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It’s the story that everyone knows. The sophomore girl falls in love with the handsome senior boy, and together, they take on high school, hand in hand. Stories similar to this one have often been told in books, movies and TV shows. High school relationships are so commonly portrayed this way in the media, but the reality of dating in high school is much different.
With the many aspects of a teenager’s life, dating is one that can be considered both an opportunity and a challenge. It can be an opportunity in which teens are able to get to know other people and create relationships with others. Some teens enjoy dating, but avoid dating seriously because they see it as a risk.
“For me, personally, I do not choose to have one [a relationship] in high school because it can cause a lot of heartbreak, stress and loss of friendships,” senior Ally Brotherson said.
Many teens experience the challenges that Brotherson mentioned in their own relationships, and others feel the same way and choose not to get into relationships.
Some teens avoid dating because of the dangers that can come from an unhealthy relationship. A term that is commonly used to describe unhealthy relationships is “toxic.”
Toxic relationships prevent those involved from living a positive or healthy life.
Seniors Ryan Mineer and Cole Allred have been dating each other for 10 months. Both of them have been in other relationships that they considered toxic relationships.
“I’ve been in emotionally, verbally and physically abusive relationships,” Mineer said. “And so I would say, when we started dating, I was still scared of some things, even though I know he would never do anything like that, I was still cautious because I’ve had three relationships that were exactly the same.”
Mineer and Allred agreed that it is important to get out of toxic relationships as soon as possible. Allred said that sometimes people might not leave the toxic relationships they are in because they don’t know what they would do without them. It is common for people to develop this feeling when they become dependent on another person.
“Steady dating is always a double-edged sword,” said counselor and teacher Ben Cox, “because I think for some students, it provides much of what they’re looking for in terms of filling the needs that we have as human beings, for love and belonging, self-respect and those kind of things. The problem is that most of the time, teenagers are insecure and unstable.”
Cox believes that it can be harmful not only for teenagers, but for all people, to put their needs in the hands of those who are emotionally volatile.
“When our love and happiness is tied up with someone who is not secure or not stable, we are bound to be insecure and unstable ourselves,” Cox said.
Mineer experienced being in a relationship in which her boyfriend had become very emotionally reliant on her. She became concerned that she could not provide the support that he needed.
“He would tell me all the time, ‘I could not live my life without you. I don’t want to live my life without you. I can’t see myself going another day if I didn’t have you,’” Mineer said. “There was this one week where he just kept saying all these comments like, ‘I don’t want to live. I don’t want this. I don’t want that,’ and so I was absolutely terrified to leave because I didn’t know what would happen. Finally, I involved his parents and told him, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’”
It can be difficult for teenagers to engage in relationships because they often become very dependent on one another. When one becomes dependent on the other, their actions and emotions have a great affect on them personally. Those that are insecure may pressure their partner into staying in the relationship, despite how the other person may feel.
Not all relationships are toxic or unhealthy relationships, and it’s not impossible to find a healthy and happy relationship in high school.
Senior Halli Bennett is one of many teens that have seen the positive effects that dating in high school can have. She and her boyfriend attend different schools, which Bennett sees as both an advantage and disadvantage.
“We have two totally different lives, which can be nice. When we’re with each other, we just always get to catch up, and we’re not part of each other’s drama, so we always have kind of a safe place to turn,” Bennett said.
Bennett thinks that the distance has been a positive thing for their relationship because they can share time with each other but they are also able to be involved in their own things.
“I’m able to have my friends and my life and not feel like I’m missing out on something,” Bennett said. Before she got into a relationship, she was worried about dating because she didn’t want to be uninvolved. Since she started dating, she’s found that she has had more opportunities than she would have had outside of her relationship.
Bennett said that her friends and family respect her relationship, and she hasn’t felt judged by others for dating. It isn’t always common for teens to experience the same support that Bennett receives from those around her. Many experience pressure from their parents not to date or judgment from their peers for their choice to date.
“Parents always discourage teenagers from being in relationships, because they think they’re too immature to handle it,” Cox said, “and for the most part, I think that’s true. I think there are exceptions, and I think there are things that they can learn and gain from positive relationships, but it’s rare that it works out well.”
In our area, many teens views of dating are influenced by teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The religion encourages teens to wait until the age of 16 to date, and when they reach that age, they are encouraged to avoid serious relationships.
“In the culture we live in, I think a lot of members [of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] are scared to steady date because of the judgment they will receive and the guilt they might feel,” Brotherson said.
Brotherson is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and she appreciates the way her religion views dating because it protects her from dangers and temptations that can be found in relationships. Others, such as junior Charlee Christensen, have felt judgment from church members for their choice to be in a relationship.
“A lot of times, people don’t accept you for, you know, having a boyfriend or dating because around here that’s just the culture. Everyone is LDS and that’s just really frowned upon even after or even if you’re 16,” Christensen said.
Christensen tried to find support from the church in the past but felt that that support was not available to her.
“There’s a very thin line between being a good member of the church, and being judgmental,” Christensen said, “There’s a very, very thin line in between that, and a lot of times that line gets crossed and people are more worried about what you’re doing than what they’re doing, and that’s not how you should live at all.”
There are those who choose to be in steady relationships, and there are those that prefer to date many people during high school, but there are some who choose not to date at all.
As a teacher and counselor, Cox has witnessed changes overtime in the interactions among students at NS, and he believes that there is a need for dating among teens now more than ever.
“With the increasing amount of technology in our lives, and the increasing amount of isolation that comes with it, it’s essential that we learn how to be with each other, and how to treat each other, how to understand these relationships and develop these relationships,” Cox said.