Helping our Daughters Navigate Through a Sexually Aggressive Culture

Today please welcome Sarah Ball, aka The Virtuous Woman Exposed, as she shares about how to help protect and teach our daughters in a sexually aggressive culture.

Sexually Aggressive CultureMy husband was shocked to hear from me that from the age of 13 -19, I had never had a job where I wasn’t sexually harassed by a male boss or coworker.

It was to be expected as a young teenaged waitress, for my boss to ‘brush’ past me, pushing his crotch against me, as I stood collecting food from the back. It was the running joke for him to make a comment about how perky my breasts were, and if he could check out for himself if they were real. It was even more common for old male customers to invite me back to their place, or for a drunken man to try and put a tip down my shirt. I wasn’t a waitress at a strip club if that’s what you’re thinking; I was working at a small town golf course, midday, every Sunday afternoon, and I thought it was normal, so I giggled.

It was not uncommon in high school either, for me to receive sexually implied comments from male teachers, or for another male student to pinch, grab or whistle as I walked down the hall to class.

As a college student, my friends and I had to be extra cautious at parties, making vows to not let any of us go off alone with anyone we didn’t know. This caution was before the date rape drug was mainstream. It still didn’t prevent some young college girls from being raped, or if they drank too much, sexually assaulted while they were passed out, which in my opinion is rape. This was not shocking news to us. It didn’t set off alarms and cause us to storm the campus, because it was normal to us. It was an expected part of college culture in Canada.

I was sexually abused at the age of 12 by a friend of the family, and at the age of 19 I ran out of a room seconds away from being date raped.

I have never not known sexual exploitation, and it’s not my fault.

We think we are so progressive as a culture, and we think we are getting this female exploitation theme beaten, but we are not.  We live in a culture that is so twisted in their thinking. Posts go viral on social media of women of all colors; shapes and sizes posing in their underwear, in the attempts to say all women are sexy and of value. Then, the next viral video is a post blaring outrage that women aren’t being taken seriously by the universities they were raped in. We are a culture of mixed messages, trying desperate to find a solution to our sexually aggressive culture, and failing miserably.

Even Christian culture is making it worse.

We are told to shelter our kids from the world and shove purity messages at them.  So we avoid talking about sex with our daughters, instead we just shelter them from movies and stories that reveal any sexual theme, and we call it a great day in the parenting world.

These approaches will not protect your daughter from a culture that paints its walls with sexuality–walls your daughter is eventually going to live under without you.

What we need is a reality check and a never-ending conversation with our daughter about it.

Ask my teen-aged daughter, who works at a fast food restaurant. She has been raised to stay a virgin until she is married and to avoid watching shows that are above a PG rating. My husband annoys the heck out of her, as he frequently bursts out into song “be careful little eyes what you see.”

I send her back to her room to change several mornings a week, and Modesty is Hotesty is a song on our family playlist (yes, that is actually a song!) Yet, my daughter, at age 15, shows up to work in the most unattractive; button-upped, mustard yellow, starched, stained, short sleeved, burger attire, and she still receives countless offers for sex by creepy customers and comments on her looks. She’s not flirting and she is not dressed immodestly. She is merely being a young woman, with a beautiful smile in a sexually aggressive culture.

So what do I mean by a sexually aggressive culture?  These recent Canadian statistics should share some light. According to The Justice Institute of British Columbia, these statistics will have us hiding our daughters under a rock.

One out of every 17 Canadian women is raped at some point in her life

A woman is sexually assaulted by forced intercourse every 17 minutes in Canada

Girls and young women between the ages of 15-24 are the most likely victims

80% of assaults happen in the victim’s home

70% of rapes are committed by a perpetrator who knows the victims (relative, friend, neighbor, colleague, or other acquaintance)

Approximately one half of all rapes occur on dates

62% of victims are physically injured in the attack; 9% are beaten severely or disfigured

Statistics Canada has found that one in four girls and one in eight boys have been sexually abused by the time they are eighteen.

 Source : www.assultcare.ca

Pause for a sobering moment.

I am not writing this to be a dooms-day prophet, but I am writing this to say, it’s not enough to talk to our daughters about virginity and shelter them from the media. One day our daughters will be university students, professionals, and young mothers, and we need to prepare them for a sexually aggressive culture without shaming sex, scaring them, and making them prudes.

This is one tough topic parents, and we need God’s wisdom to navigate them through it and I am so thankful that we have voices like Sheila’s who are initiating this conversation.

So where do we begin? How do we teach our daughters to love sex, to embrace their sexiness for their husbands, feel no shame, guard their hearts, and protect themselves from assault or harassment?

Let your daughters have an attitude!

I want my daughter to walk around confident, knowing she is carrying a treasure inside of her, proud of who she is and sassy. I want her to spit in the face of a man who tries to exploit her, not giggle shyly in embarrassment like I did.  I want her to be street-wise, knowing she has to be smart, and cautious, because she has a treasure hidden. There are a lot of pirates out there who will sail any sea to get it.

I want her to think boys are cute, and smile and giggle at the one she REALLY thinks is cute, and I want her to experience love. I want her to be able to pick out a good man from a line up of rats. I want her to marry that good man, and be a sexual goddess for him.

I don’t want my daughter to be a man-hater, be mistrusting or paranoid. I want her to respect men in authority, but respect herself more. I recently asked my daughter what she thought of the biblical teaching that husband’s should have authority over their wives. She responded – “I think God meant that he wants husbands to protect their wives, and you can’t have someone protect you if they don’t have authority over you.”  I love her point of view!

This is a big, tall order I am asking God for–and this is not a “sit down” and have ‘the talk’ kind of teaching. This is a lifetime of discussion and relationship we have to continually have with our daughters and our sons!

This is you, Mom, having the courage to reach into the skeletons of your past and share them, at an appropriate age, with your daughter. This is about dads, stepping up to be the 1st example of a GOOD MAN, and setting her bar high. This is about us as parents, allowing our daughters to feel safe enough to talk to us about anything. You don’t overreact, and scramble to find the chastity belt, you talk to her, you love her and you walk with her.

If it’s too late, and your daughter has already fit into the statistics, I want to tell you that I am so sorry. I also want to tell you there is hope.

I stood, face to face with my sexual abuser, under oath, 15 years after I was victimized. My eyes were blurry with tears, my hands shaking in fear. I was in immense pain, but I had a loving husband, waiting in the gallery to console me, treasure me and pour purity back into my heart with his love and respect for me.

 I also have a God who puts his arm around me, drawing a line in the sand with his hand against a culture that wants to stone me.  Hagar, Sarah’s bondwoman, – which you can read more on here – was sexually exploited, the woman who washed Jesus’s feet with her tears who was labeled a slut, and even King David’s daughter was raped by her own brother. This is not a new issue.

God always defended these precious women, pursued them and pursued justice. Jesus came to pour hope, value and purity back into a shamed culture, and we must look to him for healing.

So tonight, before your daughter goes to bed, give her a big hug, tell her how precious she is, show her how to drop kick a pirate and pray for her, a lot.

