High school sparks: how to have a healthy relationship in high school

From the experiences of students

Honey bunny, main squeeze, boo, snookums, nugget, pumpkin, suitor, sweetheart, darling. Valentine’s Day is celebrated on Feb. 14, a day for lovers everywhere. According to a Pew Research study from 2015, 14% of teens are currently in a relationship they consider to be serious with a significant other, while 5% of teens are in a current romantic relationship, but do not consider it to be serious. Students at the school found that the meaning of Valentine’s Day changed as they grew older and developed intimate relationships.

“The first relationship I was in [we were] kind of just best friends and he was like, ‘Do you want to go out with me?’ and I think my literal answer was ‘sure,’” sophomore Sarah Eichorn said. “The second one we met in eighth grade. Actually, we had a class that sat us next to each other every day, and there [was] a lot more banter [in eighth grade].”

A miscommunication occurred in one of her past relationships that affected the course of it. 

“My friend took my phone and she was sending hearts [to my boyfriend],” Eichorn said. “You don’t really understand the meaning of what a heart… and what ‘I love you’ [can mean] to some people, and what they think. So I hadn’t said anything [before that].”

Her boyfriend at the time then texted hearts back. Eichorn never told him that her friend hijacked her phone. He started sending her heart emojis about every day, especially when saying goodnight. When that happened, she would feel pressured to reciprocate and send one back.

“I guess my biggest tip is communication,” senior Annie Aho said. “So don’t sit on anything that’s bothering you. Bring it up as soon as you can and even if it’s hard to talk about, it’s not just going to go away so it’s best to just talk it through with them and not let it linger.”

Aho met senior Owen Anderson in English class as a sophomore and began a committed relationship that she has been in for two years. Both make an effort to have a date night at least once a month despite Aho’s part-time job and demanding schoolwork.

“A while back Annie got really sick,” Anderson said. “She’s fine now, but when that happened, I was worried. My grades might have dropped a little bit, but I kept it fine.”

If you do decide that having a partner is worth it, there are resources for teens. Along with clubs at the school that deal with consent such as the Men of Respect (M.O.R.) Club, the school counseling department is happy to give individual advice to students. 

“[Being] supportive of their interests, in their needs in their academics, pursuits, or sports [are characteristics of a healthy relationship],” school counselor Ms. Elizabeth Palmer said. “I [also] think the way we speak to each other is always really important. So [they should] be kind to one another.”

Palmer has had ten years of experience in education and used to be the director of admissions at a school with 60 students. She was also the health and physical education (PE) teacher because of the limited resources at the small school. One of the parts of the curriculum was toxic relationships in high school. 

“Some of the things that I’ve talked about in the past, maybe not at W-L specifically, but generally, is understanding our own boundaries,” said Ms. Palmer. “So what does love look and feel like for people, and [what] things that people [may] say or do that [may] not be [a part] of a healthy relationship. Whether it’s ‘Oh, if you leave me, I’ll hate you forever.’ or [other] things like that, [they can all be] manipulative.”

She also talked one-on-one with students about relationships through her role as a counselor. 

“Let’s say the other person is like ‘I always want to know where they are and want to text them’” Ms. Palmer said. “So maybe we would talk about ‘okay, well, what kinds of things do you want out of this relationship? What do you think are good boundaries or we kind of brainstorm what that might look like…is it something that you can work on?’”

Some students talked about the importance of maintaining their current friendships even when they are dating. 

“In my first relationship, [when it ended] it kind of drifted me [away] from the people that we were both friends with,” senior Emely Interiano said. “Just don’t try to be friends with all the same people because then when you break up, it’s pretty awkward, and you just don’t want that.”

Interiano moved on and is dating a new girlfriend that she has been with for seven months.

Some students talked about friction between their romantic partners and their friends. In fact, Eichorn said she has developed a rule about friends through her own experiences. 

“My friends are absolutely insane but they’re the sweetest people I know,” Eichorn said. “So if [the person you’re in a relationship with is] making fun of them, or just being rude, or… ignoring them, and not understanding that for me friends are first, [then that is a problem].”

The Athletes for Action (A.F.A.) Club raises awareness for healthy relationships and works directly with the football team according to the school website. Unhealthy relationships are unfortunately common in high school. One in three young people will be in an abusive or unhealthy relationship according to Domestic Violence Services. 

“It doesn’t necessarily have to be abuse,” Eichorn said. “It can be a mental state of mind or you feel like you’re forcing yourself into it because it’s what you have to do to be a good kid or [to be] the societal standard or to just keep up with everybody. I think that’s an unhealthy relationship where one person doesn’t really want to be there.”

The Family Justice Center, a resource for those that want to report an abusive relationship, works against domestic violence. 16-year-old students can access free legal service. All the students spoken to recommend knowing that relationships are not everything in high school. Keeping up grades, extracurricular activities, friendships, and sports should be regarded as having equal importance.

“Don’t stress,” Interiano said. “Honestly, you’ll find someone that you like, don’t be actively looking for a relationship. It isn’t all about that, focus on yourself.  Once you [know] what you want, go out and look for a relationship. Don’t just go straight into it.”


Resources For Students To Find More Information: