By Benjamin Taylor.
Every time I see a guy and a girl at school in a relationship—no matter how steady or serious the dating may be—it eventually always ends up the same way: it doesn’t work out, the pair ends up “breaking up,” and both people are left with emotional emptiness. Sometimes, they develop hard feelings for each other. Thankfully, at Heritage, that doesn’t happen quite as often (not that I’ve seen, anyway). Developing hard feelings, though, shouldn’t be a surprise, since breakup generates heartbreak.
Now you may be thinking, “Benjamin, you just said EVERY TIME. Certainly, you don’t mean that EVERY SINGLE relationship in high school turns into a disaster. What about those people who eventually marry their high school sweethearts? It worked out for them.”
You are right. Not EVERY high school relationship ends in a disaster. In fact, a whopping 2% of romances in high school end in marriage (Branch). But I wasn’t talking about high school in general; I was talking about every romance that I’ve witnessed at my own school. Every relationship I’ve seen so far is either still going on, or it’s ended in pretty much the same manner: I see one of my friends in a relationship with one of my other friends, and in my head, I tell them, “You guys know that this is eventually not going to work out, right? High school relationships don’t last.” Of course, I don’t actually tell either of them, because I know that they’ll just tell me, “What do you know about us? It’s legitimate love, and we’re never going to break up. Others may, but our relationship is different.” And so I say nothing, and sadly watch them get so close to each other and then plunge into despair when their relationship doesn’t work out. And in my head, I tell them “I told you so.” And yes, it’s happened every time two of my schoolmates gain official steady dating status. Obviously, the relationships that are still going on right now don’t count, and I’m not going to say that any of them are doomed. I’m just going to share the facts about high school relationships. I’m definitely not going to be mentioning any names of anyone who either is in a relationship or has been in one. I’m not here to single (no pun intended) anyone out or point out anyone’s blunders, because how were they supposed to know it was going to end that way? I’m just going to share my observations and the observations of others.
Sometimes, my friends tell me what their relationships have been like. Basically, the main message I get from them telling me about their experience is, “Don’t get into a relationship in high school. It’s not worth it.” I’ve gotten the same message from reading countless stories of those who have experienced being in at least one relationship in high school.
So, what are the facts? Why exactly do high school relationships crumble?
First, let’s talk about what happens when someone falls in love. In his highly successful and awesome book, The Five Love Languages, Dr. Gary Chapman has a chapter called “Falling in Love.” Here’s the process that Dr. Chapman describes in that chapter: First, we notice someone who sufficiently triggers the electrical impulses in our brain, which tell us that we should “like” that person as more than a friend. Then, we start getting to know the special someone. If we find that we actually don’t like that person, we reject the idea of being with them and cut off our commitment to getting to know them. But if we find out that we do in fact like the other person, “We arrange for a few more ‘together’ experiences, and before long the level of intensity has increased to the point where we find ourselves saying, ‘I think I’m falling in love’” (Chapman 29).
Dr. Chapman goes on to say that when we are in love, our person of interest is all we can think about. When at the start of a new day, our first thoughts are about the one we admire. When we have nothing else to think about, our thoughts automatically turn to our special someone. All we can think about is how wonderful that person is, and how we long to be with them. You can see how this may turn out to be a problem.
Moreover, Dr. Chapman says that the person who is in love “has the illusion that his beloved is perfect. His mother can see the flaws but he can’t. His mother says, ‘Darling, have you considered she has been under psychiatric care for five years?’ But he replies, ‘Oh, Mother, give me a break. She’s been out for three months now.’ His friends also can see the flaws but are not likely to tell him unless he asks, and chances are he won’t because in his mind she is perfect and what others think doesn’t matter” (30). And we keep thinking that the relationship we are in is perfect, and that while other relationships fail, ours will be different. We do this in order to convince ourselves to stay in love with the other person. We rationalize our behavior. We tell ourselves that this time, it’s going to work out.
Dr. Chapman continues: “Unfortunately, the eternality of the ‘in love’ experience is fiction, not fact. Dr. Dorothy Tennov, a psychologist has done long-range studies on the in-love phenomenon. After studying scores of couples, she concluded that the average life span of a romantic obsession is two years” (30). After that, things begin to settle down, and we begin to come out of the blind bliss that has clouded our vision. “Eventually… our eyes are opened” (Chapman 30). We come to realize that the person we are in love with is not perfect, has traits that we cannot stand, and has the capacity to arouse hurt and anger.
Second, being in a relationship is stressful (Branch). This is especially tough for teenagers, as they are not old enough to handle all of the stress that comes with being in a relationship. All of the time and energy invested in the other person withers away at grades, friendships, and other things that matter in life. Plus, depression and anxiety result from this experience (Branch). And since the relationship most likely won’t last, it is really not worth all of the mediocre test scores and blind ignorance and pain that one usually goes through when in a relationship like this.
So, you ask, what does a teenager do if they can’t be in a relationship? Well, don’t despair, because you aren’t entirely disconnected from members of the opposite gender. Here are a few things teens can do:
- Go on group dates. When they are fun, interactive, in a group, and respectful of both your date’s and other couples’ standards, dates can be great opportunities to get to know your date and others in the group, as well as have fun. Heritage Academy’s school dances are great opportunity to do this.
- Make friends with those of the opposite gender. Making friends is always a wonderful thing to do, and having a good balance between male and female friends is key to having a healthy social life. If you don’t know someone in your class, find a common interest you have with them and talk to them about it. You can expand your range of friends and gain many beneficial experiences by doing this. I know that in my life, some of the most influential and amazing friends that I have are female.
- Have fun! No one wants to be stressed out or depressed. The guy or girl who is having fun and is in control of their life is usually the guy or girl with lots of friends that everyone loves. We are all still quite young in our teen years, so why not enjoy it without any stress?
I hope this has been somewhat eye-opening or at least a good thing to think about. If you disagree, that’s okay. In fact, come find me and talk to me about it and I will be happy to listen to any concerns anyone has with this. My goal is to reach an agreement with and be open-minded toward everyone, so I’ll be excited to hear new ideas.
While steady, one-on-one teen dating can be harmful, it can also be hard not to want to participate in. However, there are other ways teenagers can have fun and strengthen friendships with peers of both genders that are more wholesome and healthy than being in a relationship. Wouldn’t it be so much better if we eradicated the heartaches and amplified the fun, worry-free social experiences?
Chapman, Gary. The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate. Northfield Publishing, 1995.
Branch, Amalie. “Teen Romance: Is it Worth it?” 27 February 2018. (English 102 Op Ed)