Head to Head: The Dating Debate


Illustration by Lena aN

Cupid shoots a happy couple with his arrow of love.

Cupid shoots a happy couple with his arrow of love.

Relationships are not necessary in order to have a fun high school experience

For those of us who are chronically single, the idea of a relationship may seem ideal. Romance is a completely normal, and in fact, a healthy part of life. However, a high school relationship is not necessary in order to have an enriching high school experience.

As a generation who grew up watching movies like The Fault in Our Stars, we have been fed the idea that high school relationships are a symbol of growing up and coming of age. Yet, portrayals of high school relationships in the media rarely explore the complexities of an actual relationship: the time commitment, the misunderstandings, and the pressure from peers.

Though it is easy to be swayed by the media’s portrayals of high school relationships, the reality is not as glamorous. In such formative years of someone’s life, it can be damaging to be in a relationship, especially if one person in the relationship has issues with self-esteem, which is not uncommon for many adolescents.
According to Forbes, young adolescent girls’ self-esteem drops between the age of 11 and 14. Another study from Do Something, a non-profit organization dedicated to young people and social change, finds that “38% of boys in middle school and high school reported using protein supplements and nearly 6% admitted to experimenting with steroids.”

At such a vulnerable state, being in a relationship can worsen underlying insecurities. Unfortunately, teen dating violence or violence among intimate partners is common and affects adolescents across the nation.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states how “Nearly 1 in 11 female and approximately 1 in 14 male high school students report having experienced physical dating violence in the last year.” The numbers of those who have experienced sexual dating violence are even higher, as about “1 in 8 female and 1 in 26 male high school students report having experienced sexual dating violence in the last year.”

Though not all high school relationships are abusive or toxic, the pressure to date in high school can make teenagers feel as though they need to prioritize the relationship over their well-being.

Pressure from the media and peers can also force teenagers to rush into relationships without having fully understood their feelings towards their partner. Feelings are not something that can be so easily categorized or placed into labels such as “girlfriend” or “boyfriend.”

Feelings are often intense and multidimensional: being insisted to assign these feelings into definitive labels can be a sense of pressure for many adolescents.
“You can still have a good time with friends of opposite genders and not be in a romantic relationship,” junior Roksana Alizadeh said.

Though teenagers can have memorable high school experiences without high school relationships, it is a common misconception that teenagers who do not date or have not experienced any romance lack social skills or are “maladjusted.”

Contrary to the ideas pushed by young adult media, research done by the University of Georgia College of Public Health has shown that “Non-dating students had similar or better interpersonal skills than their more frequently dating peers.”

Unlike portrayals in coming-of-age movies, public displays of affection are not very appreciated by the school community.

“Making out in front of others in the hallways…it’s not very delightful to look at,” Alizadeh said.

Though dating in high school can be a positive experience for many, its downsides outweigh the positives.


Dating during high school is not only a magical experience, but one to learn from

Midnight FaceTime calls, walking down the halls hand in hand, school dances, there is nothing not to like about high school dating. Being in a relationship has been depicted as magical and breathtaking, an experience that you would remember for the rest of your life. With the memories also comes skills and life lessons that cannot be obtained through studying textbooks and completing homework assignments.

High school is a confusing time for many teenagers. They are not exactly children anymore but also are not quite adults yet. Dating during high school can provide opportunities for teenagers to decide what they look for in romantic relationships and to also explore their sexual identities.

According to a 2013 Child Trend study, “spending time with a current or potential girlfriend or boyfriend, adolescents are [able to develop] their romantic and sexual identities.”

Dating during high school also helps set the stage for future relationships later on in life.

“[You find out] what things in a relationship are more important or less important,” sophomore Sarah Giron said.

Being able to know what you prefer and want in a relationship early on can help you better recognize people that you are capable of forming a healthy romantic connection with.

Being in a relationship requires work, a lot of it. You need to learn how to not only think for yourself, but also your significant other. Disagreements are inevitable and being in a relationship requires learning to compromise. Each and every relationship is a learning experience no matter how short or long it lasts. A successful relationship is not defined by how long it has lasted, but instead by what you have learned while being in the relationship and coming out of the relationship. According to a study done by the University of Los Angeles, early romantic relationships, although sometimes short, are what sets the foundation to committed relationships later on in life.

Other than interpersonal skills, dating during high school trains teenagers on time management. High school is stressful and days are filled with school hours, practice for sports, extracurriculars and homework. But dating forces teenagers to learn how to allocate time for their significant others but still continue with other parts of their lives as usual.

Additionally, relationships can provide support systems in times of hardship. According to Child Trends, an organization focused on carrying out research related to children and how to improve the lives of youths, “positive experiences in…relationships, such as receiving support and affection, contribute to healthy self-esteem.”

In a perfect world, all relationships would be healthy ones full of love and support, but sadly that is not the case. Healthy relationships have so many benefits, but toxic ones exist, too, and they are dangerous towards not only your physical health but also your mental health. If you or anyone you know is in an abusive relationship, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.

Even though being in a high school relationship may not mean you and your partner will always get along and eventually be high school sweethearts, in the long run, healthy relationships help improve you as a person. No one is perfect, and no relationship is perfect either. Dating during high school helps teach teenagers how to resolve problems, communicate and empathize with others.

Healthy romantic relationships in high school are not overrated. They are a great way to learn more about yourself and also help develop the skills necessary for building supportive and healthy relationships in adulthood.