 

Sarah BallSarah Ball is the blogger behind Virtuous Woman Exposed, a columnist, freelance writer and mother of 5 children ages 4-15 and she’s exhausted just writing that. Her passion is to see women set free from shame, fear and bondage. She wants you to know that you can hold your head up high knowing they you are a precious daughter of God.  You can visit her blog at http://www.virtuouswomanexposed.com and you can follow her on FACEBOOK & TWITTER

 

 

Do We Need to Stop Using the Term Virgin?

Do We Need to Stop Using the Term Virgin“If you get raped, does that mean you’re not a virgin anymore?”

That was one of the anonymous questions asked at a small group my 17-year-old daughter was a part of this summer. The adults leading the discussion hemmed and hawed, saying technically, they guessed, you weren’t a virgin.

My daughter, worried that one of the girls in this group had actually gone through this and was in agony, piped up. “It’s not the physical that’s important to God. It’s the heart. And God looks at the heart, and He can heal you and still give you a wonderful pure marriage.”

She’s heard me talk about this a lot around the table, and she’s quite passionate about it.

But this was one of a string of things that I’ve heard of lately that make me think that we need to change the way we talk about sex. This is the last of a 3-part series I’ve written on how I wish Christians could reframe the way we talk about modesty and purity. Today I want to talk about purity, the word “virgin”, and how we’re emphasizing the wrong thing. Unfortunately, for this conundrum I don’t have a clear answer; I just see the problem. I hope, after reading this, that you all can help brainstorm with me and find a new way to talk about purity instead of emphasizing virginity.

So let’s start with first principles:

God made sex to be a beautiful, wonderful thing.

It is also meant to be experienced within marriage. It’s also only in marriage that sex can reach its full potential, because sex is supposed to be intimate not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. You can’t feel “like one” if there is no commitment. So sex is supposed to be beautiful and passionate, and marriage was created to be the environment for that passion.

I hope that’s clear–God does want us to wait for marriage for sex. Absolutely no doubt about that. And He wants us to do so for very good reasons. That’s why we say that God wants us to stay virgins until we’re married. However, I’m not sure that saying “God wants you to be a virgin when you’re married” always gives the right message. Here’s why:

1. You Can Be “Impure” and Still Be a Virgin

When we stress virginity as the sign of acceptance by God and the church and obedience to God, then we inadvertently say that “anything up to that point goes”. Of course, no youth pastor or parent would say that’s their message, but it is one some young people hear. One friend of mine, now 45, told me that he was 22 years old before he realized that heavy petting was actually not okay.

We need to talk not only about sex but about everything sexual. If all we ever say about sex is “don’t have sex until you’re married”, then you haven’t explained why purity isn’t about making sure that you’re a technical virgin; purity is an attitude of the heart. And you haven’t talked about the fact that other things can be sexual as well, and should be saved until marriage. We simply need to open lines of communication.

2. You Can Be Pure and Not Be a Virgin

In the surveys that I did leading up to the launch of my book The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, I asked people about their sexual experience before marriage. Then I left a box where people could write anything they wanted to say. I didn’t prompt them, but over 35% of women who weren’t virgins when they were married volunteered that they wished that they had waited. It really wore on them.

I so want to say to these women that God’s healing is available to them. You are not the sum of what you have done with your body; your identity is about what Jesus did with His body for you. And God takes our filthy rags and makes them new. He restores!

If you look back at the Gentile New Testament church, it was filled with people who were mostly NOT virgins when they were married. The Jewish culture protected chastity, but the Roman culture did not. When Paul was saying things like this, in Ephesians 2:1-5:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesha and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

When he said that the people in Ephesus had “gratified the cravings of our flesh and followed its desires and thoughts” he meant it. Ephesus was a haven for temple prostitution. We think we live in a sexual culture, but so did they! These early Christians had quite the background, but they also were so grateful that Jesus had made them pure.

Because everyone in those days came to Christ as an adult, after they had messed up earlier, they could celebrate Jesus’ forgiveness perhaps easier than we do because most of  us were raised in the church and then messed up. And so we carry great shame. Maybe we need to identify more with these Ephesian Christians and stop beating ourselves up, but be grateful for what Christ has done for us!

3. Stressing virginity makes it sound like once you’ve failed, there’s no point in even trying anymore.

A few weeks ago a friend of mine in the military, who had been transferred to another base, crashed at my house for a few days with his wife and 21-year-old daughter as they were moving across Canada. During one of our conversations (don’t you love catching up with old friends?), my friend told me about one of her daughter’s friends who wasn’t a Christian. That girl had decided that she wanted to be a virgin when she was married all on her own, which is great.

But then one day she and her boyfriend got carried away and her virginity was gone.

She realized that she had lost her dream–to wait until her wedding–and so now there was no point. The horse has left the gate. You can’t close that door now.

I wonder how many people, both inside and outside the church, feel that same way. They want sex to be special and to be saved, but then if they mess up, they figure there’s no point in trying to reclaim any kind of boundaries, because you’ve already completely blown it.

When we stress virginity, then once it’s gone, it’s gone.

4. Stressing virginity makes purity legalistic

And that’s essentially my problem. Talking about virginity makes the issue a physical one, not a heart one.

God cares about the heart, not the hymen.

Of course, for our own sakes and for the sake of righteousness He wants us to wait until we’re married. But what He wants even more than that is people coming to Him with a pure and eager heart for a real relationship with Him. He looks to the heart (purity) not to outward appearances (the hymen). And you can have purity when you come back to God.

Listen, I still want my girls to be virgins when they’re married. Absolutely. But I just wonder if by using that word we’re stressing the wrong thing.

I really and truly don’t have an answer for this one. I would prefer to stress purity over virginity, but I’m not sure that’s a good answer, because “purity” has a bad ring to it in the wider culture, too. It sounds judgmental (though I don’t mean it that way. Our purity, after all, is not from our behaviour. It’s from what Christ has done for us).

I know this has been a heavy week. I’ve talked about how the modesty message can mess up women’s body image, and how the purity culture (the one that says that you can’t do anything other than hold hands before you’re married) can mess up our view of sex. And now I’m talking about how perhaps the word virgin is being used wrongly. I don’t mean to criticize the church, and I also don’t mean to demean modesty, purity, or virginity–all of which are important.

I just want to make sure that we’re stressing heart things and we’re pointing to sex the way that God intended. I think the time has come to have this discussion–with your youth pastor, with teens you know, with engaged couples–and start to reframe things.

As part of that discussion, then, let me ask you: how would you handle the virginity/purity issue? How would you frame it? Let’s talk! Just leave a comment below.

Good Girls Guide My SiteIf you’re struggling with understanding sex and not being ashamed of it, please take a look at my book, The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex. It’s a fun book, and it explains in detail how God made sex to be intimate emotionally, spiritually, and physically. I think you’ll find it really helpful in dispelling some of the negative things you were taught!

 

Other Posts in The Healthy Sexuality Series:

Does the Modesty Culture Make Women Ashamed of Their Bodies?
Does the Christian Purity Message Make Women Ashamed of Sex?

Is The Purity Message Making Women Ashamed of Sex?

