From Our Teen Readers
April 15, 2015 8:49 pm

For the longest time, I thought dating was stupid. Or rather, I thought dating as a teen was stupid. Why? At school, all I ever saw were couples who cut themselves off from everyone else and ditched their friends to make out under the stairs, and I always thought it was an awkward situation for everyone: Where were their other friends? Surely they didn’t spend all their time together, right? Didn’t their platonic soulmates get irritated about their lovey-dovey friend’s sudden absentee status?

Needless to say, I was super against the idea that having a relationship in your teens could be worthwhile — and I didn’t try to hide my opinions from anyone. Which meant it kinda sorta came as a huge shock to everyone around me when I became the first of my friends to get a boyfriend.

There was a mass influx of questions from my girl friends, who were afraid I’d ditch them to run away with a boy. Would I ever see them again? Would I suddenly change into someone I wasn’t? Would I blow them off for my significant other (S.O.) every time I got a phone call? To be honest, it was as more than a little troubling to hear. But fear not, my friends — because it turns out it’s not as hard or daunting to balance your S.O. and your friends as it might seems. Here are some of the things people told me I’d do once I got a significant other… and how I avoided them.

1. “You’re going to spend all your time with them!”

Nope. I spend all my lunches with my friends, just like I did before I got an S.O. — nothing changed. I know some people who use all their lunches to talk to their partner, make weekend-long plans with them, and spend all their time after school to call and text them. It’s great to spend time with your S.O., but it’s also important to remember that you have other friends and people you need to hang out with.

2. “You’re going to blow off your friends every time your S.O. calls!”

If you honor your commitments, this one doesn’t even apply anymore. When my friends invite me out to dinner or the movies, I stick to what I’ve committed to doing regardless of whether or not I get a so-called “better offer” later. If I’ve said I’ll be somewhere, that’s where I’ll be. Likewise, if my boyfriend plans something for the two of us before I have any set plans on a certain day, I go with it. I don’t change my plans on the fly for anyone, and it keeps everyone happy. Plus, I have the benefit of always knowing what my schedule is going to be ahead of time: An added bonus.

3. “All you’re gonna talk about/text about/BE about is your S.O.”

Uh, no. The fact of the matter is that you’ve gotta appreciate the other people in your life — and that means enjoying your time with them when you’re graced with their company. When I’m with my friends, I try to live in the moment as much as possible; that means no obsessive texting or leaving to talk on the phone in another room to my S.O. It’s always better to be engaged and live in the present,so try to separate yourself from your phone when you’re with Real Live People and give them your full attention. Your S.O. will understand if you answer a text half an hour later instead of five seconds after receiving the message, and your friends will really appreciate the gesture.

Like most things in life, it’s all about balance. Another important point: Try to avoid talking about your S.O. all the time. As awesome as your S.O. is, talking about them constantly can get pretty old to your other friends. It’s irritating for them to have to hear over and over about how cool your S.O. is, how much you like your relationship, and all the stuff you and your S.O. do together. It alienates everyone else in the group, and it could be hurtful to your other friends if they have to listen to your stories all the time — especially if they’re single and unhappy about it. The way I sidestep this land mine is simple: I just limit how much I talkabout my partner in group discussions. That doesn’t mean that I don’t mention them at all; I just make sure I’m not inadvertently hijacking the whole convo by turning it into a huge pile of sappiness featuring me and my S.O. Keep engaged in the topics the group brings up and avoid turning everyone’s attention to you to include everyone in the group in what’s being talked about.

4. “You’re gonna change. Like, really.  You’re gonna lose yourself.”

When most people say this, they mean that you’re going to suddenly go into a crazy whirlwind of hobby adoption and totally lose sight of who you are. This can be pretty scary to hear, especially if you’ve never been in a relationship before and don’t know what to expect. But never fear! You don’t need to fret about this if you keep up with your own hobbies. It’s great to try new things and spend time with your S.O. doing them—Branch out! Expand your horizons!—but you also need to take time out for your own interests, even if you don’t share them with your partner. This means continuing with what makes you happy and (cliché alert!) staying true to yourself while in a relationship. If you do that, nobody can accuse you of falling into the metaphorical abyss and losin’ yourself. And if they do, you won’t be able to hear them; you’ll be too busy doing the stuff that makes you happy.

5. “Just watch. Your grades are gonna slip, and you’ll forget about what’s important.”

If it’s your parents or other authority figures in your life saying this, it can be super annoying — but it’s important to understand that they’re just concerned about your well-being and your future. That said, it’s definitely not something to lose sleep over! If you’re focused, diligent, and hardworking, you don’t have to worry about a drop in your grades just because you’ve gained a plus one. Doing well in school is paramount for a lot of people, so if it’s something you value, make sure you reserve time for it.

This means taking time out to do homework and study, even if you have to turn down a date or two. Besides, if you’re savvy with your time management, you should have plenty of space in your schedule for your S.O., your family, and your friends even while putting in the time you need to score those straight A’s. Having an S.O. means you have certain responsibilities, and one of those is that you’re able to balance the other important things in your life with your relationship: School included. My family places a lot of emphasis on getting good grades, so I always make sure to do what I need to in order to make sure that I have enough time to study and do all my assignments, even at the end of long days out with my friends or my S.O. By balancing school with my S.O. and everything else, I’ve been able to successfully maintain my grades and my relationship, no sweat!

It seems like there are a lot of pitfalls to having to negotiate your time between having a partner and spending time with friends, but it really isn’t all that difficult! With a little planning and consideration, balancing your romantic relationship with your platonic ones is a snap. It just goes to show that darling, you certainly can have both.

Victoria Chiu is a geeky teen chilling out in the frozen north of Alberta, Canada. She is obsessed with anime, manga, and pop culture and will show pictures of her cat to anyone who’ll pay attention. When not writing on her blog, she can be found daydreaming and browsing Tumblr at inopportune times.

(Image via.)

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