Relationships in the latter half of your twenties are an interesting beast. Gone are the days when you could choose a partner based purely on cuteness and liking the same movies. Now, suddenly you’re thinking about your life, and how another person may fit into it. It is enough to harsh even the most powerful of buzzes.
I find that my friends and I have spent a lot of time up until this point accepting half-way satisfying arrangements with the people we are attracted to. I don’t think young people are confused about what they want—more so, they are terrified to ask for it. Everybody is pretending to be okay with everyone else and that is why ‘young people’ + ‘alcohol’ = ‘drama so involved that I want to take a nap just thinking about it.’
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The conundrum is this: We all want attention, but getting specific about your arrangement with a potential mate may cause a disagreement. Then someone is no longer an option and everybody’s sad.
Or so your young brain would have you believe.
I have recently felt the deep and dizzying feeling of gratification that comes from being honest with yourself and others. It’s a concept we’ve been aware of since childhood: the roller coaster is fun, and we all want to try it out, but there are height requirements. The roller coaster is never going to change. To enjoy the experience properly and safely, you need to fit in that seat.
…I swear I wasn’t thinking about dicks when I wrote that.
For years I have fed the same “go with the flow” lines to men, while on the inside I was anything but laid back. I like to know where I stand with people, but I always felt I was “ruining the fun” by asking, when really, you know what is less fun? Being involved with someone who you really like, who has no idea what your wants or needs are, and therefore never really makes you feel good. It’s like a kinder egg with no toy inside: alluring, but ultimately disappointing.
Knowing who you are, what you have to offer, and what it takes to be with you is not being high maintenance. In fact, laying down those boundaries and expectations early on leads to more fun and less drama down the line.
It is not always going to be easy. Sometimes telling someone what I want also means acknowledging that they cannot give it to me, and it can be heart-breaking when that person was otherwise an appealing prospect. It can be lonely at first because, instead of accepting romantic affection from every person who comes along, I’ve had to force myself to be content alone until I meet someone with similar relationship goals.
In short, chemistry is exhilarating and something to be enjoyed for sure, but all those “on paper” qualities that seemed so boring when you were 18 can be pretty sexy too. Hopefully you’re lucky enough to find both.
Melanie Dahling is a stand-up comedian, actor and freelance writer.