Why Do Teenagers Rebel? Thoughts from a 19-Year-Old Who Didn’t

Why Do Teenagers Rebel? A 19-year-old explains how it doesn't HAVE to happen!Why do teenagers rebel? Is it automatic? And can you do things that prevent teens from rebelling? I asked my 19-year-old to help us answer that today!

“All kids will rebel, and my job as a parent is to be there to help catch them when they fall.”

I’ve heard Christian parents say that to me time and time again–strong Christian parents, too. But the Holy Spirit does not have an age limit. The Holy Spirit is with ALL Christians, young or old. And so if we can expect ourselves to act appropriately, we can certainly expect our teenagers to as well.

I’m a big believer in this philosophy, and I’ve written about these two different approaches to parenting before. This week, I thought I’d let other people speak about how to raise kids to make good decisions. We started on Monday about how to raise kids who won’t date too young, and then on Tuesday my 16-year-old chimed in telling us why she’s not dating in high school.

Today I’ve invited my 19-year-old to share her thoughts on why teenagers rebel. I said to her, “can you just write something explaining why you DIDN’T rebel?” She sent me this. It makes me tear up to read it.

Hello. My name is Rebecca Gregoire, and I was the perfect teenager.

Obviously I’m saying that as a joke, but by most standards, I truly was pretty perfect. I never drank, never smoked, never partied, never dated, never even swore. (Honestly. I didn’t swear until I was 18.)  I may have been moody, but I always had a good job, and was extremely involved in church and volunteered in childcare and youth ministries. I didn’t rebel at all–I walked the straight and narrow all through high school, and am continuing to do so now that I’m living on my own.

I’m not saying all this to try and make myself look great–I’m saying it to make a point. I’m saying it to destroy a myth that has been hovering over Christian circles for way too long.

Teenagers do not have to rebel.

I am living, breathing proof of that statement. And so are the three girls I live with, and my best friends at our university IVCF group. We didn’t rebel.

Before I continue, let me tell you something else about myself.

I am not demure in any sense of the word. I don’t like listening to authority, and I often get frustrated when I’m told what to do, or how to do it. I like to question everything. I’m naturally extremely proud, a challenger of authority, and extremely stubborn.

Why am I telling you this? To prove that I’m not “naturally predispositioned to submit”. I’m actually the complete opposite.

Whether or not teenagers rebel isn’t contingent on their natural personality, and kids aren’t “guaranteed” to rebel. Obviously teenagers aren’t guaranteed to NOT rebel, either, but there are things you can do that make it less likely.

My family had two children who were complete opposites, and neither of us had a rebellion stage. So it has to be something about the family, not our natural dispositions.

So why do teenagers rebel? And why do some teenagers never rebel? I’ve tried to pinpoint what kinds of things my parents did that helped my sister and me not rebel (though, of course, there are never guarantees that a teen won’t rebel), and here’s what I’ve come up with:

5 Reasons I Didn’t Rebel as a Teenager

My parents instilled in me a sense of family honour

Often teenagers feel distant from their families, like they’re part of it by blood, but that’s it. In my family it was never like that. My mom and dad would make decisions on their own, of course, but they always talked everything over with my sister and me. Even things that we weren’t directly impacted by–we’d discuss everything over the dinner table.

My family is the kind of family where everyone is involved–it’s a team experience. A result of this is that I received a huge sense of family pride, dignity, and honour.

Family honour has been lost in our culture. We are so focused on ourselves, and have become extremely selfish. And I think a lot of that is that parents put their children’s wants over the family’s needs. In our family, Katie and I never went without. But we didn’t get everything we wanted–I wanted an X-Box when all my friends were getting one, but because that would cut out of major family time my parents said no. A small example, I know, but it shows the worldview my family had. No matter what, family comes first.

When your mindset shifts from “me” to “we”, your behaviours and your actions aren’t just going to affect you–you begin to see how what you do affects other people. What I do when I’m in my free time reflects on my family, whether good or bad. And for me, that was a huge incentive to be responsible and make my parents proud.

Dayspring House Full of People I Love

My parents were extremely encouraging, but also demanding

There needs to be a middle ground. I cannot stress this enough.

So many parents I see are all about the encouragement. Their kids can’t do any wrong in their eyes, and they just constantly pour love and affection and butterflies and rainbows into their children’s life. And then other parents are the opposite–they don’t pay any attention to their kids unless they do something wrong and then they blow up. Or, even if they don’t explode in anger, they only ever criticize and never praise their children.

My parents had a happy medium. We weren’t coddled, but we weren’t picked on, either. My parents chose their battles, and also encouraged us when encouragement was necessary but didn’t lie and tell us we were great at something when we weren’t. For instance, my parents never would have told me that I should go for a career in gymnastics, because I am not flexible in the least.

We always knew where our parents stood, and through that, we always knew that they were honest and had a better understanding of who we were.

My family talks about everything

Open communication was big in our family. My mom and dad always made sure not only that they had time to talk to us, but that they had a specific time and place to do it, too. When I was younger, we talked before or after reading bedtime stories, or at the dinner table when we were eating together. When we got older, that spot moved to the hot tub we had in our backyard and car trips to and from the grocery store, friends’ houses, etc.

The biggest part, though, was that we didn’t just talk about school, work, and the like. We talked about whatever was going on in our lives–whether I was thinking about a new blog post idea, how Katie was doing with her skating, or what movie we really wanted to see–anything that came to mind. Our parents became our confidants, and that built a level of trust.

Moreover, our parents shared things with us, too. Now, don’t get me wrong, there is definitely a line here. But in our family, my parents simply humanized themselves to us. My dad would tell us about his favourite movies growing up, my mom would ask our opinions on knitting patterns. She’d even tell me when she had angst over commenters on this blog!

This built a partnership between us. A partnership where one was the parent and one was the child, of course, but nonetheless, a relationship where the actions of one person directly affected the other. Because of that relationship, I never felt like I needed to rebel to be heard, to be understood, or to get my way. I knew that if my parents said no, it was for a reason.

We were never expected to rebel as teenagers

My parents never encouraged any idea of teenage-hood rebellion. They never joked about us rolling our eyes, acting exasperated, or having attitude at all. Rather, they actually made us think that teenagers and the whole rebellion process was stupid and unnecessary. I always figured that I would grow up straight from child to adult, with no “silly teenage stage” in-between. You may think that this is no fun, or that kids need their time to be silly and make mistakes.

But what kind of message does that send the teenager? If kids expect that when they hit 13 they’ll start wanting to go to parties, or go out with boys, or watch inappropriate movies, then they will grow up to fulfill those expectations. On the contrary, if they are raised to believe that those are all optional, and actually unnecessary and somewhat frivolous, they won’t want to disappoint or seem silly, and so are more likely to make positive choices and act like an adult. This doesn’t mean that we miss out on a childhood, or miss out on teenage years–it just means that we use them for training for adulthood, and have fewer regrets when we’re through it all.

