, and are deliriously happy today. However, I have three high-school acquaintances that were divorced by 21 (one of whom is re-married and already frequently complaining about her husband on her Facebook statuses). It is likely, of course, that my parents were just more compatible and determined to work through their marriage, but I’m not unaware of the fact that their situation is an exception, not the rule. The people I knew who were getting hitched at the age of 20-23 are generally not working out so well, and it’s far from surprising.

And the people who are getting married in that tender young age bracket seem, at least in my experience, to fall into two categories: Extremely Christian, or coming from a chaotic background and looking for some stability. Both of which seem to make sense, but neither reason to go into matrimony before you’ve attained a bachelor’s degree seems to be working out particularly well. It seems reasonable to assume that we’re just young, stupid, and inclined to make poor decisions around this age. I think about my decisions as an 18- to 22-year-old, and the thought of having to live with the consequences for life is horrifying, to say the least.

But on the other side of the spectrum, there is also the enormous risk of throwing a wonderful person away when you’re young, simply because you feel you have too much to do and see before you commit to that person. It’s all well and good if that decision leads you to Italy where you meet a sensitive, loving, generous multi-millionaire with whom you fall head over heels in love, but that likely won’t happen. And often, it seems to lead to being in your thirties and early forties, alone, and ready to marry anything that doesn’t throw up on its shirt on the first date. We can be optimistic as much as we want, but it doesn’t change the fact that dating gets more and more difficult as we age. And that’s natural, too. Most of us want someone to share our lives with, and as we get older, our choices naturally become more and more sparse. It is daunting, to say the least.

So when we’re young, and we have so many options and we’re all single (more or less), isn’t that the best time to meet someone who fits all of your criteria and with whom you have plenty of time to build a solid foundation before you commit for life? Shouldn’t we take advantage of a time when we can afford to be picky, when we’re constantly in social settings, and when we have the time and energy to risk a broken heart? Sure, of course. But at what point in that relationship, when we’re young, do we say to ourselves: “Even though I could leave you now and totally do a million other things with my life, I want to close those doors because you are incredible, and I know how unlikely it is I’ll ever find someone like you again.”?

What a hard thing to say, what a hard decision to make. Especially when we look around us and see the rough, often devastating ends that young love can meet when it commits too quickly, the idea of acknowledging you met your life partner at 22 is terrifying. Are we too young to even know what is really right for us? Perhaps, but the idea of giving up on something that is otherwise perfect for you because of some vague but persistent notion of “finding yourself” seems much more foolish than settling down early.

Maybe we’re now more inclined to believe that “finding ourselves,” experiencing things, and growing as a person cannot really happen in a couple. It seems, in this very “me”-oriented era, that we believe those emotional milestones must be met while we’re alone. But do we ever know when we’re “ready,” or have “found ourselves”? Is there a specific age — 25, 27, 32 — when we can close the chapter on our single selves and say, officially, that we are ready to settle down now? Even if there were a concrete list of things we wanted to accomplish before we chose a life partner, are we really foolish enough to believe that life (and all we want to accomplish in it) are going to happen in a neat little timeline, exactly how we envisioned them?

Perhaps there is such a thing as too young to pick someone. No money, no career, no general direction in life — maybe that requires some soul searching alone. But even if we wanted to strike an age bracket from the “marriage material” list, does that still justify us spending our twenties in a perpetual state of turning down commitment because we want to have “fun,” and can’t see ourselves really having it with someone else — even someone who loves us unconditionally?

It may be scary, but so are most big decisions in life. I want to embrace that person who is meant for me because of who they are, not how old I am on our first date. I never want to say to someone, “You’re perfect, but wait here for about 2.5 years. Don’t change a thing, I’ll be back soon — I promise.” TC mark

image – Tela Chhe

Chelsea Fagan

Chelsea Fagan founded the blog The Financial Diet. She is on Twitter.


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  • Anonymous

    I only throw up on my shirt because I’m nervous!

