High-school romances impact academics in myriad ways, experts say

Marley Butcher, Managing Editor

Are school relationships benign or harmful? According to Brevard County school therapist Christopher King, it depends on a number of factors: what is the relationship like? If serious, what constitutes a serious relationship and what does the relationship entail?

“I believe individuals can obtain several positive benefits (e.g., emotional support during life’s ups and downs, a partner to experience newly obtained freedoms and privileges that come with age, perspective taking, further development and refinement of social skills, confidence) from participating in a healthy long-term commitment,” he said via email.

Juniors Desiree Corbin and Geofrey Pena have been dating for a year and three months.

“He’s perfect, so incredibly sweet to me, and makes me the happiest girl in the world,” Corbin said. “I honestly love him so much, and I can’t really see myself without him. He’s like my best friend, and even more of a boyfriend. I’m so happy, and I feel like I’ve got the type of guy that most girls want. I am in awe of how lucky I am to have gotten him. He is the best, and makes me happier than I could ever explain.”

Pena says Corbin has changed his views on dating.

“Desiree really made me feel different about relationships,” Pena said. “Even though I’ve always been a long-term commitment kind of guy, Desiree really gave that meaning. She’s the only girl I ever want to be with. I love her. A lot.”

Dating not only exists in upper classes but in middle school too. The relationships however are much different.

“I think that a guy should never ask a girl out over text message,” eighth-grader Max Cormier said. “He should ask her in person, but only once you get to know her. I would have to share a couple classes together and ask her to a dance first. Then when we knew each other better, I would ask her out. Hopefully, we would be able to go to the movies a lot but I definitely don’t want anything serious.”

But there is a flip side to long-term relationships in school. Licensed clinical social worker Paul Seitz advises teenagers to abstain from dating in high school.

“As a teenager, you already have enough problems,” Seitz said. “By being in a committed relationship, you’re just adding on unnecessary things to worry about. Teenagers don’t need to worry about making someone else happy. It’s hard enough in these years of your life to be happy yourself. Plus relationships can, and I’ve seen it before, affect how well your school performance is. You might start worrying so much about how to make this one person happy that you don’t do your homework that night. And then say you guys get into a fight. You’re so sad that you’re fighting that another night goes by without homework. It’s patterns like these that can complicate a relationship. It’s better to hold off on a relationship until you’re prepared to juggle multiple things at once.”

King also recognizes the pitfalls caused by long-term relationships.

“A long-term commitment can have some unhealthy elements which can hinder an adolescent’s social development in the following ways: isolation from current and/or prospective friends and family, loss of identity, loss of confidence and withdrawal from sports and/or other extracurricular activities.”

The school administration generally limits its relationships involvement to policing public displays of affection. Assistant Principal Jim Melia says that despite frequent warnings, PDA remains a problem at school.

“We’re not out to get anybody,” he said. “But if you’re hugging or kissing in the hallways, the district requires that we carry out action for it to stop.  Hugging in a friendly way, meaning a quick embrace, is completely acceptable. But hugging in a boyfriend-girlfriend kind of way, meaning a lasting tight embrace, is not permitted. Yes, you can hold hands, that’s fine, but don’t demonstrate more at school. School is not a place to display affection.”