Also in this category is that we had very few rules. My parents never needed them, because they didn’t expect us to break them. When parents have a lot of rules it always seems to me like they’re trying to control their kids, and if you have to control them, you’ve lost the battle already. My parents always assumed we’d pick up on their values and make good decisions. Through our close relationship, heart-to-heart talks, and–when necessary–confrontations, we learned their expectations, they learned our points of view, and our family worked together instead of parents trying to reign in their children. Now, I only think this worked because we grew up in such a structured, close, and trust-filled family, but that was a big thing for me. I never felt stifled, so I never felt a need to rebel.

God was centre in our home

Our home never revolved around work, sports, school, or activities. It didn’t even revolve around other people–it always hinged on God and his plan for our family. Growing up in that kind of an environment shaped my view of my actions, choices, and the effect I had on others. When you’re used to basing everything on God’s will and God’s plan, suddenly the parties don’t seem as important. It isn’t as tempting to lie about who you’re hanging out with. Smoking, drinking, and the like just doesn’t really have any appeal, because they don’t help with your ultimate goal–to become a person God will use for great things.

So many times I see families who drop everything for good grades, or who don’t go to church if it’s a busy week at work, or who choose extracurricular activities over youth group and the like. My family, however, was the opposite. If we were tired, too bad. Get in the car, we’re going to church, because that’s what God’s called us to. If Mom and Dad had a hard time with work, we went to church because that’s a place of rest. If I was struggling with school and needed the day to study I didn’t have that choice, because it was my decision not to study earlier.

God came first in everything. And my choices were shaped because of that worldview.

As for Me and My House Wall Decal

I honestly don’t think there’s any one way to make sure your children don’t rebel. Every child is different, and every family contains unique people. But all I know is that for me, this worked. In my family, the trust, communication, and centrality of God in our home made my teenage years one of partnership with my parents rather than a constant battle.

So don’t give up hope–the teenage years don’t have to be war!

Like this? Think it might encourage other parents? Please share on Facebook or Pin it! Just use the buttons below.

Life as a Dare

You can find Rebecca at her blog, Life as a Dare, where she writes about her quest to simplify faith, relationships, and life in general.

 

 

 

The Talk(s)If you’re wondering how to foster a relationship like this with your kids, what Rebecca writes about sounds a lot like what Barrett Johnson is teaching us in his book the Talk(s) ! He really emphasizes keeping open communication with your kids. It’s the best book I’ve read about how to talk to your kids about sex, dating, and relationships, and it’s my store here! Or you can order it in paperback here.

 

This post contains affiliate links.

A 16-Year-Old Explains, “Why I’m Not Dating in High School”

A 16-year-old explains 5 reasons why she's not dating in high schoolDating in high school: will all kids automatically do it?

Will ALL kids automatically have sex, get their hearts broken, or do things they regret afterwards?

No, I don’t think so at all. And it makes me sad when I hear parents say,

“well, I know they’re going to mess up, because all kids do.”

I’m in the middle of a week where we’re talking about how to encourage your kids to do the right thing and make good decisions. It all started when I saw some commenters on some old posts saying things like, “The quickest way to make your child do something is to tell them not to,” and then explain why they don’t expect their teens to do the right thing.

That made me sad, as it sounds so horribly defeatist.

But rather than arguing my self, I thought I’d let my daughters do it for me! On Thursday my 19-year-old will tell us why teenagers don’t need to rebel. Today I’m going to let my 16-year-old explain why she’s not dating in high school. These are her words, not mine, and her arguments, not mine. I show you just to encourage you that it IS possible to raise a teen who won’t want to date in high school, and to tell those of you, especially those with younger kids, to encourage a super close relationship with your kids, teach them to love God, and then EXPECT them to do the right thing.

Here’s Katie:

 

The Talk(s)Wondering how you can encourage your child to choose not to date in high school? Barrett Johnson, who guest posted yesterday, has a great new book out about having the Talk(s) with your kids! It’s the best book I’ve read about how to talk to your kids about sex, dating, and relationships, and it’s my store here! Or you can order it in paperback here.

 

I know Katie would appreciate her video being shared as much as possible! So please hit the Facebook Share buttons and Pinterest buttons below!

Reader Question: When Should You Allow Your Teenager to Date?

Reader Question of the Week

Every Monday I post a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it. This week, though, we’re going to do something a little bit different. We’re going to take a whole week to answer this question:

How do you raise teens who will make good decisions?

Lately I’ve been noticing a bit of a disturbing trend in some of the comments on older posts. Whenever I talk about setting limits for teenagers, especially when it comes to dating in high school, someone invariably comments with something like this:

The quickest way to make sure a teenager does something is to tell them they can’t. To me, maintaining a good relationship with my daughter is the most important thing to me, so we haven’t told her she can’t do things. We just trust her, and we’re there for her, because as parents, that’s all you can do.

I find that a very defeatist attitude. And so I’ve been thinking and wrestling with how to tackle it, and here’s what I’ve decided.

Today: I’ve asked Barrett Johnson, the author of the amazing book The Talk(S) (about having continuing talks with your kids), to share about when you should allow your teen to date.

Tuesday: Rather than talk myself about teens and dating (since I’ve done that already), I’ve asked my 16-year-old daughter to join us on the blog and guest post.

Wednesday: I’m jumping in to talk about how to model a good relationship with your kids.

Thursday: I’ll wrap up the series by asking my oldest daughter, who is now 19, to write about why it is that she never rebelled.

I think hearing from my daughters on this one is likely better than hearing from me!

This is going to be our “You can do it, parents!” week. You CAN have a great relationship with your kids. Your kids WON’T automatically mess up. It is possible to raise kids who won’t date too young. And so today we’re going to ask the question, “when should you allow your teenager to date?”

Here’s Barrett Johnson, author of the AMAZING book The Talk(s), guest posting. I read an early version of his book, which is all about having ongoing talks with your kids as they grow so that you can steer them in the right direction when it comes to relationships. He explains it so well, and really helps to empower parents!


When Should You Let Teenagers Date“If everyone jumped off a cliff, would you do it, too?”

Every parent has used some form of that line before. I’m not sure it has ever worked to change anyone’s behavior, but we use it anyway. It’s our attempt to convince our kids that what our world practices as normal behavior is often severely skewed and even badly broken.

I believe this definitely applies to typical teen dating habits. With clear evidence found in the horrific divorce rate and with rampant sexual sin in both married adults and young people, we cannot assume that our current western system is working. Wise parents will both realize this and then be deliberate to equip their kids accordingly.

There is not a clear directive of exactly what that looks like for each particular family. Instead of looking for that ever-elusive formula, it is our responsibility as parents to prayerfully seek God’s leadership regarding how it will look in each of our unique situations.

That is why I don’t think it is wise for parents to give their kids a set age (as in “wait until you are sixteen”) when they can begin dating.

