Teenage relationships can be tricky. They can also be some of the most magical and important experiences in our lives. The relationships that we experience in our adolescent years can teach us a lot about ourselves and what we want for our future. Taking intentional steps to set ourselves up for healthy relationships can make all of the difference. Check out the following tips for navigating the dating world during the teenage years.
1. Don’t rush it
There always seems to be a rush to find a boyfriend or girlfriend when we enter high school. It is like a right of passage. When our friends start dating, we sometimes feel alone and unwanted- like we will never be in a relationship. It is kind of scary how much this can affect our self-esteem, emotions, and decision making. All of a sudden not having a partner means that we are ugly, dorky, crazy, stupid, nerdy, etc etc etc. The list goes on and on.
While is totally healthy to want to start exploring romantic relationships, we have to be careful not to rush into something just to put a bandaid on our insecurities and esteem. For some reason, teens often think that finding a boyfriend or girlfriend will solve all of their problems- they will suddenly feel prettier, skinnier, more handsome, and put together. We need to be careful not to start dating to heal ourselves, but to go on dates because we genuinely like another person and want to spend time with them. After all, that is the whole point of dating right?
2. Ignore peer pressure
Have you ever liked someone that your friends didn’t approve of? It happens a lot in high school. For some crazy reason, we often feel pressured to date certain people to impress our friends. If we aren’t careful we can miss out on getting to know some really cool people. We have to remember that it is our relationship, not our friends’. We really need to make sure that we get back to the main point of dating- to spend time with a person we like. When did dating become a game of impressing our friends? This is your life and these are your relationships.
Teens can also feel pressure to advance their relationships when they aren’t ready. When peers are starting to engage in intimate activities, it can definitely make us wonder if we should keep up with them. Intimacy shouldn’t be dictated by a pressure to fit in or keep up. It is not a race. Intimacy is something that is sacred in your relationship. You and your partner, along with your values and beliefs, are the only ones who are responsible for determining your level of intimacy.
3. Define how you want to be treated
Whether we realize it or not, we set the tone for how we want to be treated very early on in our relationships. If you want to be treated with respect, you should demand respect from the beginning. This doesn’t mean you have to be harsh or rude, it simply means speaking and acting in a way that makes it clear that we want to be treated with respect and trust.
This is a mature approach to dating and may not be something that teens are ready or able to do. However, the more we practice healthy dating behaviors, the easier it will become as we grow older and get into more serious relationships. Sometimes high school dating can actually become very serious and we want to protect ourselves from getting into unhealthy relationships.
4. Make a list and check it twice
You really need two lists. The first list should be things that you find attractive- looks, style, types of music they like, etc. The other list should include values that you desire. For example, do you want to find someone who shares the same faith as you? Do you want someone who is motivated and does well in school? How about someone who has the same political ideas? Or even lifestyle choices such as drugs and alcohol?
Once you have your list, you should memorize it and use it. When you meet someone you are interested in dating, try to see if they fit into some parts of both lists. We have a tendency to date from list to list. We may start out dating someone who is hot but treats us poorly. The reaction is then to jump to the other side and date someone who is nice but may not be what we consider attractive. The best relationships are the ones in which the other person fits into both of your lists.
5. To trust or not to trust?
Trust can be one of the hardest things in any relationship, especially a new young teenage relationship. It can be so incredibly difficult to not want to check the other person’s phone or wonder who they are messaging. Sometimes the person gives us reasons to not trust them, but other times our own insecurities lead our minds into wondering what could be happening when we aren’t looking.
This kind of need to know everything about your partner can be detrimental to your relationship. How can you even enjoy your time together if you are constantly feeling worry. When you get to the point that you feel like you have to check their phone and messages, you have to sit back and decide whether or not you want to continue the relationship. If you cannot trust the person, the relationship may be on the way out. However, if you want to continue to be with this person, you have to make a commitment to yourself to trust them until they give you a reason to feel otherwise- and stick to it.
6. Take care of yourself first
When we get into relationships we become invested in another person. This a totally healthy experience and is part of growing a healthy relationship. However, we need to be careful not to sacrifice our own well-being during the process. It is all about balance. We have to make sure that we are taking care of ourselves physically, spiritually, and emotionally before we able to take care of another person.
Relationships are not supposed to be about taking care of another person, instead, they are designed to help us both become stronger together. Make sure to take some time to do the things that you enjoy and love. Practice positive self talk. And don’t forget to make an effort to have time to yourself to exercise, read, or just relax. Encourage your partner to do the same. Your relationship will thank you for it.
7. Don’t forget about your friends
It is so incredibly easy to lose touch with our friends when we get into a new and exciting relationship. Often we don’t even know that we are doing it. It is a natural transition to start spending more time with your partner and inevitably you may not spend as much time with your friends. There is nothing wrong with this at all. It’s part of being in a relationship. However, we want to be careful not to distance ourselves too far from our friends. We need them in our lives to feel balanced. It may not be quite as easy when you are in a relationship, so you may have to start intentionally designating time with our friends. It’s a good idea to split your weekends into one night with friends and the other can be a date night with your partner. If you are not intentional in making efforts to hang out with your friends, you may accidently neglect them without even noticing it. Be sure to keep friends in your life and encourage your partner to do the same. Your relationship will definitely thank you for it.
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