When you work with teens, you no doubt have plenty of opportunity to observe first-hand the volatile guy/girl relationships that are part of teen life. Bad days in the romance realm can be frequent and recurring in the teen world…on any given day someone, somewhere in a teen’s circle of friends is likely going thru some high drama that may end in a relationship breakup.
What do teens do when high drama hits? What do you say when someone gets their feelings hurt by the opposite sex and asks whether they should breakup with their latest significant other? Is there any good advice you can offer about a ‘right’ way to handle a relationship that’s hit a rough spot and may be on the rocks and headed for a breakup?
Romantic ‘rough spot’ teen strategies span the relationship continuum. Recognize any of these strategies?
- Ignite WW III by publicly hurling insults, dumping pop in his/her locker and broadcasting his/her deepest secrets in your blog…
- At the first sign of conflict, in an effort to save face, call the significant other’s cell and leave a message saying you’re dumping him/her first…
- Avoid him/her and pretend it will all go away on its own… (as in don’t answer calls and begin to always already have plans, like, “My second cousin is hosting a Pampered Chef party this weekend, and I just have to be there!”)
- Deliberately take the definition of insensitive to a new level by ‘appearing’ to behave inconsiderately, all the while hoping the other person will initiate the breakup, so he/she won’t feel dumped… (this particular strategy is most prevalent among guys who are desperate for a way out and think this approach will help the girl not feel rejected.)
- Initiate honest, mature communication that straight-up IDs the relational problems and if it’s time to breakup and move on, acknowledge it openly, while respecting the other’s value as a person…
Obviously on the above Romantic Rough Spot Strategies Continuum, the goal is to help teens land at the #5 end of the spectrum! Not that it’s easy. And often teens feel pretty clueless about how God fits into this whole scene. But God calls us to treat others with dignity and respect, whether we’re upset with them or not. So when tough times hit on the romantic scene, and you find yourself pulled into the middle of teen high drama, here are some insights and strategies you can pass along that might help bring a Godly perspective to this dimension of life.
- Treat the other person with dignity and respect. Remember the Golden Rule in Mt. 7:12, “Do for others what you would like them to do for you. This is a summary of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” Even when someone’s feelings are hurt, Jesus challenges us to love those who have treated us badly. 1 Peter 2:19 says, “For God is pleased with you when, for the sake of your conscience, you patiently endure unfair treatment.”
- Don’t let things drag on and on. Address the source of the relational conflict. Talk it out. When you can’t find common ground to work things out and you know it’s inevitable that it’s time to move on relationally, get up your courage and deal with it. Of course you should be sensitive to specific timing – the night before an important final exam isn’t the best time to have the breakup conversation.
- Unpacking personal conflict with others should be done in person, if possible. Come to the conversation calmly – not in anger. Prov. 15:1 advises, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
- Express appreciation for what’s been good in the relationship, but if you believe it’s time to move on, make that clear. Don’t leave the other person dangling and hoping if you know clearly that things need to be over.
- When things are tough relationally and emotionally, remember that you or your friends should run to God with the tough stuff because He promises to walk beside you through it all. A relationship with God through Jesus is ultimately the only relationship that will satisfy the deepest levels of your relational being. When relational stuff hurts, God’s there in the midst of it to wrap His arms around you.
The teen relationship scene can be full of distress and emotional landmines. But helping keep God in the center of it all can provide you with new opportunities to share God’s grace and truth.