A strict line like that is full of potential disastrous complications. Telling a boy who is 15 years and 11 months old that he cannot have a girlfriend and then a month later telling him he can (and giving him keys to the car) is too much freedom preceded by too little practice. Not much good will come of that.

While there may not be a firm recommended age where every teenager should be given the green light to begin dating, one study clearly makes the argument that it is wise to put it off as long as possible. This is especially if we desire to help our kids to remain sexually pure leading into marriage. A number of years ago, USA Today reported the shocking correlation between the age that dating begins and the percentage of those who had sex before graduation. Here’s what they found…

When Teens Date Young it has Repercussions

Age Began Dating and Percent Who Had Sex Before GraduationThe takeaway: we are free to encourage our 6th or 7th grade sons to have girlfriends and to let them “date” within the context of our homes. We have every right to drive our 13 year-old daughters to the movies with their “boyfriends.” It seems innocent enough, but don’t be naïve about this research. We can assume that this won’t happen to our kids, but the evidence strongly suggests that the earlier a kid starts dating, the more likely he or she is to become sexually active. Blindly sticking our heads in the sand and insisting that our kids are different and that they will somehow beat the odds is irresponsible in light of the data.

You’re going to have to tell you kids that they may not be allowed to date until well after many of their peers. Beginning these discussions when your kids are far away from any interest in the opposite sex is ideal. For here is the mistake that most parents make: they do not start setting parameters on dating until their kids start exploring their first relationship. If a young teen is already there and her parents start dropping rules on her for the first time, it may get ugly.

Think about Your Guidelines for Teen Dating Early

For this reason alone, it is not a bad idea for you to begin considering guidelines for dating while your kids are still in diapers. If you don’t begin to show them at a very early age what will be normal in your home, they are likely to assume that their “rules of engagement” are identical to everybody else’s.

If you haven’t told them any different, why wouldn’t they think that?

The Talk(s)Barrett Johnson is the husband to Jenifer and the father of five great kids (including four adolescents). He serves as the Family Minister at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church outside of Atlanta and his blog, INFO for Families, gets more than 40,000 hits a month. He has just released his first book, “The Talk(s): A Parent’s Guide to Critical Conversations About Sex, Dating, and Other Unmentionables.” It has been created to help every parent to equip their kids to make wise choices in a sexually-charged culture. Find out more at www.infoforfamilies.com. Get the ebook here, or the paperback here.

Tune in tomorrow for the second in our series, when my 16-year-old daughter explains why she’s not dating in high school!

Why Do We Have Middle School Dances Again?

Every Friday my column appears in a bunch of papers in Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week I tackle the ridiculousness of middle school dances.
Middle School Dances are Ridiculous on so many levels. Read on...

Love is the Air.

Drug stores are selling boxloads of cards so that 8-year-olds can tell all 23 kids in their class, “You’re special!” Flyers are reminding men that they had better show up with a gift. Engagement rings are selling like hotcakes.

Yet perhaps love shouldn’t be in the air for everyone.

When it comes to middle schoolers, for instance, love is definitely better off waiting.

In fact, a study reported in USA Today found that the age that kids start dating is highly correlated to the age at which they first have intercourse. Ninety-one percent of kids who started dating at 12 had had sex by high school graduation, compared with just 20% of kids who started dating at age 16. Delaying pairing off pays off. And a huge 2012 University of Texas study found that delaying sex until your twenties meant better romantic relationships later. People who wait for both dating and sex tend to end up happier.

It’s not just happiness, though, that improves if you wait. It’s also academic achievement. Kids who remain virgins throughout high school are one third as likely to drop out of high school and twice as likely to graduate college. Other important findings: kids who remain virgins in high school are less than half as likely to suffer from depression and less than half as likely to go on welfare as adults.

If you want a society with predominantly productive citizens in stable relationships, then, we’ll want to encourage kids to wait to have sex, which includes encouraging them to wait to date. Whether you’re looking at it from an economic standpoint, a moral standpoint, or a public health standpoint, it just doesn’t make sense to encourage kids to date at early ages.

All of this leads me to ask: why on earth, then, do we have middle school dances, all put on by our Boards of Education?

Are we out of our collective minds? We’re taking kids as young as grade 6 and holding dances during school hours. Why encourage kids that young to pair off?

I got my first “boyfriend” because of a middle school dance in grade 7. I’d never even thought of dating him before, but he asked me to dance, and all of a sudden we were “going out”. Looking back it was embarrassing, but then all I felt was pressure. All the girls were wondering, “is anyone going to dance with me?” And all the boys were wondering what the girls would wear. Kids who had never thought of “asking someone out” suddenly got fixated on it.

Ask a school principal and they’ll likely say they only hold these middle school dances because parents insist on it, and that’s probably true.

Too many parents think “it’s so cute” when little Jenny has a boyfriend at ten.

But even if this starts out as clean fun, the younger kids start to date, the more they’ll experiment as they age. Do you really want your child going down that road?

Maybe some parents want middle school dances, and likely a lot of the kids do, too. But that doesn’t mean other parents have to stand for it. You could suggest a square dance caller instead. You could offer to host a party with hula hoop contests and limbo contests instead of a traditional dance. You could pick up your kids early and take them home that day. Or better still, you could ask at the next PTA meeting “what advantage are we getting from asking 12 and 13-year-olds to pair up?” Because unless you can tell me the benefit, I’ll never believe that it will outweigh the potential harm.

The Talk(s)Do you want to open up conversation with your child about dating? I’ve got a great resource–Barrett Johnson’s book “The Talk(s)”, about how to keep those conversations regular and natural. Get the ebook or get it in paperback. It’s the best book of its kind that I’ve seen!

Have your kids attended middle school dances? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

Reader Question: How Do I Resist Having Sex with My Fiance?

Is there hope for a loveless marriage?Every Monday I like to post a Reader Question and take a stab at it! Today let’s deal with one I get frequently from young women: “I want to wait until marriage, but it’s hard!”

Here’s one email that I received:

My boyfriend and I really want to wait until marriage to make love. We know how important purity is. But we’ve been so tempted, and we’ve already gone further than we should. We haven’t had sex yet, but I’m afraid that it’s just a matter of time. I don’t want to start my marriage like that! What do I do?

I know that’s a struggle so many people have, so I thought I’d address it today. Let me start by saying congratulations that you want to wait! You’re making a good choice. And as you wait, it will also become easier to make the decision whether or not this is the person you want to marry. So very good choice!

Now, if the problem you’re having is more that you’ve already begun sleeping with him–or maybe even living with him–and you want to stop but you’re afraid you’ll lose him, read this post on how to stop sleeping with your boyfriend. But if it’s more that you’re feeling really tempted to sleep with him now, and you’re afraid that you won’t stay pure, read on:

 

How Do I Stay Pure with My Boyfriend--and resist having sex?

Know Why You’re Waiting

It’s hard to wait if you figure it’s just something you’re SUPPOSED to do in order to be a “good girl”. Then it’s all too easy to doubt yourself, and all too easy to get a warped view of sex, where sex is seen as something wrong that “good girls don’t do”. Nothing is further from the truth!