Does the purity culture movement make women ashamed of sex? How to reframe our message to encourage healthy sexuality!Yesterday I was talking about how our Christian modesty message can make women ashamed of their bodies, and pleaded for reframing our message: let’s point to God, not make rules.

Today I want to talk about how the purity culture message can leave women ashamed of sex.

To reiterate, I absolutely believe that sex is meant for marriage. I do believe that we should wait for marriage for sex–not only because God tells us to, but also because when we have sex before we’re married, we make sex into something only physical, and we miss out on the spiritual and emotional intimacy we’re supposed to have.

Yet I fear that by stressing to young women, “you must never ever think about sex or you’ll be lusting,” and “if you so much as touch a boy or kiss a boy before you’re married you’ll end up in bed together, so you shouldn’t have any physical contact”, then we inadvertently make women scared of sex. This isn’t universal; some women can grow up with that message and be just fine. But not all.

And so today, rather than arguing the point myself, I’d like to share with you two different emails I’ve had from readers, and then follow up with my own thoughts. This first email came from a woman after she read my post about how the purity culture can go overboard.

I’m 21 and I’ve been married two years. Two nights ago my husband and I FINALLY had REAL sex. Our wedding night was a disaster, and a trip to the doctor’s office revealed that I had vaginismus, a condition that makes sex impossible because my brain tells my PC muscles to clinch together. I’ve struggled with this for two years, as I’ve felt like a bad wife. I wanted to have sex by our second anniversary, and, by completing a program my doctor gave me, I can now buy and enjoy your 31 Days of Great Sex book!!

Anyway, the biggest struggle I’ve had through the last two years is trying to figure out WHY I have this issue. I’ve had a GREAT life with a wonderful upbringing, but apparently I was harboring sexual shame. I was not properly educated, and, growing up in the church, I remember  how guilty my youth pastor made me feel just for having a boyfriend. Though I never had sex, I struggled with setting boundaries sexual, and now I’ve paid the price for the Christian’s obsession with how “evil” sex is.

Here’s another story from a woman who wrote to me after I asked for stories about sexual shame. She was active in a very conservative homeschool community. She’s now engaged. She writes:

I grew up saving my first kiss, planning to only have a quick hug at engagement and then only hold hands until my wedding day. I never planned to be alone with a guy. I learned to shutdown if I ever felt any bit of sexual attraction or sexual feel good emotions/hormones. I didn’t know how my body would work when I felt attraction and my sex knowledge was very limited. I didn’t even know all of my own body parts.

Because of my lack of education on sex, sexuality and the way my body would response I was sure that if I was alone with a guy it would lead to kissing and that kissing would easily lead to all of my clothes laying on the floor within about 15 seconds. It would be like standing on the edge of a cliff. Once you stepped off, even if it was a small step, there would be no going back. You would lose control, be unable to make rational decisions and fall into deep sin.

The first time I had a “real hug” from a guy I liked (he squeezed me, then put his arm round my shoulder and massaged my hand) put my body into shock for about three days. I felt overstimulated and my brain didn’t know how to respond. I was amazed that I was still in control and could still make choices not to have sex but I also realized that because I had learned to shut off any sexual attraction that I could barley enjoy the good feeling let alone reciprocate.

I began to realize that if I went from training my brain to be essentially asexual, rejecting my sexuality until my wedding night, it wouldn’t just turn on and work like it was supposed to. If a hug sent me into a three day shock what would it be like on my honeymoon?!

My amazing fiance never pressured me to do anything I didn’t want to do. We have abstained from sex and will continue to until we’re married. He always asks before we try something “new” and always respects my choice. That being said we talked and felt that it was wise for us to get to know each other a little bit physically so I would deal with my fear of sex. We would still be considered “conservative” in our physical interaction but he began initiating little things like hugging me close, touching my hair, rubbing my back etc. Each of these things were introduced slowly and he always gave with the intent of bringing me happiness and not expecting anything in return.

For each new thing I initially could not reciprocate because I had to focus so much on letting it feel good and not shutting down pleasure. I had quite a learning curve, I felt and sometimes still feel shocked by simple new things. I felt like I should be naturally responding but that I was held back because I had repressed these feelings for so long (by the way I am 22). I was very surprised at the way my body did respond to feeling good… physical and hormonal changes that are natural when there is a combination of touch and attraction. I was also amazed at the fact that I was still in control and that neither of us HAD to have sex right then like I had always been led to believe.

I am so thankful to my wonderful fiance. He always gives without expecting a return. He was/is so patient with me, letting me talk through my issues and insecurities. Truly my sexual health is a priority to him over his own enjoyment.

I think each couple needs to talk about their own physical standards and these may change some as your relationship does but I would encourage a serious couple to get to know each other at least a little bit physically. Are there wise boundaries? Yes! But sexual attraction is NOT bad. Feeling good is NOT bad. Enjoying each other is NOT bad. Not all physical interaction is sexual and not all sexual interaction (like kissing) is sex. We are sexual beings… and that’s ok.

I appreciate her sharing her story, and I want to leave a few thoughts:

1. Physical contact does not necessarily lead to sex.

I have had so many emails from women saying, “I thought that if we kissed the clothes would immediately fall off and we’d be unable to control ourselves. So I was scared to kiss him. But actually, that didn’t happen at all. We could totally control ourselves.”

When we tell young people that any physical contact leads to sex, we tell them that their bodies can’t be controlled by their minds or their wills. Their bodies become the enemy. And that makes women especially disconnect from their bodies–seeing them as evil, and not wanting to let their bodies feel anything. That does not go away just because you put a ring on your finger.

2. Some physical contact can be a good thing.

Affection is natural. To deny any kind of physical contact makes your body seem somehow evil, and makes us concentrate so much on avoiding any stimulation that it’s hard to reverse that.

I am not saying that physical contact is necessary in a relationship. Not at all. If a couple decides they want to save their first kiss until marriage, that is totally their prerogative, and that can work very well for some people. The Duggars live by that philosophy and are very vocal about it.

The problem is that not everyone emerges from that kind of purity culture whole. Some may, but others end up deeply shamed. We need to be very careful that we are not legalistic about this, telling people that kissing or hugging or holding hands is somehow evil. It isn’t. The Bible says sex outside of marriage is wrong, but kissing is not sex, and kissing does not necessarily lead to sex. It didn’t for me, it didn’t for my friends who dated and married the same time we did, and it didn’t for our parents and grandparents (most of whom kissed before marriage, too). Even Laura Ingalls kissed before she was married!

3. When we teach women to avoid sex at all costs, then marriage can seem like rape.

I think this gets to the heart of vaginismus. If you’ve been taught to avoid sex always–that it is bad, and that it is wrong to feel turned on, then what happens when you’re married and suddenly you don’t have a choice? Now, obviously all women still have choice, and for a man to demand sex when she doesn’t want it is wrong, and to take it when she says no is rape, even if they are married.