  • Heat

    Wow. Sounds not-so-vaguely familiar aka I had this done to me. I think they are still looking for themselves in all the wrong places.

  • Markhamf

    Absolutely excellent timing. Only wish there had been an answer or direction given for my own selfish reasons so I could have someone else make up my mind for me in this situation.

  • hannah

    Why would you wanna live with someone for the rest of your life? I mean. It’s THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. Like, you know, 60 years, give or take a decade. 

    I will never understand monogamy and this need to “settle down.” There are always so many more places/people to explore. 

    • Lexie

      You can still travel/meet new people when you’re in a commited relationship! Being married doesn’t mean your life ends, or at least it shouldn’t. I think the most successful relationships are the ones that encourage both of you to keep growing and learning together.

      • Guest

        Yes..but the problem is kids these days don’t think this way. They are idiots. Why is that? The media? Movies? I don’t know. It’s stupid, though.

      • MM

        I think we forgot that just because you have a fight doesn’ t mean you divorce. you work through it. Patience

        I think people do get married to quickly and divorce too quickly especially after the dreaded “2 year mark” 

        i think kids want everything right now, right away and without mistakes, but that is not the case. 

    • GUEST

      ^^^why wouldn’t you want to live with someone for the rest of your life? too many people think like you nowadays. In a few decades there won’t be divorces anymore….cuz no one will even marry any more.

    • Anonymous

      It is the fear of ever losing that particular person…. that’s why you settle down

  • nat

    A big resounding “YES” to all of this.

  • Anonymous

    I mean, you can always date someone without getting married to them. .. But in general, settling is usually a bad idea!

  • http://twitter.com/Nadiaaa87 Nadia

    Wow, you’re killin em out here Chelsea. Mad truths being spoken. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ciara-Garner/100000581140018 Ciara Garner

    I’ve been with my boyfriend since I was 15 and he was 18. Almost 5 years later and I wouldn’t say that I’m missing out on things because I’m in a committed relationship. If anything I’d say I just get to experience the same things if not more and with someone who I care about. I think of myself as a very lucky person to be able to share more of my life with someone for longer. My grandparents were together from high school until my grandfather passed away this summer. Almost 60 years of loving each other and sharing their lives with each other. If I can have the kind of love they did for as long as they did, I could call my life complete. I am grateful to have some one that I care about so much and that cares about me to share all of life’s ups and downs with. It makes the good times that much better, and the hard times that much more bearable.

    • Christos

      ya but like your bf only has 85 FB friends, are you making the right decisions??

      • Autumn

        this is the creepiest comment in the entire world.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ciara-Garner/100000581140018 Ciara Garner

        This is a very creepy comment. Facebook stalk someone you know… not some random stranger on the internet. But clearly you are intelligent enough to say that a person is how many friends they have on facebook. Fucktard.

  • http://twitter.com/syst3m_32 Nav D

    How true. Making decisions can be hardest thing in life. Finding somone really perfect and then letting them go because im not on my own feets can be even harder

  • Christina

    I totally agree with you Chelsea, what is the point of losing something so important for some grand, sweeping notion of “finding yourself”?  I’m getting married next year in the age bracket you speak of. (Though I don’t come from an unstable background or a devout Christian one…) I understand completely the kind of risk being taken but I embrace it entirely, its a leap of faith and an utterly romantic, strangely brave notion – if you go into it with your eyes wide open. x

  • Anniekais

    Chelsea, you are speaking to my soul. Just don’t tell the man I am avoiding having this conversation with.

  • Donnerunbaiser

    You say the things I’m too afraid to admit.

  • Sunny

    2nd Thought Catalog entry that I have ever actually hated. This logic makes me hurt.

    • Guest

      care to expand on that?

    • Non Hipster

      Really? This is the first Thought Catalog entry that I’ve ever actually enjoyed.

