Is Teen Love Real And Can It Last?

Medically reviewed by Elizabeth Erban, LMFT, IMH-E
Updated January 13, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Many adults brush off teen relationships, believing that they’re inconsequential or unable to stand the test of time. In reality, romantic connections between teenagers can be formative, instructive, fulfilling, and valuable whether or not they last over the long-term—and some may. Let’s examine some of the different factors involved in being a teen in a romantic relationship and look at ways you can get support.

It Is Important For Parents To Acknowledge Their Teens’ Feelings

Is Teen Love Real?

Definitively answering this question is not truly possible. Relationships can be complicated, and feelings and their meanings are generally subjective. For instance, those who consider the only “real love” to be the kind that leads to marriage have a very narrow definition. In their view, most teen love today would not be “real”. However, those who have a broader definition of love that encompasses all types of meaningful experiences would be more likely to agree that teenage love can absolutely be “real”.

In the end, a relationship that brings you joy, fulfillment, and comfort and that’s healthy and helps you learn something about yourself is usually a good goal, regardless of how long it may last or what it may or may not turn into.

Love Versus Lust

It’s not uncommon for teenagers and adults alike to have confusion around love versus lust sometimes. Lust typically refers more to physical attraction, and it can be fleeting. Love typically refers to a more emotional connection that is characterized by a deep care for another person. Especially as a teenager, experiencing all different types of connections can be beneficial. That said, learning to recognize different types can help you manage your expectations for where you want the connection to go.

Can Teen Love Last?

Teen love can last; just ask the high school sweethearts out there that are still married decades later. When it comes to marriages in particular, there are clear statistics available. According to a report from the CDC, marriages that occur at the age of 18 years or younger have a 10% probability of breaking up after just one year, and that likelihood increases to 29% after five years. In comparison, 6% of those who get married between ages 20–25 get a divorce after one year of living together, and 17% end their marriages after five years. 

The same report also states that the average “steady romantic relationship” in high school typically lasts six months for 16 year olds and about a year for 17 and 18 year olds. So while there are certain trends that indicate a low probability that teen love will last forever, that doesn’t mean it can’t last for a time that’s helpful and joyful for the people involved. Plus, most teenagers aren’t looking for a life partner at this age. That means that, to an adolescent, “a love that lasts” may simply refer to one that offers joy and learning experiences for whatever duration feels right to the partners in it.

Tips For More Successful Teen Relationships

However long you envision your relationship lasting as a teenager, you probably want it to be healthy and enjoyable—a basic definition of “success” when it comes to interpersonal connections. Since teen relationships generally have a different context than adult relationships, there are some tips you can keep in mind to increase the likelihood of having a “successful” relationship at this time in your life—whatever that looks like for you.

Prioritize Getting To Know Yourself

One of the hallmarks of the teenage years is discovering who you are, what you value, and what you want for yourself. Developing your personal identity now can guide your future decisions and help you build the life that’s best for you. Focusing on this before, during, and after any relationships in your teen years can be beneficial for both current and future romantic connections and even friendships. 

Try to avoid the tendency some have to mold themselves to their current partner in an effort to please them. In the long run, a relationship where one or both partners isn’t being their authentic self is unlikely to last or be healthy or truly fulfilling. Do your best to get to know who you are and what you want in potential partners as you meet and connect with different people. That way, you can set yourself up for increasingly healthy and meaningful relationships over time.

Consider What’s Best For You

When teenagers start relationships while they’re in high school, they’re going to face a challenging decision when graduation comes around. Many adolescents choose to leave town for college, job opportunities, or travel after this point, which can separate couples. Even if you’ll be staying in the same place as your partner or moving to the same new area, it’s worth considering if remaining in this relationship is what’s best for you. 

Young adulthood can be a time of exciting new opportunities and the chance to meet all kinds of people. Whether you choose to stay with your high school partner or to end things before you both move on, remember: The goal at this age doesn’t have to be settling into a lifelong relationship as soon as possible. You’re allowed to take as much time as you need to weigh your options and make the decision that’s right for you and your current and future happiness, regardless of how that may affect your current relationship status. 

It Is Important For Parents To Acknowledge Their Teens’ Feelings

Keep A Balanced Social Life

It’s common in both teenagers and adults to want to spend all their time with their significant other when the relationship is new. This early phase can be exciting and full of fun and joy, so leaning into it can be a great life experience. However, it’s generally wise to maintain balance in your social life as best you can when in a relationship. Keeping up with friends, family, and hobbies while you’re dating someone can help ensure you’re building a full life for yourself independent of your relationship. Plus, if this relationship ends, it’ll be easier for you to get the support you may need from friends and loved ones if you’ve been maintaining your connections with them all along. Research supports this general concept. One study found that teens with strong friendships were less likely to internalize the stress of isolation and social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Another found that strong friendships can help teenagers cope with stressful life events. 

Navigating Teen Relationships With Online Therapy

When it comes to teen relationships, there are multiple ways that a therapist can support you. They can offer guidance in figuring out who you are so that you can be authentic and form true intimacy in your connections with others. They can help you recover from hurtful relationships or unrequited crushes, and they can assist you in building skills that can help you form healthy relationships such as communication and conflict resolution. 

Some teenagers may find meeting with a therapist in-person to be stressful or intimidating. If you’d feel more comfortable speaking with someone from the comfort of your own home, online therapy is an option. Research suggests that it can offer similar benefits to in-office sessions, so you can feel confident in your choice either way if you decide to pursue this type of support. With your parent’s consent, you can get matched with a licensed therapist who you can meet with via phone, video call, and/or online chat through a virtual therapy service like TeenCounseling. They can help you navigate the often complicated world of relationships during your teen years. See below for client reviews of TeenCounseling therapists.

Counselor Reviews

“He’s not only provided me support but insight and encouragement to let me know I’m on a good path to self improvement and discovery. Furthermore, Mark has provided me valuable insight on my romantic relationship, specifically with learning more about the relationship dynamics and how to build a stronger, healthier relationship.”

“She guides me to utilize strategies which have helped me so much in dealing with stressful situations occurring in my life. She has helped me to see things more clearly so that I can choose the best path forward. Her advice on dealing with my relationship issues has truly been invaluable to me and I’m so grateful for her support.”

Takeaway

Teen love is real if it’s meaningful to you, and whether it’s healthy and joyful is typically more important than whether it lasts forever. The tips on this list can help you pursue positive relationships during adolescence, and the support of a therapist can help you navigate this part of life as well.

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