But even if he doesn’t force her–even if he’s as gentle as a kitten and is kissing her and trying to warm her up–she can still feel these conflicting, scary emotions: “sex is bad, and yet now I have to do it. It’s expected of me.” That tension can cause her body to refuse. She’s not consciously refusing; but it is affecting her nonetheless. Even if it’s not vaginismus, she can find it virtually impossible to be excited, because she feels so out of control in an area of her life where she has always been told she has to have complete control.

How We Can Reframe Our Purity Message

If I could reframe our message, I would talk less about why sexual feelings need to be avoided, and more about why they’re natural, and how to channel them elsewhere. I would talk about intimacy, and how it’s best in marriage, rather than saying “no sex until marriage”. I would talk less about setting up specific, rules-based boundaries, and more about how sexual feelings will be inevitable and good when you love someone–and here’s how to pursue God together to make sure those feelings don’t take over. I’d try to say something like this:

God made sex to be an awesome way to bind you and your husband together. It’s amazing physically, but it’s also incredibly intimate emotionally and spiritually, too. And it’s that intimacy we were made for–we feel it intensely physically, but we were also created with hormones that actually “bond” to the other person when we make love. It’s supposed to make you feel super close to one person.

Billions of people have had sex, but not all of them have made love, because the two are not necessarily the same thing. And if you want to truly make love, you need to save it for marriage, because that’s what God intended, and that’s what He promises you. You’re going to feel a real physical drive for sex, and that’s perfectly fine, because it’s a reminder to you about the real intimacy you yearn for. Don’t worry if you have that drive; ultimately it’s a good thing. Just ask God to help you channel that drive elsewhere until you’re married because then you’ll be able to experience sex the way it was intended.

That drive is really intense, though, so be careful to create some boundaries so you can stay pure. But it’s okay to be attracted to someone. It’s natural. It’s part of being a woman/man. And one day you’ll find someone that you can share with completely. And believe me, it is worth the wait.

I hope I’d say it a little better, and maybe some of you have something you’d like to add. But I think telling young people: don’t have sex, don’t even think about sex, sex is bad, isn’t a good message, because how are they automatically supposed to flip that switch once they’re married?

There’s one other aspect of the purity message I’d like to look at tomorrow, and that’s the way we talk about virginity. But for today, I’d like to know: did the purity culture make you ashamed of sex? What are you planning on telling your kids so that they can have a positive view of sex, while maintaining their desire for purity? Let me know in the comments!

Good Girls Guide My SiteIf you’re struggling with understanding sex and not being ashamed of it, please take a look at my book, The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex. It’s a fun book, and it explains in detail how God made sex to be intimate emotionally, spiritually, and physically. I think you’ll find it really helpful in dispelling some of the negative things you were taught!

 

Other Posts in The Healthy Sexuality Series:

Does the Modesty Culture Make Women Ashamed of Their Bodies?
Do We Need to Stop Using the Term Virgin?

Guard Their Hearts

Next Tuesday I’m starting a series on this blog that I’m so excited about–how we need to start reframing how we teach kids about sex, and how we need to watch the messages we’re inadvertently giving about sex. To get ready for that series, I thought I’d rerun this column from a few years ago on why we need to teach kids to guard their hearts. Too often sex ed is just about guarding their bodies, but it’s the heart that can really hurt.

Guard their heartsThis column was originally written for a secular audience.

When parents contemplate their teens having sex, pregnancy and disease aren’t the first things that come to mind. Instead, it’s panic, the mere thought causing us to jump into bed and pull the covers over our heads. In more rational moments we may work through these feelings so we can talk to our kids, but our first response doesn’t tend to be terror at the possibility of disease—it’s terror at the possibility of the act itself.

Most parents would prefer, to put it mildly, that their teens not have sex.

If they do, then somebody is going to know them in certain ways even more intimately than we do. But that intimacy, in the context of what is probably a fleeting teenage relationship, seems just plain wrong. After all, sex is so much more than just a physical act; it’s intrinsically connected with our psyches. Whether we intend it to or not, it forms a bond between two people, and using it cavalierly can be damaging.

The Redbook survey of 100,000 women showed this dramatically. It found that women who had been sexually active at 15 were far less likely to have happy marriages and satisfying sex lives later in life than those who had waited. In the wrong context, then, sex can shatter our spirits, and give us sexual baggage that will affect future relationships.

As columnist Rebecca Hagelin has said, there is no condom for your heart.

There is no way to protect yourself when you’ve given your body and your soul to someone and they’ve rejected you. It’s little wonder that up to two-thirds of sexually active teens regret not waiting for this very reason. These same teens are also more likely to be depressed and suicidal that their inexperienced peers.

Yet we have a difficult time articulating this to our children in part, I think, because we’ve been told that sexual experimentation cannot and should not be interfered with. If we tell our teens to say no, we may inadvertently teach them there’s something shameful about sex.

This reminds me of a story a male teacher friend once relayed to me. A 14-year-old girl asked him privately if she should have sex with her boyfriend. The teacher asked, “what did your parents say?”. She replied, “that I should do what I think is best.” He quickly extricated himself from this compromising situation, but here’s what he was thinking. If she had wanted to have sex, she would have done so. She would not have asked her parents, and she would not have asked him. She was looking for a responsible adult to tell her it was okay to say no. Instead, everyone was telling her they expected her to say yes, even though deep inside she didn’t want to.

When we give kids the “safe sex” message, we’re essentially saying, “we know you’re going to do it anyway, so use a condom”.

We give kids the impression that the pull for sex can’t be resisted, so everybody must be doing it.

Even adults I respect expect me to say yes! I’d have to be a freak to say no.

Yet it’s a myth that teenagers aren’t able to wait. Our grandparents’ generation largely waited until the wedding night. We may believe that older people never fought these hormonal urges, but I bet the senior citizens out there could tell us a different story.

Counselling teens to wait isn’t teaching them to be ashamed of sex; it’s teaching them to give it the honour and importance that it deserves.

It’s elevating making love, not maligning it. After all, little in life will have more long-term physical, emotional and spiritual consequences than what you do with your body. It may be uncomfortable to talk about such things with teens, but we need to try. We can’t control our children, but we can make it more likely that they’ll choose a certain path. Remember, that path is better. It is more fulfilling. And our kids deserve to have us point the way.

Best of Reality Check

Enjoy this column?

Every Friday I send out my weekly blog roundup--with my Friday opinion piece--and lots that happened on Facebook and Pinterest, too. Don't have time to read the blog everyday? Get the Roundup!

And when you sign up, you'll also receive my FREE ebook The Best of Reality Check, with my 20 favourite columns from my 12 years of writing.

Sign up here!

 

Top 10 Reasons for Marrying Young

Top 10 Reasons Marrying Young Can Actually be Good--for You and for Society

Our society frowns on marrying young. We want people to be established, be educated, and play the field first.

Personally, I think marrying young can be a very good thing. Tonight my daughters and I will attend the wedding of a 19-year-old woman named Emma. She’s a sweetie, and she’s so happy, and I’m excited for her.

So I thought I’d write about the pros of marrying young. But first, a few caveats:

I do not believe that everyone should marry young.

