The Stages of Teenage Love

“Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

I stared at this quote on the wall of my English classroom every single day for 180 days in eighth grade. And while I do not remember a single thing I learned in that class, I have carried this quote with me every single day since then.

Currently in eleventh grade, I have grown to testify these words to be true. Although I have not been through it all (I mean who has?), I’ve watched my friends go through it, and at least seen it in the movies…

Love. And more importantly, what comes along with it: heartbreak.

I’ve seen the laid-up-in-bed-surrounded-by-tissues-considering-life’s-true-meaning heartbreak. I’ve heard of the crying-on-the-telephone-for-hours-with-your-BFFs-trying-to- figure-out-where-it-all-went-wrong heartbreak. I’ve even experienced the eat-all-of-the-ice- cream-and-cookies-in-your-cabinet-while-you-overthink-every-decision-you’ve-ever-made heartbreak.

And I’ve come to notice a very popular question typically thrown at God in the midst of all of the tears: why?

Why did I ever date someone during high school in the first place?

All of these bitter feelings, tattered friendships, and dirty tissues were not worth it, you may think. I would’ve been better off buying a cat, or spending my time and money starting a basket-weaving company, you may think.

We have all considered it at one point or another (unless of course you are agamogenetic, anthropophobic, or simply lack a soul).

And we all know heartbreak only benefits the people who can make real money off of it. But other than T-Swift and John Mayer, the rest of us are out of luck. So how do we excuse ourselves for the self-inflicted damage? How do we prove days, months, even years, spent stressing over one person is worth it?

Love.

Stage 1: Infatuation

Infatuation, also commonly known as “the butterflies”, is the initial stage of the eighth wonder of the world — teenage love.

Everyone has felt them before — they are unavoidable. They arrive quickly, and in great numbers. Even a simple touch of the hand unleashes a flood of feelings similar to the drop of a roller coaster.

They often bring a great deal of wonderful chaos… You spend countless hours fixing your hair before going out; you bring a toothbrush to school to ensure any poppy-seed-in-teeth situations are impossible; you even reread a text four or five times before sending it to make sure every single word is in the right place (somewhat taking away the true significance of a “text”). You are constantly giddy, yet also entirely neurotic at the same time.

The butterflies create this ‘happy anxiety’ that provides for the initial thrill of being in a new relationship. The butterflies are fresh, and not easily squashed. No matter how many times you will them to leave you alone — they are there to stay (for a little while at least).

But along with a box of chocolates, a bouquet of roses, and love in general, “the butterflies in your stomach” are also ephemeral. And as these lovely “creatures” begin to fade, you know you’re in for it — you made it to stage 2.

Stage 2: Filling in the Résumé

Love is work. So if you need a résumé to apply for a job, you should need one to apply for a relationship too, right?

And don’t forget to fill it in honestly — if you can’t tightrope walk or feed lions, don’t put that on your résumé. It won’t impress anyone when you fall off the tightrope, or end up the lion’s food.

Once your résumé is completed, turn it in to the boss. Make sure your capabilities and morals fit the job, otherwise you might as well not apply. Another prominent reason to change your mind about applying are your reasons. Do you like this job and what it offers? Does it fit your lifestyle? Can you see yourself happy to get up and do this work for the rest of your life?

Another big one: is money the main reason you applied?

I was once in a trivial relationship: the butterflies were there, but the resumes did not fit. We enjoyed each others’ company, but we differed in morals and ideas. Yet, at the same time, we were one in the same. Neither of us realized how little we had in common and how little we knew about each other until we were already dating. We slowly drifted apart; one of many teenage loves I will have sadly sailed away into the distance.

Was shallow infatuation the main reason we applied?

I threw out the roses (eventually).

Stage 3: The Bliss of Stability

If you can make it past the rowdy butterflies and brutal résumé, congratulations — you have a stable relationship. Yet, that phrase seems to be an oxymoron in and of itself.

So your likes and dislikes fit like puzzle pieces, your habits coincide, and this significant other can constantly make you smile. You have made it to stable ground. The butterflies have flown away (of course they visit every once in a while) and the uncertainty if they will like you tomorrow has evaporated (hopefully).

When you say “peanut”, they say “butter”. When you are sad, they are sad. And when you are happy, they are so happy an explosion of puppies and kittens could not be better.

I am currently in a stable relationship: the usual butterflies have come and gone (I know them all too well by now), but this time the resumes made sense together. We have the same hobbies and similar morals; we’ve known each other for years, but never really noticed each other. Most importantly, he is willing to try the things I have interest in, no matter how boring they seem to him. I am happy to live in this moment with him.

Love was not the main reason we applied; yet, it was a delightful unforeseen benefit.

The roses are still in the vase; I water them daily.

Yet, only 14% of high school sweethearts make it to the married stage.

So why do humans (teens in high school especially), date if they know beforehand the relationship most likely will not last?

Same reasoning as: why do humans go to school, work, or do anything really, if they know in the end they’re just going to die?

We partake in such activities because they make the life we have worthwhile.

We live in the moment, for right now the moment is all we have.

Over thinking too much and too soon is unnecessary and only instills even more anxiety in our young teenage hearts (that’s where all the decisions are made anyways). Every minute we spend thinking about what will happen when our love comes to an end is a minute in the present with our love we are wasting. We are not afraid to live because we know we will eventually die. Therefore, we cannot be afraid of love because we fear loss. Loss is what makes love so valuable. Similar to a rose in that its transitory nature raises its value.

Love is a bouquet of roses (as they say): beautiful, yet painful at times. And just like roses, love has an expiration date. Yet, when someone special delivers a bouquet of roses to your front step, your first thought isn’t “Wow, I’m going to be so heartbroken when these die.” (hopefully). Instead, you smell the roses, and appreciate and enjoy the time you have now with them. And when the roses eventually die (all good things come to an end), you throw them out. You do not keep the dead roses in a vase in your kitchen, and pretend they are still alive even though everyone knows they are not. This time in your life is not meant for sorrow and pain, but for reckless love without the stresses of the looming future.

If the dead flowers take up all the room in your vases, there will be no room for new, lively roses.

Therefore, the question we should be asking ourselves is not “why did I date someone during high school in the first place?”, but: “why not?”.

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