God wants us to wait because sex is supposed to be intimate on many levels: physical, yes, but also emotional and spiritual. It truly binds you together. And when you wait, you’ll enjoy a better sex life afterwards (as I found in the surveys for The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex). I’ve written a few posts on why God wants us to wait for marriage, and I’d suggest reading them (and getting my book!) so you have a better view of sex–and more incentive to wait!

Here’s what one woman said on Facebook when I asked my readers what their advice for waiting is:

I didn’t succeed with this, and oh… Do I wish I did. I fell into temptation. Although we did marry, and are still married 15 years later, I still find myself wishing we would have waited for marriage. I can just imagine the sacredness of the wedding night. After a long wait, completely seeking God and relying on His promises. Then feeling that huge sense of accomplishment when you know you’ve done what He commands! Sex is a gift, and when used how its intended, such a privilege and blessing. I’ve recently watched two very dear couples to us successfully wait until their wedding night, and one of them, we’re close enough girl friends for her to share with me how rewarding it was, and I would give anything to be able to experience that. Once its spent, its spent. If I’d known then what I know now, we would have definitely waited. Persevere for the reward God has for you! You will not regret it! And, congratulations!

Have a Short Engagement

Seriously. When you feel that close to each other, it is hard resist. There’s a reason that Paul wrote, “it’s better to marry than to burn” (1 Corinthians 7:9).

I got married in December. Sure, a summer wedding would have been prettier, but we wanted to marry, and why wait twelve months when we only had to wait three? If you’re sure, and he’s sure, short engagements are likely better, and much easier.

Resist Temptation by Hanging out In Public

If it’s feasible, try not to spend too much time alone in each other’s apartments or homes. I know that isn’t always feasible, especially if you each live on your own, with no roommates. But then try to plan things to do, rather than just hanging out. Go for lots of walks. Volunteer together. Take up some sports you can do together.

When we hang out at each other’s homes, we tend to make out a whole lot. And even if you don’t have sex, you can still get more physical than you would want to. But there’s another danger: if your relationship becomes mostly physical, then you get married without having anything fun that you tend to do together. So it’s better to spend those weeks and months before the wedding finding things you enjoy doing together that don’t involve a liplock.

Get Acccountability

Do you have a good friend you can trust whom you can ask to pray for you? Do you have housemates that can hang out with both of you as a couple? If you have another couple, or a friend, that you can go to for accountability, that can help you resist. If you know someone is going to ask you pointed questions: “did you put yourself in a compromising position this week?”, or “did you go further than you want to go”?, it’s easier to say no. And if you have someone that you can talk to about where you should draw the line, that can help, too.

Be Careful About Praying and/or Talking Too Much About What You’re NOT Going to Do

This one may seem counterintuitive–after all, if you want to wait, shouldn’t you be praying together? Well, yes. And no. You see, praying is one of the most intimate things we can do together. And while I absolutely recommend that couples pray together, you could be finding that this is part of the temptation. So if you’re really struggling after you’ve prayed together, it could just be the natural pull we feel towards sex when we also feel connected in other ways. So maybe you should keep your prayer life in public, too!

But there’s another thing to consider: if you’re trying to remain pure, and you talk about it all the time, you can aggravate the problem. Let’s say that you’re experiencing a lot of sexual tension. You want to have sex, and you’re really drawn to him. What’s now going to happen if you start talking about where to draw the line? You’ll start to talk about what you CAN’T do, and likely how these things make you feel, and it just can make the whole problem worse.

You already know where the line is. You’ve already decided. You don’t need to talk about it again. Next time you’re in a compromising situation, instead of starting a big conversation about it, why don’t you go make cookies? Or go out for a walk? Or just do something else?

Fight with the Weapons You Have–Memorize Scripture

If you’re feeling tempted, you’re hearing in your head all these messages–

you’re going to fail, you can’t resist, it would be SOOOO good, it’s hopeless!

Why not start filling your head with Scripture instead? When Jesus was tempted, He fought back with Scripture, and you can, too! When you’re going through a hard time in your Christian walk, now’s the time to pull closer to God. I’ve got a list of the 50 best Bible verses to memorize, and if you focus on those, and learn a new one every week, and keep reciting it, you’ll likely find it easier to fight back against temptation! And there are some great verses, too:

Dayspring I Can Do All Things Plaque

Ultimately Waiting Until Marriage Is a Heart Issue

Ultimately, though, you can put all the boundaries in place, and all the accountability in place, and none of it will work if you’re not seriously committed to waiting. I did wait because the idea of NOT waiting was never an option. I grew up always knowing I would wait, and even though it was tempting, we did. We were alone together in my apartment, and we still waited. At some point you either have the self-control or you don’t. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t put boundaries around you, but I guess I’m not as adamant as some of the people on my Facebook Page, because I really do think that it’s ultimately a heart issue. You need to decide INTERNALLY to wait, and you need to just be sure, within yourself, that this is what you’re going to do. I really like this reply by one woman:

Internal motivation vs external rules will carry you much further. I know a lot of folks are saying you should not be alone, but I don’t see that as a healthy way to spend the weeks/months leading up to marriage at ALL. My husband and I were engaged for over two years (he was in a strict military academy for 4 years, and was not allowed to marry or live off base until graduation). We were alone all the time, but stayed active with our church, multiple Bible studies, and just set our minds to waiting until the wedding. We were both virgins when we married, and relied more on the grace of God than rules we set for ourselves.

I do think that if you’re really struggling, setting up rules like don’t be alone, have accountability partners, don’t hang out in bedrooms, etc., are definitely a good idea. But, to be honest, my husband and I didn’t  have those rules, and we waited, because we were also immersing ourselves in Bible studies together and praying together and serving in church together, and we were just totally committed to waiting. I know that doesn’t work for everyone, and I think we all have different temptations that we’re prone to. But ultimately deciding to wait until marriage for sex is a heart issue, and external rules will only take you so far.

What do you think? What do you recommend for couples who want to wait until the wedding? Let’s talk about it in the comments!


Teens, Dating, And Courtship

On Teens, Dating and CourtshipWhen I first met my husband dating him was the last thing on my mind.

We met at a Christian drama group. He was dating someone else. I was in love with someone else (and soon dating that guy). I didn’t even really consider dating Keith.

But we hit it off famously. And we started to do things together, mostly in a group. We’d hang out. We went to Bible study. We had lunch. We’d go out for dessert (none of us had money for going out for dinner).

And about a year into this friendship, after I had dumped the other guy, I realized that I actually liked Keith. Like, REALLY liked him. And so I told him. And we started dating.

My feelings for him grew out of a completely platonic friendship.

A few years ago I wrote a post that has gone viral: 7 Steps to Raising a Teen Who Won’t Date Too Young. I wrote it when my girls were 15 and 13. Now they’re 18 and 16. And so I thought it may be time to revisit what I said, and talk about what I did right, and what I did wrong.

