This posting is for older teenagers and up. “Things I wish I had known when I was in my teens and 20s?” If you are younger than 18, have a parent review this first.
What Are Your Needs?
The key for relationships is understanding your emotional needs and deciphering those you are interacting with. Emotions are the motivations for our actions. To feel happy with your girl/boyfriend depends on how they meet these needs. Generally our emotional needs are:
- Status. Feeling socially superior, important, fun and intellectually challenged.
- Connection. Feeling appreciated, understood, common values and good intimacy.
- Security. Feeling safe, trust, commitment, focus and reliability.
It is not uncommon to have two priorities like Status and Connection and not be as concerned about Security. So think about and discover what is most important to you as you hang out with your friends. They can all feel kind of important. But you can’t have it all. What can you live without and which one drives your behavior?
Understanding emotional needs is also important to see how others interact with you. If someone is rejecting you, it may be because you are not meeting their need for Connection and appreciation or their need for Status or for Security and trust. It is impossible to respond if you do not know what is motivating someone.
Really, how can you know what you want when you are just starting to have relationships? Dating is about finding out what is most important to you. Our emotional needs also shifts over time.
Communicate Your Needs With Your Girl/Boyfriend
Communication with someone you are dating should eventually go beyond, “What do you want to do?”. Once you have spent some time together, start talking about deeper things like your goals for school, work, living, travel. Discuss what you want in a relationship. Be open, enjoy learning about each other and relationship.
Talking about how you are feeling and what your needs are is an important skill that you will use for the rest of your life. There is a good formula for communicating your needs called Nonviolent Communication (NVC). Generally, you state your feelings, then needs and ways to meet your needs. “I feel this way … because this need is unmet (or I have this need) … let’s brainstorm on some creative ways to meet this need, thank you, I appreciate you.”
Girls, Ask the Guy Out
Who say’s guys have to do all of the asking. If the women does some of the asking, it gives her more control of who she hangs out with. There is power in the asking.
If you are dating and the guy slips on his game and has not called in a while, give him a shout and ask him out to a movie or dinner. The key is to not pressure him/her. Don’t ask, “Where have you been?”. Just say, “Hi ya, there is a new movie I would like to see, do you want to check it out?”. No pressure keeps the ball rolling.
People get distracted and when you are young and how to maintain a healthy relationship is a developing skill. If two people are working on maintaining the relationship it can help a lot. After you ask him out to get things back on track, put the ball back in his court. “That was fun, I look forward to hearing from you for next time.” If they say they don’t follow-up or want to hang out, move on. But sometimes, you would be surprised how many good relationships this tip can easily help. It takes two to tango.
Guys, Learn to Focus
When you are young, it is not uncommon to think, “This relationship is good but I wonder what else is out there.” That can be silly. When you get older, you will be amazed how hard it is to find the right life-partner: someone who you always enjoy spending time with, respect and support you, and appreciates you of all people. If you have that, stick with them she/he is special. I guarantee you, that when you are older, you will think of at least one person you should have kept going out with. It is an important life skill to learn how to appreciate and stick with a good relationship.
Intention to Growth
Add an intention to grow as individuals to your romantic relationship. Relationships formed to satisfy our personal needs eventually fail us. When two people come together with the intention of growth, they enter a journey of evolution to expand more than they could alone.
When you are young, seek someone to work and succeed together on mutual life goals, family, income, recreation, health.
Find an Activity and Learn How to Cook
Having an activity you enjoy outside of work is good for you and a fun way to attract someone with common interests. Having Common interest becomes more important as you get older. Try different healthy activities, biking, hiking or just getting outside and find someone to enjoy nature with.
Cooking together or for someone is an important life skill. Learn how to support a household besides just doing your laundry. If it’s good in the kitchen, it will be good when you two are cozy.
Travel, Get Out of Dodge
Whether by plane, train or hippie van, get out and see the world. Traveling is the greatest educational experience going. You will meet new and interesting people along the way. The masters of life are not stuck behind a desk they are out there living life to the fullest. Travel before you are tied down with job and family. If you have a girl/boyfriend talk about hitting the road for a summer together. The real world will always be there.
Travel will re-define your life and view of the world. The further away form home you get, the more you will learn, the more interesting people you will meet and the more your communication relationship skills will grow.
Here is what the www.youth.gov has to say about relationships. It feels a little clinical but they are good short lists. Respect for both oneself and others is a key to a healthy relationship. Healthy relationships have many of these elements:
- Mutual Respect. Respect means that each person values who the other is and understands the other person’s boundaries.
- Trust. Partners should place trust in each other and give each other the benefit of the doubt.
- Honesty. Honesty builds trust and strengthens the relationship.
Compromise. In a dating relationship, each partner does not always get his or her way. Each should acknowledge different points of view and be willing to give and take.
- Individuality. Neither partner should have to compromise who he/she is, and his/her identity should not be based on a partner’s. Each should continue seeing his or her friends and doing the things he/she loves. Each should be supportive of his/her partner wanting to pursue new hobbies or make new friends.
- Good Communication. Each partner should speak honestly and openly to avoid miscommunication. If one person needs to sort out his or her feelings first, the other partner should respect those wishes and wait until he or she is ready to talk.
- Anger Control. We all get angry, but how we express it can affect our relationships with others. Anger can be handled in healthy ways such as taking a deep breath, counting to ten, or talking it out.
