Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Meg Jay, clinical psychologist, assistant clinical professor at the University of Virginia, and author of The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter--And How to Make the Most of Them Now, talks about young adults in their twenties and the opportunities and challenges they face. 

→ Texting Project: Text LIVE to 30644 – that’s LIVE to 30644 to answer a few questions about marriage, living together, and life in your 20s. That’s the subject of our conversation at 11:40. Standard message rates apply, of course.


Meg Jay

Comments [58]


24 married since 21 life sucks yup very confusing

Apr. 19 2012 02:30 PM
Anne from Aberdeen New Jersey

I have been engaged for 5 years and have been living with my fiance for 5 years , we have been with each other for 13 years all of our 20's now in our 30's ... i think if you really love the person that you are with , you should move in with one another before getting married just so you both know about each other little bit better .
People might think that we are crazy and shouldn't be living with one another or even having a very long engagement , Now that we are in our 30's we find it much harder to find common ground with our families to even get joy from them about how long we have been with one another. Now that is 2012 we are again put in the same spot that we are in now .."Not having the support from our loved one's makes it upsetting for the both of us.
Money plays a role in everyones life , and in our life it plays a larger role , as to not even getting anything ready for our wedding , and waiting on money to even pay for certain things that are for our wedding so our parents don't have to worry who is paying for what..
If we could have a Magic Fairy do everything for us that would be just great , but we can't and we have to do it the hard and the old fashion way ."It is called work work work work work work and work till you can't anymore"..

Apr. 18 2012 09:17 PM
tom LI

So sick of hearing about and from 20-somethings, period. When they actually do something and actually live a real life - maybe then...but then they'll not be 20-something, and likely not the whiny pack of spoiled brats they trend to now.

Apr. 18 2012 05:50 PM
ileen from uws

Caller Karen had a hard time learning to share in her 20s? Maybe that's what is wrong with the 20-something generation-aren't you supposed to learn how to share in kindergarten or earlier?

Apr. 18 2012 02:52 PM
Lisa from Jersey City

@Inquisigal from Brooklyn - Agree wholeheartedly. At 21, I thought I would have a fullfilling job that made me happy. I had an entry level corporate job. Over the past 2 1/2 years I have been patient and did what was required of me. My job has developed into one with more decision making and oversight. There are so many more opportunities, but I am developing myself in this current role and will move on when things get too comfortable.

Relationships- My outlook is not to rush. Cohabitation is necessary- how can you really know someone unless you have lived together? I know someone who got married at 19. At 25, he is divorced and that baggage carries with him into other relationships. Enjoy life now, and get married when you really know yourself and the other person.

Travel and Restaurants- I keep a responsible eye on my accounts, but I also enjoy traveling and trying new foods. My friends and I have somewhat stable jobs and aren't aggressively saving for children or a house yet. If you value these things, do it in your twenties. Cook at home when you have a family to feed.

Again with the rose tinted glasses- I don't know where I will be next year or in 5 years. If I am patient, work hard, and enjoy my social life, I am sure things will fall into place.

Apr. 18 2012 01:27 PM

I wish the callers AND Dr. Jay would have picked up on Brian's correct use of the verb: to cohabit, NOT to cohabitate! Some dictionaries started accepting it because people use it -- just as the noun "impact" became a transitive verb, "to impact", about 20 years ago while American dictionary editors just collected their salaries for accepting what's wrong rather than helping to maintain what is correct. We mangle the language to a point where no one really knows what another person really means at times!