  • annie dink

    When you find the right person, you wont have to make a decision! it’s not about closing doors, people! it’s about going through the doors of life experience WITH SOMEONE … taking them with you on your journey …. and merging your journeys into one.

    i think you’re looking at this from the wrong perspective. if you’re looking at a relationship in the sense that you’re losing part of yourself, you’re doing it wrong.

    • http://twitter.com/aluminiyum Soraya

      bravo. getting into relationships shouldn’t require a tally of loss/gain.

  • http://twitter.com/tannnyaya Tanya Salyers

    Take your time honey, there is no need to rush anything!

    • AK


  • Amanda

    I got married at 22 and couldn’t be happier, but I also recognize that not everyone can/should get married that young. I think you’re ready to get married when you find someone for whom you are willing to make sacrifices – including giving up the “fun” stages of self-discovery in your 20’s, though I argue the point that you have to be single in order to have fun and learn about yourself.  I can honestly say that I’ve learned more about myself after getting married than I did while I was single. Ultimately, I don’t think age should matter. I don’t advocate getting married by a certain age. I married young because I found the right person for me and didn’t see a reason to wait. But if you don’t find the person you’re meant to be with until you’re 40, then so be it. When you know, you know – don’t marry for any other reason. That’s my advice.


    The right time to ‘SETTLE’ is when it doesn’t feel like ‘SETTLING.’ Believe it or not, all you ‘independent’ types, that actually happens for people sometimes.

  • Anonymous

    I think the general idea is that between mid teens and thirties, people’s personalities tend to evolve and if they’ve “settled down” with someone at such a young age, they wake up one day and realize that they have very little in common with each other because they aren’t the same people that they once were.

    • Guest

      you’re always the same person.

      • Anonymous

        Corporeally most people are always the “same person” but spiritually, they develop.  Opinions and tastes change, and what someone desired ten years ago isn’t always what they desire today.

      • Guest

        if you are a stable and confident person to begin with, then it won’t change much.

      • Anonymous

        Not everybody is 100% stable and confident, the essence of human beings is that they are all different.  The world would be a dull place if everybody was “perfect”.

      • Guest

        Generally stable and confident. Some people don’t change because they actually are happy the way they are, while the weak ones always change constantly because they hate themselves.

      • Anonymous

        Thus, supporting my original point that people’s personalities have a tendency to evolve. Being ‘weak’ isn’t the point, it happens. That’s why it’s not always a great idea for some people to settle down at a young age.  Doesn’t apply to everyone though.

      • Guest

        yeah..exactly..only the confident ones can settle down at a young age.

      • Anonymous

        Okay totally missing my point, but whatever.  You’re right.  Single people are the dregs of society.

      • guest

        Calling other people weak doesn’t sound very confident to me. 

    • Anonymous

      Well, a relationship shouldn’t be based on commonalities in the first place. It can be your stepping stone but it should never be that freaking fortified bastion. 

      • Anonymous

        I didn’t say relationships should be based on commonalities, I agree that there are far more things to be considered when entering into one. But if people have absolutely zero in common with each other, or if one partner wants children and the other doesn’t, that’s a problem.

  • Ashley

    You are awesome. I hear so much of what you say in the three posts I’ve read in the last half hour, not just this one. I wish I had time to comment more extensively on all of them. I’ll favourite it and maybe distract myself tomorrow.

  • http://twitter.com/layzrr Matthew

    The whole situation really shrinks in scope after you masturbate, and start eating Cheez-Its.

  • http://twitter.com/natashaMTL Natasha Young

    My boyfriend and I met and started dating when I was 19 (he was 22) and moved in together 6 months later. We’ve been together for almost 3 years now and show no signs of stopping; we just knew right away how great we are together. I think, if you’re lucky enough to find love like that, you’d be an enormous fool not to go for it.

