Ah, dating. The time when hormones rage and everything takes on a manic, slightly color-saturated quality.

We all had that teenage friend or cousin who became an absolute psychopath when they entered a dating relationship. My thoughts on how to avoid this, be you 15 or 25, below.

He cannot read your mind. 

He cannot read your mind, he cannot read your mind, HE CANNOT READ YOUR MIND. 

Do we all acknowledge HE CANNOT READ YOUR MIND?

In my years working with awesome teen girls, this point alone is responsible for a huge amount of angst.

No, he did not know you desperately wanted that stuffed animal at the mall. No, he does not know you had a bad day and wish he would text you to say hi. No, he almost assuredly doesn’t know why you’re mad at him. If you’re dating a good guy (and I recommend only dating good guys), he wants to know these things but he cannot until you tell him.

We all do this. I’m married to a wonderful guy. I still do this. Your guy is somewhere on the Totally-Oblivious-to-Completely-Tuned-In spectrum. Their placement changes depending on the day and situation.

You will have the most communication success if you: 1) express your need out loud 2) with words 3) in English 4) to their face 5) while looking into their eyeballs 6) in ten words or less. Do not hint, text, tell their friends, tell your friends, or talk about how your one friend really wanted this thing but her boyfriend had no clue.

They’re not stupid. They just communicate in a different way than we do. Say things in the way he can hear them.

Remember your boyfriend is not the center of your universe.

Your life has several components: Relationship with God. Development of personal character. Education and career goals. Friends, family, and romantic relationship. Personal goals and hobbies. While your boyfriend is an important part of your life, please remember there are several others that also deserve attention.

Don’t mention his name more than three times in a given conversation unless the conversation warrants it. 

No one likes talking to that person who just started dating and orients the entire conversation about him or her. Yet we all do this (or at least, I did.) Do your best to monitor yourself. People will take your relationship more seriously if you don’t give off “obsessed and dangerous” vibes.

Sometimes, friend time wins.

Whether its sports, video games, or something else, occasionally your wonderful guy just needs time to hang with his buddies. This isn’t anything against you personally. Nor is it some perverted expression of male domination in society.

Fellowship with his guy friends is as important to you as quality time with your girl friends. It should not take precedence over your time together 100% of the time. But if he choses to enjoy a night of Super Smash on his best friend’s new Nintendo Switch, don’t let it threaten you. (But do participate if the invitation is offered!)

Enjoy some time apart so you are recharged and healthy when you’re together.

Don’t say “I told you so.” 

Really, what’s the point of this? So you were right and he was wrong. Sometime soon, you’ll be wrong and he’ll be right. You’re a team. You win together or you fail together. Act like it.

Work to understand what “girlfriend” means in your situation. 

Depending on your age and the length of your relationship, your status as “girlfriend” means different things.

If you’re in high school with at least six more years of education ahead of you and an uncertain career/financial future, your dating relationship is largely recreational. This is the time to enjoy group activities, spend time with each other’s families, talk about future goals, support each other in your educational studies, and pray together over your future options.

This is not the time to make out, throw your weight around with his mother, abandon all your other life goals, attempt to run your boyfriend’s life, or check out of school.

If you’re in college, hey! Lots of life change still happening. You’re technically adults but still living an artificially recreation- and education-focused lifestyle. Your relationship could very well be the forever one. Just be aware of the artificial nature of your current life stage. Expect some changes as you finish school and step fully into adulthood.

Don’t be petty. 

People forget. We’re late to dates. We cancel at the last minute because an issue came up. We’re cranky. We’re sad. We fail each other. We didn’t pick the perfect present.

Be gracious. Don’t get worked up over things that don’t matter.

Respect him with your actions and words. 

Say “thank you” when he helps you. Give him the benefit of the doubt when he makes mistakes. Don’t criticize him in front of others. Speak well of him when he’s not around. Protect his privacy when he shares sensitive things with you. Respect his right to say “no” to your requests. Give him space when he needs it.

Don’t be inappropriately territorial. 

We’ve all met girls who are insanely territorial of “their” boyfriend. As if he is a shiny new toy and they are an insecure toddler afraid of being asked to share.

Different family cultures have different takes on this, but in my family culture, it was normal for our group of teenagers to hang out as friends. Guys and girls alike.

If your boyfriend has a female friend, don’t automatically place her in your crosshairs. Absolutely, boundaries should be observed! You need to work with your guy to determine what they are. But don’t go crazy. If a female friend does something with your guy that you feel is inappropriate, calmly articulate your feelings. Have a conversation, not a confrontation.

Be an asset. 

This sums all the points into one. How can you be a blessing in your guy’s life?

This is not about defining your entire personhood around him. This about looking for opportunities to encourage, support, serve, defend, motivate, and inspire him to greater godliness as you yourself pursue the same. If dating is the pathway to marriage, you should have a vision for how your lives together will inspire each other to growth.