Starting the process of approaching and seducing the person we are interested in is not easy. During adolescence, motivated by hormonal changes, social norms or learned models, boys and girls feel the urge to experiment with this task .
Between pushes – not too abrupt -, elbows, slaps, stolen kisses or some teasing, a process begins that is as subtle as it is ambiguous. A kind of game that manages to provoke an approach and, hopefully, a first physical contact with the person of interest.
The reciprocity or not of feelings and interests and the interpretation that adolescents make of these situations will be what determines what happens next.
A learning challenge
Throughout the teen and youth years, the social world changes. There is a distancing from the family. The group of friends expands and the relationships that exist in it become more complex. Close friends and female friends take on more importance and the first couples emerge .
Getting started in this last type of relationship is a challenge for boys and girls. They must put into practice the skills and competencies necessary for the social management of intimacy, something that is new to them.
How to approach the other person, what to say, how to react, what to feel or how to manage it is part of a sentimental script that, although it follows social conventions in a certain way intuitive, is unknown to youth, who let themselves be carried away by the models they have created. seen or lived.
Series, movies, books, songs and, above all, your group of friends will determine the expectations about these first relationships and the way adolescents act.
Achieving success and developing good quality and tight relationships will be an achievement not only on an individual level, with important effects on personal well-being , but also on a social level. You will improve your position and social success and even increase your popularity within the group.
Risks associated with first couples
The inexperience of boys and girls when they begin the process of emotional rapprochement, in addition to being a challenge, is a risk factor. Initial nudges or nudges can be interpreted as a show of interest if the recipient is equally interested. But if not, they are probably interpreted as something annoying and aggressive.
Not knowing how to act or what are the keys to achieving some success in the first contacts places adolescents at risk of incorporating rude or violent behavior during the trial and error process that involves showing another person your interest for her.
The risk increases if there is a lack of social and relational competences or if they face risk variables such as the normalization of violence in their context, previous experience in bullying or cyberbullying behaviors , or poor management of social networks.
The role of the school
How then do boys and girls learn to face this task? Who teaches them the necessary skills to tackle it successfully and minimizing risks? What are the keys to starting this courtship process in a satisfactory way?
Choosing and knowing oneself is a major challenge for the protagonists of these relationships. Studies have shown that a training process is necessary to accompany and guide adolescents to build quality relationships based on adjusted behaviors and attitudes of equality and respect .
Some basic skills for building a relationship have been identified :
- Know your own interests and needs: what do I look for in my partner, what do I feel, why do I feel like this …
- Recognize the mutuality or negotiation context that the couple supposes: what does my partner need, how to combine their feelings with their own, what I say and what the other person understands …
- Being able to identify and manage the emotions that are generated in this context: how to resolve a conflict, why a specific situation makes me feel that way, how to express what I feel …
These capabilities are especially important today. We are living in a historical moment in which new technologies maximize contact opportunities and these first sentimental relationships are consolidated in a complex and public context that determines what is acceptable and desirable.
From a psychoeducational perspective, it is committed to proposals that go beyond the traditional approach to preventing violence in romantic relationships.
Learning to initiate and establish quality couples, learning to flirt, requires interventions that allow the development of good management of relational competence for intimate life. At the same time, work continues to identify the risk factors that increase the probability of involvement in violent dynamics. And, in this formative process, the school is a privileged context to act.
Author Bio: Carmen Viejo is Professor of Evolutionary and Educational Psychology and Researcher at the Laboratory of Studies on Coexistence and Prevention of Violence (LAECOVI) at the University of Córdoba