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Relationships in high school can be fun, serious, flirtatious, or spontaneous. Whether you’re just starting to think about dating or you’ve already “been there/done that,” there are no rights or wrongs, as long as all the people involved are on the same page.
Lots of options
Relationships are an important opportunity to express feelings in new ways and to share experiences with different types of people. The key is to figure out what’s important to you.
“You can’t have a meaningful relationship until you figure out what you’re looking for,” says Angela from Morgantown, West Virginia.
Relationships are like snowflakes—no two are alike—but here are some general examples:
- Just friends: You get along really well, but the spark just isn’t there for romance.
- It’s complicated: You start in the “friend zone” and gradually evolve into something more. Though this is sometimes complicated, it’s worth talking it out to see if you and your friend want the same thing.
- It’s casual: Casual dating is nice if two people want to keep things mellow. Make sure you both talk about boundaries and expectations, so there aren’t any misunderstandings.
- Hopeless romantic: Romance can be fast and furious right from the start. These connections sometimes burn out quickly, but they’re fun while they last.
- Hunger games: A time may come when you want to take things further physically in a relationship. Make sure you give this a lot of thought. Talk to your partner openly about expectations and boundaries. In physical relationships there needs to be mutual understanding, safety, respect, and most importantly, consent.
- True love: While most high school relationships are short-lived, it’s not unheard of for some to stand the test of time.
Pairing up or staying solo
It may seem like high school is the time for pairing up, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone. It’s important to be in a relationship only if you want to be in one and you like the other person—not because you feel pressure to have a boyfriend or girlfriend.
Rather than being dependent on others to make you feel a certain way, it’s best to be happy with yourself first.
How to turn a friendly conversation into a date
Not all dates have to be formal, and they definitely don’t have to be expensive. Every opportunity to spend time together gives you a chance to bond and to find out if there’s a spark.
One thing to keep in mind: Try not to put your romantic interest on the spot by asking them out in front of a lot of people. You don’t want him or her to feel pressured or obligated to say “yes.” Save the grand gestures for once you’re already sure of his or her interest.
Here are some ideas to try:
- Build upon something you both enjoy. Go to your school’s football game if you’re both into sports.
- Ask your friend to study with you, especially if you’re taking the same class or subject.
- Go on a nature hike or walk your dog (or borrow a neighbor’s dog).
- Have a movie marathon at home.
- If you know someone who is having a party, invite your friend to join.
- Walk around a mall or a few stores together.
- Share your music playlist.
- Get a group of friends together and go out for pizza.
- Be creative and show your personality! Most people appreciate attention, and you’ll stand out if you show your interest in an out-of-the-ordinary way.
What are we?
This question usually comes up in relationships that are new or undefined. While it may seem like the question needs an answer, it can also put pressure on one or both sides.
If you were to label your relationship, ask yourself these questions:
- Why do you (or don’t you) want the label?
- What would it mean to you if you had an official “boyfriend/girlfriend” title?
- How might it change your existing relationship?
- Would you feel more (or less) secure with the other person?
After thinking things through, talk to the other person about how you feel. Honesty is important here.
Be ready to explain what direction you’d like things to go. This may be risky, especially if the other person doesn’t want what you want, but remember that it’s not a reflection of your worthiness. Being upfront about your wishes can save everyone heartache later.
Relationships might seem serious right now, but this is a time to explore, get to know yourself, learn what it’s like to be close to someone, and find out what you like and don’t like in a partner.
High school may feel like an eternity, but really it’s a short period of time in your life. If a breakup happens, it will probably hurt, but experiencing heartache is normal and helps us grow. Remember that you’ll have plenty more opportunities to meet that special someone.
All people have conflicts, and there will likely be days when your partner frustrates you, no matter how close you feel with each other. What’s most important in a healthy relationship is being able to talk through what you’re thinking and feeling regularly.
Here are some important aspects of a healthy relationship:
- Mutual respect
- Separate identities
- Good communication
If conversations with your partner usually don’t go well, this might be a sign that something’s not working. It’s okay to end a relationship that doesn’t feel good to you.
