Many call romance a key part of the teen experience

Many call romance a key part of the teen experience

Photo: Dani Schaaf

By Nikki Kelley, Staff Writer

Many things may change from generation to generation, but the rush that teens get when having a boyfriend or girlfriend is no different today than it was 20 years ago. Many high school students will long recall that first time they hear “I love you” from someone they’re dating.

Some adults say high school is one of the best times in your life, yet many people question if high school relationships play a major role in the experience. According to several websites, about 75 percent of high school students say they’re in a romantic relationship at any given time. But how long do those relationships last?

According to research from The University of Florida, most relationships within the 12 to 14 age group last less than five months. When students get into high school, however, students 16 or older in a serious relationship can stay together for an average of two years. While close relationships that last for quite some time in high school can continue after graduation, other relationships can end up lasting only a matter of days.

Sophomore Sam Pagiaroli feels she knows why young relationships sometimes don’t last. “I think a lot of what goes wrong with high school relationships has to do with how people grow and change in their four years here,” she said. “Someone you start dating your freshman year could very well have different goals and be on a different track than they were on by the time they’re a junior or senior, and that sometimes negatively impacts relationships.”

The urge for a girlfriend or boyfriend

Relationships get the reputation for being full of drama, confusion and sometimes heartbreak. They can even be expensive with gifts exchanged on anniversaries, birthdays and holidays. Some students might experience many relationships by the time they graduate, while other students end up having few or none at all. Given the apparent difficulty of love life, what makes teens want a relationship in the first place?

Junior Laura Rhoades believes envy causes many people to want a relationship. “I think everyone wants a boyfriend or girlfriend because they see so many people at school walking around in the hallways, holding hands and kissing their boyfriend or girlfriend,” she said. “A lot of people want that and want to be like everyone else.”

Sophomore Katelyn Click believes showing affections by holding hands with a significant other is nice, but a relationship also brightens one’s mood. “Being in a relationship has actually helped me. Before, I was kind of depressed and usually got bad grades,” said Click. “Now, it gives me something to look forward to every day and I’m happier and receive better grades.”

When it comes to romance, wanting to be with a partner for the sake of having fun is one thing, but actually being in a relationship with that person is another story.

Is young love even a good thing?     

During high school, teenagers are still forming their identity and trying to find out who they are. Some feel relationships help in this process, but others aren’t so sure.

Sophomore Jake Mulkey feels relationships are positive for students. “I think they’re good while they last and are fun to be in because you have someone to hang out with and spend all your time with,” he said.

Spencer (Wolf) Smith, who is in a five-month relationship, agrees high school relationships are good things. “I think it’s good for teenagers to be in relationships, and I feel like it really prepares people for life, just like a lot of the social aspects of school,” said Smith.

Just as some students like the idea of being in a relationship, other teenagers feel relationships leave a negative impact on teenagers’ lives.

The idea of holding hands with someone while walking through Fairmont’s hallways every day may appeal to some, but sophomore Joseph Baxla believes high school isn’t a good time for relationships. “Being in a relationship during high school takes time away from studying because you spend more time with each other rather than schoolwork and other priorities,” said Baxla. “Also, most high school students are too young and immature to understand what they’re doing and how a serious relationship should be handled.”

In high school, students battle homework, tests, grades and college prepration. Trying to balance responsibilities while being in romantic relationships has been complicated since the days of Adam and Eve.

Senior Tyler Young, who’s currently in a six-month romantic relationship, feels it’s easy for a student to get puzzled when trying to balance school life with a relationship. “Sometimes it affects schoolwork for people because you have hard classes and constantly have to study. It’s hard trying to do this and spend time with your girlfriend or boyfriend,” said Young.

But sophomore Taylor Meade, who is in a six-month relationship, believes the choices teenagers make in their relationships determine how they do in school. “High school relationships can affect your school work only if you let them,” she said.

Meade feels she knows a simple way to maintain a good relationship and good grades at the same time. “If you make sure you set aside time for your boyfriend or girlfriend after your homework is done, there won’t be any problems juggling the two every day.”

Students may disagree on whether it’s appropriate for students to be in romantic relationships. Teachers, though, have a unique vantage point from which to view the issue.  

Fairmont math teacher Dianne Koehler, who has had her fair share of conversations with her students about their relationships, believes teenage relationships have their problems but having a companion is a healthy thing in high school.

“It’s completely normal and natural while growing up to not meet that person you’ll always be with,” she said. “But, I think it’s important to have relationships during high school and be with people. It helps you during your growing process as a teenager, and you can see yourself through another person’s eyes.”

Trust and respect are important

Almost anyone who has experienced a relationship has also experienced a break-up, so can the saying, “true love never fails,” even occur in high school? Several websites state that 9 percent of high school relationships actually last and can go into marriage.

Young believes the two people in a relationship need to share a sense of mental closeness. “A good relationship has trust between the two people and them both having a lot of things in common,” he said.

Koehler agrees that relationships need to have trust, but she says they need more than that. “In a good teenage relationship, there needs to be mutual respect,” she said. “You both need to be comfortable and aware of one another.”

While some teachers, students and others feel high school love is something students envy or want to have, others like Smith believe teen romance is something every high school student should have.

“With a hectic life of growing up, a relationship is like finding refuge in a fast-paced and sometimes stressful world,” he said. “Teenage love is that little piece of heaven everyone should have.”