DR. WALLACE: I'm 16 and have been going steady with Ryan for six months. We were the perfect couple until he had to move with his family to California. Before he left, he said it would be good if we continued to go steady, and I agreed. Now I'm not so sure this is such a good idea. All of my friends are going on dates and having tons of fun while I sit at home on the weekends watching television and doing my homework.
I'd like to remain good friends with Ryan, but I'd also like to have the opportunity to go out with other guys. My sister says I'm selfish, but I really don't think so. I'm positive you will agree with me. If so, I'll write to Ryan and declare my freedom and encourage him to date other girls. — Wanda, Knoxville, Tenn.
WANDA: Yes, by all means, you should date other guys. Long-distance romances rarely succeed, especially between teens as young as you and Ryan. You need to be socially active and experiencing life, not tied to your "commitment" to a young man who has moved half a continent away. Declaring your freedom is not being selfish; it's being sensible.
SEND A SYMPATHY CARD
DR. WALLACE: My best friend's father died recently. It was a shock to her entire family. I have never met her father, but my friend always told me how nice he was. I would like to send her a sympathy card, but my grandmother said that it would be improper because I didn't know my friend's father. Please give me your opinion. — Nameless, Newport, R.I.
NAMELESS: It's never improper to send a sympathy card when a friend loses a loved one. I'm sure your friend and her family would be pleased to know that you cared.
WHY BE IN SUCH A HURRY?
DR. WALLACE: I'm 19 and Andrew is 21. We have known each other three months and want to get married next month. We definitely love each other very much. There is no doubt about this. My parents like Andrew, but they don't feel we've known each other long enough. They want us to wait until next summer. How long do you think a couple should know each other before getting married? — Kayla, Ballwin, Mo.
KAYLA: There's no magic waiting period, though the average is probably about a year. Successful marriages result from both long and short engagements. Basically, the amount of time a couple should wait depends on their level of maturity; the less mature they are, the more likely they might be making an impulsive, ill-considered decision. Marriage will be a great test of one's patience and shouldn't be embarked on for the sake of immediate gratification.
Why be in such a hurry? Waiting a little longer, as your parents suggest, should not be a problem if Andrew really is the right choice as your life partner. If the two of you are really in love, this love will survive the getting-to-know-you phase of the engagement in which you have long, serious discussions about what each of you wants for the future, how many children (if any) you both want and much, much more.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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