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.

No matter the age, love is a very complicated feeling

No matter the age, love can be very complicated

February 12, 2014

Q. My heart is broken. After almost two years my boyfriend broke up with me without any explanation. Valentine’s Day is coming, and I’ll be alone. The worst part is my parents. They say I’m too young to be in love, so I should just get over it. What do you think? Is it possible to be in love at my age?


Mary Jo’s response: Love is a feeling. Denying feelings isn’t healthy. If you feel you’re in love with someone, then you are. Love is real. Love evolves. A person may experience “mature love” or “immature love,” but the feeling of being “in love” can still be powerful.

Your pain is also real. When a young person experiences a painful breakup, I respect the loss and offer support. The loss of a relationship can be a type of grief. You need to mourn the change in your life. My papa was fond of saying, “This too shall pass.” Time doesn’t take away pain, but living well – concentrating on school, spending quality time with family/friends, playing sports, writing or creating art, or getting involved with a project to help others – can help ease heartbreak. Give yourself the gift of time. Talk with a trusted adult who respects you and share your feelings. Be open to healing.

Your question leads to another. Does young love create healthy relationships? Maybe. Maybe not. Love is extremely complicated. Deciding if a relationship is positive or not isn’t necessarily linked to how “in love” a person feels. I believe young people should get to know one another within a group of good friends. Learning to communicate in a safe setting can be a huge help as you mature. I treasure our Common Ground Teen Center because it is a safe place where all types of young people can interact, share their feelings and be themselves.

Your comment about Valentine’s Day isn’t rare; I know many people who dread being alone then. Valentine’s Day has evolved into a commercial holiday. Being single at 15 is healthy, but our culture creates a feeling of loss if candy, flowers or a heart-shaped card isn’t delivered Feb. 14. We chuckle at Charlie Brown when his mailbox is full of valentines addressed to his dog, Snoopy, but the comic strip speaks to a universal thread. Being alone when everyone around you seems to be paired up is difficult. We’re hosting a party from 5 to 7 p.m. today at the teen center. Join us and you won’t feel alone. Keep in touch whether or not you attend.

I’d like to challenge you to think critically. Why do you think adults may dismiss the idea of young love? Often adults are concerned when young people are preoccupied with love. When a relationship consumes a teen’s life it’s normal for caring parents and adults to worry. Adolescence is a time of self-discovery. A teen’s job is learning – at school, in the workplace, with friends and in the family. Connecting with only one person can limit a young person’s ability to discover what type of partner is best. If you’ve had a two-year relationship, you began seeing your boyfriend when you were 13. Most of our peer educators describe huge changes in their personalities between the ages of 13 and 18. You’re growing and evolving as a person; it would be rare for both people in an early relationship to grow together.

I’ve served young people since the 1970s. The single biggest change I’ve witnessed in 40 years deals with growing up. I believe childhood is now truncated; kids move into adult activities earlier and earlier. The questions I once received from ninth- and 10th-graders are being asked by fifth- and sixth-graders. Please try to remain young as long as possible. You’re an adult for a long time! Enjoy today as a 15-year-old.

Peer Educator response

Most of us have hated Valentine’s Day at one time or another. Be strong. If you were meant to be with your ex you’ll find one another again.

Q. I want to give a Valentine’s Day card to this boy I like, but I think he’ll think it’s a joke. What do you think? Give it a shot?


Mary Jo’s response: Weigh the pros and cons. If he’s pleasantly surprised and reacts well, you’ll let him know how you feel. Are you ready for a positive reaction? If he thinks it’s a joke, how will you feel? Are you prepared for rejection? Only you can know how vulnerable (easily hurt) you are.

There’s some risk involved, but the risk isn’t life-threatening. Be honest with yourself. I’m interested in your decision. Please keep in touch and let me know what happens.



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