In fact, in many cases young marriage doesn’t work. If the couple really is not very mature, they could be making a very bad decision. I get nervous when a 19-year-old chooses to marry who hasn’t really seen the world much or expanded their social circle at all. If all they know is a very small corner of the world, they may not know themselves very well yet.

Finally, many young people marry to escape. They want to feel grown up, and they want to get on with their lives, and marriage seems the easiest course.

In almost all these cases, these young marriages will not be good ones.

I’m also fully aware that many people will not meet anyone suitable to marry until they are a little older. I have a good friend who married for the first time at 42 a few years ago. She would have loved to marry earlier, but her love didn’t show up until she was older. I in no way mean to shame people who have not married young. I know often being single older is not by choice. I have frequently told my daughters that while I firmly believe they will marry, no one knows when that will be, and they need to work at being comfortable on their own and with God instead of thinking their lives are only complete once they are married.

Nevertheless, none of that means that young marriages can’t work, and so here are 10 reasons why I think marrying young should come back into vogue. We’ll start with the benefits to society, and then look at the benefits for the couple themselves:

Top TenWhy Marrying Young is Good for Society

1. Drifting Through One’s Twenties Can Waste a Key Decade

When people expect that they’ll marry at thirty (the average age for first marriages is now at around 27 for women), then they tend to see their twenties as their time to explore, not their time to settle down. Everything gets delayed. You can spend a few years experimenting with different careers (or lack thereof), or traveling with no purpose, or hopping from relationship to relationship. As I talked about last week, though, your twenties are an important decade financially. If you can start saving then, you really set yourself up well for life.

And the earlier people start saving and maturing, the better off and more productive society is.

2. Having Babies Younger is Better for Society

Physically, the best years to have babies is in your early twenties. Yet few people are married or ready today at that point, largely because we have extended adolescence so far. While most people had babies young fifty years ago, today having one’s first baby after age 30 is the norm in many circles.

Yet while socially we’ve changed, physically we haven’t. And as fertility rates drop, perhaps it would be better for society to prioritize maturing younger rather than prolonging the years when you “find yourself”, especially since those years really are so valuable.

Why Marrying Young Can Be Good For You

3. You “Grow Up” Together

When you marry at 20 or 21, you haven’t always figured out what you want in a house, or how you want to organize a kitchen, or how you want to pay your bills. You don’t know what you want in a church or where you want to live. But you can grow up and make those decisions together, and it’s kinda fun!

When Keith and I married at 21 we had no idea about how we wanted to spend vacations or what kind of house we wanted, let alone how we wanted to do housework. We just figured it out ourselves. And because we hadn’t had our own routines for so many of these things, it wasn’t hard to merge.

4. It’s Easier to Merge Two Homes when There’s Not Much To Them

Imagine you’ve been doing your finances on Quicken on the computer for ten years, and then you marry someone who keeps all receipts in shoe boxes. That’s tough to find a new way of doing it, when you’re both so set in your ways.

Imagine you’ve had ten years since you moved out of your parents place to set your own traditions for Christmas and Thanksgiving. Now you have to do it all over again, when you’re emotionally wedded to the things you’ve already done.

It’s just tricky to merge two households. It’s easier to start off together.

5. You Can Be a Younger Parent

I remember being 27 years old and having one toddler on my back and one baby on my front and getting on the Toronto subway for 45 minutes, with 2 transfers, to get to the zoo, where I spent 6 hours with the kids, only to reverse the whole process.

There is no way I would have had the same energy to do that if I were 37 instead.

And here’s the thing: so many people say, “I want to travel before I settle down! I want to see the world!” But my youngest will be leaving home next year when I’m just 45. (I’m still tearing up at that a little, by the way). Keith and I are going to do some major traveling! We’re going to buy an RV and start seeing the world, little bits at a time. We’re heading to Australia for a conference. It’ll be wonderful (and hopefully take my mind off of my kids being gone). We’re still young, we’re still energetic, but best of all, we have some money now. We didn’t have any in our twenties. We can travel way more now than we could have then.

6. You Can Be a Younger Grandparent

I think a lot of people forget this one: my mom became a grandma at 51. She was so energetic with my girls. She’s 71 now, and she’s still active, but the girls have such strong memories of her being much younger. They remember when she was still a career woman. They remember her doing really fun trips with them. They will always have very clear memories of her.

On the other hand, my grandparents were 62 when I was born. While I have great memories of one of my grandparents, my maternal grandfather had a massive stroke at 64. He was a really strong, active man, yet I only remember him in a wheelchair with impaired judgment. My maternal grandmother, apparently, was just like me. She was opinionated, extroverted, and great at public speaking. Yet most of my memories of her are post-dementia.

My mom has many friends her age who are just becoming grandparents now. I actually hope my girls have kids young, because I’m looking forward to piling grandchildren in our RV and taking them around North America.

7. You Resist Temptation

If you’re with a guy you totally love when you’re 21, and your parents say, “you have to wait until you’re 25 and that graduate degree is finished before you marry”, how in the world are you supposed to resist the temptation to have sex? Sure it’s possible, but it’s awfully hard.

When you love someone and feel close, you’re going to want to make love. It’s natural. Physiologically for men especially, the sex drive is highest from 18-25. It’s really, really hard to wait, and when I hear Christian parents saying, “I hope my son doesn’t marry until he’s done med school and residency when he’s 27″, I wonder what they’re thinking, frankly. Walking down the aisle to meet the only one you will ever make love to is such a beautiful thing and a gift. But if we start telling hormonally charged teens that they have to wait 15 years post-puberty to get married–fewer will wait for marriage for sex.

8. You Avoid a Lot of Heartache

If people married young, perhaps we’d have fewer “exes” and fewer regrets. So much of the problem in marriages is caused by past baggage. If we put the expectation on kids that “it’s fine to get married at 21″ rather than “you had better not get married until you finish your degree and you have a good job”, then people would treat relationships at 20 more seriously. They wouldn’t think, “this can’t go anywhere, so let’s just have fun!” Often that “fun” ends up causing a lot of tears.

9. You Can Focus Your Goals Earlier

Once you’re married, you can start making real plans. Where do we want to be in 5 years? In 10 years? When do we want to buy a house? What education do we need? Where do we want to live? Certainly you can do those things when you’re single, but it’s often tricky since you don’t know where life is going to take you. Once you’re married, you can nail these things down. And if you do marry at 22, then you will start thinking about buying a house. If you don’t marry until 28, you’re often not worried about buying a home at all, and so you rent for years.

Case for MarriageResearchers have found that marriage boosts one’s income and one’s net worth, all on its own, even controlling for class, race, and education. Being married makes people hunker down and treat life more seriously. And that’s good, because it means that ultimately you’ll be financially better off.

10. You Have Decades and Decades Together

I am so looking forward to growing old with my husband, but I am also looking forward to years and years of having fun together before we do get old. He is my best friend. He is my lover. He is my favourite person in the world. I am so blessed to be able to be with him, and I am so blessed that we do have all these years together. Why would you not want as many years as you could with the man that you choose?

Again, I know that not everyone will meet their marriage partner young, and that’s okay. There’s nothing inherently wrong with marrying later.

