When you’re starting to fall in love, life is way more than good—it’s great! It’s like being on an adrenaline high. Let’s take the cues from Bella and Edward, the main characters in Twilight….. The four installments essentially map the heart of teen romance and drama.
So what’s going on in adolescence anyway? And why can relationships be so confusing? Part of it has to do with the teen brain, which is basically being soaked in reproductive hormones. The bodies of boys are swimming in testosterone, and girls, in estrogen – and this swirl of physiological activity is meant to, you know, keep the human race going. At the same time the brain’s neural pathways are mapping out and refining cognitive abilities – which influence one’s “executive” functions, such as problem solving, decision making, and using common sense. This neural roadmap also moves in and about the emotional center of the brain, making “moodiness” a common feature of the teen years. There are lots of emotions that seem to get exaggerated! Check out the interactive tool, Headspin, for the scoop.
There is something about a teen in love (or in lust) that is, well, mindboggling. So even if you think it’s love, it could really just be infatuation. How can you tell the difference?
Love vs. Infatuation
Love is based on trust, loyalty, and mutual commitment. It’s about accepting each other for who you are and not who you imagine the other person to be. A relationship based on love evolves as you learn to give and take, make compromises, respect each other as separate individuals, and encourage each other to follow dreams and goals. This may sound kind of corny, but being in love – and staying love – is a process that entails some emotional and cognitive maturity.
Infatuation, on the other hand, is the intense feeling you get when you’re attracted to someone. It’s a passionate, physical desire you often get at the beginning of a relationship. Lust is another word for it. It can lead to real love, but usually infatuations don’t last. In fact, it’s pretty common for young people to have several “long-term” relationships – which really aren’t very long at all: A few months with one person and another few months with the next person. This is called “serial monogamy” and has some risks to it (namely, unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections from unprotected sex). It’s rather easy to forgo common sense or practice safer sex when you think “this is the one – we’re together forever!” Remember a brain marinating in hormones can do some impulsive things that override logic.
At least 1 in 10 teens experience physical violence in their relationships!If you or a friend is in an unhealthy relationship, it is important to get help right away. Here are some toll-free hotlines you can call 24 hours a day.
Are You in a Healthy Relationship?
You can tell a lot about your relationship by how your boyfriend/girlfriend (BF/GF) treats you, how he/she makes you feel, and how others view your relationship. Try answering these 10 questions to find out if your relationship is healthy:
1. Do you trust each other?
2. Does he/she bring out the best in you?
3. Are you basically the same person you were before you started dating?
4. Are you happy when you’re with him/her and when you’re not?
5. Does he/she treat you with respect?
6. Do you feel pressured to be physical when you are not ready (or do you pressure your partner when she/he may not be ready)?
7. Do his/her parents know about you?
8. Do you have dreams and hope for yourself for yourself that are still in your future plans?
9. Do you still see your friends without your BF/GF?
10. Do your family and friends like your BF/GF and think that he/she is a good match for you?
If you answered “yes” to all of these questions, you’re probably in a healthy relationship based on mutual respect, equality, trust, commitment, honesty, support, and open communication. But if you answered “no” to 3 or more of these questions, you may be in a short-term relationship that is based more on infatuation than long-lasting love. You can take the relationship quiz at LoveIsRespect.org and the BodiMojo safe sex quiz, too.
Warning Signs that You’re in an Unhealthy Relationship
If you think you’re in an unhealthy relationship, it may be time to get out. You shouldn’t stay in an unhealthy relationship even if you think your BF/GF loves you. Not only is it wrong, but also it may be unsafe. Check out the warning signs below.