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Love can take you to new highs -- and new lows. You may have the strongest feelings of your life, which is great when things are good. But if things go bad, it’s devastating. Here are six dating tips to help you keep your head during this exciting time.

Dating Tip 1: Take Your Time

Some teens date, some don’t. “Girls need to feel good about themselves before they start to date,” says Charles Wibbelsman, MD, chief of adolescent medicine at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco. His advice: only date if you know yourself and know you want to date. If you’re not ready, it’s cool to stay single and hang out with your close friends.

Dating Tip 2: Find Someone Who Likes You Back

Feelings that aren’t returned can make you question everything about yourself. Did you say something wrong? Were you wearing the wrong things? In a healthy relationship, the feelings are mutual. You respect each other and have fun together. If this doesn’t describe your situation, there’s nothing wrong with you, but you probably do need to keep looking.

Dating Tip 3: Know When to Move On

Sometimes you have to admit it, the relationship isn’t working. Maybe the love of your life has turned mean and selfish. Maybe you realize you want something better. “If a boyfriend doesn’t give you what you need, walk away,” says Danielle Greaves, MSW, who works with girls at The Guidance Center in Cambridge, Mass. She tells girls all the time, “It hurts now, but you can get through this.”

Dating Tip 4: Talk About Facebook Before You Talk on Facebook

Social media puts the ups and downs of dating out there for everyone to see. If you like a guy or he likes you, it’s perfectly OK to ask him not to post things about you online, including pictures. Some things don’t have to be shared with the whole world.

Dating Tip 5: Protect Yourself From Pressure

Pressure is not love, and it’s not even normal. Most teens say they’ve never felt pressured to be in a relationship before they were ready. Still, a little mental preparation never hurts. Decide ahead of time what your values are and how far you want to go. That way, you won’t have to figure it out in the heat of the moment.

Here are a few concrete things you can do to keep yourself out of the pressure chamber:

  • Avoid situations where a guy might expect more than you want to give.   
  • Go out with boys close to your age. Girls who go out with older guys are more likely to have sex before they’re ready.

Dating Tip 6: Give Love Time to Grow

Sometimes the idea of love is better than love itself. How do you know if you’re really in love?

If you’re infatuated, need constant reassurance, and have trouble thinking about anything else, these are signs you’re not really in love. It’s fun for now, but in time you’ll probably feel disappointed.   

Mature love grows stronger with time. The more you get to know each other, the stronger your feelings. And you don’t have to be someone you’re not. You like each other for who you truly are. If you’re like most people, finding mature love takes more than one try, but it’s definitely worth it.

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