More Than Friends
A relationship is the state of connection between binding participants. In the case of a relationship that is outside of family members, and more than just friends, the term in this sense refers to a social interaction that could lead to a passionate or intimate attachment.
First things first: There are no laws— no expectations— that people need to be attracted to anyone in life. It isn’t a requirement, and it’s absolutely allowed for someone to feel uninterested in such a relationship. Humans are complex, and that includes the many variations of desired or undesired attractions, relationships, and sexuality.
This post is geared towards those who do have a mental, emotional, and/or physical attraction to another person, and who might have honest questions about how to go about starting or managing a dating or committed relationship.
Here are three ways to start or maintain a dating relationship.
Tip number 1: Calm down.
This is obviously tongue in cheek here, meant as a joke to get any reader to smile.
Develop an attraction to someone else? Calm down, we tell ourselves. Need to communicate a crush you’ve been holding onto? Calm down, we repeat. Just start into a dating relationship? Calm down, people say. Feeling lovey dovey and can’t help but show the world through texts, media, and public displays of affection? Calm down, they repeat. CALM DOWN.
As if it’s just that easy. But all too often, that’s what we tell ourselves when we start feeling attraction. We might get nervous of even angry at ourselves for developing feelings towards someone else. It’s also what other people tell us when we’re worked up about something in life. We might communicate excitement, our body language exposes our emotions, our speech speeds up, and our voice raises in volume while explaining something-- or someone-- we’re into.
People tell us, “Whoa. Calm down,” all the time, and of course that makes things worse. We respond, “I am calm! You calm down!” Nice comeback, right?
We definitely get more upset, and sometimes even anxious, when someone says this to us because they are trying to downplay our interest or passion.
If you find yourself having feelings of attraction towards others, and one person in particular, it can be exciting but also concerning— the biggest question to ourselves might be, “What do I do?”
So, what do we do, for real?
Great question, but here’s the bad news: This is one question that probably needs to be answered yourself.
How big is this crush we’re talking about? How long have you been dating? What do you want out of the relationship? What do they want from the relationship? Do you even know? These are all questions to consider.
Even though some pieces of attraction might occur without much thought, ultimately this is another choice in life that is all yours. You have the final say in what, and who, you are or are not interested in for a relationship.
It’s an exciting time that can definitely consume our thoughts and actions. The first thing to consider is life balance— make sure you are still maintaining other parts of your well-being like school or work, diet and exercise, schedule commitments, and other friend and family relationships.
Make sure you are still maintaining you. You need to maintain an identity through it all.
There are several ways to feel attraction. It could develop as a mental attraction, an emotional attraction, or a physical attraction. You might find interest in another person because you value their ideas or because you share common hobbies. You might think they are good looking or have nice facial features. You might share similar feelings or enjoy connecting in other close, or intimate, ways.
It will take time to figure all of this out. You may not know enough about a person until you have had nearly daily interaction with them for months. Even then, there is no reason to rush into things.
So, yeah, in the end, perhaps “Calm down” is not a bad recommendation after all. However, don’t beat yourself up about having a crush interest or starting into a dating relationship and not knowing where it might go.
These things are best figured out together, which leads quite nicely into tip number two and three.
Tip number 2: Consent.
Consent is the permission for something to happen. In a relationship, consent involves both individuals actively agreeing upon the same thing. Consent is the basis for anything physical and emotional that might develop between you and another person.
Always keep things consensual. Relationship consent has a few major points that are easy to remember as the acronym F.R.I.E.S.
• FREELY GIVEN. A choice you make without pressure, manipulation, or under the influence of drugs.
• REVERSIBLE. Anyone can change their mind about what they feel like doing, anytime. Even if you’ve done it before, and even in the middle of an activity.
• INFORMED. You can only consent to something if you have the full story.
• ENTHUSIASTIC. In a relationship, consent is doing things you want to do. It is not expected.
• SPECIFIC. Saying yes to one thing in a relationship does not mean you’ve said yes to others.
Your body is your own, and the same is true for other people— they have the final decision in what they are willing to do. Even if something occurred in the past, in a consensual relationship it doesn’t have to happen again. Holding hands, kissing, touching… listen to what the other person is expressing. If there isn’t a clear, expressed agreement, the answer is “no.”
Consent is respect. Clear communication is the main part of that.
Tip number 3: Communicate.
This is the key ingredient here. Communication is essential.
We all know it to be true, it’s just a matter of how to keep it up. The best way to start or maintain a relationship is by communicating both in person and in text (the phone or the Internet). There is no substitute for quality, in-person conversations about any and all topics in life.
Communication and eye contact creates a powerful connection, and that’s what this is all about.
Communicate early, communicate often, and maybe most of all understand that people change. And that’s allowed! Dating is not easy, and committed relationships are even tougher. Allow yourself and your partner to change and the relationship to evolve and grow along with you both. This is the greatest form of respect there could be.
Being brave and putting yourself “out there” to a person you like can end great... or it can end in rejection. It takes guts to communicate a crush to someone, but you should know going into it that your feelings might not be reciprocated.
One way to handle this is to wait for the relationship to develop naturally. In the meantime, you can learn more about that person and their own feelings for you. Holding on to this secret can also be difficult, though, so you might choose to let them know instead. It might change whatever friendship or relationship you had going, or it might not.
You might date and stay together, or you might not. That’s how these things work.
Each crush or attraction is unique. You can always just recommend hanging out together. If you truly like them, that’s what you want anyway— more time in activities you both enjoy. Whether or not you express your interest, if your feelings are honest and true, you’ll know the right decision when the time comes.
If you find yourself falling out of a dating or committed relationship, there will be hurt feelings. It’s inevitable. Again, communication is key.
If on the receiving end of disrespect, or just plain disinterest, try to be direct in questioning what is going on and find out if things can improve. If things are unhealthy to the point of emotional abuse, you need to remove yourself from that situation immediately. This isn’t always easy, so seek help as needed.
Visit the Domestic Violence Hotline for free, confidential support with lifesaving tools for safety.
In the end, it might be an unfortunate truth that you’re both better off moving on without each other. That said, kindness always wins. Be respectful even if parting paths. This is way easier said than done; most people will admit disrespect is a huge mistake they’ve made in break-ups. But the goal is self-respect as well, and that won’t be maintained through shouting, taunting, or spreading rotten information about an ex.
On the positive side of things, social connections can bring out the best in us as human beings.
Once again, communicate early and communicate often to create a relationship where you can feel safe, comfortable, appreciated, and yourself.
“Growing Up Great!”
For more health tips geared towards adolescent boys, check out Growing Up Great!, a body-positive guide to getting through puberty confidently by respecting the body and all of its changes.