But, on topic, I cohabited from my late teens into my very early 20s, and while it's easy to look back at the mistake it was and how it should have ended much, much earlier -- in that particular relationship -- it was an education I can't imagine getting without actually doing it. Do I wish I'd brought it to an end earlier? Of course. But at that age it's not easy to see ourselves objectively (and with the perspective afforded by time and experience). No serious damage done, and if time was wasted and/or opportunities lost, who can ever really say for sure? Isn't hindsight 20:20? When, for that matter, was the institution of marriage invented in our culture/cultures? For that matter, what about arranged marriages? A very broad topic, sure to sell for a while, but an exercise in pointless group therapy (BS, really) over a couple of beers. But what can one expect from someone who turns the noun "cohabitation" into the non-existent verb "cohabitate" and does not even know the correct verb (not just "accepted") is "to cohabit" -- especially when this is the very basis of her thesis?!! Sorry, don't mean to be overly critical. But by the time one gets a PhD one should have a better grasp of English grammar, usage and style. Had I been on her dissertation committee...well, enough said.
But as for cohabitation,we all make mistakes when we're young. We make them when we get older. If we are lucky, we learn from them. If we are even luckier, we get to be guests on Brian's show and not make fools of ourselves.

Apr. 18 2012 12:25 PM
Nathan from Hoboken, NJ

I am 39, I bought my first place at 27 in Hoboken, I worked like a dog in my 20's in startups around the NYC area, often 20 hour days and I am not exaggerating. I once fell asleep after working 3 days in a row on the side of the Parkway only to be woken up by an officer asking me to pull off the side of the road. I have a great job, travel, own a home still, in my 30's was great.

BUT! When 20's ask me what they should do to get where they want to go, I tell them not to rush. To bum around the national parks and sleep on the ground, stay up too late, sow seeds, etc... because there is always time to get a mortgage, be a VP, and have an unsatisfactory marriage, but there is only one time in your life where you have the energy, ignorance, and otherwise to see the world.

Instead, I took time off from work life for 8 month and caught up with living. Don't be a deadbeat but also do not spend too much time thinking about where you want to go, be where you are - be balanced. Put money in your 401(k) but make sure you have a little left over for a beer with your buddies...

Oh and like the Dr. said, I wasted my 20's in a relationship that lasted for 4 yrs instead of 1 yr because we loved together. But I am not sure if anyone told me that at 23, I would have listened, which bring me right back to my starting point! HAHAH

Apr. 18 2012 12:20 PM
Claire from nyc

As a 27 year old, I really wanted to listen to this segment -- but the baby woke up from his nap and my husband (who is 28) called on his lunch break and I just couldn't tune in. What little I did hear, I loved: the message of 20-somethings as responsible adults and not hedonistic pre-grown ups.

Apr. 18 2012 12:18 PM
JP from Northern NJ and NYC

Bill from New Rochelle: That might be my point exactly. A "marriage" indeed, under -very- slightly different conditions.

Apr. 18 2012 12:12 PM

Marriage: Why??

Apr. 18 2012 12:09 PM
Bill from New Rochelle

JP from Northern NJ and NYC, it s ounds like a contry-western song.

Apr. 18 2012 12:05 PM
Jessica from Westport, CT

I was among the first of my generation to live with my boyfriend in 1974. (My father referred to us as "shacked up.") I look back at it now as a major mistake, that would lead to our eventual marriage and then divorce 21 years later. The problem is this: it was just too easy to fall into staying over, bringing things over, and then moving in together. A few years later when all our friends were getting married and the pressure was on, it was once again too easy to get married, with the thought "well, what's the difference, we're living together anyway?" I really didn't want to marry him, but hadn't figured out how to break up. Here is the problem: that our marriage was the result of a series of casual decisions, made by default, rather than the serious and considered statement and commitment it should have been. So I now definitely advise against cohabitation.

Apr. 18 2012 11:59 AM
JP from Northern NJ and NYC

I'm clearly not a 20-something, or even close, but here's the short version:

I met my ex when we were in our early 20s. Had two kids. We were together for 29 years (I am 60 now). For us, the difference between cohabitation and marriage was just this: the "divorce" was a cinch, and a big plus is that we stayed better friends, partly because there was no protracted legal battle. The break-up was indeed painful, but we ultimately split our assets, went our own ways. and are still in touch.

