Q & A: What is the best age to be in a relationship, not necessarily a sexual relationship?

March 13, 2023

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The quick answer to this question is: Whenever you and that partner feel ready! But that just leads to more questions like, how do I know when I’m ready?

It’s totally normal to develop crushes, attractions, and affection towards people from a very early age. You’ve probably even seen or heard toddlers say that someone is their boyfriend or girlfriend. They’ll even practice relationship skills like playing house, pretending to be married, or roleplay in ways that mimic relationships. While this is often seen as cute or play, who’s to say that this isn’t some form of a relationship?

Being in a relationship, dating, going steady – whatever you want to call it – starts to be seen more often as people enter middle and high school age. This doesn’t mean that this is the best time to be in a relationship, just that a lot of people start exploring this more at these ages. Researchers and polls have attempted to ask people when they first had a partner, when they first considered that they were in a “serious relationship,” and other such things. This varies greatly! There is no one “best” time for anyone to start a relationship. 

Overall though you’ve already taken the first step by sending us this question. Now, ask yourself why you want to be in a relationship? People enter into relationships for hundreds of reasons, so what is yours? Do you want to try a relationship because your peers around you are entering into relationships? Is it just to say you have a boyfriend or girlfriend? Is it just because someone is suddenly showing interest in you?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, then tread carefully! Relationships work best when both people independently wish to be in a relationship with each other, without outside pressures.

If you feel like you are ready to enter into a relationship, try answering these questions:

  1. Does this person treat my body with respect?
  2. Does this person listen to and respect my opinions?
  3. Is their sense of humor ever demeaning towards me?
  4. Do my parents/caregivers allow me to have a relationship? What about their parents/caregivers?
  5. Do I feel comfortable spending time with this person both one-on-one and in a group of people?
  6. How do we work together as a team?

Our advice to you is much easier said than done: Be patient and be kind to yourself. Relationships may or may not be what we expect them to be, and mistakes will happen! If you enter into a relationship, we invite you to consider that it is a learning experience – one that can help you understand how you share time and space with another person. It may last a short while or a long while, but know that whatever you decide for yourself, keep your supports close – trusted adults and friends – because they can be there to help if things don’t go so well and celebrate when they do go well!