“Do I love you because you’re beautiful or are you beautiful because I love you,”
Prince Charming to Cinderella
Fairy tales are romantic; they paint a picture of the perfect relationship. But for many teenage girls this picture can lead to dating abuse and violence. Although there are no definitive national studies on abuse in adolescent relationships research indicates that the rate of abusive relationships is about ten percent. And abuse appears to be increasing with more harassment, name-calling and ridicule that takes place on the Internet and by cell phone.
American teens do not have guidelines on intelligent dating. Girls often mistake a boy’s need to be in control and acting out in the societal model of “macho” for love. This mistake opens the door for harassment and physical violence. Teens at risk for this type of relationship are more likely to engage in binge drinking, tobacco and drug use and sexual activity. Very few adolescents understand what a healthy relationship looks like.
Two things lead teens into unhealthy relationships, one believing that having a girlfriend or boy friend is the only way to be happy and two believing that the more you like someone the more physical you have to get. The idea you can only show affection with your body.
Teens should learn these guidelines to healthy dating:
1. Don’t date too young. Immaturity can lead to making risky decisions. Even though most teens appear physically mature, emotionally and socially they do not possess the skills to have a romantic relationship.
2. Date people your age. Older boys with younger girls might be flattering but like #1 immaturity can lead to dangerous situations and risky behavior.
3. Get to know lots of people. Cinderella found her soul mate but don’t bet on that happening in an adolescent relationship. It’s better to kiss a lot of frogs before you find the prince. Getting to know a lot of people expands your experience and understanding of a lot of different personalities.
4. Date in groups. This has many advantages, it’s more fun, there’s safety in numbers, there are fewer expectations and you meet more people.
5. Set boundaries. Teens need to decide what kind of people they will and won’t date and what’s off limits. It’s too late to decide the limits in the heat of the moment. That’s when stuff happens you did not intend to happen.
6. Have a plan. Decide what you want to do on a date and don’t work too hard to impress. Remember the goal of any date should be to get to know another person and have fun.
Teen dating is filled with lots of drama and the more teens learn about the probability of this the better they will be able to avoid being a victim of dating harassment or violence.
Teens should know that:
1. Dating can be hard
2. Dating should not be about sex
3. Life is not over when a boyfriend/girlfriend breaks up
4. Don’t make relationship decisions when you are in doubt.
5. You don’t have to be “in love” to date someone
6. Be in charge, remember the reasons for the date
7. Dating should not be a competition. Steer clear of social groups that compete and compare their dating conquests.
8. Never ever use or give into the “if you really loved me line” – remember love is not about coercion or control.
A real relationship is centered on mutual respect, commitment and selfless love. It takes maturity and time to develop this type of caring. A foundation of friendship is the best way to learn about how to find a real life prince charming or Cinderella.