You have a lot of growing up to do in your 20s—you get your first job, you learn how to pay bills (Tip: it’s always easier online) and you meet a lot of people from all walks of life. You get to know yourself better, and if you’re in a relationship, you also learn how to make compromises along the way. Now, while your boyfriend in your 20s may or may not be the one, the wrong one will just give you unnecessary baggage you’re going to spend years working on.
So while marriage isn’t something you’re considering just yet, at the very least, make sure your boyfriend is someone who makes you happy in all the right ways. Don’t waste your precious, youthful years with someone afraid to grow up.
1. You should be able to actually call him your boyfriend.
It’s time to let go of the whole “I don’t believe in labels” mindset. You guys don’t have to commit right away, but if he walks, talks, and acts like a boyfriend, then make sure you’re both clear with your intentions. There’s nothing wrong with having a fling, but if it’s been going on for several months, then you guys need to start learning how to communicate your feelings.
2. You save yourselves the hassle of an on-again, off-again relationship.
Nothing demeans a relationship more than a fake breakup every couple of months. If you start hearing your friends getting bored while you talk about your problems, then maybe it’s time to start listening to yourself. The last thing your budding career needs is drama.
3. He knows how to dress appropriately.
Look, he doesn’t have to dress well. Not all men have the fashion sense of Eddie Redmayne or James Reid. But if he’s attending your family reunion or meeting your officemates for the first time, he should know how to make himself look presentable.
4. He has good hygiene.
You need a man who can take care of himself. That includes knowing when to brush his teeth, when he needs to have his pants washed, and what toiletries to pack for out of town trips.
5. He has a good sense of humor but isn’t too makulit.
Your 20s are when you learn how to handle stress. It’ll come at you from all directions—work, friends, family, even the pressure you put on yourself. You’ll always need a good laugh, and hopefully, your boyfriend is someone who knows how to deliver a punch line at the right time.
6. He can talk to your family and friends.
Your man doesn’t have to be best friends with everyone you know, but he should be friendly. It helps to be with someone who knows how to handle himself in social situations so you’re not left worrying about him at parties. You attend a lot of parties in your 20s, and some of them can even make or break your career. If it’s the latter, let’s hope it’s not because your SO got too drunk in public or because he kept offending everyone around him.
7. He’s always supportive.
ALWAYS. This is a non-negotiable. He has to always have your back, especially when you’re doing something that’s good for you.
8. He gives you space to pursue things on your own.
It’s never a good idea to make your life revolve around each other completely. You have to have your own set of hobbies and interests and he needs to let you have the driver’s seat when you’re out there exploring them.
9. He’s excited about life.
Optimism goes a long way. You want to be with someone who’s always willing to try new things. Hello, you’re only 20-something. Don’t be set in your ways just yet.
10. You both have ambition.
Success doesn’t come easy, but it will never come to the lazy. Pick a partner who acts like a partner, and that means someone who is able to pull his own weight. This is an exciting time where you get to aim high and focus on your careers. If you start noticing that he’s all talk, maybe it’s time for you to take action.
11. He knows how to protect you, and vice versa.
Again, a relationship is a partnership. Your boyfriend should look out for you the same way you look out for him. This also means that you should be strong enough to handle problems for two when necessary. You have to give each other the chance to be weak sometimes, which are really just opportunities to learn how to be strong.
12. He sees you as an equal.
You’re a grown woman, and he better treat you like one. If he sets a double standard early on, then don’t waste your time. You’re better than that, and a million guys out there are better than him.