If you haven’t read that post, let me sum it up. I said that I believed that the purpose of dating was to figure out who to marry; anything else was just inviting temptation and playing with people’s hearts. So you really shouldn’t date until you’re in a position to marry. And even if you find someone wonderful when you’re young, those years are better spent trying to figure out who you are. Go on missions trips. Get part-time jobs. Encourage a wide range of friendships. When we date, our social world often becomes very small, and then we miss out on many of the chances to figure out what we like and what our calling in life might be.

I didn’t write about setting a series of rules for kids, because I honestly don’t think that works. In this age of cell phones and computers, kids will find ways to “date” even if they don’t go out one on one. So it’s really more about a mindset than it is rules. It’s about raising kids who have your values, and that means talking with them constantly, doing things with them, modelling a great relationship, and emphasizing your values.

I did all that. And now let me tell you how my girls have done, and what I now think as Becca is at the age where she is starting to date a bit.

Teenagers, Dating and Courtship1. My Girls Haven’t Had “Relationships”

Neither of my daughters has had a serious relationship over their teen years. My youngest is still determined to not to date in high school (you can watch a video of her explaining why here); my oldest has had a few guys she might have been interested in, but it went nowhere and it wasn’t that big a deal. She didn’t start getting interested in anyone until she was 17. So they both have held off dating. Yay!

2. My Girls Have Had a TON of Male Friends

One thing that they have done well, though, is that they’ve had a ton of male friends, and for this I’m grateful. I think it’s a good thing to have friends of the opposite sex. It helps them figure out what they like and what they don’t like. It gives them a wider circle of friends. And since my girls have grown up in a family of almost all women, it helps them understand guys. And that’s important!

My girls really are social butterflies. Perhaps because they’ve been involved in Bible quizzing (sounds nerdy; it’s incredibly fun), they’ve met kids from all over North America. And Katie (my 16-year-old) has almost nightly Skype “dates” (they’re not really dates) with a whole lot of different people, some of whom are male. She’s making some wonderful friends.  Rebecca has gotten involved in a college and careers group in a neighbouring university town from ours, and drove out there every Sunday night this year to meet up with some kids. Again, a wonderful experience. And they both go to a camp where there are a ton of Christians. So they have a very wide circle of Christian friends, and they talk to these friends with social media quite a bit.

They have not missed out on anything by not dating, in my opinion. They still have friends; in fact, they have more than if they had been dating. And they have spared themselves a lot of heartache. So I’m grateful.

3. My Girls Love God

First and foremost, both my girls put God first. You don’t have to take my word for it; here’s Rebecca’s blog, where she’s asking the question “why do we emphasize marriage and not God?”

So those are the good things.

On Teens, Dating and Courtship

Now for the things I’m not as happy about.

1. You Can’t Avoid Heartache–for Everyone

I was naive and thought that, “as long as they don’t date, they won’t have heartache”! To a large extent that’s been true. But my girls have still gone through periodic “will anyone really like me?” periods of angst. It hasn’t been that bad, but it’s been there.

But one thing I forgot was that even if THEY don’t have heartache, guys can. And my girls have had to turn down quite a few guys, and it’s been difficult. There is no way to avoid awkwardness with the opposite sex as a teen, unless you stop talking to those of the opposite sex altogether. And so I wish I had been more proactive in talking to my girls about how to talk to guys when it’s obvious someone likes them.

But the most important thing:

2. “Courtship” May Distort Their View of Marriage and Dating

We emphasized dating=marriage so much that I was worried my girls were fleeing in the opposite direction if they didn’t think they could marry someone. So if one is out for coffee with someone, and she can’t picture herself marrying him, she doesn’t go again.

Yet for about an entire year I couldn’t picture myself marrying Keith. Our love grew out of a friendship. So if you write off everyone you don’t think you can marry after one cup of coffee, you write off an awful lot of people.

We’ve talked and revisited this quite a bit this year, and so my girls no longer have that feeling. But I am afraid that with all the talk of courtship going on in Christian circles, we may be setting up many of our kids never to marry–or to have a hard time finding a mate.

My daughter wants to blog about this soon, and I’ll link to her when she does. (Update: Here’s her link, “Why I Don’t Court“). But her feelings have evolved on this one, as have mine as I’ve watched her grow up.

I still believe that we shouldn’t seriously date someone we won’t marry. But my definition of “dating” has perhaps changed. I think it is a good thing, once you’re old enough to start considering marriage or getting ready for marriage, to see as wide variety of people as possible (not to get PHYSICAL with a wide variety, but to hang out with a wide variety). You really don’t know who you will like unless you do this.

And whatever you do, don’t put pressure on yourself to marry everyone you go for coffee with. The problem with courtship is that we emphasize marriage so much that kids start thinking there’s something wrong if they’re just having fun. So they start convincing themselves “I’m going to marry this person” when they really don’t know them. After all, they’ve been told since they were young that the only purpose for dating was to get married, so if I’m dating, I must be about ready to get engaged!

This whole idea of courtship puts marriage on the front and centre with every relationship they have. That’s very serious awfully fast.

Then they can feel stuck. I can’t break up with this person I’m dating, because you’re only supposed to date to marry. So they stick it out when they shouldn’t.

But I think it may also discourage many people from making friends of the opposite sex. They’re waiting for the “right one”. Yet how does one meet that right one? By going out there and meeting people! I met the “right one” by having a really close platonic friendship for a year. If I were not seeing anyone, unless they were “the one”, I’d be sitting at home alone today.


I also am afraid that we’re emphasizing “the right one” too much. As Gary Thomas said in Sacred Search, I don’t believe there is only one person you can marry. God lets us choose. And if we start thinking that there is only one person who can complete us, we set ourselves up for disappointment in marriage.

Marriage is about learning to become the right person, not just marrying the right person.
(Click to tweet that quote!)

Yes, we need to be very careful whom we marry. But that’s because we should marry someone we can glorify God together with, not just someone who “completes” us or who gives us those infatuation feelings.

I’ve known a lot of girls who “courted” who married the first man they dated. For some that was a really wonderful thing. For others, I’m not so sure. So I guess what I’m saying is that I’d like my girls to not feel as if every guy they go out for coffee with is someone they must marry. And I’d like them not to throw that person aside if they think they can’t marry them after sharing an hour together.

These years, from 18-22, are when we start figuring out who we are and what God has called us to be. We change so much, and we’re not always sure what we do want. I can’t go back with Becca, and she has a very good head on her shoulders, so I’m not worried about her.

But what I’m telling my 16-year-old is this:

Wait until you’re 18, because relationships just distract you from friendships and experiences and God when you’re in high school. But when you do start to date, get to know a ton of people. Have a wide social circle. Have fun! Don’t play with people’s hearts, but don’t put pressure on yourself, either. And keep close to God, so that when the person He has for you does come along, you will know it. And remember that our purpose isn’t to get married; it’s to glorify God. It’s great if we can do that with someone else, but if God has other plans, He will be big enough for you.

