Is it love?

By Tom Wheadon
managing feature

“I love you,” the fourteen year old boy said.

“I love you too,” his girlfriend replied.

High school is a place full of teen angst, raging hormones and deliberate drama. At the heart of this, or perhaps because of this, there are high school couples. These typically consist of a boy and a girl looking for some sort of security or significance; they want to feel important, wanted or “loved.”

There are many other factors behind teenagers’ decisions to engage in relationships at a relatively young age, such as conforming to social norms and the belief that it’s an integral part of “fitting in”.

“One of the reasons people date is cultural – what you see in your family and friendship circles,” psychology teacher Kathryn Snyder said.

Many students hold similar views, such as sophomore Chase Bachman.

“[People] date because society sculpts them into thinking they should,” Bachman said.

Despite a wide range of motives for dating, there are three types of relationships that feature most prominently within the halls of a high school. One of the most evident forms are that of the “OMG, I LOVE YEW SEW MUCH” couples. This is the result of two over eager teens who are usually new to dating. Despite proudly professing their love for each other repeatedly through Facebook and with public displays of affections, they rarely last longer than a month or two. They still manage to annoy their peers during this time however, such as senior Audrey Waterman.

“They need a good understanding of reality,” Waterman said. “They need to grow up.”

Snyder attributes these sorts of couples to the stage of relationships, of which there are there are eight in total.

“In the first stage they see through rose-coloured glass,” Snyder said. “They date for a few months and it’s glorious, but then the first time there’s any sign of trouble, they’re out of the window.”

The next type of relationship doesn’t have an appropriate name. It’s no secret that certain students engage in physical “activities” outside of schools other than rec soccer and CCL basketball. These couples are fuelled by a bizarre unspoken competition amongst male adolescents who are constantly trying to prove their masculinity to others and themselves.

The last noteworthy sort of high school couple are those in a so-called “serious” relationship. These are students who believe they’ve found their soul mate, despite the fact they’ve never met anyone outside of their school district. They express their love for each other frequently, though they are more reserved in public, make plans for the future as if they’ll always be together, and act as though their shared “love” is something profound and unique that no one else can understand.

“[Teenagers] in generals are in the stage of Identity vs. Role

Confusion, where you’re figuring out what you want to be, who you want to be and what your life is going to be like,” Snyder said, referencing Erik Erikson, a developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst. “The next stage which takes place is Intimacy vs. Isolation – and that’s when you’re looking for long-term relationships.”

Snyder believes that some individuals may be combining these two stages in high school, the result of which are students looking for long term boyfriends of girlfriends.

Now the why and how has been covered, it’s important to look at what individuals gain from dating. Waterman, who has a boyfriend of her own, thinks that the greatest benefit is gaining an idea of what’s it’s like to be in a serious commitment.

“It helps you prepare for dating in college,” Waterman said. “You want to know a variety of people and what kinds you get along with. It also helps you learn who you are, and what you want in life.”

Marcus Hjalber, who has had five girlfriends in four years, has a similar mentality.

“It’s a learning experience and it gets you ready for the future,” Hjalber said.

Snyder views this time for teens as a period for safe trial and error.

“You figure out what works for you. It’s a way of growing,” Snyder said. “You start to develop the idea of what you think you want in a long-term relationship. And sometimes people do find that in high school, and they marry their high school sweet heart, but more likely not.”

Dating in high school has become a social norm, and while it certainly does have its benefits, those who perceive their relationship as an epic romance are going too far. There’s no need for anyone to cry themselves to sleep at night over a break up, or sacrifice friends and academics in the name of “love,” because relationships, like everything else that takes place in school, are simply educational experiences.

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