Some of my friends have started asking their parents when they are allowed to date. The numbers seem to vary. Most say they have to wait until high school, some say they can date but are not allowed to do anything physical, and others have just said ‘not yet’.
I have started to wonder about the same thing. I find someone in my class very attractive and I think they feel the same about me – I am curious about what it would be like to date them, to kiss them even. But am I ready to handle that kind of pressure? Am I too young to be in a relationship?
I looked it up and the general consensus seems to be that age is only a number and it is the maturity of a person that really matters. But even that feels hard to judge – everyone thinks they are mature (or likes to think they are).
Why a relationship now?
It really has to do with what your goals are, what you are looking for, and why you want to be in love, or at least be in a relationship. Some of my friends think that dating will make them ‘cooler’. Others just see older kids dating and they look happy. I think some girls just want to be in one because they are curious about it. Being a teenager is confusing enough with all of the emotional and physical upheaval, but it is certainly something to think through. I heard that relationships can be stressful and can sometimes make common issues like how we feel about ourselves, our image, and goals even more prominent.
So how can you decide? How do you know what is right and if you are ready to date?
Head, Heart, Body decision making
When I started to ask around, people kept telling me to listen to my gut. But what does that mean? And is my gut the same as my mind? Eventually someone directed me to the Calgary Sexual Health website where they break down a decision making tool called Head, Heart, Body. It is a tool that allows you to check in with yourself and figure out what you truly want – not based on what others tell you, not based on what you think is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, and also not on your ‘gut’. I found it to be really helpful! I also talked to Emily Ophus, a Councilor and Program Facilitator at the Calgary Sexual Health Centre, and she gave me even more questions to help make decisions with.
It goes like this:
Head – Ask yourself:
- Why am I doing this?
- Do I agree with what is going on?
- Does this fit with my values?
- How will I feel about this decision tomorrow?
- What will my friends and family think?
- What if they say no/don’t like me?
- What does going on a date or dating mean to me?
- Is there someone I can talk to about this?
- Do I know where to go if I need more information?
- Will the other person feel the same?
- Am I ready to hear “no” if they don’t feel the same?
- Hearing no is not always negative. In fact, ‘rejection’ is now energy that can be used elsewhere, rather than taking up a lot of time/space in our brains.
Heart – Ask yourself:
- Do I feel safe and comfortable with this person?
- Does this feel right to me?
- Do I like this person?
- Can I trust them?
Body – Ask yourself:
- What does my body want to do?
- Do I like what’s happening?
- Am I blushing? Is my heart beating faster? Am I sweating?
- Do I want to be kissed or touched?
- Do I get excited and have butterflies in my stomach?
- Can I not stop smiling?
Emily says, “If you can’t answer all of these questions or end up with more negative answers than positive, it is okay to wait and take more time before starting to date. Safety and comfort take time to build so it is okay to decide to wait a little longer before making this decision.” I couldn’t agree more!
Their website has a lot of other resources and they break down the issue even further, including more questions to ask yourself. I would recommend checking it out.
The answer is that there is no specific age that makes you “ready” to start dating. The best thing to do is look inside yourself decide see if you are ready. Sit down and have some alone time and really reflect on the questions above. It is also important to ask your parents about their rules. If you disagree with what your parents have laid out bring it up with them. Talk about it. It may not change their mind, but at least you will be able to have a discussion about it without simply being ‘told’.