Does that make sense? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!


Make Talking to Your Teens About Sex Low-Stress

Today’s guest post is by Joanna Hyatt, who shares with us about talking to your kids about sex.

Make Talking to Your Teens About Sex Low-Stress

“Uh, Joanna, why don’t you and Macy sit over there and…um, well, just do your thing. You know, because I bought you coffee.”

What??

I’m a sexpert. A sex expert. But not in the way you think. I don’t doll out tips to couples on how to make their marriage hot and steamy (I leave that to Sheila!). I instead get the world’s most hostile and simultaneously awkward audience: teenagers.

I go in to schools, churches, organizations, and any where there is a teen with questions about sex and dating, engaging them in open, honest, and hopefully thought-provoking conversations.

I had arranged to meet with this couple and their 15-year-old daughter for what I expected to be a routine talk about what I do as a way to indirectly bring up these topics in front of their daughter.

Instead, I found myself sitting across from a gangly teen girl who could hardly bring herself to make eye contact with me. It became clear in about 7 seconds that her parents had never initiated a conversation with her on these issues.

What these parents failed to see is that I’m actually not the most effective person for the job. Yes, teens will listen and open up to me in a way they don’t with most adults, and they’ve affectionately given me the title of “The Sex Lady.” But at the end of the day, there’s someone else who is going to influence these kids more than I will.

Parents.

Yet I’m finding that too many parents either don’t realize this or don’t believe it. They’ve lost confidence in their ability to influence their child’s decisions about sex and relationships, in the strength of their voice being greater than the cacophony of culture pushing on their children. Parents have lost confidence in being able to direct their children towards better, healthier choices than they may have made as teens.In surveys of teens, they consistently cite their parents as the greatest influence when it comes to their decisions about sex, dating, and relationships. They say it would be easier to delay sexual activity if they could have more open and honest conversations with mom and dad. The relationship a girl has with her father can actually delay the onset of puberty, the onset of sexual activity, and impact the type of boys and men she will date.

Please hear this:

You and your voice matter to your teen, to your pre-teen, or that child about to enter puberty. More than you probably realize.

Here are three tips for maximizing that influence:

1. What you don’t say matters as much as what you do

In wanting to avoid fumbling over what we say or blurting out something awkward, we may err on saying nothing. But your silence sends a message loud and clear: you don’t care. By failing to explain your values when it comes to sex, dating, and relationships, you’re telling your child that they are free to form their own values. You are choosing to allow their friends, the media and the world around them to shape their decisions and opinions, rather than you.

No one else will love your child as much as you do. You’ll never say everything perfectly, but failing to say anything at all will only end up hurting your child in the end. Don’t allow fear to strip you of your right and privilege to be the greatest influence in your child’s life when it comes to sex, dating, and relationships.

2. You need to initiate the conversations

A number of my friends have this in common: when it came to conversations about sex, their parents handed them a book and said to ask them any questions they might have. Never once did those parents actually initiate a conversation on sex, or clarify what type of questions where allowed or appropriate.

You can tell your child they can talk to you about sex until you’re blue in the face. But unless you show them how serious you are by taking the first step, by initiating conversations and questions, they’ll likely remain closed off.

This doesn’t require anything as drastic as a three-hour road trip with your child. Use TV shows and magazines as a jumping off point to initiate conversations. Make clear what kind of questions and discussions they’re welcome to bring to you (Can they ask you about oral sex? Wet dreams? Asking/being asked out?), and reinforce that by regularly bringing those topics up yourself.

3. The first time will determine if you have a next time

No, that’s not some reference to sex with your spouse. It’s about the first time your child asks you a question about sex or relationships.

How you react will determine whether they feel safe to come to you again in the future, or resolve to never address this again. Whether they’re testing you to see if you really do want to be their go-to person, or they’re innocently asking about something they heard at school, your response must always be this:

Calm.

Internally, you may be having a heart attack at what you’ve just heard. Perfectly understandable, as it still happens to me. But externally, your child needs to see that their question has not fazed you, that they haven’t asked something that is off limits or that mom and dad can’t handle. If you react with anger, with disgust, with shock, or embarrassment, you send the message loud and clear that this is not something for the two of you to discuss. They’ll continue to have questions but now they’ll go elsewhere for the answers.

Sex talks with your kids can and should be fun. Rather than holding back in fear, embrace them as opportunities for amazing conversations with your children. I’ve written a book, The Sex Talk: A Survival Guide for Parents, to help you begin (or hopefully continue!) to speak and engage confidently with your child in this area, experiencing together how rewarding “the talk” can be.

As a parent, you already have more credibility and influence than you realize. It’s just a matter of learning what to talk about and how to say it in a way that will most effectively resonate with that hormonal teen staring at you.

Based out of Los Angeles, Joanna Hyatt is a national speaker on dating, relationships and sex, and the author of The Sex Talk: A Survival Guide for Parents. She blogs at www.joannahyatt.com and tweets @JoannaHyatt.


Should You Marry Someone Who Uses Porn?

Should you still marry someone if they use porn?
Porn destroys marriage.

It rewires the brain so that what becomes arousing is an image, rather than a person. And it distorts people’s sexuality, so that we concentrate solely on the physical aspects of sex, and not on the emotional and spiritual connection. Not just that, but it can make us very selfish lovers, too. And so on this blog I’ve spoken out quite a bit against porn (and against the female version of porn as well).

Probably because of that I receive plenty of emails from women who are engaged, and one common theme I get is, “should I marry my fiance if he uses porn?” Because I get so many of these, I thought it may be useful to write the answer in a post.

When I receive emails from women whose marriages are in turmoil, 90% of the time that trouble was brewing even during their engagement. They saw warning signs but they ignored them. So you have to beware of red flags when you’re engaged! Just because you’re dating or engaged does not mean that you need to go through with a wedding if you feel reservations. Listen to God about it. Pray hard. And if you don’t feel peace, don’t do it.

But at the same time, I don’t think porn use should NECESSARILY mean that you call off the wedding.

It’s really a matter of the heart.

In my surveys for The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, I found that around two-thirds of men (and one quarter of women) admitted to seeking out porn in the past, including a majority of pastors. So just because people have sought out porn does not mean that they will be horrible husbands. Lots of people have looked at porn, repented, and then tried to stop.

There is a world of difference between someone who is tempted but who has fought the temptation and someone who has consistently given into that temptation and doesn’t feel like there’s anything wrong with it.

Here, for instance, are two letters where I would have very different responses. Letter #1:

We will be getting married next year but I find it hard to process that he struggles with porn. He confessed to me when we dated about his struggle but about how he’s tried stopping & desires to stop. we pray, fast, & talked to our pastor. It hurts so bad because in the time we’ve been together he’s viewed some things and i feel so betrayed. i know hes a good man and he fears God & this is a learned behavior from his chuldhood that has gotten him addicted. He doesn’t practice it often but in times of weakness he gives into it.