- Fighting Fair. Everyone argues at some point, but those who are fair, stick to the subject, and avoid insults are more likely to come up with a possible solution. Partners should take a short break away from each other if the discussion gets too heated.
- Problem Solving. Dating partners can learn to solve problems and identify new solutions by breaking a problem into small parts or by talking through the situation.
- Understanding. Each partner should take time to understand what the other might be feeling.
- Self-Confidence. When dating partners have confidence in themselves, it can help their relationships with others. It shows that they are calm and comfortable enough to allow others to express their opinions without forcing their own opinions on them.
- Being a Role Model. By embodying what respect means, partners can inspire each other, friends, and family to also behave in a respectful way.
- Healthy Sexual Relationship. Dating partners engage in a sexual relationship that both are comfortable with, and neither partner feels pressured or forced to engage in sexual activity that is outside his or her comfort zone or without consent.
Unhealthy relationships are marked by disrespect and control. It is important for you to be able to recognize signs of and avoid unhealthy relationships before they escalate. If you have trouble with any of these, talk to you parents. These include:
- Control. One dating partner makes all the decisions and tells the other what to do, what to wear, or who to spend time with. He or she is unreasonably jealous, and/or tries to isolate the other partner from his or her friends and family.
- Hostility. One dating partner picks a fight with or antagonizes the other dating partner. This may lead to one dating partner changing his or her behavior in order to avoid upsetting the other.
- Dishonesty. One dating partner lies to or keeps information from the other. One dating partner steals from the other.
- Disrespect. One dating partner makes fun of the opinions and interests of the other partner or destroys something that belongs to the partner.
- Dependence. One dating partner feels that he or she “cannot live without” the other. He or she may threaten to do something drastic if the relationship ends.
- Intimidation. One dating partner tries to control aspects of the other’s life by making the other partner fearful or timid. One dating partner may attempt to keep his or her partner from friends and family or threaten violence or a break-up.
- Physical Violence. One partner uses force to get his or her way (such as hitting, slapping, grabbing, or shoving).
- Sexual Violence. One dating partner pressures or forces the other into sexual activity against his or her will or without consent.
Here is another take on unhealthy relationships from Kathy Caprino, 6 Toxic Behaviors That Push People Away: How To Recognize Them In Yourself and Change Them. Protect yourself, avoid partners with these behaviors.
- Taking everything personally.
- Obsessing about negative thoughts.
- Treating yourself like a victim.
- Cruelty – lacking in empathy or putting yourself in others shoes.
- Excessive reactivity.
- Needing constant validation.
If you find human psychology interesting, you might like this info graphic called Being Defensive: How psychotherapy sees you by David McCandless.
Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll
Don’t drive your parent crazy with your loud music unless you plan to be the next Rush, my favorite band. Don’t do drugs, talk to your parents about their experiences growing up. “Mom, Dad did you smoke?”.
But we are here to talk about relationships and sex is part of it. Intimacy is a better word for sex because that is what it is. In addition to the obvious talks to your parents such as practice abstinence, use birth control, here are some suggestions.
- Respect each other’s boundaries. State you boundaries clearly before you get involved. Ask what your partner’s boundaries are and if they can respect yours. No means no. This will help set everyone’s expectations. If your partner does not share your boundaries, consider moving on.
- Friends First. Hopefully you know each other form school or work and have a friendship and communication to start with. Friends are the one’s who stick around.
- When you are 18 you can do what you want but try to respect your family’s religious beliefs. If abstinence until marriage is your parent’s preference, think about it long and hard. Talk to you parents about what they think. Talk to your girl/boyfriend about where you and they are at.
- Intimacy is only one element of a relationship. Get to know your girl/boyfriend as a person. What are their hopes and dreams? How do they want to live?
- Explore intimacy with one person. This is a special magical time in your life. How healthy your first experiences are can affect your relationships for the rest of your life.
- Pick a girl/boyfriends who is good for you. Realize that everyone is going through this new experience too. You are not alone in the newness.
- Have a “sex talk” before you get started, not at the last minute. Talk about birth control and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
- Support each other emotionally. That is a lot to ask a young person to do but here is where you start practicing relationship and making your partner feel emotionally safe, secure, appreciated is very. Healthy intimacy is and important part of connection.
- Avoid public display of affection (PDA) until college. Holding hands with an established girl/boyfriend is about as far as you want to go in public.
- Go slowly and honor yourself and your partner’s boundaries. You will remember intimacy as a young person for the rest of your life.
- If you feel uncomfortable talking to your parents about birth control, pregnancy and STDs contact family doctor, your school nurse, Planned Parenthood or your church. Talk to this person about confidentiality and when they have to contact your parents.
- Intimacy is more than just sex. But hormones take the steering wheel when you are young. Guys keep flying the flag and girls keep dreaming about boys. Hold and cherish one another. Go slowwwww.
- Relationship is a place to practice love. Love is a journey, not a place. Love is a practice of accepting, being present, forgiveness and opening to being vulnerable.
Tips for Parents
As a full-time parent of a boy and girl teenagers, I am learning they have different needs. Girls need guidance from their mothers and other positive goddess mentors. Boys need support form their father and other healthy male figures. Talk to your children about how women and men’s needs are different.
Explain what relationship can be, what are healthy vs. unhealthy habits, listen and be supportive. Tell them a story of one thing you wish you had known about relationship as a youth. Your kids are watching and learning from your relationships. Keep them healthy. Keeping the lines of communication open, allows you be there when they need you.