A Classic Teenage Relationship Dynamic Where Both Girls and Boys Lose

photo by j. gaddis

photo by j. gaddis

The other day I watched what I judge as a very common teenage boy/girl dynamic.

Two early-teen boys are saying goodbye to three early-teen girls. The boys, as they walk away shout “aren’t you going to give us a hug?”

And, as I ride by on my bike, I see the three girls each react and pause as if they are not sure what to do. Perhaps each one checked in with herself for an instant. Then, they each looked to the each other or the peer leader to make the call. (“strength in numbers” they might have thought quietly). Within nano-seconds, they collectively decided to move toward the boys and, my guess is, give them a hug. I rode past them so I didn’t get to stay for the outcome. I can only speculate.

I get there are many, many unknown variables working here, yet there’s a theme I see in teens that plays out in adults I see every day. Here’s my take of what I see as a common girl/boy dynamic in this culture.

Since the boys are unwilling to be direct and ask for a hug, they put the ball in the girls court so they don’t have to face any kind of rejection. If the girls do reject the offer to hug the boys, the boys get to blame the girls. “Bitches.” This way, the boys set themselves up as victims and the girls are the persecutors.

Let’s say any one of the girls didn’t want a hug. If she wants to stay true to herself and say “no thank you” she risks being judged, rejected, or labeled “bitch” by the boys, and strangely, also by her girl friends. She risks losing attention and respect from the both the boys and the girls. The other option is to override her “no” and give the boys a hug. Here she abandons herself and her integrity in order to maintain whatever kind of relationship she has had with the boys. This is a classic “double bind” where, in her world, she is screwed either way.

Of course, the double bind is one she creates herself and fortunately there is a way out for her. Freedom is to stay true to herself and her power and not give it away. It’s different of course if she feels genuinely inspired to hug the boys. In that case, she can stay true to her own integrity while hugging them because that’s what she genuinely wants to do.

And, the two boys in the scene were equally out of their own integrity. Instead of putting the ball in the girl’s court, the boys could instead be direct and ask for what they want. “Hey, I’d like to give you a hug as we say goodbye, cool?” Here, the boy is willing to risk rejection, be okay with it, and not blame the girl. In fact, this rare kind of boy then honors the girl for staying true to herself and his respect for her increases instead of decreasing. This is a more self-confident boy who then grows to be a self-confident man who respects women in their power and isn’t threatened by them.

The ultimate cost here? Self-betrayal. Ouch.

Not surprisingly, this dynamic plays out in adult relationships everywhere. Notice where you are participating in some way and commit to no longer playing that game. Be direct and truthful. Most importantly be true to YOU.

Bottom line for me as a parent? This inspires me to teach, train, and transmit to my two children to trust themselves and to stay true to themselves, no matter the cost, while showing respect to all parties involved.


  • will

    Reply Reply September 6, 2012

    Being direct and asking for what you want is crucial….something I remind myself to do all the time and especially when I’m around my 2 young boys. The easy way out is indirect.

  • Jeni

    Reply Reply September 12, 2012

    Great post! Thanks!

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