Friday, December 2, 2011

Love is a many splendored thing-except for...

If you have a teen who has been in love, this story will both be familiar and terrifying. When a teen falls in love, and by in love I am not talking about the 2 day romances that most teenagers rotate through a million times during their middle and high school years. I am talking about that "first love" experience. The couple that is joined at the hip, waiting for each other before they walk into school kind of love, waiting for each other after classes to walk together to their next class kind of love, spending every waking minute, that is not otherwise scheduled, being together, wrapped around each other everywhere kind of love. You know it when you see it. This passion for each other knows no bounds, whether loving together or fighting together, it is over the top.

This particular couple is such a couple in love. The relationship is also chock full of drama....relentlessly so. The girl is 15, a sophomore in high school, and the boy 18 is now a freshman in college. They have been together for a year. They really really love each other, but as you can see by the age difference, they are currently living in two very different worlds, and will be for 3 more years. A set-up for disaster. Hence the current drama. Imagine yourself the parents of this young girl. Though they are concerned about the age difference, they really like the boy, and have been supportive of this relationship, while setting up limits around the whole college issue. The boy's school is about 45 minutes away.  Because these two are "worlds apart"they spend many hours fighting about who is doing what where and with whom, now that they are not living each other's life. The arguing is non-stop. The mom has spent hours consoling her crying daughter, and often wonders to her daughter, whether this relationship is worth all this trauma. I don't have to tell you the answer the girl gave to her! Anyway, one particular night, after a fight the girl had had over the phone with her boyfriend had gone on way to long, and seemed way out of control, the mom at her wits end, at the end of her rope, put her foot down, screamed at her daughter : "that's it! No More! This relationship is over!" Now this is a smart mom, and she knew that when they both calmed down she would recant that demand, but the girl fearing the worst, that her parents would forbid her to see her beloved hatched a plan. And here is where it gets scary. Parents go to bed, daughter goes to bed, done. Actually, parents go to bed, daughter, sneaks downstairs, takes mom's car keys that are hanging by the door, gets in the car, and drives to boyfriends college. Remember, this is a 15 year old, no learners permit, no driving experience, and it's 10 o"clock at night.

Mom wakes up with a headache, who wouldn't, goes into kitchen to take some aspirin and is mindlessly looking out the window, and noticed something doesn't quite fit. Her car is missing! Assuming her daughter is sleeping, door is closed to her room and locked (her door has one of those buttons you can push in to lock it) the parents call the police to report the car missing. An older son, up late studying, says he thinks maybe the daughter took the car. They check her room, and low and behold she is gone. The daughter won't pick up her mom's call but does pick up the brothers. Police are called, they cancel the stolen car report, and the mother and son head off to pick up this lovelorn girl.

There are a lot of "thank gods" here. Thank god, she didn't crash the car, thank god the police didn't stop her, .... I tell this story because teens in love lose all sense of rational thinking. Love at this age knows no boundaries. Because this may be the first time they have ever felt these kinds of feelings before, both sexual and emotional, they are on a perpetual high. Addicted to love. We have all been there, and it is least to the kids, not so much for the parents. We see this relationship through an adult brain, and know that there is no way this kind of high can be sustained. What goes up, must come down. And crashing it does. A "see I told you so" though tempting should be avoided at all costs. See story above!!

The cold hard truth, is that you have little control over these relationships except to set the limits you need to for safety reasons. Curfews, sleepovers, too much time alone in the house, etc But other than that, your job will most be as a safety net when the crashes happen, and to mirror for them their feelings. When the crashes and burns happen, it is important not to be critical or set limits you can't control for, see story above. Your I Get It moment: "I get how important this relationship is to you, and I see how upset it makes you lately. What do you think needs to change for it to get better?" 

If they ask for you opinion, you can share it, just know that coming on to strong about the negatives in this relationship might come back to haunt you. Just like the forest fires in Texas this year, it takes a long time for these hot fires to burn out, and when something flammable gets in the way, it gets burned too.

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