Being 22 And In A Committed Relationship Doesn’t Have To Be A Death Sentence


I keep seeing these damned articles all over the internet. Literally, everywhere, titled things like, “I’m Only 22. I Don’t Want Someone Else to Be My Whole World”.

I keep seeing them, titled a bit differently, but they all send the same message to the girls reading it. I believe these articles are trying to empower women to be independent and not depend on a relationship for happiness and fulfillment. They send messages basically telling girls that in order to have (and keep) a boyfriend, you’d best be prepared to put yourself on lockdown for the rest of your life.

Forget doing anything alone ever again, even if you wanted to. Forget moving away, traveling, or doing anything without approval or your significant other tagging along. And coming from my perspective, a 22-year-old in a very committed long term relationship, it pisses me off, but probably not why’d you would think. I’m not here to defend relationships, falling in love, or submitting to a man’s every whim because you loveeeee him. How horrible does that sound?

Having no more freedom to be your own person? To utterly define yourself by a man you’ve uncontrollably fallen for? How is it empowering women to tell them relationships with men will only slow them down? Am I in a Twilight/50 Shades of Grey spinoff? I’m simply here to bust the main myths about what it means to be in a healthy, committed relationship, and why, yes, you can truly have your freedom AND a man (if you want to).

He doesn’t have to be your ‘whole world.’

No, seriously, he doesn’t. You don’t have to serve him, you don’t have to obey him, you most certainly don’t need to lose parts of your life that you love because he’s in it. You can be whoever you want to be without his permission.

You are a powerful, fierce woman and you are capable of having your own identity and have a boyfriend at the same time.

Let’s say, as an example, that you want to travel for a few months and he’s like ‘I wanna stay home’. If you’re really into this guy, you’re going to be tempted to stay home because female or male, you just want to be near the person you’re into. That’s being human. BUT what if you didn’t stay home? What if you respected his opinion/feelings but also respected yourself enough to follow your dreams? I know because I actually did this. My boyfriend didn’t really want me to go to the other side of the world for 4 months, but he loved me enough to let me go. And by that, I do NOT mean he gave me permission.

He knew I was going with or without that. He knew that because we communicated about it and realized that we are 20-something and even though we want to spend the rest of our lives together there are some things we need to do first, separately. And that is OK. There are experiences I can have without him and yet still be fully committed to our relationship.

You can travel, accept an out of state education/career opportunity, or be in a long distance relationship and still be happy.

Long distance is hard. I’ve done it being 1 hour away from my boyfriend, 5 hours away, and from two separate sides of the globe over a span of 4 years. I’ve also lived 10 minutes from him. Our goal is to live in the same state, in the same residence. We’ll get there. How do I know we’ll get there? Because we are completely committed to each other and our relationship.

However, being long distance right now has meant I’m still getting to be 22. I get to have an experience of living alone. I get to go out with my girlfriends on a Thursday night because he’s not at home waiting for me (but I’ve gone out with him waiting for me at home, too). You get to have your ‘you’ time, all the time. If you’re with the right guy for you, the guy that you’re going to make it last with, then he’ll wait for you. He’ll let you go without looking to him for permission. He’ll genuinely want for you to be happy, whatever that means for you.

The right guy is not that guy that’s desperately trying to make you stay where you are.

He’s not that guy that doesn’t want you to accept a promotion, a really amazing school acceptance, or a once in a lifetime travel opportunity. If he’s the one, he’s still going to be the one when you’re done conquering the world. He’s going to be the one packing up to meet you there. He’s going to be the one that’s telling you no matter what you do, he’s going to support that decision, even that means he’s staying behind.

You have to be willing to admit when you need space.

Guys have NO problem doing this. They call us ‘Stage 5 Clingers’ or dump us because we’re being ‘crazy, clingy, or needy’. A good relationship is one where both people communicate and understand their own personal boundaries. In theory, we all know this. But if he’s making you feel like you’re missing out on life, he’s suffocating you. If you see your friends out at the bar, or on a plane to Bali, or living in a big city or whatever adults our age ‘should’ do, and you feel like you’re missing it because of him, acknowledge it and let him go.

If he is not an asset to your life, you’re likely not an asset to his either.

Be a young 20-something. Do it before you lose your chance but don’t NOT do it because of him. You’ll regret it and you’ll probably regret him, too. Be independent enough to be able to get out of a relationship that is failing you. If for no other reason to find one that will serve you. I know, I know, its easier said than done. But keep trying, don’t give up on yourself! You are enough without him, you don’t need him, even though you love him.

My boyfriend has always said he just wants me to do whatever it is that I want to do. Being a headstrong, stubborn, driven woman, I need a man that allows this in his relationships. I got to go to a big university, travel the world, go out to the bars whenever I want, and live in a big city and I’ve done it all by myself with his support and full trust.

We always missed each other fiercely, we had to make a real effort to see each other and communicate, but we were committed enough to make it work for us. You have to be committed enough to make it work for you and your life. But having a boyfriend or a husband doesn’t mean you have to miss out on life, but it does mean spending the time to find someone who is going to preserve your spirit and to let go of those that don’t. Be your own woman, fall in love, see the world, go to college, take that job you’ve always wanted, demand respect from men you fall for. Do it all.

Because you can. Because you want to. Mostly, be able to look at yourself in the mirror with enough confidence to navigate relationships in a way that suits you and your young, 20 something lifestyle whether that means you’re a new mom, a tired graduate student, or a world traveler. Being happy without anyone’s approval does not mean shutting out the idea of a relationship. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

More From Thought Catalog