Ruby Talks Dating — RUBY ANSWERS

Dear Ruby,

You just wrote an article on crushes, but I feel like it didn’t relate to me at all. My question as a 16 year old are basically these. Can we have crushes? How far should crushes go? Is flirting bad? Is it bad to want a relationship? When can you have a relationship? How do you tell a guy you like him? Can you have a relationship?

Love, Questions on questions about boys

 

Dear Questions,

So many questions indeed. So, I’ll dive right in. Yes, depends, no, absolutely not, depends, depends, depends. That’s the short answer to your question. Here is the longer one:

The Church advises young women and young men to refrain from dating until the age of 16, and then, to generally avoid serious relationships. More specifically, “In cultures where dating is acceptable, it can help you learn and practice social skills, develop friendships, have wholesome fun, and eventually find an eternal companion. Avoid going on frequent dates with the same person. Developing serious relationships too early in life can limit the number of other people you meet and can perhaps lead to immorality.”

Church leadership probably has a bunch of really good reasons for this that are instilled with far more wisdom and knowledge than myself, but I’ll give you my own opinion and commentary on the matter, since you asked.

Dating can mitigate some really cool and wonderful experiences. It can likewise be the vessel of the worst experiences you’ll ever have in this life. It’s filled with a lot of highs, a lot of lows, and a whole lot of in betweens, and Questions, you have your entire life to experience all of them. I like that the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet uses the word “practice,” because that’s exactly what dating is. Whether you’re 16, 26, or 60, going on dates, engaging in relationships, spending time with people you have romantic interest in–it’s all practice for the big leagues, the NBA finals of dating, if you will: marriage. And as you grow and engage in these relationships, Questions, you’ll not only learn more about what you want from a companion, but about yourself and what you’re capable of giving in a relationship. The more you practice, the better you’ll be. #math #sports #dating

When I was 21, I was super in love with a boy who I would have married in a heartbeat had he asked me. A series of strange and unfortunate events thankfully prevented that question from ever being posed (or proposed, heh, heh), and I couldn’t be more grateful. Because nearly 5 years later, now-Ruby can’t imagine then-Ruby being married. There was so much I didn’t know about myself, about how I deal with conflict, about how I give and receive love, about what I wanted to be when I grow up. And if I didn’t know those things as a 21 year old, I certainly didn’t know them as a 16 year old.  I realize this is a game you can play forever and ever, because 10 years from now, I’m sure I’ll look back at my 25 year old self and wish I could send her a text with 15 eye-rolling emojis. But the fact remains, my answer to “When can you have a relationship?” is most likely “Probably not yet.” Not because you don’t know what love is. And not because relationships are bad. And not because you’re incapable, because you’re none of those things. It’s because you are just starting to learn about yourself, and now-you knows just a fraction of what future-you is going to know, and practice makes better, and #math #sports #dating.

Did you know that our brains continue to grow and develop until we’re 25? Did you know that teenage brains are actually composed of a different chemical makeup than adult brains? They’re more hormonal, more impulsive, more emotional. Which is really cool, because teenagers are often more in tune with others, more aware and empathetic. It also means they make decisions more infused with emotion than logic, and oftentimes, emotionally impulsive decisions are the ones we regret the most later on. I know you probably hate it when people say this to you, but: you’re so young. So very young. And I promise that had I married the boy I was in love with at age 16, my life wouldn’t have be filled with the vibrant colors, memorable scenes, and refining experiences that it has been filled with. 99% of personal growth has to come from within, and sometimes it can be pretty distracting and confusing to learn and grow and change when you’re seriously engaged with feelings of love and adoration. 

To a few of your questions, I wrote that the answer depends. “Depends on what?” Exactly. The “on what” will change a million times over with each boy you like, with each relationship you experience. How you tell a boy you like him will be dramatically different as a 16 year old than it will be 10 years from now, and I’m sorry to tell you, there are rarely black and white answers when it comes to dating. And that’s kind of the reason we do it: trial and error, mistakes and successes. It’s all part of the territory. So give yourself time to explore it fully. I know it’s exciting to have a crush, to kiss someone for the first time, to feel butterflies, and that’s why crushes and relationships are healthy things to want/have. But the answer to “how far should they go?” is always going to be “depends.” Even at age 25 when you’re literally flirting with the idea of getting back together with your on-again-off-again boyfriend of 3 years. Even when you’re married and feel a connection with a co-worker that you haven’t felt with your spouse in years. Even when you’re 16 and the adults around you are advising you to avoid serious relationships until you’re older. It always just depends, depends, depends.

One of my favorite authors wrote that the world is like a forest, filled with billions of people and their families and lovers and friends, and their friends, and their friends. And we’re all just like trees in that forest. I like that metaphor a lot, especially when it comes to my own struggles and concerns. If I could write a letter to my 16 year old self, I would tell her to more fully explore and understand herself before trying to understand relationships–to date herself before trying to date others. I would tell her that her high school crush, who would later become her most serious adult (ex-)boyfriend, is just a tree in a story about a forest. And that she is going to love forests when she grows up, so there’s really no need to worry about a silly, little tree.

Ruby

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