Lately it seems that my social media streams are filled with teenage girls and boys declaring their undying, never ending, happily ever after love for one another. The current generation of teenagers is the first one to go through this phase of their life with social media at their fingertips. Selfies weren't a thing for our generation. We didn't hashtag our boyfriend to tell him we loved him with our entire heart. We doodled their name in our notebook, held their hand in the hall at school and maybe, if we were lucky, got to go to a movie on Saturday night.
I've had more than a few moments where I can't decide whether I want to cringe for them, with them, or shake them until they regain some sense in their puberty-driven little minds. I've had even more moments where I want to ask their parents, why aren't you doing everything you can to discourage this level of dependence on a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship? I never, ever judge other parents (If you've ever read anything I've written, then you know this).
For myself, I believe there simply is no reason for this level of codependency at such a young age. These kids are either together, texting, Snapchatting or talking about each other to their friends. To my way of thinking, it borders on obsession! Constantly worrying what your boyfriend is doing, who he is talking to, who is talking about him and who might be trying to "take him away."
I want to tell each and every one of them that they may think they completely love this boy who asked them to prom, but they might not actually love them. Our definition of true love can change over time, with age, and with experience. That a lot of people, like myself, are so very thankful that I did not end up spending the rest of my life -- or even one more blessed minute -- with the boy I thought was the bees knees when I was 15, 16 and 17 years old.
As a teenager you feel like an adult, you feel ready to take on the world and you think that the adults around you are some of the stupidest people you have ever met in your entire (15 years of) life. I get it, I do! I'm old, but I was once young and I felt the same way you do now! I felt like my parents needed to back off and let me live my life! It's natural, it's part of how life is supposed to work. You're supposed to fight for your independence, you're not doing anything wrong.
But -- and here's the catch -- you're not actually an adult yet. You're close, but you're not quite there yet.
And, here's more of a catch, even once you're an adult that doesn't mean you fully know who you are, and what you want to do with your life yet. You have not yet had any life experiences that weren't directed by your parents. You haven't yet fully discovered who you are, what you like and dislike and had the experiences that will help you become the person you will be for the rest of your life.
There are experiences in life that help form who you are, and while you may have had some really life changing experiences, trust me when I say no one has ever looked back on their life and said to themselves, "I wish I had had sex with that teenage boy I dated in high school instead of telling him no."
No one. Not ever. Not even one time.
I can guarantee you there will be someone, maybe even you, who will look back on this time in their lives and wish they had not had sex with that boy who asked them to go to a school dance.
Someone, maybe even you, will wish they hadn't posted that picture on Instagram of them kissing a boy, or a girl. When they eventually fall out of love with the boy of the moment, grow up, move on, and find the person they will spend the rest of their life with, they will wish there weren't countless selfies of them kissing this boy, and swearing to love him forever and ever. They will realize how incredibly silly they sounded.
Not only are the teenage years meant to be a time of testing boundaries, but they're meant to be a time of exploration and of figuring out who you are. Trying new things, failing at some and succeeding at others! All of these experiences you're about to have will shape who you are as an adult.
Just to make sure that I wasn't the only person who felt this way I asked some friends, and many of my friends (fellow parents) did actually marry their high school sweetheart. They're very proud of how many years they've been together now. Do you know why they're proud to be reaching those 18, 20, 21 year marks? Because relationships are hard! You sometimes have to fight to stay together during those hard times!
Other friends married someone they knew in high school but never had a romantic relationship with them until after college.
Consider that for a moment, your future spouse may be in your class with you now and you're not even noticing them yet.
Other people, like my husband and I, met our spouses well after college.
There are so many other things for you to experience in high school and college, be careful not to miss out on any of them because you're so concerned with having a relationship.
The same goes for those boys and girls out there who aren't in a relationship. I know that looking around it seems like everywhere you look, your friends are going by two by two. Holding hands. Kissing. Making out. Exploring sex boundaries. It's okay that you're not! It is more than okay that you're not! There's plenty of time for all of the relationship stuff in life. There's no reason to hurry.
I asked my friend, Meg Sanity* from Megsanity.Women, Psychology and Expletives to weigh in with some scientific stuff to back me up:
We come into the teenage years with a hard-wired desire to mate with the first idiot who shows interest in us, to establish bonds and avoid loneliness which would have spelled disaster for our very social ancestors. Love is not as magical as Disney wants us to believe. It is a chemical reaction, triggered by hormones and the social environment. And those hormones peak in the teenage years, leading us to find "the one" wherever we happen to be.
Screw it; it's not him. It's the chemicals in our system. Hormones over actual compatibility.
But it isn't just the hormones. Researchers say that while intellectual abilities may mature earlier, the areas of the brain involved in impulse control don't generally develop fully until the mid-twenties, around the same time those hormones start to calm down. This often means that teenagers have the inherent ability not only to engage in dangerous acts like unsafe sex, but also to rationalize those actions as "not quite that dangerous."
As if we needed more fuel on that fire, we all come equipped with the desire for the forbidden. Usually referred to as the "ironic process model," scientists find that people tend to think more about things that they are told not to, and this includes the bad boy your mother told you not to see anymore. We all have a little bit of rebel in us. It's biology.
"Hey, Grandma! I found this picture of you on the web today! Why do your lips make you look like a duck?"
Darn brain trickery.
I guess more than anything else, what I'd like to say to all of the teenage boys and girls out there is focus on something besides the opposite sex. You'll be glad you did when you're older, and even if you don't realize that you're glad I promise that you won't be sorry. If you spend more time and energy on yourself, and your own experiences as who you are on the inside you'll eventually be much better prepared to be someone's partner and spouse when you're emotionally and physically ready to make that type of commitment in life.
*Bio: "Megsanity" is the alias of a licensed clinical therapist who has spent the majority of the last ten years working as the Clinical Director/Vice President of Clinical Operations for a JCAHO accredited mental health facility. She needed an anonymous outlet where it was acceptable to drop the F-bomb like it's hot, so she started Megsanity. Women, Psychology and Expletives, a blog that strives to promote an understanding of female psychology through recent and anthropological research, girl power, expletives, sarcasm and sexual innuendo. But do NOT visit her on Facebook. Did that just make you want to more? Good. (You rebel.)