Keeping it real
Whether you’re looking for something casual or something more stable—or nothing at all—tune in to what feels right to you. Be honest and be yourself, and you’ll make connections that are healthy, fun, and rewarding.
Find out how to give your relationships some vitamin L (for love)
Here are some ways to enhance the connection between you and your partner:
- Have a date night. Set aside time each week that’s special, even if it’s just grabbing a snack or cuddling up with a movie at home.
- Try new things together. For example, join an ultimate frisbee team or go to your first school dance. You can bond over what you’ve learned, or how awkward you felt.
- Maintain your sense of self and independence. Spend time with friends and family on your own (and together too, if you’d like). Keep up with your hobbies. It might seem counterintuitive (the opposite of what you think you should do), but time apart to work on yourself can actually increase your appreciation for each other.
- Everyone is human and we all make mistakes. Practice the art of forgiveness, with your partner as well as yourself.
- Remember what you like or love about this person, rather than focusing on what you don’t like.
- Listen more than you talk. You may learn something new in a simple conversation.
- Talk in person whenever possible, especially about sensitive topics. Texts, instant messages, and email can be misinterpreted.
- Honesty is the best policy, but it doesn’t have to be insensitive or unkind.
- Compliment your partner. Focus on the things about his or her personality that you like, not just appearance.
- Show your appreciation by doing something thoughtful, like picking up a favorite food or writing a love note.
Learn the benfits of living the single life
Being single means more time to grow as an individual, reach personal goals, and enjoy your freedom. It may be easier to focus on hanging out with friends, studying, and relaxing without worrying about how your schedule and priorities affect someone else. Independence helps you discover your interests, strengths, weaknesses, and personality traits. With self-awareness comes a self-confidence that will help you succeed in all aspects of your life, including relationships farther down the road.
“It’s a great time to go out and just have fun. You don’t have to worry about spinach in your teeth. There’s no pressure, and you can be surrounded by friends,” says Jane from West Barnstable, Massachusetts.
Did you know?…
Romantic connections can affect your health just like eating a balanced meal and getting a good night’s sleep, according to research at Harvard Medical School. Caring behaviors trigger the release of stress-reducing hormones. When you meet someone you like, your brain gets flooded with feel-good substances such as endorphins, dopamine, and oxytocin.
Are you currently in a relationship? Take the healthy relationship quiz.
To check the health of your relationship, start by answering these questions:
- Is there a balance of give and take?
- Are your needs being met? These may be emotional, practical (e.g., time together), or physical.
- What are your strengths? Are they openly appreciated? What about your partner’s?
- Do you accept your partner’s attitudes, opinions, and (sometimes quirky) behavior?
- Do you each define the relationship in the same way?
- Do you communicate well if a disagreement happens?
- Do you feel comfortable sharing your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and plans?
- Are you able to balance time together with other responsibilities and friendships?
It can help to talk about these questions with a friend, parent, or other trusted person for an additional perspective.
If you’ve ever been manipulated, threatened, or harmed by your romantic interest or partner—physically, emotionally, or verbally—it’s not your fault and help is available. Talk to your school counselor, a parent or guardian, or another resource like the one below for support.
National Domestic Violence Hotline:
or TTY: 1-800-787-3224
Connolly, J. & McIsaac, C. (2011). Romantic relationships in adolescents. In M. Underwood, M. & Rosen, L. (Eds.), Social development: Relationships in infancy, childhood, and adolescence (pp. 180–206). New York: Guilford Press. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=s6aLf5Ig_K8C&oi=fnd&pg=PA180&dq=teenage+romantic+relationships&ots=xZiaQqfhGH&sig=6fboODcPF8YV5z9dPJ86WH_aanc#v=onepage&q=teenage%20romantic%20relationships&f=false
Harvard Medical School. (2010, December). The health benefits of strong relationships. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Womens_Health_Watch/2010/December/the-health-benefits-of-strong-relationships