Is the issue here really one of durability?
Whether or not teenage relationships do last is of course a crucial issue – perhaps more so from the point of view of teenagers – but by being preoccupied with this question we ignore an equally important aspect of how teenage relationships significantly contribute to the socialization process of youth. From our own personal experiences and that of our friends’, we would tend to think that teenage relationships generally don’t last since adolescence is just the beginning of an exciting phase of human existence.
The reasons are simple. Indeed, majority of the romantic relationships that teenagers are involved in inevitably end anyway, by force of circumstance or because of the very nature of young romantic love. Graduating high schoolers eventually leave for their chosen university which can be out of town or out of state to prepare for future careers. Or meeting new people at university replace old friends and relationships nurtured during high school. And then you have the “economics” argument. How can two young people, no matter how in love they are with each other, pursue and sustain their feelings for each other when neither is financially prepared to aspire for the living arrangements that their older counterparts are more capable of doing?
Let’s not forget the other factors – hedonism, ambivalence of youth and parental influence. All these make the idea of durability a somewhat precarious gamble.
Teenage Relationships: Forget the Stereotype
We cited the reasons why teenage relationships don’t last. Yet sometimes we fail to take into account that some of them actually do last forever.
Just as no two snowflakes are alike, no two teenagers are like. For every hedonist, there is a teen who believes that pleasure in life must come in small doses. For every ambivalent teen, there is one who is incredibly focused and unwavering. And for every teen who likes an open, playing field, there is another who believes in having only one friend and lover.
The non-traditional teenager is not a rare species. There are just as many teenagers who exhibit an exceptional degree of maturity that stretches beyond their age. For them, do their relationships last?
We’ll have to admit that yes, for some of them, relationships that begin during their teenage years do last.
The innocence of young love is magnificent to behold.
Teenagers: What’s Worse – Being One or Having One?
Why is this question relevant at all to the main question, you argue. Let’s not be too quick in dismissing it as a non-issue. One, teenagers lie at the core of teenage relationships, so before we attempt to assess their relationships’ durability or the lack of it, we need to take a good hard look at teenagers.
The arrogance they carry around and the over self-confidence they project – which are sometimes annoying to us adults - are but a camouflage of their raw sense of direction. It’s their way of telling us that they’re still groping in the dark and dealing with the most awkward time of their life. Not that they want us to lead them to the right path. Goodness, no. They’re just saying, “ok, we’re lost, we’re confused, these pimples are glaring proof of our insecurities – but don’t you dare think we want you to take over the driver’s seat.” This is why you might have noticed why teenagers like to lock themselves inside their rooms when they’re home or talking on the phone. It’s an unwritten law tantamount to “no trespassing” that we have to decipher. May lightning strike us if we fail to understand their imposed boundaries – in our houses.
Logan Pearsall Smith back in 1931 already understood the essence of a teenger, even when sophisticated psychological theory did not exist then: “Don't laugh at a youth for his affectations; he is only trying on one face after another to find a face of his own.” (from his work Afterthoughts, 1931).
And what about this from an unknown and disgruntled high school principal: “Too many of today's children have straight teeth and crooked morals.” Even Edgar Friedenberg once said that the teenager appears to have replaced Communism as the public’s # 1 controversy and source of foreboding.
Without question, teenagers can sometimes be more of a bane than a boon to parents. And as parents, we need to accept the fact that our sons and daughters – and their relationships – serve as part of our continuing education in that arena we call humanity.
Lasting or Fleeting Teenage Relationships - Does Gender Play a Role?
That seems to be the case, according to a study by the American Sociological Association. In an article published in May 2006 in the American Sociological Review, the writer wanted to debunk the view that boys are emotionally shallow or frivolous in their romantic undertakings. Like girls, they too have feelings that shatter easily, making them more vulnerable and fragile when faced with a potential or actual break-up.
Behind all that bravado, the article says, “is an unsure adolescent who finds it hard to express emotions that, while new, are nonetheless often sincerely felt.” The article, written by Doctors Peggy Giordano, Monica Longmore and Wendy Manning of Bowling Green State University also stated that “These early relationships matter for boys, as well as for girls, and even though they may not last forever, the young people are taking important lessons from them about how to conduct social relationships, and about themselves and their emerging identities.”
Hence the reason for our question in the beginning of this article. It’s not so much the permanence of teenage relationships that we should worry about, it’s how these relationships shape their future personalities. Regrettably, teenage dating and relationships have until now been a neglected area of study by behaviorists because they are regarded as temporary and not lasting very long. Another reason is that there seems to be more concern about sexual patterns among teenagers rather than on the relationship itself. Giordano believes that since 80% of American adolescents have had a romantic relationship by age 18, focus must be on what these relationships mean to them and how their romantic partnerships in the future will be shaped.
The researchers learned that boys are more shy and more awkward about communicating their feelings. Girls, on the other hand, show an impressive display of their decision-making capabilities and hence are more prepared for emotional involvement. They have no qualms about talking to their close friends about their interactions with boys, hence giving them a broader perspective and a keener sensitivity than boys.