A friend of mine recently shared her views on teenage sex half way through our coffee and macaroons: “Have you seen this woman’s daughter? She lives a stone throw away from you, and she is around 14. She has new boyfriend every week and they keep snogging on their parents’ doorstep. Gross! And her sister! She must be just over 17 and she brings her boyfriends home, sometimes they even stay overnight and her parents say nothing about that! I would never allow that in my house!”.

I couldn’t help but wonder.. am I going to be a terrible parent material for thinking this is ok? Is it bad that this does not put the fear of god in me, quite the contrary: I think the girls’ parents got a point?

I stuffed another macaroon in my mouth to give myself time to respond to this comment, but as I kept thinking about it, whilst topping off the sugar content in my blood, I found myself going back to my own teenage years. I started to compare my parents’ behaviour at the time when the world of boys and booze opened its gates and welcomed me with open arms. I was 15.

Regardless how your self esteem develops in your formative years, and whether your parents build you up and help you become a confident individual or put you down at any given opportunity, there will always be something that makes you self conscious. Sometimes it can be the weight, stutter, sometimes something no one else has got a clue about. This can affect our “dating style” later on in life. We may end up settling for someone we are not 100% happy with in the fear of not being “worthy” of anyone better. We may also find that we do date a lot to find some self validation. This may lead us to many questionable and risky relationship-related decisions. If neither of our parents teaches us the importance of holding ourselves and our sexuality to higher standards, we may end up being sexually exploited instead of experienced. There is a huge difference between those two without a doubt, as the lessons we take from both situations couldn’t have been different. They may result in us despising the opposite sex and that’s now what I am advocating here at all.

My parents never restricted my life. Cigarettes were not a taboo, mum never stopped me from smoking, yet somehow after my first nicotine experience, I decided it makes my coat smell and no amount of peer pressure is going to make me want to stink like an ashtray.

Since neither of my folks ever gone the route of drugs of any sort, they could only tell me the general things about them: “They are bad for you, but if you are determined to try it, we won’t be able to stop you anyway. We can only hope you’ll make the right choice.”

I am a trier, so just like with cigarets, I gave it a go. It was fun. About 12 years have passed since I smoked dope again, I never actively looked for it, nor was I surrounded with many people who smoked, which probably added up to the huge time gap.

I was never told I couldn’t do something. My parents knew if I, or any other teen for that matter, really wants to do something, they will surely find a way. There was no point fighting it. All they had was hope that the time and effort they’ve put into my upbringing, will come in handy whenever I am faced with any potentially dangerous decisions. They were right.

The boys came and went. I have spent most of my teens and twenties going from one “serious” relationship to another. Most of them were very different. I did not get stuck in a personality root when one dates the same type of a guy, expecting a different outcome each time. There were the good boys, the blue blooded public school boys, the models, the hippies and punks, the ones with underlying issues, the tattooed ones, the ones with an accent I could barely understand, local and international, old and young, from various backgrounds and subscribers to different religious views. Did I always think it’s going to be “the one”? Not at all. Did I gain a perspective and experienced a range of personal traits, habits, kinks that allowed me to establish what it is that I would like to see in the man I hoped to spend the rest of my life with? Certainly.

It also gave me an idea of the traits I would never overlook and which are a definite no-go, regardless of how fabulous the guy is overall. I learned that fixing people doesn’t work and treating them as a project we want to undertake in order to create our perfect fellow human will probably fail. People only change when THEY want to change, and that requires certain, self-motivational personality. None of your persuasion skills will be good here.

Those years shed a light on the dating as a whole and one easy comparison comes to mind. It’s a full time job. Literally. You can easily compare dating to work. You finish school, and depends on the amount of work related experience you have under your belt in the years to come, this determines the job you will end up in before your retirement. Sometimes you will be confident enough to storm through the job market and end up with a great position early on in your career. Sometimes you will believe you are just not good enough and you’ll stumble from one unfulfilling position to another, from one underpaying job to another, or worse: stick to one pathetic job whilst not gaining much experience in the process. Sounds familiar?

Experience makes you better at making informed choices, providing it is varied and you are willing to learn from it in the process. Otherwise all the “easy lays” would make the best life partners.

Of course there will be millions of people who married their childhood sweetheart and are blissfully happy. We are all different, and if there was “one fits all” relationship advice, we would all be happily coupled. All the life’s tribulations make us respond to various situations in a very different way and my opinion here is just one of many. It may all turn out alright for the  ”sexually adventurous” and promiscuous teens out there. If their knowledge of basic biology leaves a lot to be desired, things may turn different to expected though.