    That is not to say, however, that ANYBODY should get married (and especially not have kids) in their early-to-mid-20s. You can grow as a person, “find yourself”, whatever, while in a couple with potential for flexibility and mobility and without legal complications. But if you officially legally tie yourself to that person too soon – or worse, make an irreversible bond by having kids – then, yeah, you’re going to limit yourself. But that’s why more and more couples than ever before are living together before or instead of getting married; there’s less pressure, and it’s all about the relationship’s *potential*.

  • http://twitter.com/mung_beans Mung Beans

    I am totally going steady, but I don’t want to get married ever so IDK.  

  • shaybythebay

    i love the whole “me-oriented” era tid bit because it’s so true. but sad at the same time. we as a society are focused on the “me” and when we hit a certain age all we want to think about is the “we”.

  • Seb

    I think this post promotes a destructive mindset, more so than the claim of being “too young to settle”. We’re essentially talking about the notion of “soulmates” here, which is based on a mentality of scarcity and fear. Don’t let go, because you may never find someone like that EVER AGAIN!

    There are amazing men and women everywhere, and there always will be. Justifying that someone is “meant for you” because you’re afraid you’ll never find that again reveals an insecurity that says you’re probably not ready for that type of commitment in the first place.

    If you’re young and want to settle down with someone special, then I think that’s awesome. But it should never get in the way of what you want to accomplish with yourself, and it should be based on a strong connection you can’t live without. Not fear of being alone.

    • Anonymous

      I disagree, but I think that may be because I see a marriage or lifelong partnership as not simply about finding the person who meets the most qualities on your checklist, but finding someone with whom you build and experience all of life’s most beautiful moments and share things that you don’t share with anyone else. It’s something that grows exponentionally over time.

      So if you meet someone when you’re young who makes you laugh, who treats you with kindness and respect, with whom you connect physically, who makes you feel incredible, and with whom you feel you couldn’t live without–why throw that person away because you’re young?

      Sure, you could say that there’s a near-endless string of people to meet and become involved with after them, but that’s not the same thing as building a life with someone–it’s almost unfair to compare the two. If you feel that, at some point, you want to start a family or a journey with just one person–and many of us do–you shouldn’t let age dissuade you from choosing a person who you feel, in every other way, is right for you.

      • Guest

        ok, now how do you get this person to stay in your life and not run away like a scaredy pants. it seems young love rarely works out.

      • Seb

        First of all, thanks for the reply and the insightful post. 

        I’m with you on a lot of things. You shouldn’t throw someone solely away because of age, especially if they mean as much to you as you outlined. 

        My issue is with points in your post where you use the “you probably won’t find anyone better” argument as justification for staying with someone. We’ve all seen our friends become stuck in relationships they shouldn’t be in because they once used this same justification.

        We need to put ourselves first. I think a lot of people jump into serious relationships too soon because they haven’t or don’t want to confront their insecurities. They let this grand romantic notion be their escape, and they use words like “soulmate” to justify their decision. 

        Bottom line, we need to be more confident in ourselves. Not fearful about not being good enough to find someone even BETTER later on (should you be thinking of breaking it off). But developing that mindset can take time. I think you’re undermining the value of personal growth a bit. We need to know that we can be happy alone first before deciding to be with someone else forever. 

        But if you know yourself, believe in your potential, are grounded in your own sense of purpose…and you want to settle down and get married? I don’t care if you’re 68 or 18. 

        A pleasure talking about this :)

      • Guest

        I think it’s actually a lot more simple. When you meet someone you feel something for, you just know it, and those types of people are special. They don’t come around a lot, unless of course you are the type of person who is generic and can “be” with anyone..but if you’re not like that, then you’ll surely look back on your life when you are 80 and realize you may have lost a person or two that you could have been happy with for a long time.

    • Guest

      you, my friend, are also promoting a destructive mindset. you are assuming that an individual cannot accomplish anything unless they are single.  that mindset is destructive, believing that “settling down” means the end of individuality and accomplishment..

  • http://twitter.com/dianasalier diana salier

    i think there needs to be a distinction between “settling” and “settling down”

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