So what do we learn about this guy?

  • He’s struggled since childhood (which is quite common. A lot of guys are exposed to porn when they are so young, and they don’t have enough maturity to turn it off. And they fall into a downward spiral).
  • He confessed to his fiancee and he willingly told his pastor.
  • He is willing to pray about it, to fast about it, and to try to stop.
  • He still struggles and sometimes falls.

Here’s a man who is dedicated to stopping. He doesn’t want to be in bondage. And he is allowing others to hold him accountable.

Here’s Letter #2:

I’m really worried and I don’t know what to do. When I was playing around on my fiance’s computer recently, I found a bunch of porn sites. I confronted him about it but he told me I was crazy and that it must have been a virus or his roommate or something. Meanwhile he will never let me see his phone, and he won’t let me on his computer anymore. He doesn’t like to have long conversations, and all he ever seems to want to do is make out. I really love him, but I’m worried that he has a porn addiction.

This latter letter sends up major red flags to me.

  • He doesn’t admit he has a problem.
  • He’s secretive.
  • He turns her questions back on her, instead of dealing with them.
  • He seems to have an unhealthy obsession with sex.

If a guy will not let you see his computer history or his phone, and you are engaged, then that’s a problem.

Yes, we all need a little privacy, but before you make a decision to cement your life together with someone, you need to make sure that this man is who he says he is. And if he won’t let you see his phone, and is defensive if you ask him about porn, that’s a major warning sign.

Sacred SearchIf a guy isn’t into porn, he should be able to show you his phone. A guy who isn’t into porn will say to you, “I really wouldn’t do that to you, but I want you to trust me. I don’t want you to have doubts. So if you need to look at my computer to put your mind at ease, go ahead.” A guy who won’t admit that you may have a reason to worry is likely someone who would give you a reason to worry.

I find other red flags in this email, too–he isn’t interested in sharing his heart, for instance. But I do believe that a man who uses porn before he is married, and who is not honest about it and does not think that it is a big deal, is one who will continue to use it once he is married. And things ALWAYS deteriorate from there. If you want to read a great book on how to find these red flags when you’re thinking about who to marry, Gary Thomas’  Sacred Search is excellent!

So many teen boys have been exposed to porn that to eliminate anyone as a potential mate who is tempted by it or who has sought it out is to likely eliminate 90% of the young male population. And let’s not forget that everybody struggles with something, and God is big enough to help those who earnestly seek Him to get over these temptations. The key, though, is that the guy must earnestly seek Him. Such a man will receive help; a man who does not humble himself before God will likely fall even further. A fiance who will not admit that it is wrong and will not willingly enter into some kind of accountability partnership with another guy is a danger sign.

In short: what matters is the heart and the attitude.

If a guy is repentant, determined to stay pure, and dedicated to accountability, that’s good. If a man covers up sin, that isn’t.

Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

And I’d also direct people back to a column I wrote a while ago: the four things you need in a husband. One of those things: you must be able to pray with him. If you can pray about temptations with him, he’s likely a good guy. If you can’t pray with him, I’d tread very, very carefully.

What do the rest of you say? Have any of you had experience in this area? Let us know!

My book, The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, has a section on how to find healing after porn use, whether it was the guy who used porn or the girl. It looks like at how to experience real intimacy when making love, even if your view of sex has been distorted. There is hope!



The Pursuit of Cool Leaves One Lonely

Wanting to Be CoolWere you cool in high school? I wasn’t. I didn’t try to run with the popular crowd. I wasn’t interested in dating a ton of guys. I concentrated on school and my part-time jobs and just did my time until university.

But we all knew what “cool” was back then. It was kids who were trying to act older than they actually were, because people who were older had higher status. So kids who did “grown up” things like drink alcohol or sleep around were seen as cool, as long as they were also good-looking and semi-literate.

I don’t think cool has changed that much, and I don’t think Christians are immune to it. I think a lot of Christians are really trying to be sophisticated. Sure, they love God, and sure, they want to stay on the straight and narrow, but maybe our definition of “narrow” is too narrow. Maybe we need to be more “sophisticated”.

I was struck by this recently when looking at reviews on Amazon for the OTHER sex books that are out there. As most of you know, I recently wrote The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex. And one of the hardest chapters for me to write was the one on what is okay in a Christian marriage and what is not. Those who have been reading this blog for a long time already know my positions on things like sex toys or self-gratification or stretching the boundaries, but it’s still hard to write, because the Bible isn’t crystal clear. So I tried to find the spirit of the law: you do things that increase intimacy, not things that decrease intimacy. And things that stress only the physical side of sex, and never the spiritual connection, can really make our sex lives shallow.

I had thought that this was a fairly universal opinion, but in looking at the other books I was amazed at how many even recommended using erotica to help arousal. And these are Christians! Or how many other authors just simply ignored the whole “spiritual” intimacy aspect and only talked about the physical, because that’s supposed to be so much more sophisticated.

It’s not.

Then I also stumbled across Melissa Jenna’s post on “All The Good Ones Aren’t Taken“, written to single girls about how to attract a great Christian guy. And what she said really resonated with the same sort of thoughts. There’s a lot of pressure among everyone in the church, whether single or married, to have more “sophisticated” views when it comes to sex. Even if we don’t specifically say that premarital sex is okay, we somehow give the impression, “it’s not really so bad. Everyone’s doing it.”

And then all these women start watching Magic Mike or reading erotica because it’s all so grown up and sophisticated.

Okay, it may make you cool. It may make others think that you’re all grown up. And just like those authors found, it may even make you popular. But that’s not the route to true happiness.

Melissa addresses the single women who are falling for this objectification of sex in movies like Magic Mike, and says it’s no wonder they can’t find good Christian men. She explains:

If you allow an unworthy guy to define your value, do you know what your value will be? Zero. Nothing. Less than nothing. Disposable. And that’s exactly how I felt. And when you allow yourself to be treated as if you’re disposable, you begin to believe that you are disposable, so that when you do cross-paths with a really amazing, godly guy, you will not feel worthy of his affection. Not only that, but I’m convinced guys have a sixth-sense about this kind of thing; they can “smell” when a girl doesn’t value herself, and generally, they keep their distance. Like I said, the “good ones” are looking for the real-deal. Are you preparing yourself for that, or are you caught-up in pursuing guys who will ultimately treat you like you’re disposable?

Sophistication looks oh-so cool, but all it really means is that you’ve traded intimacy for what looks like easy popularity. You’ve gone along with the crowd, and you feel more mature and even more empowered, but really you’re heading in exactly the wrong direction. And whenever you find yourself traveling in the same direction as the crowd, chances are you’re involved in sin, not holiness. It’s really quite simple.

And her message, I think, applies to married women, too. If you trade intimacy for sophistication, which is what our culture is always trying to get us to do, you’re going to lose out on what is most precious.

Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Still 30% off at Amazon!

