High school offers many opportunities for teenagers to mature socially, albeit sometimes through awkward, newfound experiences. High school dating relationships promises much joy and fun but the stakes are high as there are risks—they may not work out as you hope. The Eagle Eye surveyed HBA high school students to find out their perspectives on dating in high school. Here what we found:
There is no clear answer to the question of whether or not dating while in high school is a good idea. Opinions varied widely when we asked students to describe high school dating with one word; words like “junk” and “fun” were thrown into the same pot.
Senior Noah Shiira, who is dating classmate Kelsey Zane, says that dating is “exciting—you never know what’s going to happen.” First they were just friends and then they went to prom together. Eventually, Shiira and Zane starting dating. As to the benefits of dating in high school, Shiira said, ” I just want to be happy right now [and] live in the moment.” Zane shares a similar perspective. “[I’m] obviously not going to be in high school forever. I hope not. [Dating] lets me enjoy the time that [I] have with people around [me],” she said. Shiira and Zane say dating has helped them grow socially, whether they are on a date or when they hang out with mutual friends.
When she started high school, Reese Yoshikawa, now a senior, loved the thought of being able to date in high school. When the opportunity eventually arose, however, she balked. “I absolutely was not emotionally or mentally ready for [dating.] I didn’t have enough time management skills, or the commitment to actually make it work,” she said. Also, Yoshikawa had extremely high expectations for dating and saw marriage as the purpose for all dating relationships. However, over time, her views changed and she felt ready to give it a shot. She started dating someone and has found that “communication is key” for a successful dating relationship. “Just letting them know where you’re at and being emotionally vulnerable is something I feel makes a high school relationship last because a lot of people can view high school relationship as like fun flings where you go out and then afterwards, you’re just done. But for like lasting high school relationships, that emotional connection is really important,” she said.
Yoshikawa also learned that any prior expectations one might have before starting a dating relationship may not sync with reality. “I think a lot of the things that I foresaw were unrealistic, like this whole idea of the typical TV teenage relationship. It’s completely different from that, or at least [that’s how] my relationship is. It’s not like every day after school day [there’s] fun, flowers, and chocolates,” she explained. By realizing what is her own and her boyfriend’s limitations, she has found dating to be very fulfilling. For example, she thinks she’s done better academically because her boyfriend’s support makes her a happier person. When life gets stressful, going out on dates and having telephone conversations helps her relax while having fun, benefiting her mental and physical health. Overall, Yoshikawa is glad that she became more open-minded towards dating.
As an incoming freshman, sophomore Drake Shiraishi was introduced to sophomore Cerra Leong through a group chat welcoming him. Gradually their friendship turned into a dating relationship. Leong treasures the emotional support that she gets from Shiraishi. “It’s nice dating someone because the other person likes you for who you are. And it’s like you have this buddy next to you, or like a friend,” she said. However, Leong acknowledges that underclassmen may not always have the emotional maturity to navigate dating relationships. On the practical level, Shiraishi says dating can get “expensive” and he’s had to budget gifts for his girlfriend. He also feels limited with the lack of a driver’s license, as he has to plan dates with Leong on top of his parents’ driving schedule.
On the other end of the spectrum are students who feel strongly that dating should be reserved for a later stage in life, after high school. Senior Madison Duren, who says her views are shaped by her Christian beliefs and conservative upbringing, wants to wait till she’s an adult to date someone. She also believes people should date to marry. Duren admires her parents’ love story, especially because her mom only dated one person, Duren’s father, in her life. “I look up to my mom and I want to copy what she does…I see [her relationship] as a representation of how I should go about trying to find a boyfriend or a husband,” Duren said.
Duren says dating with marriage in mind is like a box of cereal with a toy gift inside. Rather than just flipping the box upside down to open it from the bottom and taking out the toy right away, she’d rather eat the cereal gradually from the top, reaching the buried toy only after enjoying the cereal one bite at a time. She believes a strong relationship takes time to grow and has to grow intentionally.
English teacher Alexandra Taylor, who has led dating seminars for students during HBA’s Christian Emphasis Week, believes dating in high school can be a good learning experience. In a school setting, she notes how it is a great environment for dating; you can learn about a person from his or her friends and observe their behavior around others. Before a student enters a dating relationship, however, Taylor advises that they must “have a good team around [them],” especially adults or those with experience. “A lot of times where high school students tend to go wrong with dating is that they isolate themselves. They don’t put a lot of effort into maintaining friendships, and instead, they use the emotional high that they find in a romantic partner to compensate for all of that. They’re not getting [support] in places that are healthy, with relationships with people who are going to care about them unconditionally and want what’s best for them. Having to have someone in order to feel okay rarely leads to healthy relationships and good decision making,” she said.
While it is ideal when dating relationships end in marriage, Taylor believes that having had a healthy experience in dating, even if it doesn’t end up in something long term, is still a good thing. “It’s also considered a success if you dated someone in high school and you break up, but the relationship was productive [and] healthy. You learn stuff, you treat each other respectfully and kindly, and at some point, realize like ‘I don’t think this is for me, like this isn’t going to work out’ and you part ways and it’s kind of sad,” she explained.
Math teacher Fred Fong believes students should focus on developing friendships more than finding someone to date. Back in his high school years, Fong didn’t date anyone. “I wasn’t into it. I was what they call a late bloomer. So at that time, [having a] girlfriend wasn’t on my mind at all, not until college [when] everybody started dating,” he said. Instead, he just spent time making good friends. “You should make as many friends as you can. It shouldn’t matter whether it was a guy or girl and you just make friends. Eventually one of your best friends will be a potential boyfriend or girlfriend. That is more natural…[When you are dating] you don’t want people to fake it and pretend they are very perfect in front of you,” he said.