As someone who has never been in a relationship, I find it hard to believe any high school relationship could last longer than a few months when even the concept of a high school sweetheart is outdated. In the ‘70s, it was expected not only that you date, but that your relationship would last. According to a study done by UCLA, one-third of high school seniors reported being in a relationship in the ‘70s, yet in 2017, only about one-sixth of seniors can say the same, with a plethora of reasons why.
Some want to stay focused on academics and are insistent on not being distracted by a significant other, so as to not ruin their chances of getting a 1500 on the SAT or have their AP Lit grade drop below a 90%. Others say they’re simply not interested in dating someone, and understand that they’re not mature enough to be in a relationship yet. A large majority of teens simply don’t have the confidence and find themselves unwilling to try asking someone on a date based on the possibility of embarrassment or a lack of reciprocation.
Even those who had previously been in a serious high school relationship are less likely to be in another, based on past experiences, a point mentioned by the US Department of Justice, as well as the Department of Health and Human Services. At Eagle Rock, for example, the majority of students wouldn’t think twice about dating.
In a poll taken at ERHS, 62% of students had said they hadn’t been in a relationship, and that they wouldn’t want to have a relationship in high school. Of the remaining 38%, one third said they don’t plan on dating again in high school for “a while”. But one ERHS student we interviewed makes an interesting point: when you’re young and dating, every person you meet is “the one”, and a week after the breakup, there’s someone new to fill the gap. It feels as if there’s a major distance between those who date and those who stay away from romance altogether.
“I want a relationship, but I know my own worth without one.” One Eagle Rock student claimed. Another student talks about her current relationship, which has lasted more than a year and a half. “Obviously, you need to put effort into a relationship, but you should know how it’s affecting you. If it’s not healthy, maybe it’s not the right person, you know? Maybe they’re not right for you, and you have to understand that for yourself.”
Even when considering the less pleasant elements of each endeavor, many teens have a grasp on what is best for themselves.
Despite all of the perceived negatives to dating in high school, there’s significant evidence to suggest it’s not all bad. An article by the Washington Post recognizes why high school relationships should be not only permitted, but encouraged- fear and shame surround high school romance because of the environments created by others when really, romantic teenage impulses should be normalized. Teens can make mistakes and work to fix them when their older and their relationships are more serious.
One Eagle Rock teacher was adamant about convincing me teenage relationships are important. He said, “You need to learn what you want from someone else, and why not do it with someone that you care about, but you already know it won’t last- It’s, like, the perfect opportunity.” He makes a point; with heightened emotions, the passion in a high school relationship is at its peak, so it would make sense that one would be learning as they go.
At the end of the day, there will be supporters and deniers of teenage relationships. Despite the information that suggests there are benefits, there are avid opposers of teen dating. So maybe, just maybe, high school relationships deserve a bit more credit than they receive.