On average, most teens get into romantic relationships at around the ages of 12-14. This can take a while for parents to accept – even longer for some of them to prepare for the eventuality.
But what happens when… well… nothing happens? Your son’s dating history remains suspiciously blank when you expected otherwise. Some parents see this “absence of romance” as a cause for concern or even worry – should you view it the same way?
There’s nothing to worry about. Your son might have other priorities or passions they’d rather fulfill first. They could also be keen on avoiding the drama inherent in relationships.
Alternatively, they might not be into women – or anyone, for that matter! Lastly, your son might just be waiting patiently for the right one to come around the corner.
It can seem a bit strange for your son to have never had a girlfriend, but it’s more common than most parents expect. Hold off on panicking and try to figure out the big picture behind this first.
They Have Other Priorities
Your son might just be focused on other things more than the idea of having a girlfriend. That’s perfectly acceptable – relationships, good or bad, take up a lot of your time your son would prefer to spend on other endeavors.
While teens might be stereotyped at times to be lovesick mini-adults, most of them – your son probably included – just want to do things that pique their juvenile interests. The bulk of these will be things they already encountered as children: sports, hobbies, academics, art, etc.
Romance doesn’t come up all that often there. It might emerge in periphery roles – such as romance in movies – but that’s about the extent of their exposure to this adult topic. Whatever they liked as kids stick around, leaving little space for them to entertain the notion of romance.
Trying to reconcile romance alongside their ambitions isn’t something everyone is up to experiment with. It’s simpler for them to not bother trying unless they can put in their full effort.
Your son not having a girlfriend shouldn’t leave you feeling insecure on their behalf. If they have other things to prioritize over a romantic relationship, respect their choice.
They’re Too Afraid To Try
Your son may also feel insecure, seeing themselves as less attractive, capable, and lovable than they really are. They feel that they don’t deserve to be in a relationship, so they’d rather cut their losses and stop bothering to try rather than put themselves in a position to be rejected.
Other reasons for your son not having a girlfriend are more a matter of choice. This one is simply a vulnerability that shouldn’t be enabled. It needs to be addressed with care and compassion.
Your son deserves to see himself in a better light than he allows himself to. Failing to accomplish this could lead to the degradation of his emotional health and stability.
First, try to find exactly what they fear here. Are they afraid of trying due to the risk of rejection? Do they not see themselves as worthy enough to be loved in a relationship?
Identify their point of insecurity, then work to assuage such concerns to the best of your ability. Help your son reclaim their confidence and have them understand rejection is nothing to be feared.
They Don’t Want The Drama
Even the happiest relationships come with their hurdles. The affection and companionship provided are comforting, but may not be worthwhile in your son’s eyes at this point in their lives.
Of course, your son shouldn’t just write this off as “relationship drama”. It’s okay for them not to like the idea of maintaining relationships, but they need to learn the nuances behind it.
Try to talk with your son about this. Ask them about the kind of “relationship drama” they want to avoid. Let them speak without interruption, simply sharing their thoughts and opinions freely.
After they’ve said their piece, ask them how this “relationship drama” could have started. Have your son identify key points that might have led to this problem, along with asking them to spot possible ways to avoid and/or address the hypothetical issue.
While they aren’t interested in a relationship currently – and may not be interested in one at all – it’s better to prepare them to navigate the possibility, however minute.
It may also be wise to consider what gave your son the impression that relationships were primarily about conflict. What kind of dynamics do their immediate environment’s romantic relationships reflect? Do these contradict or perpetuate your son’s cynical assumptions?
Try talking with your son to clarify reasonable expectations. They’re inexperienced with these concepts in practice and are probably basing their working assumptions on media examples or friends in their own romantic relationships.
It’s fine even if they still choose not to seek out romantic relationships. This way, at least your son is making this decision from a better-informed perspective.
They Might Not Be Into Women
This possibility could be dreaded by some parents, but your son’s sexual preferences not lining up with heteronormative standards isn’t inherently a bad thing. It’s simply a different one.
Your son may be gay and is waiting for the right opportunity or partner to embrace it. Alternately, they could be on the ace spectrum – not being attracted to anyone in any romantic way.
Neither of these outcomes is bad, nor are they your or your son’s fault. Preferences aren’t a choice one decides on a whim. Your son’s sexuality is something to be embraced and accepted, rather than merely tolerated. The last thing you want to do is make your child feel lonely in your presence.
Non-heteronormative preferences aren’t something you should attribute to upbringing or any other factor. It’s neither your fault as a parent nor their fault as your child. Other people won’t see it that way and may treat your child differently for it, but don’t bend to their expectations.
In truth, the fact that your son doesn’t have a girlfriend this late into their teen years likely has some family and friends suspicious of this possibility.
How to Find Out
Try to ask your son about their preferences, but remember to phrase the question gently. Avoid adding any sense of judgment or expectations to your voice. It’s an innocent inquiry – your son shouldn’t feel any weight or potential consequences might come depending on their answer.
Do this in a neutral space – somewhere that’s not perceived as yours or theirs. The living room serves well for this purpose. Be sure to ask your son on your own, as the presence of others could pressure them or otherwise cause discomfort during the conversation.
Make them feel that you aren’t expecting a “right” answer. No matter their response, focus on being welcoming. They’re still your son whether they want to have a girlfriend or not.
If your worry about them being gay was due to no longer having the possibility of grandchildren anymore, check yourself! Even if your son did have a girlfriend or wife, the pair aren’t obligated to have kids at any point. Don’t add another layer of unwarranted expectations to your child’s life.
Accept them for who they are, even if others do not. It’s your privilege as a parent to love your little one to your heart’s content – so what if they turned out a little surprising in some regards?
They’re Still Waiting For The Right One
Last but not least, your son could just be waiting for the right one to come along!
Relationships seem like huge commitments, and not everyone is willing to take the risk with a person they aren’t fully sure about. It’s a smart choice and shows that your son is both a discerning individual and treats relationships with the gravitas it deserves.
You might think that they should try and get a feel for relationships early on – if only for the experience. We would advise against making such impositions.
How would your friend feel if you pushed them to do the same, regardless of their wants? Boundaries remain boundaries whether someone is your friend or your child.
Your son chose not to have a girlfriend right now. They’ll continue making that choice for as long as they deem fit. You can share your thoughts on the matter, but don’t try pushing them to an outcome they’re uncomfortable with.
Pushing your son out of their comfort zone may be acceptable in select cases – such as them seeking their passions. The difference here is that relationships are far from consistent.
Even if your son did everything right, having the wrong partner would leave them with more trauma than takeaways. It’s still a learning experience, but it’s solely your son’s prerogative to pursue this or not. Be mindful not to overstep or weigh them down with your expectations.
Your son not having a girlfriend may seem a little concerning, but there are plenty of reasons to explain why. The best way to understand that comes by simply asking your son directly! Avoid coming off too blunt or critical here – focus on making them feel safe enough to answer honestly.