Apr. 18 2012 11:58 AM
Ellen from Brooklyn

I think the idea of co-habitation before marriage dooming a couple is sort of ridiculous and puts too much focus on marriage as the end goal. I'm 26, I've been living with my boyfriend for at least 5 years and we even own our apartment together. To many people this is basically a marriage. Will we ever get married? Probably eventually for taxes. But I don't care much about a piece of paper to validate my relationship.

If living together makes a relationship go on longer than it should (as the guest is arguing) because it's hard to get out of, just think about how hard a marriage is to get out of. If anything, I think this is an argument TO live together before tying the knot.

Apr. 18 2012 11:58 AM

Isn't the verb "cohabit"?

Apr. 18 2012 11:58 AM
Erika from Brooklyn

I cohabitate because New York is so expensive we can not afford to live alone or get married.

Apr. 18 2012 11:58 AM
The Truth from Becky

Not a good idea for 20 somethings living together as roommates NOR partners with intention of marriage. Talk about multiple set backs, you will re start your career and life many times.

Apr. 18 2012 11:55 AM
the_hme from Jersey City, NJ

Someone really selfish is on the phone now- fyi, you are not funny, and your parents should've taught you better. This is definitely an attitude I've noticed in city-ish people. Anyways, I'm in my twenties, love my husband, lived together, and I love sharing everything with him. This is why we got married and because like for our parents (married for over 30 yrs), marriage is very important. PEOPLE! value relationships, what is wrong with you?

Apr. 18 2012 11:55 AM

@Betsy from NYC - Unfortunately, the high end lifestyles of pretentious twenty-somethings are being heavily subsidized by their parents.

Apr. 18 2012 11:55 AM

Doesn't it all come down to when you have kids? There doesn't seem to be a big difference in our circle between married couples and cohabitating couples, until kids come into the picture.

Apr. 18 2012 11:55 AM

I totally agree that co-habitation should be a decision taken with forethought and communication. I have co-habited twice--in my 30s. My partners and I did see each of the moves as a "step forward in the relationship." The first one left me unsatisfied after 2 years, and moving out was one of the most difficult things I've ever done in my life. The second one, made with the same forethought and communication, was followed by a marriage which continues to be fulfilling and satisfying.

Apr. 18 2012 11:54 AM

Hi Brian, Ask the guest what she thinks of just living together and not being married and raising a family like that ?

Apr. 18 2012 11:53 AM
Erika from Brooklyn

Arostotle Anyone...?

Apr. 18 2012 11:53 AM
wendy from nyc

On the other end of the spectrum, I never lived with my husband. He lived at our "country" home and I lived in the city and we spent weekends together upstate. That contributed significantly to the failure of the relationship and although it was convenient, I for one had a sense that I could escape if necessary. It worked for me, but not for him or the relationship.

Apr. 18 2012 11:52 AM
Edward from NJ

Today's failed cohabitation was yesterday's failed marriage with less paperwork.

Apr. 18 2012 11:52 AM
Snoop from BK

I don't think I wasted my 20s by living together, but I did spend 7 years living with someone who, in the end, I did not marry.

Should the relationship have ended sooner? Yes, and cohabitation made it last a year or two longer than it should have. But it also was excellent training for my much later marriage. It taught me an awful lot about relationships and how to get along with someone else.

It also gave us a structure within which we could support each other in a time of our lives when we were insecure financially, in our careers, and our living situations.

So, wasted? Absolutely not.

Apr. 18 2012 11:51 AM
meg from NYC

Twenty-somethings get cut off? My parents would never pay my rent, buy me car or pay my tuition. Nor did they pay for my siblings. I went to college, got student loans, took a job after college and had an apartment. Since i was so busy with these and other interests, no there was no interest for living with a SO.

Apr. 18 2012 11:51 AM
Mike from Inwood

I agree it is harder to get out of a live-together relationship than a more causal relationship. However, it is far easier to get out of a non-marriage live-together relationship than a bad marriage. And there are may people with whom a person might have an enjoyable and mutually beneficial relationship with, but with whom you would have a terrible live together relationship and so a terrible marriage.

