June asks, "How old should I be before I have a serious relationship? My parents want me to wait, but I think I'm in love now. How young is too young to have a serious relationship? Let's talk about the definition of a serious relationship before we get into the other factors, because they're the same no matter how old you are, or how many relationships you've had.
When I think about a 'serious' romantic relationship, I think of a couple sharing a commitment to one another with an increased level of intimacy, respect, trust, and honesty than say, what two friends share. What does that mean, exactly? Let's break each one down:
  • Commitment: when you tell each other that you'll stick together even when things get difficult, and for a long period of time;
  • Intimacy: when you're both physically intimate (say by holding hands, hugging, kissing) and emotionally intimate
    (sharing your deepest, most private thoughts over longer periods of time, and without shame, resentment, embarrassment or fear);
  • Respect: when you realize that your partner isn't the same as you in many ways, but you still value them, their beliefs and uniqueness;
  • Trust: when you understand, have faith in, and feel confidently about all of the other things on this list, as well as how you feel about one another;
  • Honesty: when you know that telling the truth, even when it's difficult, doesn't change how the two of you feel for each other;
Whew! That's a pretty intense list, and I'd say many adult relationships don't meet this criteria, even if they've labelled their relationship as a serious one. Each item on that list ties into another, with emotional intimacy the one people either ignore or avoid most. Why? Because you can't fake emotional intimacy, and it takes time. A lot of it. I'd hazard few people can create that kind of bond emotionally in a day or even a few weeks.
Why is emotional intimacy so crucial? Without it, physical intimacy is just that - physical - and you find yourself in either a casual, friends with benefits, or otherwise non-serious relationship, even with a lot of the other factors present. As well, because you're physically intimate doesn't mean you're serious, or even in a relationship.
So how do you build emotional intimacy? You spend time together, getting to know the other person's quirks, cute aspects, and perhaps even some things you don't like about them. You learn about their dreams, values, beliefs and what makes them feel connected, as well as what they're scared of or avoid where possible. It could happen in a group, a series of dates, or some other interaction all together.
How do you know what to do if one, or both of you, ask for a 'serious relationship'? If your relationship encompasses all of the items on the list above, and you feel comfortable sharing your physical and sexual boundaries with this person well before anything happens, knowing that whatever you say, they'll respect and honor your wishes, you're probably ready for a serious relationship.
Getting back to your question at hand: how old should you be? 16? 19? 23? Older? I'm not sure anyone will give you a straight answer because your physical age doesn't determine whether or not you've got all of the stuff we talked about up there going on. I know 30-somethings who aren't ready to enter into a serious relationship because they haven't learned about healthy boundaries or how to trust someone yet, or because they've based their relationship on physical intimacy before creating any sort emotional intimacy. What I will say is this: if your relationship meets all of the criteria above, share this article with your parent(s), and explain to them why you feel you're old enough. If they still feel you're not ready yet or need to wait a couple of years, please respect that, knowing that anyone you love should, and will, respect your parents' wishes as well.

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