Relationships provide emotional support no matter one’s age


Feature photo by Tyson Jamieson

Katie Whaley

Sophomore Brenna Cornelison’s computer screen brightens as a familiar face pops up. She beams, happy to see her boyfriend after a long day at school, even if it was just a Skype call.
The two instantly begin chatting about their days as they start pulling out textbooks and notes from that day. Music plays in the background as the couple works, and they often take small breaks to talk and laugh in between cramming Advanced Placement (AP) notes.
Cornelison and her boyfriend, sophomore Austin Ashbaugh, are both in challenging and time-consuming classes, such as engineering and advanced placement world studies. Many couples would be stressed in finding out how to allocate time for one another with so much work to do, but they have figured out a good balance between spending time together and doing work.
“Sometimes [extracurriculars] make it difficult to see one another except at school,” Ashbaugh said. “During finals week, when we both had an extraordinary amount of homework every night, we would have study dates and make the most out of just spending time with one another at lunch.”
Despite the lack of time, Cornelison believes there are more positives than negatives when it comes to dating while in high school. The contrary aspects include having another person to worry about and help through stressful times, she explained, but having someone as a source of support simply outweighs all the bad features completely.
“I’m super bad at getting work done and not getting distracted. Austin [Ashbaugh] has helped with that and gotten me through so many mid-study freak outs,” Cornelison said. “Having someone who you know you can talk to about anything, any time you need to and [having a] person to go to when you just need a really long hug is nice.”
RBHS counselor Dr. Jordan Alexander views being in a relationship as a balance between being part of a couple while simultaneously being an individual. While each couple should have open, honest communication and share mutual respect, he believes those dating should also allow their partner to follow other interests and friendships. Along that line, he recognizes teens are still developing their identities, hence, he suggests they wait and evaluate the circumstances before officially establishing a relationship.
“High school relationships present unique challenges. For one, students sometimes feel that they are in a fishbowl and everyone is watching them. Friends, who may be trying to help, can add to the “drama” involved in relationships and complicate and amplify conflicts in relationships. Also, students are growing and changing in many life areas and it’s a challenge to stay in healthy relationships when both sides are growing, often times apart, to different interests or values,” Dr. Alexander said. “If your partner is in the same school, relationships can be distracting and move the focus away from academics, which should be students’ first priority during school. As adults, we are still growing, but we become more clear about who we are as individuals and more clear about what we seek and desire in relationships with others [when we’re older].”
While Ashbaugh said his relationship is fulfilling, he realizes there are practical constraints of being a young couple such as money, a driver’s license and time.
“In high school, it is difficult to do many of the things deemed normal in a relationship. Instead of a fancy dinner, you may have to eat off of styrofoam trays cross-legged in the tunnel,” Ashbaugh said. “Later in life, a relationship becomes more involved with living together and being with one another very regularly. In high school you have to find a way to do the same thing except rely on weekend dates and just enjoying those little bits of each other’s company to keep a relationship going.”
Even though teenagers do not have the opportunity to date and go on dates as adult couples as Ashbaugh explained, they consider their relationships just as serious and legitimate as older people. Adults, however, see teens dating as frivolous. According to a 2007 study by Teenage Research Unlimited, adults typically dismiss adolescent relationships as superficial, while adolescents do not agree: half of all teens report having been in a dating relationship and nearly one-third of all teens said they have been in a serious relationship.
One reason why adults may be opposed to teenage relationships is because of how disconnected couples seem because of technology. Unlike the high school relationships older generations had, social media heavily influences today’s teenage couples. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram open up a whole new world for couples, which comes with more negatives than positives, Ashbaugh believes. He said social media can cause people in relationships to avoid direct confrontation with each other over issues and instead post about them online, bottling up bad emotions that could have been fixed through up-front conversation and honesty.
“People believe that they are invisible on social media, so instead of voicing any problems in a relationship to their boyfriend or girlfriend and having a conversation about whatever needs and expectations were being ignored, they go online and write a post on it,” Ashbaugh said. “I honestly believe that online social media can wreak havoc on relationships. . . I know I sound like a grandpa, but it seems so many relationships lose trust overtime due to the lack of face to face conversation.”