Healthy relationships require communication and mutual respect, not external pressure

January 20, 2022 — by Sarah Thomas and Ariel Zhou
Although being in a relationship can have benefits, it isn’t essential to a well-rounded high school experience.

After getting close at band bake sales and fundraisers, sophomores Lexi Cleland and Minh Do began to date. They have been together for six months. They both said that their relationship has been beneficial for their mental health, but agreed that having a high school relationship is not necessary for happiness. 

“You can’t really be looking for a relationship,” Cleland said. “It should form naturally.”

Cleland said that being in a relationship doesn’t magically make life perfect, though it may seem like it. She said a healthy relationship requires time, communication and effort — otherwise, it can be more of a strain than a positive experience. 

“Without mutual respect and effort, sometimes relationships can leave you more lonely or stressed out than what you started with,” she said.

Do and Cleland were close friends before they started dating, and Cleland said she thinks her relationship with Do works because it is really simple. She compared it to having a friend that was just “more than a friend” — unlike most movies that tend to glorify romantic relationships.

The pressure to be in a relationship doesn’t suddenly emerge though, as teens are constantly bombarded with media that suggests dating is essential to the “perfect” high school experience. 

According to Rebecca Ayer, a Digital Communications Coordinator at the University of Georgia, “dating, especially during the teenage years, is thought to be an important way for young people to build self-identity, develop social skills, learn about other people and grow emotionally.”

However, in recent years, the number of high school students who have a partner has dramatically decreased as societal pressures change. A study published by the Society for Research in Child Development found that between 1976 and 1979, 86% of high school seniors had gone on a date; between 2010 and 2015 only 63% had.

Even with this change, there are still many teens who are in relationships despite the stress of high school and lack of free time. 

Sophomore Bridget Burgos, who is currently single, also thinks that being in a relationship isn’t necessary to have a robust high school experience. 

“I think it depends on the person,” Burgos said. “Right now, I think everyone should focus on themselves, but if you think you can handle a relationship and you want to be one, then go ahead.”

She added that a lot of people date just to be in a relationship rather than actually liking or wanting to spend time with their partner.

Even though many people in relationships agree that romantic partners are not necessary for happiness, there are some positive impacts to dating. 

Throughout junior Allison Tan’s childhood, her parents were  strongly opposed to her dating. 

But when Tan started dating her current partner, junior Anand Agrawal, her parents quickly became supportive.

“They really emphasized the importance of the person you’re dating and not so much how old you are,” Tan said. “They also trust me and know that I’m mature.”

Tan said that she and her partner started off as best friends, and he helped her through her mental health struggles. They eventually started dating, and he has become her main support system. Despite this, she said it’s important to have resources outside of your relationship. 

“There’s a lot of importance placed on having a white knight to save you, especially in shows and movies,” Tan said. “As a woman, I feel like you’re always expected to be dating someone, crushing on someone or relying on someone in some way.”

Tan said that she feels that this phenomenon is less prominent in Saratoga where people often focus more on academics and extracurriculars, but teen pop culture has always linked dating with happiness.

Junior Kaelli Trateng also said a healthy relationship can be really beneficial, especially for one’s mental health.

Trateng has been in a relationship for a few months, and said that one of the most important things in her relationship is proper communication and honesty. She said that for a relationship to be positive, open and honest communication with your partner is crucial. 

“No relationship is perfect, but working on those issues is what takes time and effort and helps it work out eventually,” she said.