id you ever notice that when you were younger, you had friends only of your sex, but as you grew older, you began to be attracted to members of the opposite sex? This is a natural experience for most teens, and it can range from just simple wariness to outright scorn of the opposite sex.

As you go through puberty and develop interest in the opposite sex, you are faced with a new challenge…dating! Dating is when two or more people meet at a specific time or place for leisure. Dating enables people to experience companionship, get to know each other better, and could lead to a more intimate relationship.

In dating, some of the issues you have to deal with– as you probably already know– include how to ask for a date, where to go, how to get there, what to do and talk about, and who to pay for any expenses. As if these weren’t enough, there’s the additional question of who should ask for the date– whether the boy or girl. Traditionally, men ask women for dates, but with the eroding of traditional gender roles, this is changing and it is becoming acceptable for women to ask men out. As you decide which way to go, keep in mind it is not okay to do something you’re not comfortable with just because “everyone” is doing it. It is also important to realize that just like we have different “puberty clocks”, readiness and interest in dating vary among people. There is no right or wrong age to start dating. Some start dating from their teen years, while others don’t start till their twenties. So, if you’re not dating yet…for whatever reason, don’t feel pressured to do want you’re not ready or interested in doing yet.

That said, it is also important to know those things that attract people to others and things that may turn them off. The most common things that attract people include a person’s personality, looks, interests/hobbies, values, and goals. Similarly, these could also be reasons for non-attraction.

Tips for successful dating
  • Be yourself. Do not try to act or dress like someone else.
  • Be genuine, open and honest.
  • Make decisions regarding beliefs and behaviour prior to the date (e.g. alcohol use, sex, etc.).
  • Remain consistent in your values, beliefs and actions…you don’t want to send mixed messages.
  • Take responsibility of the situation becomes uncomfortable and take action.
  • Use the time to get to know your date and his/her interests. Talk about likes/dislikes, hobbies, family, etc. But be careful not to bombard your date with too many questions. Be conscious of his/her verbal or facial reaction to your questions. If you think he/she is uncomfortable with a question, let it go and don’t ask similar questions. Some people wait till they know others well before opening up to them, so don’t expect everyone to tell you their life’s story on a first date!
  • Remain in a crowd until you feel comfortable being alone with your date.
  • Do not try to convert your date to your political or religious beliefs. These can be very sensitive topics to discuss on a first date, especially for those that have strong views about them. Better still, avoid discussing these topics on a first date.

Now that we’re done with dating, let’s talk about love…

What is love? How do you know you’re in love? These are questions many have asked for as long as the word as existed. Some have defined love as in intense feeling you have for another person. Some also say it is great fondness of, or devotion to someone. The media has not helped matters with their unrealistic and often confusing portrayal of what love is. Neither has fairy and folktales such as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty…we all know the story!

What we must realize is that though it is an essential part of everyone’s life, love does not have a universal definition because it means different things to different people. Also, love does not happen overnight and requires time and effort to nurture and grow.

Types of Love

There are many different types of love. The type you feel for a person depends on the nature of your relationship with the person. For example, the love you feel towards a member of your family will be different from that you feel towards your boy/girl friend. Let’s look at some types of love and their characteristics.

Self-Love: This is love for yourself, i.e. you love you! This type of love is very important because it has a great bearing on the way you will love others, or even if you’ll be able to love others at all and be loved in return! To have self-love, you must know yourself, be your own person and like what you are. Be careful though not to confuse self-love with selfish love. Selfish love is when you have no consideration for others but yourself. This is a bad trait and drives people away from you.

Secure Love: This kind of love is mostly felt for your partners, siblings and other members of your family. This is because you are secure in the knowledge that they will always care for you, are loyal, dependable and reliable, and will never turn their back on you. This love can also be felt for a life partner. However, you should also realize that secure love can go sour if there is too much negative behaviour by one of the persons feeling this type of love.

Friendship Love: This love involves deep feelings of fondness, sharing and caring. It can be felt towards your friend, neighbour, or someone you’re dating. Friendship love is the building-block for any lasting relationship, so it takes time to develop.

Romantic/Sexual Love: This type of love is what you feel towards your boy/girl friend, a partner, or someone you’re in a relationship with. Have you noticed this is the type of love poets and songwriters write, and artistes sing about? In this type of love, you often overlook the person’s faults and often are not object in your decisions. You may have heard people talk about “being a fool for love”. This is romantic love! Romantic love most times involves sexual intercourse, but this does not always have to be so. You can have intimacy with someone without having intercourse with the person, e.g. through kissing, hugging, holding and caressing. It could also be through spending quiet times together by taking a walk along the beach or sharing your dreams and aspirations. A relationship built on sexual intercourse alone, without friendship and secure love, will not last very long.

