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Teen Talk: The pros and cons of teen relationships

When discussing a breakup between two students in our grade, my friends and I drew a conclusion: high school relationships are not built to last.

For this reason, many parents try to shield their teens from the heartache that comes with romance while involuntarily obstructing the formative experiences that they bring.

High school relationships are notorious for being short, but does the brevity of teenage romance deride its value?

Many parents prevent teens from dating until they reach a certain age. A more effective way for parents to address the prospect of their teens having a romantic relationship is to view it as an opportunity. If you prohibit your child from dating until they turn a certain age, they will enter their first relationship (that you know of) with limited guidance from their parents.

In contrast, if you allow your teen to enter a relationship during middle or high school, you can offer them guidance and teach them what a healthy and safe relationship should look like, equipping them with the necessary tools for romantic success as adults.

Teen dating, just like any other relationship, can expose us to new personalities, characteristics, and ways of life. The experiences we have can help us identify our criteria for more long-term relationships we might embark on in years to come.

Spending intimate time with another person might also help us identify who we are as individuals. In a healthy and fulfilling relationship, we should grow emotionally and learn more about ourselves in addition to enjoying the company of our partner. We should not become emotionally dependent on our significant other or rely on them as our main source of validation and confidence.

Many of us teens can be hesitant to turn to others for relationship advice, leading us to make up the rules as we go along. Engaging in our first relationships while experiencing rampant hormone production can lead us to overlook the foundational aspects of a healthy relationship — respect, trust, and affection — and turn to love as the primary catalyst for our romance.

Prioritizing love over all else can lead us to tolerate abuse, cheating, and detachment while blindly excusing our partner for his or her actions because “we just want to be loved.”

I have a friend who struggled with an abusive relationship for years. She only realized the domestic violence she had been facing when she eventually confided in others about her experience. She is not alone: one in three teens in America have been in an abusive or unhealthy relationship, and only 33% of these teenagers told anyone about their situation.

We teens are still discovering who we are and what we stand for. The teenage years provide a rare opportunity for us to explore and develop our identity while learning to become our own best friend. Rather than relying on someone else for our source of happiness, we should first aspire to be satisfied with who we are, with or without a significant other.

Teens who don’t date are less depressed and have better social skills compared to those who do. Before you enter a relationship, prioritize yourself and your emotions to ensure that you are doing this to love and support your partner as well as to learn and grow as an individual rather than to mitigate feelings of loneliness or inadequacy.

Maria Proulx of Ledyard is a junior at Saint Bernard School.

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