But how do I know that I'm old enough now to be able to judge whether my partner and I could be a good long-term fit? I FEEL as if I have a better sense of what sorts of things might come up and how we would handle them together vs. in college when I was mainly concerned with what felt good in the moment. But what if my 30-year-old self would someday think it was laughable that at this age I felt ready to settle down?
— Too Young?
Too Young?: This is such a great question. Possibly even the question come mate-picking time.
Short answer is, I don’t think you can know. You can be a mature and self-aware person who fits happily and comfortably with another mature and self-aware person and be of an age where you can both reasonably conclude that you know what you’re getting into — let’s pick low-30s just for argument’s sake — and then, bam, something happens in one or both of your lives 15 years later that changes everything. A brush with death, a tragic loss, a more positive but still transformative experience, an epiphany about something profound. So you and your lovely and mature partner suddenly see life so differently that you can’t find a way to travel through life on the same path anymore. Or, more mundanely, you weather nicely into good old friends and one of you decides that a friendship isn’t what you want. Whatever.
There’s just no seeing around corners here.
What you can do, though, is know yourself well, which both hinges on and encourages complete honesty with yourself. If you don’t do something well, accept it and admit it. If you need something, and it feels silly to need it, then own your silly need. Resist the urge to rationalize it away. Resist the urge to rationalize, period, if something doesn’t feel right. If someone you meet is great, “but” — make sure you get well-acquainted with those negatives instead of weaving around them as we’re always inclined to do.
And, this might be the biggest indicator of them all: Ask yourself what a breakup with this person would be like. It tends to show, early. It’s always important to see how you weather tough times, separately and together. Anyone can be in love while having fun. The breakup hypothetical covers behavior under duress, involves a realistic situation and adds the twist of your being upset with each other, not some safe third party. Don’t rationalize volatility as passion.
Be patient, too, as you’re choosing someone, so you can look for the various qualities in yourself and someone else that will carry you through time and other trials. Two people who listen to each other, share values and interests, are mature enough to admit fault, and have a flexible approach to life are most likely going to be okay — whether they last or not.