Unconditional Love: This is the type of love many religions preach about, i.e. loving someone totally and completely, not minding the person’s qualities, faults, or weaknesses. It is often referred to as “ideal” love. This type of love, though highly regarded and desirable, is difficult to attain. Some people even say it is unattainable. Whether this is true or not should not stop us from trying to achieve this type of love.

Wondering what the difference is between love and infatuation?

Can you tell the difference between love and infatuation? Many teens have a difficult time deciding what they’re feeling or don’t even know when they truly are in love with someone or when they are just infatuated with the person. Infatuation and love might appear the same, but they are two different feelings. The table below should help clarify the differences.

Your primary interest is the person’s physical appearanceYour interest in the person goes beyond physical appearance, but also the person’s personality and life
The things that attract you are very fewMany of the qualities of the person attract you
Tends to start quickly. The concept of love at first sight is misleading. It is not possible to fall in love with someone that you have just metIt starts slowly and takes time to develop
Interest in the person comes and goesThere is consistent interest in the person
It can affect your mood and may prevent you from doing other things because you are constantly thinking about the personIt has a constructive effect on your personality. It results in greater self-realization and brings out the best in you
It ends quickly and abruptlyIf it ends, it happens slowly, just like it started.
It will fade and die with distance between you and the person….out of sight, out of mind!Love survives separation and may even grow…absence makes the heart grow fonder!
You live in your own world and neglect everyone else around you. You are satisfied as long as you’re with this one personYou include this person and relationship to your other relationships
Jealousy is frequent and severe, because your concern is you and not the other personJealousy if it occurs, is less frequent and less severe. Love is trusting, respectful, patient and accepting
Your overall attitude is one of taking from the relationship. The other person is seen as a means to gratify your needsYou want to share with and give to this person


Not all relationships last a lifetime, and many times, there’s reason to end a relationship. This can be traumatic for both young people and adults, but more so for young people who generally feel emotions more intensely than adults. Teens feel rejected, disconnected from everything, and depressed. Some teens go as far as attempting suicide, or even succeed in taking their lives after a break-up. We want to stress that this is something very serious and should be taken as such. If you know someone who you think is suicidal because of a break-up, report to a trusted adult immediately and seek professional help for the person. On the lighter side, not all break-ups are painful. Some are even met with a sense of relief. This may be because one party felt trapped in the relationship and only remained in it because of not wanting to hurt the other person’s feelings.

Some of the reasons people end their relationships include:

  • One or both partners are no longer in love, or starts taking interest in someone else.
  • Expectations of the partner and/or relationship have not been met.
  • Partners have different and uncompromisable values and/or opinions.
  • One partner feels emotionally and/or physically abused/taken advantage of.
  • Partners are not satisfied sexually.
Tips for ending a relationship
  • Be prepared for hurt feelings. This is almost always inevitable.
  • Be kind and honest, but not cruel. Give reasons for wanting the break-up.
  • Be firm in your decision and don’t let yourself be talked out of it.
  • Do it at the right time. Be considerate of your partner’s situation. If your partner is experiencing some other form of stress, e.g. exams, serious sickness or death in his/her family, wait till a more appropriate time, but don’t wait too long that it becomes detrimental to you.
  • If possible, try to stay friends. If not, don’t force it.
  • Do it face-to-face. This is respectful to you and your partner. Fearing the other person’s reaction, some people write letters, email, phone, or even get others to do the breaking-up for them. This is disrespectful and should only be done if you fear for your safety, i.e. you think the person may be so angry as to strike you.
Dealing with a break-up

As has been said, break-ups can be a traumatic experience. However, once it’s happened, the only positive thing to do is to deal with it and move on. Sitting down and sulking or engaging in self-pity does not help and is certainly not healthy. It leads to loss of productivity, self-esteem and confidence. In more severe cases, it could lead to depression and even suicide. Here are some tips to help deal with break-ups.

  • Accept the break-up and learn from the experience of the relationship. It is common for teens to deny the reality of a break-up and even fantasize about getting back together with the person. This only leads to more disappointment and sadness, especially when it doesn’t happen.
  • Do not keep your emotions bottled-up. Talk to a friend about your feelings…it helps greatly. If you feel like crying, by all means do so. Some people also feel like yelling and screaming. Whatever you do to release your emotions, do not engage in destructive behaviour, whether to yourself, someone else, or property.
  • Engage in activities that will help you not think about the break-up too often. Activities such as sports, reading or going out with friends help a lot.

A break up is not the end of the world! Take it as one of life’s experiences and a fresh opportunity to meet someone new and exciting, perhaps your life partner!