Strange New World

Strange New World

Developing romantic interests in others is the natural part of maturing, it can be intense in wonderful and awful ways and it can begin at any point in the teen journey.  This part of the adventure is driven by a combination of hormones, emotional maturity and the increasing importance of the social world. In other words, romantic love comes from hormones and the heart.  

Lots of Variations

These relationships are all over the board. As with peer relationships, boy/girlfriend relationships are naturally challenged by how much everyone is changing and how little experience you have to draw upon.  It’s new, so everyone is trying to figure it out. It’s confusing, exciting, scary and – as in other relationships – everyone is a moving target. It’s just a strange new world.

Some teenagers develop romantic relationships early in the teen years, some develop them later and some don’t develop them until the end of the teen journey.  There is no right-or-wrong time to begin to develop romantic interests. They range from couples who come together at 15 and stay together for the rest of their lives to teenagers who have a number of romantic relationships to teenagers don’t form significant romantic relationships until after high school.  In some cases, race, ethnicity, nationality, or faith communities can have a significant impact on when and how romantic relationships develop.

So Many Questions

There are lots of questions to be dealt with in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship and every relationship is different.  Everyone is trying to figure out who they are, who the other person is and how to create a relationship. Everyone is trying to figure out how to love and how to be loved.

What do I want in the relationship?  What does he/she want? What do I have to offer?  What do we do about sex? Are other relationships OK?  How do we make decisions? How do we communicate with each other?  Which behaviors are OK and which behaviors are not? What happens when we disagree or fight?  

Who am I when I am in this relationship?  What am I getting out of it? What am I learning about myself?  Others? Relationships? What doors/experiences does this relationship get me?  How am I changing because of this relationship? 

There are so many questions and it simply takes time and experience to answer them.  These are the same questions that you will encounter as an adult, but they show up in full force during the teen years.

People are so fearful about opening themselves up. All you want to do is to be able to connect with other people. When you connect with other people, you connect with something in yourself. It makes you feel happy. And yet it's so scary - it makes people feel vulnerable and unsafe.