Relationships 101 for Teens
As a teen, you may only be receiving an education about relationships from popular love songs. Many of these songs ingrain in your consciousness that romantic, or true love, equals neediness or hardship. In truth, it’s quite the opposite. In order to have a healthy relationship, an important component is the existence of a defined boundary space between the two partners. In fact, a good relationship is built when there are two individuals who have minds of their own and have a separate life outside of their relationship life.
It’s a natural desire to want to be accepted and loved for yourself, but both sexes seem to be lacking the skills of how to accomplish this goal successfully. A lack of communication (and when there is communication, miscommunication) creates conflict and that seems to be the main culprit in relationship disaster scenarios.
Conflict usually carries with it a negative connotation, but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. You just have to know how to handle it. It’s normal to encounter conflict as you maneuver your way through everyday life and interact with others of both sexes. Conflict is simply a way of recognizing differences between people. It’s HOW you resolve conflict that makes it a positive or negative experience.
There are two approaches to utilize when resolving differences. You can either run away and/or act defensively by blaming the other person, OR you can be open to learning and growing from conflict by listening to another’s point of view. It’s the latter method that results in a stronger bond.
A solid relationship where one feels safe is the ideal situation for which people of all ages strive. It’s important to remember that a strong friendship is the basis for any love relationship. Curiously, though, friends are often treated much better than romantic partners. This may be the reason why so many relationships fail.
Think about it and compare how you act at home and how you act at a friend’s house. Are you more polite to the parents of your friends than to your own parents? Does this make sense? Isn’t it your parents, who love you the most, who deserve the most respect? If you treated your boyfriend as a friend first, a lot of arguments could be avoided. Simplistically put, the best way to have a good relationship is to just “play nice.”
Part of “playing nice” is showing respect. Physical, emotional and mental “chemistry” is important, but at the root of a relationship the partners must actually like and respect each other. That is why it’s important to let a relationship evolve slowly over time before initiating a sexual component. Sex releases giddy hormones in your body, which allows you to overlook undesirable behaviors. Conversely, when you have a clear head, you can determine whether you actually like someone before you love him. Sex without love may feel good in the moment, but afterwards you might feel more alone than before, if you are only left with physical satisfaction.
Although relationships are complex, here are five basic areas to keep in mind when deciding if a person is right for you.
VALUES: A person can say whatever he wants. It’s when you can see him in a variety of situations that you can determine whether his words and actions match. You want to have the same morals and values as a partner, which includes thinking the same type of things are appropriate or inappropriate.
INTERESTS: Relationships that succeed are usually between two people who enjoy doing the same things because the more you have in common, the more quality time you will spend together. So if your guy is a sports fanatic and you don’t like to watch games, don’t say you like to just because you think that will make him like you more. Eventually, resentment will build up when you get tired of always watching sports. Although you don’t have to do everything together, there should be a solid core of things you have in common. Opposites may attract, but they are very hard with which to live and don’t usually make good long-term partners.
RESPECT: It’s important to be proud of each other and to respect each other’s character. For example, this means you would be proud to introduce your boyfriend to your parents, friends, your religious leader, etc.
BASIC NATURE: This is the way a person approaches a situation. For example, one of you may never be able to make a decision and the other is a planner with a clear vision of what she wants to do. It might seem cute in the beginning, but this is the sort of characteristic that can drive you crazy. Differences are okay, but you have to be willing to be flexible in your thinking and sometimes agree to disagree.
GOALS: It’s important for partners to share similar goals or the same life purpose. This might mean going to college vs. quitting school; the type of job to which one aspires; where one wants to live, etc. It’s wonderful to romanticize life and to think that love can conquer all; however, strong relationships are usually formed when the practicalities of life are considered as well as the love that exists.
Remember, a relationship naturally evolves over time and circumstances often shift, so continue to evaluate it as you both grow and you learn more about each other.
Ellen Gerst is a grief and relationship coach, author and workshop leader. She is passionate about teaching her clients and readers how to change their perspective, find a new balance, and release unproductive and toxic thoughts. In turn, this empowers them to move gracefully through difficult life circumstances to find success and a renewal of their zest for living and loving. Ellen specializes in helping both the divorced and widowed find love after loss.