My problem is that we’ve started to see marrying young as inherently wrong, and I think young marriage actually has a lot of benefits–probably even more than later marriages.

My dream would be a society that focused on helping teens mature faster so that they would be ready to marry younger again. I personally think that would be a healthier society overall.

So I’d encourage all of us who are parents to stop hoping our children marry later, and start preparing them to launch into life younger. It’s okay to marry in college. It’s okay to marry in your early twenties–as long as you’re sure of your faith, you’re sure of yourself, and you’re sure of your relationship.

What do you think? I’d love to hear!

UPDATE: Oh, my goodness, I forgot about sexual temptation!!! So I changed out #7 since I first published it. How could I have forgotten that?!?

31 Days to Great Sex
31 Days to Great Sex is here (only $4.99!) It's the best $5 you'll ever spend on your marriage!

Learn to talk more, flirt more, and even explore more! You'll work on how to connect emotionally, spiritually, AND physically.

Find out more here.


 

Reader Question: How do You Prepare for Marriage Long Distance?

Reader Question of the WeekCan a long distance engagement work?

Every Monday I like to put up a Reader Question and then take a stab at answering it–and invite my readers to chime in, too. Here’s one from a woman in a long distance relationship wondering about engagement:

A few years back I met a guy from several time zones away. We got to know each other through facebook/skype/texting/etc, and saw each other in person for a month or so each year. The last visit (3 months ago) we both admitted that feelings had developed beyond that of “just friends”, and we want to try a relationship with a purpose (neither of us want to just casually date).

What kind of advice would you give to those in a long-distance relationship? We are neither young nor desperate, and are willing to take our time. Even so, I don’t want to miss a huge red flag (or HIM to miss one!) that would be completely obvious if we were living close to each other.

This is such a common scenario today, and here are a few thoughts I have on having a healthy (and productive) long distance engagement:

Long Distance Engagement: Making it work

Long Distance Engagement = Skyping with a Purpose

This reader has hit on something really key–when your relationship consists mostly of Skype dates, how do you make sure you’re not missing red flags? When you see each other on a regular basis, you can figure out if they’re lazy, if they’re good with kids, if they’re kind to strangers, if they take care of their home, and other things like that. When you don’t, then all you see is the persona that the person uses online. How do you get past that?

You Skype with a purpose!

And by that I mean that when you do Skype, you aren’t just talking about “safe” things that make you feel close and all luvey duvey. You don’t just bond over childhood memories or favourite movies or things like that. You actually have to ask the hard questions and make an effort to get to know each other. That can be a difficult thing to do, and the first step is doing exactly what this reader did–clarify the expectations of what this relationship is.

What Are We Doing?

One of the problems with long distance relationships is that, especially in the early stages, you’re always guessing about what the person feels about you. You text and they don’t text back for a day. Does that mean they don’t care? You were hoping to Skype tonight but he’s too busy. Does that mean you take the relationship more seriously than they do? And because you can’t really see body language in the same way, it’s inherently insecure.

Long distance relationships for just that reason have the capacity for a lot of heartache. I’ve seen my girls and other kids I know agonize over long distance relationships because it’s just not clear where it’s going. One person may just have fun chatting while the other is really invested in the relationship. And how do you take it to the next level?

It isn’t worth obsessing over someone long distance for too long. I think we owe it to ourselves to clarify what we’re doing. So once you have some degree of confidence, ask, “what are we doing?” And it’s fine to set some ground rules, like, “if we’re going to talk long distance, I don’t just want to be someone you turn to when you’re bored. I expect that we’ll connect twice a week to get to know each other. If you’re not comfortable with that, I’d like to move on…”

Many women assume they’re in a long distance relationship because they have a guy that they like that they skype with every now and then. But he may not see the relationship the same way. So you do have to talk about it, and be prepared to move on if he isn’t that into you.

Once it’s apparent that you both do want to date with a purpose, then it’s time to do some interesting things while you talk online!

Do Some Personality Tests

Early on in your relationship I think it’s fun to take some personality tests online and figure out some basic things about each other. What is your love language? What is your MBTI type (this is my favourite personality test!).

Ask Some Hard Questions

If you’re moving towards engagement, you have to really know each other. But it can be tough and awkward to ask the hard questions. So I’d recommend getting a book, like 101 Questions to Ask Before You Get Engaged, that you agree to work through together. That way if a question’s awkward, you can say, “well, we did agree to work through the book….”

Some people have found the book a little negative–like he’s giving you all kinds of reasons NOT to get married, which can solidify someone’s decision who is commitment-phobic. Perhaps I’d agree in some cases, because I do think commitment is one of the hugest issues in marriage, and you’ll never find that “one perfect person”. However, because of the inherent riskiness of long distance relationships, I’d really recommend a book like this, because you do need to discover those red flags.

Some of the key things you’ll want to know: how does He serve God? What has God been saying to him lately? What is his relationship like with his family? What are his career goals and how is he moving towards them? How do you handle money? When’s the last time you looked at porn? Yes, they’re tough, but you need to know!

Get Other People Involved

As much as possible, use Skype to create some interactions that you would normally have. Meet his parents. Meet his friends. In fact, as often as possible Skype with other people involved, too. You want to become part of his social circle and he should become part of yours.

Once the relationship has become serious, it may be good to set up a Skype meeting between a pastor and the two of you.

And take other people’s concerns seriously. When you’re in a long distance relationship, it’s easy to think of the two of you as living in your own little world, but if you get married, it won’t be just the two of you. It will be your friends, your family, your co-workers. You have people who care about you–listen to what their instincts (and even the Holy Spirit) may be telling them.

Set Up a Schedule to Talk

If you’re moving towards engagement, then you should be skyping/texting/interacting regularly–I would say at least 2-3 times a week for an extended period. If you only talk once a week, then it’s easy to just put on your best face. You want to see them in real life as much as possible–and they need to see you like that, too.

Do A Bible Study

Read and study the Bible together and pray together. Now, some people aren’t really comfortable with in-depth Bible study. That’s not their way of relating to God, and that’s okay. But you can still read a Psalm together. You can agree that “this month we’re going to read through the book of Acts”, even if you don’t do a word study on it. And you certainly can pray together! Make sure that your spiritual life is part of your long distance relationship, even if you can’t go to church together.

Plan for “In Person” Visits

I know it’s expensive, but you simply must spend the money and be together in person several times before you get married. It’s cheaper to do that than to rush into a relationship that’s wrong. Ideally these visits could be for a few weeks, but even a long weekend is better than nothing. Meet his family. See where he lives. Go to church with him (do people know his name? Do they greet him?). The hard part, of course, is where do you stay, since you likely don’t want to stay overnight with him. That’s where meeting some of his friends on Skype beforehand can be good. Or perhaps you can stay with his parents! It may be awkward, but it’s actually good to get to know his social circle and his family anyway.

Once you do get engaged, I think it’s important to move to the place where he lives, or have him move to where you live. Obviously sometimes immigration issues may make this impossible, but if it is possible, be with him on a daily basis before you actually tie the knot.

