Most people remember their first love. For many of us, it happened when we were just young teenagers. We often remember it being intense and even amazing, but also potentially very chaotic and even heart-breaking. People often say things like, “Oh to be young and in love…” with a slight sigh and a smile as they stare off fondly into the distance, likely recalling their memories of being young and in love. While some of those memories are pleasant, many people are reminded of how difficult and confusing young love can be. If you have teenagers, you probably see it even more clearly now. You watch as they experience the whiplash and roller-coaster of emotions that comes with young love. For us, everything seems so clear. However, when you are in the middle of it all, it seems so complicated as if you can only see a couple steps ahead of yourself at any given time. What makes young love so confusing? There several factors that make youth and love feel like they go together like oil and water.
Strong & Intense Emotions
Love, heartbreak, and desire for acceptance are emotions that can be extremely intense. We all know this and have likely been through it before. Being young does not mean your emotions are less intense. Think about a 2 year old. When they want something, they feel it strongly, right? That emotion of desire is extremely intense for them in that moment. What is the difference between them and adult? Adults have a better ability to emotionally regulate themselves. Similar to teenagers or young people in love, emotional regulation is still developing. It takes time and learning to understand how to manage the strong emotions that come with more adult issues including love.
Lack of Experience to Lean on
With age comes experience. Experiences help us learn and make different decisions moving forward. Experiences also help provide familiarity that can make moving forward a little less scary and a little more known. For example, loving someone and getting your heart broken at a young age often feels like the end of the world. Especially if it happens for the first time, you have those moments where you cannot imagine feeling any better. It hurts and feels like it might last forever. As you gain more experiences, the pain of heartbreak might feel just as intense, but you are able lean on what you learned from the past to help you move forward.
Struggles in Decision-Making & Impulsivity
Researchers found the brain is still developing into a person’s mid-twenties. The frontal lobe of the brain is the part that aids in decision-making and controlling impulsivity. For young people, the frontal lobe is still developing which is why we often seen teenagers making questionable and impulsive decisions. These tendencies can make young love even more complicated. Things like having unplanned and unprotected sex or sending nude photos can result in potentially very serious consequences. Young people are still developing the part of their brain that helps them think through decisions and manage impulsive behavior.
Having strong and intense emotions can be extremely confusing and overwhelming while still developing the skills of emotional regulation. Young love can be extremely difficult without having a depth of experience to help you move forward. Struggles in the decision-making and an inclination towards impulsive behavior can result in very adult emotions and even problems for someone so young. While everyone, even at a young age, desires to love and connection, these factors can make young love at times complicated and confusing.
Michelle Overman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist working as a counselor for students, faculty, and staff at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas. She works with athletes, bridging the gap between athletics and mental health at ACU. She is becoming a Certified Mental Performance Consultant in sports psychology. Michelle ran her own private practice in Austin, Texas where she worked with a diverse population, including couples and families. Michelle earned a Master’s in Marriage & Family Therapy and has been working in the field for 6 years.