Apr. 18 2012 11:51 AM

Sheldon from Brooklyn ~


So true.

Apr. 18 2012 11:50 AM
Bill from New Rochelle

Twenty 'something?

* Help set up Chamber of Commerce meetings, luncheons.
* Join & work with local historical Assn.
* Help out local neighborhood, homeowners' Assn.
* Work with local Bar Assn, Accoutants organizations, (Accountants have fingers in every pie.)
* Church groups.

What is common?
These are places where you may meet people with money, jobs, opportunity.
Here is where you network !!!

Apr. 18 2012 11:50 AM
john from nyc

just goes to support my core belief that you need to be rich.

then you dont need to worry about your likely divorce.

Apr. 18 2012 11:49 AM
Inquisigal from Brooklyn

I think a common problem with people in their 20's, is that they have unrealistic expectations about what kind of work they will find upon graduating college. I have hired 20-something's for entry level jobs, and some outwardly display disdain for being asked to do entry level work - they seem to think that because they went to college, they "deserve" to be doing more complex or high-paying work.

I certainly understand that - I felt that way at that age; I couldn't find a "real job" when I graduated in 1991, so I worked 2 jobs - one an unpaid internship, one a 35 hour a week job at night, and I could pay my bills via that job. I did many things that had nothing to do with my degree - housecleaning, cafe work, restaurant work, retail work - while I continued doing freelance work in my field when I could, and eventually it paid off. Now, looking back I can clearly see that the people who cheerfully accept whatever job they are given, and work hard at that job, are the ones who will be remembered and assisted later in getting promotions or better work.

My advice to young college graduates: no job should ever be "below" you, but if you keep it at, you'll get where you want to go.

Apr. 18 2012 11:48 AM

How can a twenty-something start a life, become financially independent when the Korporate® deriguour is to hire unpaid, post-school "internships"?!?!!?

Really?!?! A Subway™ sandwich and medium drink for a days work. WTF?

Who would have guessed there to be an EVEN cheaper (more immoral) Korporate™ solution to the $7.25/hr minimum wage!!

Keep those Exekutive® salaries up!!

Again... SICK f*ks!!

Apr. 18 2012 11:47 AM
Gayle from Manhattan

There's a lot of pressure to "stay young" while you're in your twenties .I'm 25 and got married last year, I don't like going out and partying as much as I used to and people my age and even those older than me look at me like I'm aging too fast. Now I feel like I'm missing out on something even if I don't want it.

Apr. 18 2012 11:46 AM
John A.

Three shows on twentysomethings: Whitney, Two Broke Girls, Are You There, Chelsea? Heavy implied drug use in all of them. Good luck turning that ship of morals around, Meg.

Apr. 18 2012 11:46 AM
Carol from NYC

Uhh... aren't these 20-something issues stuff we've been talking about forever?? Yes, you need to get out there and hustle. Like everyone else trying to find a job. In some ways, 20 somethings have it easier because they will often start at a lower salary to get their feet in the game.

I think reality tv and shows like SITC have given 20 somethings a warped sense of entitlement and expectations.

Apr. 18 2012 11:46 AM
ethan from bk

i'm a little tired of hearing about how young adults in their twenties (and particularly young men) are this do-nothing, go-nowhere, self-indulgent, pampered generation. this erroneous (and somewhat condescending) view will likely go out of vogue again as the economy recovers and teen and 20s unemployment returns to normal levels. please don't confuse laziness or hedonism with coming of age in the worst economic crash in our (or your) living memory.

Apr. 18 2012 11:45 AM
The Truth from Becky

orrr... go into a company as the receptionist, mail room, temp agency etc, volunteer person to gain experience. Go with a good attitude toward your job, get to know the company and people - a good place to start, a strategy that is guaranteed to advance you higher into the company. Good Luck 2 somethings!

