By Caitlin Goldberg, BounceBack Editorial Staff
We find it curious that we expect so many things from the “one” person in our lives. We can pass through countless changes and stages of life. But somehow it’s so easy to ignore the fact that as our brains change, so do our partners’. Anyone who’s been through a divorce or relationship breakup has surely done research or at least contemplated the idea that the person they’re parting ways with surely couldn’t be the same person they fell in love with…
The fact is, your ex isn’t the same person you fell in love with - especially not if you met them in your early 20’s. As Robin Marantz Henig discusses in her New York Times Article, What Is It About 20-Somethings? our brains are still physically changing until we’re in our mid-twenties. She says a National Institute of Mental Health study that followed nearly 5,000 children, ages 3 to 16, found the children’s brains were not fully mature until at least 25. The most significant changes took place in the prefrontal cortex and cerebellum, the regions involved in emotional control and higher-order cognitive function.
This means there is scientific proof that we are more prone to making decisions based on emotions rather than logic, especially before we reach 25 years of age. This should suggest several important things about marital traditions in America to us, and it has been reflected in recent studies on the marital age that keeps getting older and older. Henig is interested in these changes and discusses how the “traditional cycle” seems to be changing the most in 20-somethings. “The cycle seems to have gone off course, as young people remain untethered to romantic partners or to permanent homes, going back to school for lack of better options, traveling, avoiding commitments…forestalling the beginning of adult life.”
This is not necessarily a negative thing, especially when one considers that divorce rates are now higher than they have ever been. The economy has certainly contributed to the forestalling Henig speaks of... but delaying adult decisions may be a smart idea! Psychologist Jeffrey Arnett says, “the stakes are higher when people are approaching the age when options tend to close off and lifelong commitments must be made.” Arnett discusses the “age 30 deadline” and how it is causing today’s youth to re-evaluate decisions that have been expected in the past - like marrying young and choosing a career, all before one’s late 20’s. In one study that hoped to ascertain the general attitude about the future, Arnett asked participants if they agreed with the statement “I am very sure that someday I will get to where I want to be in life.” 96 percent say yes!
The attitude of 20-somethings is overall, hopeful. Hopeful to have that dream job, to find your perfect husband or wife, all while enjoying the end of adolescence. Of course optimism is a wonderful thing, but it is important to take a step back and consider all the major decisions that we are under pressure to make in our 20’s. We should be accepting that people do sometimes change their minds, whether they consciously choose to or not because of this pressure.
Perhaps when going through a breakup or divorce, you may find it oddly comforting to know that science can help explain your change of heart! For now, we should take a step back and enjoy the end of adolescence, and we should stop feeling pressured to make such huge decisions at such a young age - your brain may not be ready yet!
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