20 ways to improve every relationship in your 20s

The everyday life of a twenty-something is bound to be rocky, and also really exciting. This decade is all about growth and carving out the life you want to live. You learn what you like, and more importantly, what you don’t. This period of exploration becomes especially useful in the search for love, and navigating all other relationships in our lives, including the one we have with ourselves Here are 20 easy steps to winning the dating, friendship, and work relationship games in your 20s.

1.  Realize that ‘dream’ jobs, houses, cars, etc. should be for fun fantasies only

If you are lucky enough to be in a situation to make them a reality, you’ll only replace them with more unattainable aspirations. Rent a slightly damp one bedroom, drive a car that’s older than you are and make the most out of the job you have while you’re there. You will be the one with the most interesting stories in the long run. Forget about Hugo, Henrietta, and their summer cottage on Martha’s Vineyard. Zzz.

2.  Don’t get engaged, married, or birth a child because you think that you should, or because that’s what your friends are doing

Your best friend just got engaged? Awesome! Celebrate by buying a fabulous dress to wear to the party and start planning a send-off they’ll never forget. Don’t knock years off of your partner’s life by maniacally demanding to know when it’s your turn.

3.  See as much live music as you can together

Who knows what will happen in another twenty years’ time? I have terrifying visions of concerts becoming a ‘virtual experience’ where a hologram of your favorite artist appears before you and performs a pitch-perfect set, devoid of all originality. Music is such a powerful trigger for memory and shared experiences like this will bond you and your concert companion for life. There’s a reason certain songs won’t allow you to forget that ex but the positives make it all worthwhile.

4.  Say ‘yes!’ to getaways with your friends

All twenty-somethings must visit the White Isle, Ibiza and worship at the altars of Avicii, Carl Cox, and Annie Mac before it’s too late. No excuses.

5.  Learn from your mistakes, don’t be ashamed of them

If you have children in the future, they will be counting on you to help them through their own dramas. Who wants a Mum or Dad who can’t empathize with heart-break or getting inappropriately inebriated at the office party?

6.  Make time for your friends

Make time for your friends. Make time for your friends. Need I say more? (Spending said time staring at your smart phone while sending heart-shaped emojis to your lover does not count and deserves any punishment deemed appropriate by aforementioned friends).

7.  Travel with your significant other

It doesn’t matter how far or whether your budget can’t quite accommodate one of those wooden huts suspended over the sea (that I’ve spent many an afternoon salivating over via Instagram). Grab a tent or load the car with snacks and a decent playlist and get away for the day. Nobody can deny the excitement of exploring a new place. This is the perfect opportunity to solidify new relationships or rejuvenate longstanding ones.

8.  Actually talk to your partner

It sounds obvious, but after a while, you can get to a stage where you don’t really ask about the other person’s feelings, you just assume that they’re OK because they’ve stuck around. You may not always like the outcome of these kinds of conversations, but they need to happen to make sure you’re both still on the same path.

9.  If needed, let your love go

Generally, this period of life is not all about picket fences and settling. You may find that you or your partner are offered the chance to work abroad for a fixed term, or need to go back to school to get the necessary qualifications for a certain role. If this happens and you turn opportunities down, you run the risk of harboring future resentment, which will eventually split you up. You will find a way back to one another later on if you’re meant to be. Cheesy but true.

10. Bring that special someone home to your family

You don’t need to pile on the pressure by introducing this person as your future husband/wife, but if you come from a close-knit clan, it’s nice if they at least know the person you’re with a little and get some sense of why they’re so important to you. Plus, hanging out with the family usually equates to free food, so that’s always a bonus.

11.  Take photographs with your fave people

Your skin will never look this good again and your hair will never be as shiny. Make the most out of it by documenting the things that feel worthy on camera, with the people you love most, and then you’ll have some evidence that you were indeed once a fun human.

12.  Get the stay in/go out balance right

It’s a valid point that we sleep when we’re dead and should enjoy ourselves (and our money) as irresponsibly as we choose to before real adult life takes over. That being said, make sure you can actually hold a conversation and tolerate your friends and partners minus the stimuli of alcohol, restaurants, and people watching.