Apr. 18 2012 11:45 AM
rh from near nyc

I met my future spouse in college at 19, and lived with him in college. There was no real choice; we wanted to spend a lot of time together but knew that if we got married in college, let alone so soon after meeting (a few days after we met), it would change our lives significantly. That would be both in regards to academic life and family life. We graduated and got married quickly after that because I couldn't find a job whereas he had obtained one and lost my health insurance. Very non-traditional and offended many people to this day. Later he quit his job to follow me to a new job, so it's even :)

The key to the NYT article is that the woman was gung ho on a big traditional wedding, NOT loving and cherishing her live-in boyfriend or fiance. ***Cohabiting is NOT a prelude to marriage, it is its own end-all-be-all.*** The mere fact that she admitted spending more time on her wedding planning than her relationship speaks volumes, and is completely unrelated to whether she was living with her boyfriend then fiance or not.

I agree with the poster above. My boyfriend and I were obviously looking at the world with rose-tinted glasses in terms of thinking our relationship was "real" love (24 years and counting now by the way), but having someone to spend time with was important to us growing as individuals through our 20's (now 30's and 40's...).

The 20's are very important, and many women are stressed into thinking the main goal of their 20's is to find a stable job and career while finding a husband, and doom if either or both aren't found by age 30. I was lucky that at 19 I took nothing for granted, and still consider myself very lucky to be in a happy long-term relationship (most of my friends are not) and 50-50 in my marriage.

Apr. 18 2012 11:44 AM
Artist in NY

I am a 20 something artist in New York City. I do not come from money. When I am not making money as an artist, I temp, do restaurant work, odd jobs, whatever I can because I have no financial support elsewhere. There are a lot of us 20 somethings who work hard and do the grunt work in this city while persuing our dreams with diligence, integrity, and passion.

Apr. 18 2012 11:44 AM

I think there's a tendency to underestimate the stress of the early-to-mid 20s. Suddenly one has lost the structure of school that has been there for one's entire life. The pressure of suddenly having to figure out how to make one's own structure, make one's own future, make one's own adulthood, is immense. Even more so in the shadow of looming student loan payments. Sometimes it's all one can do to just calm down and enjoy the moment. And take one step at a time.

Apr. 18 2012 11:43 AM
Debbie from nyc

I got married at 33, and I we did not start trying to have a child until I was 36. Now, I'm pregnant at 37, but it took longer than I thought and I am expecting to give birth when I'm 38. I wish we had tried to conceive earlier. We were lucky to not have to use IUI or IVF, but we were in the beginning stages of finding out about these processes when I got pregnant. Fertility doesn't last forever and it matters more than you think it will. If you are in a happy, stable relationship and you know you wish to have a baby in the future, my advice is to try earlier not later. Don't wait too long. That said, I have a bias against having a baby before 30.

Apr. 18 2012 11:43 AM
Elle from Brooklyn

Betsy - they live on credit.

Apr. 18 2012 11:42 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

30 years ago, people in the their 20's could buy a brownstone, have kids, and be in a job they can expect to stay with, for most of their life.

2012: Even with college, mountains of debt, no job, no benefits, bad credit - sharing an apt with roommates if they are lucky.

Apr. 18 2012 11:42 AM

The economy takes a lot of blame;those of us in our 60s find we cannot retire, we're preventing 20 somethings from finding a spot. Much, much more difficult to take the risks necessary to find a career path.

Apr. 18 2012 11:41 AM
Jennifer from NYC

I definitely lived my twenties (partying) and most of my 30's thinking I had all the time in the world. My husband and I married (after 10 years of living together ) when I was 41. We waited to commit to having a child until I was 40 and although I became pregnant quickly and have a beautiful 4 year old son I was never able to conceive again in spite of a strong desire to have another child. I feel that I was somehow led to believe that I had forever to have children. I went to college when I was 36 and started my second career (post 16 years of modeling) at 39. I am definitely not where I thought I would be at this age. No regrets, but a word to the wise!

