Your Questions Answered: When is the Best Time To Start Dating?
We get the question, “what is the best time to start dating?” a lot when we are presenting in high schools. The best answer I can give is that age isn’t necessarily as important as maturity and character. The best time is when both potential partners feel confident in who they are, have developed strong character, and identified the (common) reason why they would like to start a dating relationship. Of course for teens, you also have the very important factor of parental permission to date. I know, I know. That can sound like a no-brainer, but for teens, it is a key factor in making positive decisions when it comes to dating relationships.
So let’s talk about dating. People tend to have slightly different expectations and definitions of dating relationships, but we define dating as an intimate or romantic relationship formed for the purpose of pursuing a long-term monogamous relationship. Dating differs from friendship because each person is seeking to pursue a romantic relationship with the other. They may have started their relationship as friends, or began the relationship because of an initial attraction and now want to see if there could be a more intimate connection formed. However, just because both people understand they are interested in each other and begin a more intimate relationship does not mean that the relationship will be healthy. Dating is the most opportune time to probe, observe, and engage with the other person to see if the relationship is worth pursuing a potential partnership (long-term monogamous relationship i.e. marriage).
If your relationship is healthy, both individuals will work together to uplift one another with encouragement, seek to understand each other better, help one another meet goals, work together respectfully to resolve issues when they arise, and will feel secure about each other’s commitment levels to the relationship. If the relationship is unhealthy it will cause stress, drama, anger, and uncertainty. Sometimes the build-up of an unhealthy relationship is quite subtle, so it is important to pay attention to and not make excuses for the red flags.
Here a few red flags to look out for:
When these are present in your relationship, you feel unheard, devalued, unimportant, and unsafe with the other person. Over time, your self-esteem can be negatively impacted and the longer you remain in an unhealthy relationship the more difficult it can feel sometimes to end it. But please keep in mind that no matter how comfortable you are with ending an unhealthy relationship or not, the most important thing is that you do it. This is where supportive friends and trusted adults (like parents, mentors, coaches, and counselors) can assist you if you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself.
We’ve already talked about what a healthy relationship will produce, but here are a few characteristics that are always found in a healthy dating relationship:
· Similar Values
The good news about healthy relationships is that they are grown and developed over time. Each of the above characteristics should be present in a healthy relationship, but it is normal for each individual to have varied strength levels of those characteristics throughout the relationship. That is the joy of dating when the relationship is healthy; both individuals feel valued, loved, and respected while you get to know each other and grow your relationship into a potential long-term monogamous commitment like marriage.
Remember, dating is a trial period designed to give you an opportunity to probe, observe, and engage with the other person. Keep that in mind while you are still in this very important stage of a romantic relationship. So again, there is not necessarily a perfect age to begin dating, but keeping in mind the purpose of dating and the value of strong character, maturity, and clear goals before pursuing romantic relationships can be the best determinate for when dating may be something you are open to exploring.