Journal: Teen Romance
[This item appeared in the PHS Journal, Volume 89, Issue 6, February 2015]

                Teenagers in love?  Nonsense!  Gross!  It’s nothing more than infatuation.  All of those statements are common thoughts about high school relationships (HSRs), but where does the truth really lie?  As usual, it is somewhere in the middle.

                There are many positives about high school romances, and at least as many negatives.  It’s a difficult subject to evaluate while still remaining objective.  Adults tend to undervalue them, and teens have a tendency to overvalue them, so how can we assess them sensibly?

                HSRs are a key stage of our development into functioning adults.  We learn a lot about commitment, fidelity, trust, and consideration for others from our HSR.  That’s the main reason adults should not minimize the romances their teenagers are experiencing.  As teens, we really don’t want it to be an educational experience, but we do learn many valuable lessons about how to be a good partner to another person.  We put aside some of our selfish desires in order to commit ourselves to another’s well-being.  We practice our capacity for devotion to one person through the exclusion of others.  We learn how to trust another person with our most intimate secrets and goals while being trustworthy with their confidences.  We learn to place another person’s happiness above our own.  While it is likely that we will fail in these tasks to some extent, we will also hopefully learn how to be more reliable in our next relationship.

                Students often ask, “Why don’t people treat my feelings as real?”  Perhaps it comes from the statistical reality that very few HSRs eventually mature into life-long relationships, but it is essential that we recognize that while the connection may not last, the feelings definitely do.  HSRs are an important way for us to learn to distinguish love from infatuation and lust from a genuine bond.  Just as it is difficult for adults to recognize the deep emotions that teens feel in their relationships, it is equally difficult for teens to recognize the long-term value of what they are feeling.  Sadly, many teens invest so much of their personal well-being in their romance that they fail to realize that it is inhibiting them from growing further.  By treating this particular HSR as the ultimate union, teens often sacrifice their own integrity and self-worth to the relationship.  This is nearly always an indication that the relationship will fail.

                A truly beneficial HSR, like any romantic relationship, helps both members become better people.  If yours is not achieving that, you might need to reevaluate the direction it is going.  Make sure that it is helping you become a stronger, more stable individual, as well as part of a team that is complementary in dealing with the troubles that life may bring.

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