Teens Grapple with Dating Pressure
January 30, 2018
Sweaty hands, shaky breath, and that feeling of tightness in your chest that you just can’t seem to get rid of no matter what; it’s the feeling of nervousness that one gets before a first date. Even if it’s just someone you know from school, you feel such a pressure to make sure that they like you and that everything goes perfectly, and this causes incredible anxiety for most people.
Even if you aren’t dating and are unfamiliar with these first date jitters, just being a teenager comes with an intense societal pressure to be able to have a crush on someone or to be looking for someone to date.
Societal Pressures to Date
Most teens say that they definitely feel like they experience a pressure to be dating someone during their high school years. Societally, teens feel like they are expected to be in a relationship during their high school years, and like this is the normal thing to do as a teenager even though the majority of teens don’t date during high school.
“I feel like there is a lot of pressure to date in high school, like you are incomplete without that other person,” says senior Darci Fosnaugh.
Etheny McCall, a freshman, agrees, saying that, “It seems like everyone does it at some point, so there’s kind of the assumption that we should too.”
Many Carroll students said they feel a definite pressure to be dating someone during high school, whether they want to be or not. It’s practically become a societal expectation to date someone during your teenage years, and you’re seen as an outcast of sorts if you choose not to.
“It may not be something that is explicitly stated, but there is still an unstated pressure to be with someone,” says senior Nate Sutton. “ I think that people think that they can only be happy when they’re with someone else, and most people don’t realize that there’s nothing wrong with being happy with yourself and finding contentment or satisfaction through other things in life.”
However, not everyone necessarily gives in to these societal pressures.
“I don’t think everyone feels this way because I think people realize that it is not necessary to date someone in high school. If you find someone to date, that’s great, but it’s not something that you have to do in high school,” Senior Logan Lew said.
According to a study from the Pew Research Center, only 35 percent of teens between ages 13 and 17 have past experience with relationships and dating. Despite how much pressure there is to find someone, this is a very small number of teenagers who actually choose to pursue relationships. The majority of teens, by the time they’re 17, have never been in any kind of romantic relationship; yet, there’s still a pressure for these people to find a relationship.
The Problems with Teen Relationships
Even for those who do manage to find someone to date in high school, it often comes with many more hardships and struggles that one doesn’t have to deal with when they’re single.
Etheny says she feels that dating is “added stress in teens’ lives, as well as more gossip among students. It may also cause conflicts in friendships as well.”
High school relationships can also be problematic because of just how young these students really are. Logan says that a problem he sees with high school relationships is that “one or both of the people in the relationship are immature and not ready to be in a serious relationship.”
The Pew Research Center also found in its study that 14 percent of teens ages 13 through 17 are currently in relationships that they consider to be “serious.” How Pew defines a “serious” relationship, though, is left up to the people answering the question. Immaturity can also lead to other large problems for teenagers in relationships.
Seeing as one primary purpose of dating is trying to find a spouse, this is a struggle that teenagers don’t yet need to be worrying about. If you find someone you want to be in a relationship with, then that’s fine; however, there should be no hurry to find someone, as you would have to wait years before marriage anyways.
Most teenageers, of course, aren’t worrying about marrying the person they’re dating in high school; however, if marriage is the long term goal, it may be unnecessary for teens to feel like they need to date someone during their high school years.
“You have to wait a long time before you could actually get married,” Darci said.
Time management is another issue that comes up when dating someone.
Logan has nothing against dating someone, and would not mind having a girlfriend.
“I don’t have time for a girlfriend right now,” Logan said.
Between familial obligations, a job, extracurricular activities, and AP classes, it can be very difficult to try to find time to plan dates and hang out with someone on a regular basis. You can hang out with your friends once a month or so, and it works out fine; however, if you’re in a relationship, there’s a pressure and an expectation of sorts that you’ll spend most if not all of your free time with them. This becomes very problematic when considering all of the obligations and responsibilities that one has during high school.
Along the same vein, high school relationships can be very difficult if the two are at different high schools. When you go to the same high school, you see each other every day and have no major worries about being able to spend time together. When you go to different schools, though, this becomes significantly more difficult. You don’t see each other every day during school, and you have twice as many school dances, sporting events, and activities that you have to plan around when you’re trying to find time to see each other, and this can end up putting significantly more stress on teens when they’re trying to prioritize or organize their time.
It can also be very hard, as teens grow older, to deal with the stress of college and a potential long-distance relationship.
“There is a lot of pressure to go to the same college or it can be hard to be in a long distance relationship,” Darci said.
This is especially true of relationships where the two are in different grade levels; if one goes off to college while the other is still at home finishing high school, it can be hard for the one still at home to make college decisions without taking their significant other into account or worrying about their relationship being long-distance.
Struggles for LGBT Youth
These dating struggles are only magnified when considering LGBT+ youth who are pursuing relationships. In Indiana, the community is one that is not very widely represented, and this can make it very hard for teens in this community to deal with the pressure to date and being able to be in an open relationship with someone.
“There’s such a community built around ‘relationship goals’ and such these days,” Senior Mackenzie Snyder said.
With people on Instagram and other forms of social media constantly posting photos of their significant others and talking about the “goals” they look for in a relationship.
These sorts of things only go further to foster the pressure that those not in relationships feel in regards to finding someone to date. When all that someone sees on social medias are pictures of couples having fun, it can cause even more pressure on them to try and find and be in a happy relationship with someone.
In Fort Wayne, the LGBT community is relatively small, and this makes it very hard for people in the community to find people who they are willing and able to date, if they even want to seek out a relationship.
“It can be really hard to even find a dating pool, let alone people you’re interested in who are mutually interested in you,” Mackenzie said.
“There might be some antagonism against LGBTQ+ people, so people are less willing to come out in the first place,” Nate said.
This friction and fear greatly limits the dating pool for those who are openly LGBT+ and who are seeking out relationships, and creates a greater fear and reluctance for those who haven’t come out yet to be able to come out or to seek relationships. He says that “that animosity that others may feel may prevent them from being ‘out’ about their relationship and doing something as simple as holding hands.”
Even once an LGBT+ teen is in a relationship, it can still be very hard to be open with it because of this resentment. It’s not uncommon for teens in this community to be out to their friends, but not their families, often because of a fear of not being accepted for their sexuality.
“There’s always a chance that [your significant other’s] parents aren’t supportive of their sexuality,” Mackenzie said.
Even in heterosexual relationships, the knowledge that a significant other’s parents don’t support the relationship can make it very hard to have a good, open relationship. In the case of LGBT+ relationships, this problem is only magnified, as the gravity of the situation is much more serious because of the issue of parents accepting their children’s sexuality.
Even if you can find a relationship with someone, often times teenagers during high school are still trying to figure out their own identities, and this can make it very hard to be in a relationship with someone.
“A lot of people are still struggling to figure out what their sexuality or gender identity is, and they might not have everything sorted out during high school, so again there’s fewer people who are willing to admit that they are LGBTQ+ and thus fewer potential people to date,” Nate said.
This pressure that so many people feel to have a relationship during high school causes many problems for people in the LGBT+ community, because if these teens haven’t even figured out their own identities entirely yet, then it makes it very difficult for them to be able to figure out who they would want to date.
Despite all of the struggles that can be common in high school relationships, whether they be LGBT+ relationships or not, teens find that if you can find a fulfilling relationship with someone then that can make the struggles more worthwhile.
“It can be hard,” Mackenzie said. “But it’s still worth it when you’re able to find someone you can connect with,”