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Dating is a term that may mean different things depending on where you live. In Australia, a term we commonly use for dating is “going out”. When you are officially “going out” with or “dating” someone, it usually means that you are in an exclusive romantic relationship.
Wikipedia defines dating as:
‘A form of courtship consisting of social activities by two persons with the aim of each assessing the other’s suitability as a partner in an intimate relationship or as a spouse. While the term has several senses, it usually refers to the act of meeting and engaging in some mutually agreed upon social activity in public, together, as a couple.’
If you search on Google for dating, you will find that you come up with lots of internet dating sites. It’s becoming more popular for people of all ages to try cyber (online) dating, which can happen through using email, web, Facebook etc. Although it has become pretty popular to meet and start dating online, there are some important risks to be aware of. Because you can’t see the person, they can pretend to be whoever they want you to believe they are, they may not be the age they say they are and they may be dangerous, so remember never to give out any of your personal information unless you know for sure who the person you are talking to is.
There really isn’t a right time to start dating, the main thing is not to feel pressured to start going out before you’re ready. If you are young, it can sometimes be better to hang out with a mixed group (boys and girls) of friends and do things together like going to movies, swimming, sporting events, bike rides. If you start going on dates too early, you might find yourself in sticky situations, such as your date wanting to start having sexual contact that you’re not ready for. This can also be particularly tricky if you are dating someone who is older than you.
Generally, most people would agree that in your teen years, it’s best to go out with someone who is no more than two years older than you. This varies of course, but the reason is that you will have more in common with someone of a similar age.
There are also laws (that vary from state to state) about when you can legally consent to having a sexual relationship with another person, and there can be legal consequences to having sexual intercourse with someone younger or older than you. Visit the Lawstuff website for links to more detailed information about these laws.
Online Dating Website Law
If you are interested in online dating you should know that you need to be at least 18 and some websites require you to be 21 years of age and older. Websites that closely stick to the Child Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) have a program on their dating websites that will verify the applicant’s age. One such tool is the BirthDate Verifer.com technology which makes it possible to screen prospective members and makes it impossible for minors to join sites.
Whether you call it dating or going out, and whether your relationship is face-to-face or online, there are some things that are important to remember about being in a dating relationship. Dating provides an opportunity to get to know someone you feel attracted to, on a more personal and potentially intimate level. Being in the relationship should be a positive experience for both people. The relationship is more likely to be enjoyable when it is a healthy relationship. There are some key elements that will be present in a healthy relationship, including:
Of course, when you start going out with someone these elements won’t all automatically be there, but they are important areas to work on together. For example, trust comes as you spend time together and learn that the other person is honest with you, and that then helps to increase your respect for that person.
When you start dating someone, you also need to be aware of some of the warning signs of an abusive relationship because not all relationships will be healthy ones. If you have any concerns that a person may be abusive, it is best to trust your instincts and not put yourself at risk. Dating abuse doesn’t just mean physical abuse. There are lots of ways that a relationship might show signs of being abusive. You might even think that some of the behaviours are a normal way that boyfriends and girlfriends are supposed to act. To help you identify some of the warning signs of an abusive relationship, here are some things to look out for:
If you have any concerns about a person you are dating, if there are warning signs that the relationship is not healthy or may be abusive, don’t ignore how you are feeling. Talking to someone can help you get perspective on what’s happening. If you can’t talk to your parents/carers about what’s happening, who else could you talk to that you can trust to be objective? You could try talking to a teacher you trust, your school counsellor or chaplain, or call Kids Helpline and talk to a counsellor there.
Breaking up is as much a part of a relationship as getting together is. Even though a relationship may have been a positive, healthy one, not all relationships will last a lifetime. Coming to a point where one or both of you decide it’s time to end the relationship can be a difficult decision. When one person wants to breakup and the other one doesn’t, coping with those feelings can be really, really hard. Even if you both agree that it is time for the relationship to end, this does not mean that breaking up will be easy or without pain. Ending a dating relationship can be a major loss of something that you invested a lot of yourself in. You may also feel a sense of relief or release at being ‘single’ again, particularly if the relationship has had its problems.
If you are the one that was broken up with, try and keep things in perspective and don’t be too hard on yourself. Breaking up can be as hard on the person ending the relationship as it is on the person being broken up with – don’t assume that because a person has broken up with you that they no longer care about you – caring about you and wanting a romantic relationship with you are not one and the same. Also, being broken up with does not mean that there is something wrong with you – it just means something is not working in the relationship.
Break ups are often followed by one of the parties starting a new relationship and that can make a break up even more difficult to deal with. Feeling mad, angry, betrayed or humiliated are all common feelings people express when faced with these kind of circumstances. Allow yourself to experience these feelings and express them in a safe way. Although you may be angry, acting on your anger after a breakup is never a good idea. After being broken up with don’t get caught up in spreading mean or spiteful rumours or betraying former confidences by telling old secrets to others. If another person was involved in your break up resist the urge to slam them behind their back. Acting vicious makes you look bad and any satisfaction you may feel will be short lived. In the end this sort of behaviour can hurt you and cause you to feel worse.
Coping with a Breakup
Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the breakup, chances are you will feel sad and miss parts of being in a relationship. When the break up first happens, the hurt, anger and loneliness can make breaking up feel like the worst thing that has happened to you. Those intense feelings can be really hard to cope with and the pain may feel like it will never end.
If you are going through a breakup, there are some things that can help:
Breaking up is never easy. You will have good days and you will have bad days, so take one day at a time. Be kind to yourself. It’s important to cut yourself some slack after a break up as you will likely be feeling vulnerable and even a bit fragile emotionally. Let yourself mourn the loss, but remember that that relationship was only one chapter in your life’s story. What will come next?
There are no references in this article.
Last Reviewed February 2015