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girl thinking about a boy

Jessica and Darian like each other. They met a few weeks ago at a dance and kissed. They want to get to know each other but don't know what to do next.

Dating relationships can be a fun and exciting part of your life. They can also be confusing, especially if dating is new to you. Once you know that the person that you like also likes you, you may not know what to do next. You can start by learning about what makes a dating relationship healthy and safe.

When do teens start dating?
What is a healthy dating relationship?
Why should I date someone close to my age?
What if I feel pressure to do something I do not want to do?
"Rate your date" interactive tool
Tips for having healthy and safe relationships

When do teens start dating? top

There is no best age for teens to start dating. Every person will be ready for a dating relationship at a different time. Different families may have their own rules about dating, too. When you decide to start a dating relationship, it should be because you care about someone and not because other people are dating. A dating relationship is a special chance to get to know someone, and it should happen only when you are really ready and your parents/guardians are okay with it.

Do you have the relationship blues?
Check out Getting over a break-up.

What is a healthy dating relationship? top

Healthy dating relationships should start with the same things that healthy friendships start with: good communication, honesty, and respect. Dating relationships are a little different because they may include physical ways of showing you care, like hugging, kissing, or holding hands. You may find yourself wanting to spend all of your time with your crush, but it is important to spend some time apart, too. This will let you have a healthy relationship with your crush and with your friends and family at the same time.

Read more about what it means to fall in love.

Why should I date someone close to my age? top

It may not seem like a big deal to date someone more than 2 years older than you, but it can be. It’s possible that someone older than you might want a more physical relationship than you do.

What if I feel pressure to do something I do not want to do? top

Respecting your right to say no means that your date will stop if you say “no.”

You should NEVER feel pressured to do something that you don't want to do. Your crush should always respect your right to say no to anything that doesn’t feel right. Talk to your crush ahead of time about what you will and will not do. Learn why no sex is the safest sex in our Body section.

Learn all about relationship safety, dating violence, and what to do if you ever feel uneasy or scared on a date in our Safety section.

"Rate your date" interactive tool top

(If the tool above does not appear, please take a look at our text version of this tool.
Viewing the above requires the Adobe Flash Player.)

Tips for having healthy and safe relationships top

  • Get to know a person by talking on the phone or at school before you go out for the first time.
  • Go out with a group of friends to a public place the first few times you go out.
  • Plan fun activities like going to the movies or the mall, on a picnic or for a walk.
  • Tell the other person what you feel okay doing. Also, tell the person what time your parents/guardians want you to be home.
  • Tell at least one friend and your parents/guardians who you are going out with and where you are going. Also tell them how to reach you.

Communication, trust, and respect are key to healthy relationships. Healthy relationships make you feel good about who YOU are and SAFE with the other person. Feel good about yourself and get to know what makes you happy. The more you love yourself, the easier it will be to find healthy relationships.

Find out why self-esteem plays a major part in dating in our Mind section.

Content last updated September 22, 2009

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health.