In a recent survey, we asked adults age 30+ to share with us what they wish they knew in their 20s when it came to family, friendships, and love. Here’s what we learned:

On Family

Approximately 50% of respondents said it was family who would be there for you through the good times and the bad. See some the responses below:

“… [family does matter and no matter how hard a struggle, there is someone there to help.”

“No matter what you do in life whether you fall or climb to the top of the ladder, your family is always there to support you and love you. Nothing can change the love of a family member! It’s unbelievable how families band together and help one another.”

“That they will always be there and will support me in all aspects of life.”

“That no matter how big of a pain in the ass family can be sometimes, they are truly there for you and they have the greatest advice.”

“They are always there to back you up and support you.”

“I wish I would have listened to my parents more. All of my big regrets in life were things my parents tried to warn me about and steer me away from.”

“I wish I knew that they weren’t the enemy, they were on my side the whole time.”

“Having a family or being a family member takes a lot of work. It’s not always perfect, but you can count on family when life gets really rough.”

“They are doing their best, they don’t know what they are doing anymore than you do.”

“Tell the people who raised you that they did a good job. You might think they already know, but they’ll be glad to hear it. Don’t be too hard on them for still worrying about you even though you’re a grownup. They’ve never known you as a grownup yet. Its a pretty amazing thing when you start to see your parents as people, not just parents. Likewise, they are amazed to see you as people, not just kids. (Sadly, watching movies with sex scenes while your parents are in the room never gets easier.)”

About 25% of respondents said something along the lines of “you can choose your own family — even if they aren’t the ones you were born into.” Read some of the responses below:

“Family isn’t blood relation. Family is the people who actively invest in your well being.”

“Friends are the family you choose. Your children are the most important thing in life, bar none.”

“That sometimes the family you surround yourself with is better than the family you were born into and it’s okay.”

“You don’t have to keep toxic people in your lives — no matter the bloodline or marital relationship.”

Some people gave different advice:

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“[I wish I had known] that you are not obligated by their expectations.”

It is possible to fix these relationships.”

Approximately 25% of those surveyed said you should value the time you spend with your family:

“Family is precious take advantage to spend the time with them, they may not be there later.”

“How fast time actually goes by and time not spent [with each other].”

“Spend as much time with them as humanely possible. Friends are wonderful but nothing trumps family (event though they are usually crazy people).”

“I wish I would have known to cherish them more.”

“The situation as you know it can all change in a blink of an eye…keep that in mind as you entertain resentful and bitter thoughts. Would you feel/act the same way if (insert family member here) wasn’t around anymore?”

On Friendship

The responses we received on friendships we’re an interesting mix of feelings from”pick your friends wisely, quality over quantity” to “good friendships last a lifetime” to “you’ll lose friends over time, even good ones.”

The most encompassing advice can be summarized in this response:

Some people will float out of your life no matter what. Be choosy on spending the effort to keep up relationships. Spend your time with worthwhile people. The ones who are worth your investment will always be your friend (for life, no joke, no matter how much time has passed). The ones who make you feel bad for all that time that passed? Let them float away.

Of the 22 respondents, 68% echoed “quality over quantity”:

“Choose carefully; Your early friends will impact your entire life. I must have made some horrible choices.”

“Chose friends carefully, don’t be fooled.”

“A real friend will challenge decisions that you make and tell you “no” when you need to hear it most. Not somebody that enables bad behavior to continue.”

“It turns out you never know who your true friends are until something happens in your life where you need someone. When life is tough, true friends come out of the woodwork.”

“I wish I knew that not all of my friends were worthy of that title. I wish I had not trusted them with the secrets of my heart.”

“I wish I’d realized that not everyone who calls themselves a friend respects or loves you the way you do them.”

“Simply that I appreciated the value of genuine friends as I do now.”

“Its ok to let them go. You become your true self in your twenties, let yourself flourish. Don’t keep the people in your life who prevent that from happening.”

“I wish I would have known that you are lucky to have five true friends.”

“They like you for who you are. Don’t be so guarded. Your vulnerability will strengthen your bonds, not weaken them.”

“Quality over quantity, basically. It’s not about how many friends you have, but the connection you have with them. Be honest, forgiving, supportive, and kind.”

“If you can’t be honest with a friend, then that person is not really a friend. Cut ’em loose!”

“Its ok to let them go. You become your true self in your twenties, let yourself flourish. Don’t keep the people in your life who prevent that from happening.”

“You have to be a good friend to have good friends.”

On Love

When it comes to love, four major themes stood out in the responses we received:

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About 55% said be patient — it’s worth the wait for the right person.

“Glad that I did it the way I did. [I did] not get married right away, [I] waited until I [was] ready, [I did] not get pushed into it.”

“Enjoy dating, true love will always find you. It may take time, but it is so worth it!”

“Choose wisely, in theory this is for life. In practice not always so. Be true honest and always remember its a partnership. It’s taken me a couple tries to figure this out.”

“Don’t rush it. Be authentic. Love comes from accepting the whole person, not the pretty parts.”

“Be patient. When you find the right one you’ll know. Do not settle.”

“Don’t be in a hurry.”

“I wish I knew not to rush into marriage. I wish I would have chosen a spouse based on his intelligence, morals, goals and parenting philosophies as opposed to just someone who was cute and fun. I often find myself wondering whether I would even date my spouse if we met today.”

“Don’t force it and stop looking for it. Don’t get discouraged. Live your life with you at the focus, make you the priority and you will become someone who you love and admire and soon other people will see that too.”

“I wish I would have known to have more light hearted fun and to wait a little later to get married.”

“What you want in your 20s may not be what you need in your 40s.”

“You have time. You can wait to find that long term thing. You can wait to get married. You can wait to have kids. You cannot wait to find your own confidence as an individual. Do that first.”

Approximately 18% said communication and having fun are important:

“Keep it fresh and fun, easy going, communication is key and support each other always.”

“Have fun. Don’t get so attached or serious.”

“Discuss and resolve potential deal breakers– parents, kids, holidays, money– before you go gaga.”

“Love, full of ups and downs, but with right person it’s all worth it.”

Another 18% wish they had loved themselves first:

“Stay strong in who you are. Don’t change yourself to please others. Those that do change themselves find out that no one ends up happy in the end. You have to love yourself first – appreciate how unique you are – and for God’s sake, be kind to yourself.”

“To quote someone else “my first love was some insignificant boy when it should have been myself”. Love yourself, respect yourself and the rest will follow.”

“Don’t force it and stop looking for it. Don’t get discouraged. Live your life with you at the focus, make you the priority and you will become someone who you love and admire and soon other people will see that too.”

“You have time. You can wait to find that long term thing. You can wait to get married. You can wait to have kids. You cannot wait to find your own confidence as an individual. Do that first.”

A final 18% said people won’t change, no matter how much you want them to:

“Love people for who they are, not for who you think they could become.”

“I wish I didn’t spend the time waiting for him to change. People don’t change. If it sucks…it sucks. The only way to bring about change is to do it for yourself.”

“Don’t ignore red flags like alcohol and drug abuse or abusive language or physical abuse. If he/she gets angry enough to call you something awful, it’s probably not the booze or something you said or did. It’s something inside of that person. You can’t change that, and you are not responsible for fixing this person.”


See the results in infographic form here:

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We asked 22 adults what they would tell their 20-something selves about friends, family, and love. These results may surprise you.