Relationship Struggles

If You’re Struggling with Peer Relationships – Join the World’s Biggest Club

If you’re struggling with your relationships you are, ironically, part of the biggest club in the world – teenagers struggling with relationships.  It’s not at all comfortable and can be really painful at times, but it’s pretty normal and it doesn’t last forever.  It doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with you and it doesn’t mean that your web of relationships will always be so changeable.  

Pretty much everyone struggles with relationships during the teen years.  That is partly because there are so many relationships in play – from relationships with parent to those with peers to those with girl/boyfriends.  

Relationships with parents must change, relationships with peers are more mature than childhood relationships and romantic relationships are new.  And everyone is a moving target because everyone is changing at the same time, so finding the right “fit” is often tough – and relationships are about “fit.”  

Mistakes and “Fit” – Not Inadequate or Unworthy

One of the keys is to realize that when a relationship doesn’t work, it doesn’t automatically mean that it is your fault, that you are somehow inadequate or that you have failed.  Everyone makes mistakes in relationships, sometimes serious mistakes – and it’s important to take responsibility for those mistakes and learn from them. But, relationships are tough and some relationships don’t work out simply because the fit just isn’t there or people change and drift apart as their needs and interests change.   

Struggling is a Natural Part of the Experience

The good news about the struggle is that it is natural and common and it doesn’t last forever.  It doesn’t mean that you are failing or have no hope of success. It just means that you are on the journey and experiencing some of the toughest challenges.  No one just sails through the relationship challenges of the teenage years – even if it looks like some people are.

When You Are Struggling

Struggles are inevitable in getting connected and developing healthy relationships, but there are some things you can do to deal with the struggles.

Keep Putting One Foot in Front of the Other

That might not sound very helpful, but it is a basic principle of succeeding on a heroic journey.  It is certainly a basic principle of dealing with developing and maintaining relationships as a teenager (and beyond).  There is no magic formula, no recipe, no certainty or guarantee when dealing with relationships. There is a lot of trying, experimenting, and learning from the successes, setbacks and disappointments.  

The setbacks and disappointments (sometimes painful) are inevitable, but they tend to decrease as you gain experience and get to know yourself better.  And the good experiences tend to increase. It may still be a rollercoaster, but with more ups and fewer downs.

There are a few things you can do to increase your chances of success.  None of them is a magic solution, but taken together over time, they can make a big difference.

Pay Attention to What You Bring to a Relationship

This can come from what you discover in the section on Identity – your sense of significance (particularly doing the little things); your purpose; your personal characteristics; your values; and any of the characteristics or qualities you discover in looking at the ten other big factors in defining an identity as a young man or woman.

It can also come from developing your sense of curiosity, your ability to listen to others and show interest in them, your willingness to share your thoughts and feelings, your ability to value differences and your willingness to forgive others for small mistakes.

Join Groups There is a surprising number of potential groups to join.  Some groups you might join and stay a member for a long time.  Some groups you might join and find the group is not a good fit and so you leave.  Groups can be clubs, teams, performance groups, youth groups in faith communities, community organizations, etc. 

Get Active. This means avoiding the tendency when struggling to pull back into your room or online activities.  That kind of withdrawal is OK to nurse a wound or take a short break, but not much will happen in terms of developing healthy relationships if you withdraw for too long.

Learn something.  There is a lot to learn outside of school and most of that learning happens in small groups.  That can range from cooking and creative writing to basic repair or construction skills – or even becoming an EMT (emergency medical technician).  You will have to do some exploring, but the opportunities are out there.

Volunteer.  This is a good way to get connected, learn something, gain experience in general –  and give to people. As with activities, there is a very wide range of possibilities, so do some exploring and see what you can find.  It may take a few attempts to find a good fit.   

You don't develop courage by being happy in your relationships everyday. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.

Groups I Can Join Activities I Can Get Involved in What I Bring to Relationships
Teams, performing groups, community groups, political groups, youth groups, interest groups New things I can learn, volunteer jobs, part-time paid jobs Curiosity, interest in others, sense of humor, kindness, interest in new experiences – things from the Identity section like purpose, personal characteristics, values, and things from the Big Ten categories in that section