The big bucket merger

8:57 AM

Get some things out of your system before settling down.

They don't get much credit in many departments, but you have to hand it to Gen Z for finally cracking the code on what us Millennials took our precious time and probably ruined our collective credits to figure out. College is expensive. Degrees don't automatically land you jobs, and when they do, that doesn't guarantee happiness. If the return on investment isn't obvious to these young folks, they have more often than not refused to buy in. And as a result, the bachelor's degree bubble may soon burst. While the fallout from that could take a decade or more to recover from, as the housing recession has, we still have at least one more equally costly lesson to learn in young society. And it's probably no coincidence that it follows the same formula.

Dating in your early 20's is expensive. These romantic relationships don't automatically produce long-lasting worthwhile partnerships. And when they do, happiness isn't guaranteed.   

How expensive is dating exactly?
Let's talk about exclusively about intangibles. If you've had any successful dating experience, or simply read up on the subject, you know that being in a relationship requires a certain degree of purposeful unselfishness.

You hate sushi, I'm half Asian.
Each of us thinks the other's taste in music stinks, yet we have a nine hour drive ahead of us.
I'm not sure where I stand on having kids, but he wants three.
He's atheist, I'm not.

These are all scenarios requiring little or big compromises on the road to a peaceful relationship.
Your beloved significant other will share in your day-to-day life, not to mention have a stake in your future plans. And that is how love has to be.  

I went through four years of college (okay, five) and dated a total of three guys. They were each wonderful in their own ways, and I was naively willing to consider them in every step of my education and future planning. I was independent and I didn't let them call the shots for me, but I intentionally shrank my super-sized dreams to fit what would only be possible with my particular mister in the picture. 
If I wanted to move to Austin, Texas to accept a position at a magazine, but he needed to finish school first, I would have to compromise to make the relationship work. I told myself more than once that my dream cities would wait on me, but that a person I loved had to come first. As it turns out, there is a season for moving to Austin, and that season for me personally has ended after all, with that particular mister in the picture no more. If I could do it again all over, I would choose the same path. But if I could influence another 21-year-old at a similar crossroads, I would tell her to move without hesitation. I can't begin to put a price tag one what it will cost to not take a dream job in a dream town while you're still too young to care about things like taxes and market share.  

One of my dear friends is a very successful divorce attorney under the age of 40 named Shawn. He isn't jaded or bitter, but like a surgeon feels mortality on a deeper level than the rest of us, he is vividly aware of the shelf-life of a couple. Whenever I meet two young people (and I consider myself young at 30) who can't seem to pace themselves on a race to the altar, I have to refrain from handing them Shawn's card. Because who they are today isn't who they will be in five years much less ten, and when that change catches them each by surprise, fewer and fewer of us are able to keep those vows that take minutes to say and a lifetime to fulfill.

Coming of age in a post-internet world is a glorious thing. There is no such thing as no. We can see the incredible feats of others worldwide before we've even had coffee. This is also a potentially "dangerous" threat to the confines of any exclusive relationship. That beloved bae, unfortunately, represents boundaries, obligations and considerations to be had in the ultimate search for your personal identity. If you're under the age of 24, you won't believe me and if you're over the age of 28, you'll probably agree. Who you are as a woman in that four year gap will change, dramatically and for the better if you give yourself the time, space and freedom to discover her. It's amazing how your personal shortcomings, your harsh judgement toward yourself and others, once so inescapable, eventually starts to fade away. It is a refreshing change, trust that! But if you have tied yourself to someone else before this transformation can begin, you may find yourself wondering why the person across the table from you doesn't spark your interest as he once did or why she doesn't seem to appreciate fully who are and want to become. 

It's not a simple conversation really. I grew up on Disney. I get it that we 80's and 90's kids were sold a bag of useless whosits and whatsits galore in an hour and half long Prince Charming tale. But I also believe that women should demand more of their relationships.. by waiting to have them. And waiting until we have something to bring to the table. 

I hope your parents' story of how they decided to get married is romantic. They grew up in an era in which getting together young, relying on a single income, and having kids only to figure out how to pay for them later made some kind of sense. That won't be the case for us, and good riddance. Not only are women working as much as men, but in many households they are becoming the breadwinners, even in the deep South. It's becoming increasingly common among my personal real estate clients who are married that the financing of a home will be based on the woman's income and credit score. So take that income parity! 

My hope is that women are chasing the six figures, the stock options, and the board of directors seats, not only to contribute to their spouses and/or their families but to satisfy their own personal ambitions. But that if you would rather end up on an island, serving mai tais to a different set of strangers every day even if only for six months, that you would chase that dream instead. The world is your oyster baby, whatever you consider a pearl and no relationship should stand in that way of that until you have exhausted every means of exploring it. 

Waiting to reach hyper-exclusivity is worth it because your goals and dreams matter. And because you want to find a mate whose goals and dreams also matter, and hopefully complement yours to some extent. It's fun to scratch items off your bucket list together, but it's really priceless to know a little about what you want in your own bucket before you go merging buckets with just anyone.

That said, if you can find a partner who is willing to stand by your side and encourages you to chase what you want with the reckless abandon of a kid on the playground, you should at least make them wait a few years, put that gung-ho support to the test, and then at dead last, settle in to the complacency of marriage just in time to get fat and finally not care. I mean, that's my plan anyway. 

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All you need is ignorance and confidence and the success is sure. - Mark Twain