I know many couples who have married after a long distance engagement, and they’re all still married and still happy. My daughters did the hair for one wedding last year that was just a blast–she was from Pennsylvania, and he was from Saskatchewan, and they met in Bible quizzing. I’m not against long distance relationships at all. I just think you have to be super careful and super wise, and go in with your eyes wide open. But in this day and age when technology makes long distance engagements possible, it opens up a whole new world, and I think ultimately it’s a good thing.

But I’d like to hear from you–what would you add to this list? If you married after a long distance relationship, what’s the one best thing you did while dating? Let us know in the comments!

Good Girls Guide My SiteAnd, of course, if you’re getting married, I can’t recommend The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex highly enough! I wrote it for any engaged or married woman, but it’s really my prayer that more engaged women will read it, because I think if you understand sex better from the beginning you’ll save yourself so much heartache–and you’ll have so much more fun. I’ve got a special chapter in it for the wedding night/honeymoon, so please read it before you get married!

Fatherhood Material

Here’s a reprint from a few years ago that I think fits in really well with this week’s posts on 10 things I wish I knew before I got married and how to prepare for marriage–not just the wedding. Let’s talk today about what makes good fatherhood material.

Fatherhood MaterialIn the recently released movie Knocked Up, professional journalist Alison discovers she is pregnant from a drunken one-night stand with loser Ben. She doesn’t want to raise the child alone, so she chases Ben down and tries to turn him into fatherhood material. I think Alison’s onto something. Single parenthood is a rough road, and Alison knows that her baby will need a dad.

Unfortunately, Alison did everything backwards. She got into a relationship without realizing that this guy may end up being the father of her children. It’s better to make sure a guy will make a good dad before you wind up pregnant. For many young women, though, fatherhood material is the last thing on their minds. They’re looking for cool, popular, even a little dangerous, or simply someone to like them. None of those things ultimately holds up.

So to prepare for Father’s Day, I thought I’d explore what makes a guy a good catch.

My friend Richard, who has four daughters, has imprinted the following qualities into his girls’ heads, and they’re so good I wanted to share them with everybody.

Number one: a guy should be a Provider.

Now I know that sounds sexist and many of you are ready to line your birdcages with this paper right about now. But think about it: if you want to stay home with your kids, at least for a while, you need to be with someone who can pay the bills, not someone who will sponge off of you. That doesn’t mean he has to be rich! It simply means that the guy should have a good work ethic, should be motivated to find a job, and should take this responsibility seriously. It also means that he can’t have any major addictions that are going to keep him from working. Alcoholics, chronic drug users, or gamblers should be disqualified immediately. You’re relying on this man to help keep your family together, so choose well.

Next, he needs to be a Protector.

You’re giving him your heart; how is he going to treat it? Will he be faithful, or will he think only of himself? Will he be kind, or will be constantly berate you? And how does he treat your body? Does he value that, too, or does he pressure you into things you’d rather not do? That’s not real love, and that’s definitely grounds for dumping him before the relationship goes too far.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, he has to be a Pearl.

Don’t marry the grain of sand expecting that one day a pearl will emerge. Find the pearl first. Many of us women marry the sand—the potential that we see inside our guys. But what if that potential stays hidden forever? You can’t change someone, and it could be that your sandy guy actually likes his rough edges. If you want to marry a good guy, then only date good guys.

That may sound like a pretty tall order, but I think too many girls give up, figure such a thing isn’t possible, and date losers instead.

Treat yourself, and your future children, with more respect. Once you’re in a dysfunctional relationship, it’s much harder to get out, and, like Alison, you may find yourself tied to this guy forever. It’s better to be alone than with someone who will end up being bad for your kids. And ironically, the more we treat ourselves with respect, the more likely it is that we will start to attract these Pearls.

If we’re going to wait for the Pearl, though, we also have to make ourselves Pearls, too.

That means building a good life so we have something to contribute, and it means valuing the steady guy more than the dangerous guy who seems so cool. I don’t think such great men are as few and far between as we sometimes believe, and settling for less only hurts your future children. This Father’s Day, I’m teaching my kids to look for the Protector, the Provider, and the Pearl. They have a great example in their dad, so they have a leg up on other young women. But regardless of family background, a girl can ensure the next generation is stable and happy if she saves her heart for someone who truly deserves it. It’s worth the wait.

If you like Sheila’s social commentary, don’t miss Reality Check, the book! It’s chock full of her musings on where society is headed–and what we can do about it!

Reader Question: I Hate My Daughter’s Boyfriend!

Reader Question of the Week“I hate my daughter’s boyfriend.” That’s a tough situation to be in. And that’s our Reader Question this week! Every Monday I like to put up a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it. Here’s this week’s from a woman who is not pleased with who her daughter is dating:

I am concerned about my daughter’s current boyfriend. It seems to me and my son that he doesn’t respect my daughter and he is getting her involved with odd things – role-playing games, songs with bad lyrics, etc. She is 18, so I have limited power, but any advice would be great. Her dad doesn’t really see it, but he is gone a lot for work.

This is a difficult one, isn’t it? Personally, I’m really blessed, because I love my daughter’s boyfriend, but I’ve often thought about what I would do if one of my daughters decided to date someone I didn’t approve of.

And the truth is that once they’re a certain age there really isn’t a whole lot you can do. You can’t forbid them; they’re an adult. Nevertheless, you do have influence, so here are some thoughts I have on how to tackle this problem.

I hate my daughter's boyfriend! Handling a relationship you disapprove of.

Keep Your Daughter’s Boyfriend Close

You know the saying, “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer?” I think this applies doubly for a situation like this!

Here’s the thing: if you tell your daughter that he is an awful person, and you tell her that you don’t like him, what’s she going to do? She’ll hang out with him anyway, but she’ll do it away from you! You’ll end up driving her away from the family.

Teenage love is a strange thing. People feel all these intense things, and believe that this is real love, and we’re alone in the world, and no one else understands us. Pretty much all teenage couples feel this way to some extent. Add in a slightly controlling or “dangerous” boyfriend, and you’ve already got those feelings doubled.

Then, if you start reinforcing this by telling her how awful her boyfriend is, she’ll take that as a sign that this is true love, and that only her boyfriend does understand her.

Instead, have him over a lot. Engage him in conversation. Ask him to help with things around the house, like fixing some plumbing or changing the oil on your car or something. Treat him like he’s part of the family.

Won’t this tell your daughter that you like him? Not necessarily, especially if you follow the next few steps. But what it will do is show your daughter how he sticks out like a sore thumb. If he is really different from your family, and your daughter is comfortable in the family, and then she finds that he just doesn’t fit, it could easily make him look more pathetic. If she only spends time with him away from the family, he can look better than he really is.

Here’s another benefit: even if you don’t like this boy for your daughter, he is a child of God. And right now, you have influence over him. I can think of two moms that I know who didn’t like their sons’ girlfriends. But they embraced those girls, they mentored those girls, they interacted with them on Facebook and tried to make them feel like they were valued, and when those destructive relationships did end, those girls had seen what Jesus’ love looks like.