Apr. 18 2012 11:40 AM

To Betsy's comment -- you are so right! I'm amazed at how the young people pack the expensive restaurants around me. And it continued unabated through the last few years of recession. The only thing that might explain: Restaurants are to the young urban's what clubs and discos were to us back in the day -- that's where many of us were spending our disposable income.

Apr. 18 2012 11:40 AM
Elle from Brooklyn

Unfortunately, years of observation of this generation in the workplace has convinced me that many are incapable of reading, spelling, writing a coherent letter, or following simple instructions. This is extremely unfortunate for the few rare gems (and there are some).

Apr. 18 2012 11:40 AM
Anne from NYC

I have a problem with the statement that people are "delaying starting their lives". I have been described as a "late bloomer" by family members because I chose to pursue a PhD rather than marrying and having children in my 20s and 30s. Well, I'm now 40, am an Assistant Professor and am getting married this summer. Was everything that happened before that "not my life"? People make different choices and marriage and family aren't the only way to have a "life". Is it possible that they are not delaying staring life, but instead actually imaging a different life for themselves?

Apr. 18 2012 11:39 AM
Rick from Long Beach, NY

I am 62 and have been married to my FIRST wife for over 45 years. We married when we were 21.

I have seen a number of my peers marry late in life. Most of these marriages have been a bust after only a few years.

While my wife and I "grew up" together, our late bloomer friends and relatives were set in their ways and found it hard to compromise with their new, older spouse.

I would NEVER wish to change what we did, marry early, have children when we were just able to do it in our 20's and now reap the rewards of early retirement and freedom from child rearing before we are in wheel chairs!
Rick from Long Beach, LI

Apr. 18 2012 11:39 AM

Hi Lisa from Jersey City
Any plans for tonight ?

Apr. 18 2012 11:39 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Life is mostly a waste of time anyway, so do the best you can, and whatever happens, happens. If you are lucky enough to know exactly what you want to do, then do it with ambition and don't give up. Otherwise, if you don't know what you want to do when you're in your twenties, you probably never will :) In any case, life is a waste of time, so no point in getting all mushy about it about one way or another. Whatever happens, try to enjoy and don't get sick.

Apr. 18 2012 11:38 AM

I think that if you make the best you can for now and focus on the moment and make the most out of it and try to make each day a better one, this way you know you made your best and lived to your full potential radher than wait for the future which is always the future.

Apr. 18 2012 11:38 AM
Jami Floyd

I have been happily married for 20 years this fall. Got married when I was 27. I was very excited to be married, BUT I was determined to NOT give up my single days one minute before i said "I do." Thank goodness I enjoyed every last minute of my single life as a young twenty-something woman. Your guest is right. Live in the present. Savor every minute, so that your future really turns our to be everything you want it to be -- without any regrets about the past.

Apr. 18 2012 11:36 AM
m from NYC

I am ammused about the "co-habitation" issue. Obviously, it is a luxury that can be discussed by heterosexuals only. Until recently, and still in most of the US, gays have no option but to co-habitate. Now that I am married to my husband, I have to say being married is much more stable enviroment to live in.

Apr. 18 2012 11:33 AM
Lisa from Jersey City

I am 24 and I still see the world with rose tinted glasses. I have a stable corporate finance job that I don't necessarily see myself doing for the rest of my life. I do have an idea of what I would like to do and think that my current career could help me get there. Changes in career, relationships, living conditions, and living location seem possible and easy.

Apr. 18 2012 11:19 AM
betsy from NYC

How is it that the 20 s.t.'s in NYC can afford to pack the expensive bars & restaurants? Any time I (54 years old) am out to dinner at a high end restaurant, by 9:00 the place & its bar are completely filled - entrees are over $25 & the cocktails start at $15, EACH. I was in the bar at the Gramercy Hotel & all of the drinks were over $20 & I and my friend were the only people over 30! How do they do this?

Apr. 18 2012 11:14 AM
oscar from ny

I've wasted my whole twentys already :(

Apr. 18 2012 11:00 AM

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