Virtual Voices

Why twentysomethings shouldn’t go it alone

Culture

I recently listened to experts (that is, people who have written a book) on a radio program discussing how those in their 20s should live their lives. (I am regularly amused by the “bold” discoveries made by liberal social behavioral academics. What they are actually doing is taking the currents of culture that are already in the ascendency and speak with bravado about them, as if they were saying something professionally daring.)

One sapient comment made was that one’s 20s are not for forming committed relationships but for discovering who one is and fulfilling one’s potential.

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“Discovering who one is” is as old as the hills, the recycling of the hippie generation’s “Finding oneself.” Many a scoundrel has gotten away with a marital “seven year itch” under the noble sounding excuse of “finding oneself”: “It’s not you, honey, I just need to find myself.”

But what struck me in the radio discussion was the utter lack of examination of the proposition that the way to “discover who one is” and the way to “fulfill one’s potential” is do to it alone, outside of a relationship. What exactly are we supposed to envision as going on here? What are the mechanics of this growth? Show me what it looks like to “discover who you are” in abstraction from relationship, and I will show you what it looks like to discover who you are in the context of relationship.

I find that it is in relationship, and not in sequester from it, that I learn “who I am.” I once thought I was a pretty good person until I got into a relationship. When I got married in 1980, I was going to be the best wife who ever lived. It wasn’t long before I found out what awful things I was capable of.

As for “fulfilling one’s potential” before getting into a committed relationship, please define for me what you mean by the terms. What “potential” are you talking about? Evidently it’s not the potential to love and work through interpersonal problems. What “fulfillment” are you talking about? I guess the presumption in the statement is that being a good husband or wife is chopped liver compared to the “fulfillment” of being a CEO.

Many of us have found that we didn’t even begin to “find ourselves” or “fulfill our potential” until we had someone other than ourselves to think about all day long.

Andrée Seu Peterson
Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again. Follow Andrée on Twitter @Andreespeterson.

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