Yes, the physical side of sex is amazing, and yes, God made it to feel wonderful. Yes, we have incredible freedom in Christ. But as I’ve said so many times before, true intimacy doesn’t need latex and batteries. It doesn’t need pornography. It doesn’t need you to get aroused first by looking at something “sexy”. True intimacy focuses on your lover, not on something external. And that doesn’t mean that we’re sacrificing pleasure, either! In fact, the women who are most likely to reach orgasm are religious women who are married, the very ones least likely to do all of these things. It’s the relationship that makes the physical feel even better.

So if you’re single, don’t sell yourself short. The great guys are looking for the real deal; trying to be more “cool” or “sophisticated” isn’t the real deal. And if you’re married, don’t buy the lie that you’re somehow not enough, and you need all these extras. You don’t. I didn’t think this was controversial in Christian circles, but I guess it is, so let me say it loudly and clearly again: God made sex to be a beautifully intimate experience physically, and emotionally, and spiritually. If you neglect one, the others will never be as great.

Dear Young Christian Guys: Love Her Like a Man

An open letter to Christian teens living together before marriage: Hey, Guys, Love her like a Man!
As I speak around the country and talk to young people, one thing that really disturbs me is the cavalier attitude so many Christians have about living together before marriage. And I think of a few young men that I know in various geographical areas right now who are in this type of relationship.

Today I’d like to write an open letter to these young Christian guys–guys who may be involved in relationships that are heading down the wrong path. It is not that I think the girls have no part to play in the destructive relationship that they’ve developed, or that the girls shouldn’t make better choices. I’ve written to girls many times before about not sleeping together before they’re married, too. I would simply like to say something to the guys, because in several specific cases I’m thinking about, the guys are the stronger Christians, yet they’re still choosing to cohabitate. And here is what I’d like to say:

You guys know God.

I know that the church hasn’t always been kind and accepting of you the way you would want, and I know that people like me, who seem to have it all together, are part of the problem. I’m sorry for that.

I also know that you really love your girlfriends.

You’ve been searching for love, and you think you’ve found it. You’re with someone who makes you feel alive. You’re with someone who looks up to you, and that’s special, because you’ve often felt like everyone else wanted you to get your life together, but you’ve never really been able to do that.

I don’t doubt your love. I don’t doubt your sincerity.

But love is not only feelings.

And if you REALLY loved your girlfriend, then perhaps you’d consider these things:

She’s still young. She desperately, desperately yearns to be loved, probably even more than you do. Girls are like that, you know. They dream of their weddings. They dream of their Prince Charmings. And you come along and you make her feel loved.

But do you know what girls need even more?

They want to feel safe.

It is a scary world out there for a girl. And most girls will never really grow emotionally, and will never really mature, until they do feel safe. When they’re safe, they can look seriously at their options and decide what to do with their careers, or with kids, or with where they want to live. But when they’re not entirely safe, their emotional energy is spent trying to get safe.

And for them, you seem like the safest option.

But are you?

Safety means that you’re cherished. That you know that you’re loved for a lifetime. That you’re loved for who you are, not just for what you can give someone.

You may have given her those words, and she may have eaten them up.

But have you given her your actions?

If you truly love her, you will love her like a man does. And what does a man do? A man accepts responsibility. A man makes commitments. A man exercises self-control.

To me, that means that if you truly love her, you should be ready to commit to her. Marry the girl, for pity’s sake! And if you’re not in a position to marry her, then don’t say, “well, we can’t get married now, but that’s not our fault. So we’re married in our hearts, and we can act like we’re married anyway.”

No, you can’t. You’re taking the short cut. What kind of a man takes a short cut? If you’re not ready to get married right now, then you’re not married. Instead of just moving in with her and sleeping with her and treating her as if you’re married without actually promising her anything THROUGH YOUR ACTIONS (and not just your words), why don’t you put your energy into making yourself ready for marriage? Look for a good job. Upgrade your education. Work your hardest to be able to support her. That’s what she needs–safety. She needs to feel as if she has a safety net. Right now she’s clinging to you, because you’re living with her and you’re promising everything. But you’re not acting on those promises.

If you’re not married, then make yourself ready to get married.

And a man exercises self-control, too. I know it’s hard to wait for marriage to have sex, and I know you likely feel there’s no point now, since you’ve already slept with her anyway. But here’s what you’ve told her through your actions:

I like being with you, and I like sleeping with you.

That’s really it. How have you shown her that you love her? Moving in with her simply shows her that you like being with her, and that you enjoy sleeping with her on a regular basis, and you’d like to make that more convenient. So once again, you’re showing her that you love her for what she can do for you, not just for her.

If you really loved her, you would move out. You would stop sleeping with her and show her that you love her just for her. So many girls are broken inside because of what has been done to them in the past. Their fathers have walked out. They haven’t had stable childhoods. They haven’t had unconditional love. And so they’ll grasp at anything that looks like love. If you really love her, demonstrate real love.

Stop sleeping with her and get yourself ready to support her.

Because if you love her, and you want to be with her forever, then you should also want to get that relationship off on the right foot. And if you live with her first, you’re 70% more likely to divorce after you marry. Get yourself sorted out first, and the relationship is far more likely to succeed.

I know you feel all kinds of things for her. But please, step outside of yourself for a moment and ask yourself this,

what is best for her?”

If you really love her, you’ll be honest. And you know that what is best for her is if she is in a stable relationship with someone who can show that he loves her unconditionally and is prepared to look after her. With the way you are acting right now, you are really showing the exact opposite, no matter what she may say.

She’s afraid of losing you. You’re afraid of losing her. You want to feel close and cement the relationship, which is why you chose to sleep together in the first place. But you’re not assuaging any fears; you’re just clinging to the relationship without building it up.

Can you imagine what a transformational thing it would be in her life if you were to say to her,

I love you so much. In fact, I love you so much that I am going to treat you like a lady. I’m going to get myself ready to support you. I’m going to aim to commit to you for life. I’m going to not demand that you fulfill my sexual needs, but I’m going to wait for that until we’re both more mature and ready to handle it.”

She may not take that well, because she’s likely afraid, at heart, that if she stops sleeping with you she’ll lose the hold she has over you. And she probably enjoys sleeping with you, too! But honestly, if you keep with her over the next few months, spending time with her, talking with her, showing her that you’re interested in HER and not just her body, you’ll see a change in her. She’ll become more confident. She’ll become less self-destructive. She’ll become a better person. Isn’t that what you want for her?

There is a reason God tells us to wait for marriage. God wants the best for us, and God wants us to experience real love, not conditional love.

You want this relationship to work? You love her?

Then step up to the plate and love her like a man.

UPDATE: A commenter pointed out that I missed a huge point: how about REPENT BEFORE GOD? So true. The reason I left it out is because that’s ALL many of these guys have heard: what you’re doing is wrong, and you need to turn away from it because it’s sin. I completely agree, but that message hasn’t touched their hearts. So I’m trying this one instead. But I still should have mentioned it, because it absolutely is true!