by Helen Xia, CHS Student Writer

Is teenage dating more common now than in the past?

Not necessarily. In 1992, 15 percent of students in twelfth grade had never dated; in 2017, that number jumped to 49 percent. According to the Pew Research Center, only about 35 percent of teenagers have had some experience with dating or romantic relationships. From the same study, it was found that, unsurprisingly, older teens—those ages 15 to 17—are “around twice as likely as those ages 13 to 14 to have ever had some type of romantic relationship experience.”

Technology and social media have played a big role in dating, just as they have played a role in every other component of life. Specifically, though, only 8 percent of teenagers have met a romantic partner online. About 50 percent have expressed their interest in someone through social media apps, whether that may be through friending or following their account, liking and commenting on their posts, or direct messaging the other person, to name a few common interactions (Pew Research Center).

It’s notable that while social media helps bring potential lovers together, it also gives rise to undesirable sentiments. To demonstrate, 27 percent of teenagers say that these apps spark feelings of envy or doubt about their romantic relationships, and 69 percent express how “too many people can see what’s happening in their relationship on social media.” (Pew Research Center).

Even with the statistics, love is an intricate concept that’s often difficult to put in words. Despite this, to help me define the essence of love, I asked my peers (who are more knowledgeable in the topic than I am) a few questions surrounding the matter.

For starters, I asked them: What is a romantic relationship?

“For me, dating is the process of trying to find someone who I want to marry,” one respondent said. “That’s why I’m very intentional about why I’m dating, because if you’re only dating just to date, you’re dating to get your heart broken. While dating to find someone to marry can lead to heartbreak, if you’re seeking out a committed, serious relationship, I feel like that’s the type of relationship you’re more likely to find. While I’ve waited what’s considered a ‘long time’ amongst most teenagers before starting to date—since I’ve been intentional about dating for marriage—I’ve been able to get the benefits of a more committed, serious relationship with someone I love and hope to someday marry, than I would have if I had decided to just date around.”

Another teenager replied, “Dating is finding that special person that makes you feel happy and completes your life—they fill up the other half of your heart. As teenagers, some have dated multiple people, however, I waited longer than most until I was comfortable and more mature. I feel now that I’ve made the right choice, as now I’m more likely to have a serious and life-long relationship that could ideally lead to marriage. Dating isn’t just something you can be goofing around with, ‘cause in the end, you’re hurting yourself and someone else. Wait until the perfect time and the perfect person. They will be put in your way at the right moment.”

What is communication in a relationship? We’ve all heard the proverb that “communication is key” in any relationship, but what is it on a more detailed level? According to many experts, part of good communication is paying attention and listening when your partner is speaking, listening to understand rather than to respond. Is communication something that comes naturally or is it more of a conscious effort? Curious, I asked these questions to fellow high-school students. Right away, it was agreed that communication is one of the pillars of a fulfilling romance.

“Communication means a lot to me,” a classmate explained, adding, “It’s necessary for a healthy and strong relationship.”

In regards to describing what it entails, one student replied, “Communication is destroying the language barrier between you and your partner’s hearts.”

Another responded, “Communication in a relationship, to me, means trusting [one another] enough to get vulnerable without fear or ridicule.”

When asked whether communication is deliberate, a junior in high school answered, “Yes, most of the time, it’s deliberate. It shouldn’t feel uncomfortable to talk about your feelings in a relationship, but it also takes effort to do. And, even in dating, it’s difficult sometimes. With us being so young, we don’t really know who we are yet, ourselves, so it’s tricky explaining who we are to somebody else.”

The final question I asked was: What do you value in a relationship?

Interestingly, all of the respondents mentioned honesty in some way.

“I find honesty and transparency essential (which is basically communication),” a close friend of mine told me. “Getting into a relationship there’s always going to be some kind of insecurity and being able to feel comfortable is important. Getting to know each other honestly not only brings you closer together as people, but [also] allows you to realize whether you’re really meant to be with each other.”

A second teenager’s take on this question was as follows: “One thing that I really value in a relationship is honesty—and not just toward the receiver, but also to yourself. It becomes a chore to fake your life to another person, because, at that point, you are lying and living two lives. One [life] is depression-inducing enough. We should, and need, to be honest to others and ourselves about how we feel. It’s a blessing when you can hang around your friends and loved ones by simply being you.”

So, what is romantic love? Put simply, it’s what you make of it, as long as your partner agrees! Even if the details may differ, depending on the couple you ask, a few themes remain constant, such as the value of communication, the importance of sincerity, and, of course, its inherent beauty. Valentine’s Day may have been a day for celebrating love and affection with your other half, but love toward everything—your parents, your pets, your hobbies, nature—should be celebrated every day. Gratitude is a timeless phenomenon.

Fun Valentine Facts

Did you know that National Lover’s Day is on April 23? It’s, essentially, a second Valentine’s Day!

There’s a town in Texas named Valentine, though it’s not a very popular one. It boasts a population of approximately 108 residents.

Sir Alexander Fleming’s discovery, penicillin, was introduced on Valentine’s Day.

In 2022, Americans spent $23.9 billion on Valentine’s Day. That was down from $27.4 billion spent in 2020.

Chocolates didn’t always mean love. Physicians in the old days would recommend chocolate to people who were suffering from a broken heart or pining after a lost love.

Valentine’s Day is going to the dogs. One in four people buy Valentine’s Day gifts for their pets, and almost half admit they cuddle with their dog more than their partner.

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