What happens to some of us, who did not marry our first boyfriend, and did not embark on the journey of discovery and dating? Some of us may have committed to educational pursuits in our chosen field, and rarely found time for dating. Some of us may have felt so self conscious, to shy to come out of our shell early on in life, and only started to discover ourselves and what we are about later on in our 30s. Maybe due to religious restrictions, dating was not an option for us or a frown upon past time? Whatever the reason, the end result may be that we have not managed to gain the relationship experience before we stumbled upon an engagement ring.

This happens more often than we care to admit. I have many friends who, being in their 30s, cannot say they were ever in a relationship that lasted more than a month. Are they ugly, stupid, extremely demanding, or self conscious? Not necessarily. They are educated, good looking and warm. There is nothing you could point out straight away that would make them “undatable”. In most cases it’s a mix of many traits. Sometimes they are just happy being on their own. This fades with time, since as humans we are made to live in groups. What then? The awkwardness begins.

They rarely enjoy dating, treating it as means to an end. Being surrounded by more and more couples, and ostracised from social gatherings like dinners with their married and engaged friends, they start to think something has got to change. So they go out there without the armour of knowledge and unadapted to the dating world, without their relationship DNA developed. They stumble upon someone who is in similar situation (in this post I am referring to women but the situation and advice works in reverse, too).  They don’t feel so bad, there is someone who seem to understand them. The dating commences, and after a while, due to lack of major conflicts, we arrive at the destination called: “what now?” One of you pops the question. The other one cannot think of a reason to say no. The relationship is vanilla but it’s not bad. He is not beating me up, right? We may even think it’s great! We are in love! I mean, how would we know we aren’t? We’ve only really dated one or two guys before.

The full focus on the wedding follows. We seem to lose the purpose of it all: finding someone who makes us laugh, who is the icing on our cake, who completes us, who shares the same goals. The idea of glitter, white dress and confetti covered linen tablecloths takes over and embalms our very being. We cannot wait! Our parents are finally going to be proud (unless we are marrying a wino, or a druggie, or someone with no job prospects, or anyone who they did not buy into). We will finally be able to change our Facebook status to “married”. We are feeling accepted. Socially and emotionally. The cake gets cut, the babies follow. Couple of years go by. Our mind starts to wander.

In the extremely connected world of today one needs to make a conscious decision not to cheat in order to keep a healthy relationship. But how can we make that “conscious” decision based on the hope we made the right choice, when the choice had been made using our limited knowledge of the field in the first place? Also, as time goes, most relationships fade and even the most exciting start gets saturated with the smell of dirty washing and the sight of our partners deteriorating physique. That’s if we are lucky. We may also find ourselves on the receiving end of lost respect and violence. How do we know when enough is enough? How do we know when to walk away? If we have limited experience of getting into a relationship, how do we convince ourselves we will find someone better? “There are people who are less fortunate than us”  we keep telling ourselves, “..at least he’s not cheating on me, so occasional slap is not the worst thing right?” We know it’s not right but due to lack of knowledge and previous experience in pulling out of unhappy relationships, we start to cheat. It feels as though we are leaving the options open in case our grass isn’t greener on the other side. But is this the best option?

Cheating in most cases, even though we may not want to agree with it at first, ends that relationship in our head and our heart. If we make that leap, we have already given up on the respect towards our partner, and any attempts to resuscitate relationship after the respect is gone are a fruitless exercise. Even if we happen to get back together, we have opened a gate that can never be closed, whether our long term partner found out about it or not.

The time passes, we are feeling suffocated in the situation, the arguments happen more frequently, if there are kids involved, this affects their life more than we can ever imagine, and starts a chain of events with essentially only one outcome: separation, divorce, going in the opposite directions.

If we lack experience in dealing with relationship traumas and disappointments, how will we know what to do and how to act now? We start resenting the father of our kids, emotional immaturity comes out and we end up losing it in front of the kids or worse: we start using them as a weapons against each other.

Would this be any different if we consciously experienced dealing with more relationship related situations before we embarked on the marriage route? I cannot guarantee you that, nor can I guarantee you that by dating everyone who randomly walks into your life, you will end up not making stupid mistakes in the future. I can only hope that just like with work experience, you will make less of them, or at least less of the silly ones, which will give you a head start on the way to solid, fully conscious, healthy and happy ending. So go on, date a bit, commit to more than a one night stand even if your heart gets broken a few more times in the process, because at the end of the day, just like any other organ, if bounces back to health much faster when you are younger, and becomes more resilient for the future.