By Isabelle Perello |

Full disclosure: I’m 20 years old and have been in a serious relationship for the majority of the past two years. Do I hear wedding bells? Not particularly. I’d rather finish getting my degree and not have to depend on a college allowance from my parents first.

Talking to older family members and friends about my relationship has always been tricky business. People assume that because I’m “young and in love,” I have no sense of self-identity or independence outside of my boyfriend. I’m told to “explore my options” and “take time to discover who I am.”

Out of basic human decency and respect for my boyfriend, I will refrain from “exploring my options” while I’m still in this relationship. And when it comes to “discovering who I am,” I’m fairly confident that I have a pretty good idea.

I don’t believe that self-discovery has to come from some big independent time span in your life, like taking a solo road trip to try and unearth some dormant personality traits. It’s a life-long process, one that many individuals likely take with them into their future marriages and as they have their own families.

I’m not saying that having your own independence and “dating yourself first” isn’t extremely important. If I felt the need to be surrounded by my boyfriend 24/7 or had no idea what my identity could be like if I became a single woman, I’d probably have a lot more shame in telling you all of this. I just think that no one ever talks about how it’s okay to be young, confident in yourself, and be happy in a serious relationship.

It’s not surprising that people typically have a skeptical view when it comes to young and serious relationships. Statistically speaking, people who get married at my age are 50% more likely to get divorced than people who get married at 25. Which makes sense, considering most 20-year-olds aren’t completely financially stable or have even reached full maturity.

However, adults who encourage younger generations to wait as long as humanly possible before getting hitched, may not have the best idea. Lately, relationship trends have revealed that getting married after you’ve hit your mid-30’s, is even riskier than getting married in your late 20’s.

Being in a long-term committed relationship at any age is difficult. Despite how old you are, life is always going to throw you curveballs. Being in a relationship in a time where you are pursuing a degree, choosing your career, and working on becoming a fully functional adult can hinder you, if that’s the way you choose to look at it. Or, it could also provide you with love and support in times where you might really need it.

Every stressful finals week, my boyfriend has been there cheering me on when my anxiety gets the best of me. When I was going through a particularly rough period with my mental health, he took me out for my favorite Italian food and a random Target shopping spree. While any friend or family member could show support in these kinds of ways, it was really nice knowing that I always had my guy watching my back as well. 

My relationship wasn’t something I sought out during my freshman year of college. I happened to meet a guy, have him fall madly in love with me, and I eventually liked him enough to keep him around. And that’s not the worst thing in the world.