The world of teen dating is complicated. Girls have questions and need guidance. Many find themselves in surprising situations that leave them doubting themselves, others, and their best next steps. The following questions are directly from teen girls. They illustrate the innocence, challenges, and complexities of teen romance. The responses I offer are intended for teens and can be a useful guide for parents as they support their teens in the area of dating and relationships.
- How do you know if you like someone? How do you know if someone likes you?
Falling for someone can catch you by surprise and send your head spinning and your heart pounding. It’s this physical response that usually indicates your feelings for a person have changed or deepened. You may find yourself thinking of them more and doing things that you normally wouldn’t usually do. This is a good time to slow down. Take time to ask yourself how you really feel and what you really want. Similarly, you’ll know someone likes you if that person starts treating you differently. He/she may want to spend more time with you or talk more about you to other people. You will start noticing things are different and you may even start getting a feeling. Trust that feeling and give yourself and the other person time. You will know.
Bottom line: When you get quiet and listen to your heart and intuition, you will know if you truly like someone, and if someone truly likes you.
- My best friend likes my brother and is really creepy about it. How do I respond in a way that is kind/good to both people?
It is hard to be caught in the middle! If your friend is making you feel uncomfortable or creating an uncomfortable dynamic between you and your brother, it’s important to talk with her. You can let her know how you feel, in a light yet direct way. Say something like, “I feel a little weird about you liking my brother.” Try to help her understand how the situation impacts you. Then, you may want to consider making a request. You can’t ask her to stop liking your brother, because emotions are hard to turn off, but you can ask if she’s willing to act in a different way. You may also ask yourself what other choices you have. Maybe you make fewer plans at your house and around your brother. Notice where you have choices, and remember, you also always have a choice to let it go. To say to yourself, Ok this is weird, but there’s nothing more I can do about it. Try to focus on the other things you appreciate and value in your friend.
Bottom line: Speak up. Talk with your friend about how you feel and what you need. Be honest and kind.
- Should you date your friend’s ex?
There are a lot of factors to consider here. How close of a friend is she? How would you feel in her situation? Does she still have feelings for her ex? What are the consequences of dating her ex and are you prepared to deal with those? First, get honest with yourself and think about the feelings of everyone involved. You also might want to consider talking with your friend. Ask if she’s cool with you dating her ex. Share how you feel and listen to how she feels. Know your own boundaries and respect the boundaries of the others involved. If you wouldn’t want someone dating your ex, you may think twice about doing that to someone else.
Bottom line: Make a decision based on your values and needs, and also those of the people you care about.
A note for parents: When it comes to teens and dating, educate yourself. Know as much as you can about what is going on in your teen’s world so you can calibrate with her and provide the best support. Help her define and connect with her values; her values will drive her decisions. Talk about boundaries and the role they play in relationships. Help her define her boundaries and teach her how to express them, by modeling how you do the same. Be open and supportive when it comes to topics including sexuality, gender, and sex. Remember, your teen’s romantic relationships and dating experiences are valuable opportunities for her to learn about herself and strengthen qualities like empathy, compassion, confidence, assertiveness, emotional intelligence, and inner strength.