Boyfriend or boy friend?

Examining the issues with prioritizing romantic relationships over platonic ones at an early age

Trisha Sannappanavar and Tvisha Gupta

The high school experience at MVHS boils down to a few key points: get good grades, join some extracurriculars, maintain a great social life.

And if you’re particularly lucky, get a girlfriend or boyfriend.

The excitement that accompanies the talking stages, coffee dates and homecoming posters of high school dating culture is unmatched. In many cases, healthy high school relationships greatly benefit those involved, for they help teenagers grow into well-functioning adults with strong social skills and emotional stability. Additionally, through their relationships, teens gain the opportunity to meet people with a variety of personalities and perspectives, leading to positive social growth.

While there’s nothing wrong with dating in high school, problems arise when teens begin to prioritize the cultivation of romantic relationships over platonic friendships, when people of one’s preferred sex solely turn into prospects for relationships rather than candidates for strong friendships.

One of the main reasons for this is because high schoolers often feel pressure to date. In movies and television shows, high school relationships are often presented as rites of passage and something that all students should aspire to attain. Similarly, seeing our own friends in relationships or swiping through social media posts of others with their significant others can spark a desire for something similar. Additionally, being in a relationship is often seen as a matter of social standing. A research study published in the International Journal of Chinese Education states that attracting significant others helps improve social standing within peer groups. 

However, solely partaking in romantic relationships isn’t all it’s chalked up to be. As students, managing school, social life and relationships can become difficult. Something has got to give, and more often than not, it’s friendships. Those attempting to enter relationships may find themselves letting go of friendships in order to make sure they have enough time to dedicate to their romantic endeavors. While making time to give special attention to romantic partners is understandable, focusing all energy on them can lead to wedges between friendships. Additionally, one might become emotionally dependent on their significant other, which may lead to emotional distress for both individuals in the relationship, as well as tolls on their well-being. Since platonic friendships often encourage healthy communication, compromises and boundary-setting, a lack of them might stunt personal growth in these areas.

This isn’t to say that romantic relationships are a bad ideas. However, by solely focusing on dating, we neglect all the other forms in which love manifests. One’s dating partners aren’t the only ones that can show affection and comfort; our best friends have the ability to show us tenderness and care on a completely different level. It’s vital that students pair them with sources of platonic love, for it helps with comfort, emotional growth and happiness. Within platonic love, we find genuine connection, experience powerful emotion and understand the meaning of real friendship.

So get a girlfriend or a boyfriend if you want. But while you’re at it, get yourself a girl-friend and a boy-friend too.