13.  Find a shared hobby with your love

This varies massively depending on the couple; while some pairings may have blossomed over a mutual love of mountain biking, others find themselves at a loss when they try to understand their significant other’s passion for Keeping Up With the Kardashians. That being said, experimenting together with activities you haven’t tried before offers a welcome break from routine and you may even discover some unexpected, mad skillz.

14.  Commit to a joint Netflix membership

A big step, I know but persevere. Many a ‘what shall we do tonight’ dilemma will be resolved once you succumb to TV show addiction. However, be warned that there will be no bigger test to your relationship than when one of you jumps ahead and watches the season finale without the other. Unforgivable.

15.  Be a cheerleader

They want to start a Goldfish Olympics training center? Egg them on all the way. There’s nothing worse than someone immediately shooting down an idea you’ve been building up the courage to share. This is when people are at their most vulnerable and truly appreciate encouragement. Think constructive criticism, e.g. “Are you sure you will be able to give all of the goldfish an equal level of support?” Not “That’s ridiculous. Why waste your time?”

16.  Get to know your partner’s friends

It’s always nerve-wracking being introduced to a group of strangers who you know are silently judging you but it has to be done if you want to invest fully in a romantic relationship. The kind of people your other half associates with will tell you a lot about what they value and ultimately whether or not you agree with that. It’s not necessarily a deal breaker if you don’t get along with them, but it’s definitely a bonus to have a trusted source of embarrassing stories.

17.  Say ‘congratulations’ and mean it

Your twenties are a tumultuous time, with one person getting fired, one getting dumped and another being promoted, all at once. Yes, positive and negative experiences will follow us throughout life, but there is something about being a twenty-or-so that feels that much more uncertain. Melodramas between friendship groups, colleagues and relationships combust into a cacophony of stress that often translates into bitterness. You may be at war with your best friend over a drunken throw-away comment or certain that your boss is making your life miserable on purpose, but this does not mean that you have an excuse to ignore your partner’s or friends’ successes. It will be your turn eventually. Now is the time to acknowledge theirs.

18.  Don’t let your insecurities rule you

Easier said than done, but it’s a simple fact of life that we all have them and they’re not going away anytime soon. Nobody wants to be with the girl shuffling awkwardly at the edge of the dance floor in high heels she can’t walk in. Be the girl in the middle dropping her less-than-perfect booty to the floor and giving her best Beyoncé impersonation. It’s draining having to constantly reassure your partner that no, they don’t look like a whale in that outfit and no, you weren’t checking out that girl/guy across the club; you were just trying to find the toilets.

19.  Be social media savvy

It’s becoming more and more common for couples to share their entire lives with their virtual following–from sugary sweet Instagram snaps to cryptic ‘So frustrated!!!’ Facebook status updates–there’s precious little we don’t know about each other’s love lives. The fact that Facebook highlights relationship status changes ensures that nothing is private anymore. Your hairdresser may know you’ve been dumped before your family does, so be wary of what you choose to post. It’s tempting to vent to whomever will listen, or to rub your happiness in other people’s faces. Just make sure that you’re both in agreement on what is okay to expose for public consumption.

20.  Know when to say goodbye

This one is the toughest of all as it’s the most difficult to get right. You may feel like a breakup is drastic, that you’re being too hasty and maybe another chance will make all of your problems evaporate. On the other hand, you might be overly eager to end things as soon as the initial novelty wears off. Either way, these decisions, while important, should ultimately come from your gut instincts. Try to block out other people’s opinions, however trusted they are, and do what your heart tells you to. Most of us are quick to recognize when a relationship isn’t working but are much more reluctant to take action. Your twenties should be about having fun overall, with life lessons a useful by-product. If it stops being fun, walk away.

Jennifer Thompson is a data analyst by day and a creative soul by nature. She’s from a small town in the UK between Manchester and Liverpool (don’t let the rain fool you, they’re massively underrated cities!). She claims she’s more fanatical about children’s books, particularly Matilda and Winnie the Pooh, than perhaps someone of her age should be. She still likes to write with a pen and paper, and spends the rest of her spare time attempting to cook Asian-inspired food, exploring the Great British countryside, or browsing this blog. You can contact her at [email protected].

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