10 Ingredients for Healthy Teenage Dating by Lyris Steuber, LMFT

Do you remember when you first fell in love? If you are a teen you probably remember how you felt when your boyfriend first told you he loved you or the rushes of emotions you felt when you first came out together as a couple around your friends. Finding first love in high school is a regular part of teen-age life though your parents wish you could delay it. Most teens move from relationship to relationship very quickly. Within a matter of weeks or months they fall in and out of love without the relationship becoming very meaningful. However, some relationships do stick for the better but sometimes for the worst. When asked what they are looking for in someone to date most teenagers will say, “Someone who likes me and I can have fun with.” Sadly, most teens don’t always know what to look for in a healthy relationship.

20% of American Teenage girls reported that they have been hit, slapped or forced into sexual activity by their partners. Still more have experienced the emotional abuse of put-downs, being cursed at or being controlled. If you are questioning whether or not your relationship is a healthy one see if it has the following:

Trust: Trust means that you and your partner are not possessive of each other. While you spend time together you also can spend time apart without the other person becoming suspicious.
Self-Esteem: People who have healthy esteem value themselves and believe in themselves. This in turn helps them to believe the best about the other person.
Non-violence: People in healthy relationships do not hit, bully, threaten or coerce the other person into doing something they don’t want to do.
Personal Responsibility: People who take personal responsibility do not blame others for their mistakes and are able to take responsibility for their actions and feelings.
Non-abuse of drugs and alcohol: Alcohol use by teens is a strong predictor of both sexual activity and unprotected sex. A survey of high school students found that 18 percent of females and 39 percent of males say it is acceptable for a boy to force sex if the girl is high or drunk. Drugs and alcohol should never be a part of your relationship.

Boundaries: Having good boundaries mean that one does not force his or her partner to engage in any kind of physical affection that they are not comfortable with.
Separate Identities: Although you may have lots in common, you had your own likes, dislikes, friends, and interests before you started going out. Be sure to maintain them. Neither of you should have to give up your friends, drop out of activities, or change your sense of style to make the other person happy.

Good Communication: Make sure that you and your partner can freely express your opinion, feelings, needs and ideas and have them respected. People in healthy relationships do not use words to hurt each other, curse or put each other down.
Equality: Do you feel that you always have to compromise what movie you want to go to or what concert to attend? In a healthy relationship both people take turns choose what to do, where to go, whom to hang out with. If not the relationship can become imbalanced or turn into a power struggle.
Fun, fun, fun: Yes, you two should be having fun. It is too early to think in life to think about the long term and to make significant plans for the future. You both should enjoy spending time together and with your friends.

Teen relationships can be wonderful but also intense. If the relationship feels like a burden it’s time to have a talk. If your partner isn’t making you feel good about yourself it may be time to reconsider. If you are single, take time to evaluate your own readiness for a relationship against the qualities listed above. Also, take time to develop a variety of friendships and observe how people treat each other and themselves. If you are having trouble in your current relationship seek guidance from a teacher, parent, counselor or another adult you trust. They may be able to help guide you in making choices that will be best for you and your partner.

Written by: Lyris Bacchus Steuber, is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist who specializes in helping children and adolescents cope with divorce, family violence, abuse, grief, school problems, depression and anxiety. Access more counseling and coaching resources from The LifeWorks Group (407.647.7005) by visiting their extensive posting of blogs and special reports designed to save you time by strategically solving problems at www.LifeWorksGroup.org

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