Mary Jo Podgurski

Column Mary Jo Podgurski

Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski is the founder and director of the Washington Health System Teen Outreach. She responds to 68 questions from young people daily and has written 'Ask Mary Jo' since 2005.

Tough topic: Love

March 6, 2013

Love is the most challenging topic I discuss with young people. Many adults believe that young people can’t “fall in love,” but I think love is an emotion that can’t be quantified or denied. I validate a young person’s feelings while seeking to educate about mature relationships. Love alone doesn’t mean a relationship is healthy. The following questions represent this common dilemma.

Q. My heart is broken. I’m still in love with my boyfriend, but he dumped me for this other girl. I can’t get over him. I don’t want to get over him. What do you think?

14-year-old female

Mary Jo’s response: I think your feelings are typical. When we lose something or someone, we often feel sorrow and loss. You didn’t want to break up with your boyfriend, and losing him was not in your control. Feeling lousy is OK; trying to deal with those feelings alone isn’t necessary.

Have you shared your loss with your parents or a trusted adult? Do you have good friends who can support you? Grieving is challenging, but you are stronger than you think. You will feel better. For now, try to surround yourself with people who care and stay busy with school and activities. You said that you don’t want to get over him. As long as you feel that way it will be difficult to move on. Let’s keep talking.

Q. I just found out that this girl I liked doesn’t like me at all. She really put me down, too. When I asked her out she laughed right in my face. Now everyone knows I’m a loser. How do I learn to talk with girls?

14-year-old male

Mary Jo’s response: You are NOT a loser. You’re just a young person taking the first steps toward figuring out relationships. Relationships can be challenging. Learning how to handle liking another person and dating are big parts of adolescence. You’re on the right track.

Let’s discuss talking with girls. Had you talked with this girl as a friend before approaching her? She was wrong to put you down. Not every girl will be rude. Many girls are just as hesitant as you. Take time to get to know a person as a friend before making a move. Find someone with whom you share interests. Next year you’ll be in high school. This summer you may attend our Common Ground Teen Center. Hanging out with other people your age will help you grow confident. Communicating becomes easier with practice. Keep in touch and good luck.

Q. I’m so in love with this guy in my class! My mom says I’m too young to be in love. I think she just doesn’t understand me. Am I too young?

14-year-old female

Mary Jo’s response: Love is a strong feeling. If people feel like they’re in love, then they are. What can be troubling, however, is the hard fact that love doesn’t mean a person is old enough to have a healthy, mature relationship. Getting to know other people is an important part of being 14, but forming a serious relationship at your age isn’t usually smart. Strong emotions can distract a young teen from school and activities. Drama can take up so much time that important things like grades take a back seat.

I think your mom is worried simply because it’s easy to get too caught up in a relationship when a person is young. Talk with your mom. Tell her you’re not ready to have sex or get into a serious relationship but that you really do care deeply about this guy. Keep communicating with her. I think she’ll listen and understand if you reassure her that you’re not going to move too fast. Be mature and think of the future.

Q. I have a new girlfriend. My parents are cool with her. My problem is I think she loves me but I don’t think I feel that way, at least not yet. I know I’m not ready for anything like sex. What do I do if she says “I love you”? I don’t want to hurt her, but I don’t want to lie.

14-year-old female

Mary Jo’s response: Be gentle. How long have you know one another? You could honestly say that love develops over time, that you like her a lot (if you do) but that you don’t think falling in love happens quickly. And be honest about the fact that you’re not ready for sex. You sound mature - good for you. Keep talking with your parents, too.

Continue to vote for Teen Outreach through March 11:

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