If you bring that boy into the fold, you’re not blessing the relationship. You’re simply exerting influence, and showing your daughter that you trust that she will eventually make the right decision. And then you’ll know more what’s going on in their relationship, because they’re living it under your eyes.

Ask Your Daughter What She Wants in a Relationship

Talk to your daughter about the future. Where does she want to be in five years? In ten years? What kind of job does she want? How does she picture herself living? Does she want children? Then ask her in the abstract: what kind of man would make a good father? What are your non-negotiables for a husband? Eventually you may ask her how she sees her boyfriend fitting into this.

The main point: Don’t volunteer your own opinion. Simply keep asking questions. It’s better for her to come to the conclusion herself about whether he’s marriage material than for you to tell her repeatedly.

Share Your Specific Concerns to Your Daughter about her Boyfriend

In this case, the mom is worried about the role playing games and the songs she’s listening to. Again, start with questions. “What do you think of that song?” Share with her that this isn’t a song that you thought that she would like. And ask her, “have things changed? Do you feel differently now?”

If she no longer feels the same convictions that you do, you can’t make her suddenly have those convictions. But you can make her confront her own hypocrisy. Ask her, “how does this connect with your faith?” If she can’t answer it, then at least she can start to see that her faith may be weak. You can’t have a real God experience without realizing that you truly need Him and you’ve messed up. It’s totally okay to help her see that.

One word of warning, though: It could be that she does still love God, but she’s going to express it in different ways than you would. I know some teenagers, for instance, who the parents have told me have “rebelled” and have “turned their backs on God.” However, from my perspective they haven’t done that at all. They’ve gotten tattoos, and they’ve got different views of some social and political issues, and they’ve started going to different churches. But they still love God, they’re still in ministry, and they still pray and identify as Christians. They just do it in a different way from their parents.

I’m not saying that’s what happening here; I’m just saying that sometimes we react to what we perceive is a child leaving the faith, when really they’re choosing to express faith in a new way. I know that’s hard, because it means that your child is rejecting your family culture. But please, in those times, remember that God is bigger than your family culture, and see the faith that is still in your child. Approve of it. Bless it as he or she goes on a different journey, and don’t make him or her feel guilty for choosing something other than what you would do, as long as the essentials of the faith (say, the Apostle’s Creed, for instance) are still there.

What if the Relationship is Dangerous?

But what if it’s not a question of just disapproving of the guy, but a question of the relationship honestly being dangerous? Maybe she’s at risk of pregnancy because you’ve found that your daughter is sleeping with her boyfriend, or you fear he’s violent or controlling. That doesn’t look like the case for our letter writer, but some of you may be facing a more dire situation. Here are some thoughts in that case:

Do Not Let Your Daughter Sleep with Her Boyfriend in Your House

When You Discover Your Daughter is Having SexIf your daughter is going to sleep with her boyfriend, she’s going to do it somewhere. Either your house, his house, a friend’s house, or the car. Those really are the only options.

You can make sure she doesn’t do it at your house by not letting them in the house alone, and by never letting them be in a room with the door completely closed.

If he still lives with his parents, you can talk to those parents and ask that they not leave the two of them alone, though you have no guarantee that the parents will follow this advice.

If the car is an issue, you can stop letting her borrow your car.

Here’s a more detailed post on this issue:

What to do if you discover your daughter is having sex

Give Her a Taste of Reality

The quickest way to end a fantasy is with a little dose of reality. If your daughter is completely rebelling, and is involved with someone that you know is bad for her, and is openly sleeping with him or doing drugs/alcohol, etc., then sometimes the best thing to do is to issue a bit of tough love. Tell her that she cannot do these things while living in your house, and tell her that if she is going to make these choices, then she will have to support herself.

Will this be hard? Absolutely, and this is really only for the worst case scenarios. But sometimes a person needs to go through a year or two of horror to come back and realize that’s not the way she wants to live her life.

Maybe it’s not to that level, though. Let’s say your daughter is involved with a slightly older guy that has kids with another woman, and he has to pay child support. Have her make up a budget. Have her figure out how much money will actually be left over if her boyfriend pays the full child support. Have her talk to one of your friends who is always in court battling her ex about money or access (you likely have at least one friend that does this; I have several!). Let her see how hard life will be.

If Necessary, Call the Police

If you suspect your daughter is being physically or sexually abused, call the police. Will it make her mad? You betcha. But it’s difficult for the authorites to prosecute unless they have a paper trail showing a pattern. And it could be that this guy has already been charged with domestic violence with other women. Violence is violence; don’t keep it in the family.

Remember that She is in God’s Hands

Finally, and this is the hardest part, remember that she is in God’s hands. You’ve done all you can; you’ve raised her for eighteen years or so, and you’ve instilled all the values in her that you can. Now it’s time for her to make her own decisions–even if you don’t like those decisions.

So pray hard, and lean on God, and learn to trust Him. He really does love your child, and He will protect her wherever she goes. Sometimes it takes a few years in the wilderness for her to figure out what she wants. Those are going to be tough years for you. But God can carry her, and He can carry you, too.

Now’s the time to learn to trust. It’s not an easy lesson, but it’s an important one. And He will be enough for you.

Now I’d love to hear from you: has your child ever dated someone you didn’t approve of? How did you handle it? Or if you ever dated someone your parents didn’t like, what made you eventually see the light? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

Intimacy Before Marriage: It’s More than Just Sex!

Intimacy Before Marriage: Do we focus on the wrong temptation?Yesterday Darby Dugger shared a great post about her biggest regret: not staying pure until marriage. I’ve written at length on the blog about why we should wait until marriage for sex, and why God made sex just for marriage. But sometimes I fear that in all of our talk about saving sex for marriage we forget that the biggest sexual temptation isn’t always a physical one. Intimacy before marriage isn’t only about sex.

And so I thought today I’d share the BIG ISSUE that often causes couples to fall in the area of sexual temptation.

Here’s the scenario: a couple decides they want to wait until marriage to have sex. Yay! That’s all very good. And so they sit down and they talk a lot about boundaries. Will we kiss? If so, for how long? 10 seconds? 15 seconds? Can we kiss on the neck, too? What about hands? Where can they go? Just on the back? Nothing under clothes? Can we ever lie down together? Can we snuggle on a couch together? Etc. etc. etc.

I’ve read Christian books that talk at length about which of these boundaries you should have. As a teen, I sat through talks that laid out extremely specific boundaries that couples should adopt (right down to how many seconds you can kiss, as if we’re holding a kitchen timer or something).

We add rules upon rules to what we’re going to do physically–as if that should be our primary focus about intimacy before marriage.

And that’s where we make what can potentially be a big mistake.

Good Girls Guide My SiteWhen I wrote The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex (an awesome book for every wife, but ESPECIALLY for those about to get married!), I divided the book into three main sections: how sex works physically, emotionally, AND spiritually.  All three go into having a great sex life. And, in fact, all three are highly related to our libidos. Like I shared in the book, the times when I feel most like jumping my husband are the times when I hear him pray out loud for our girls. Hearing his heart for our children, whom I love very much, and going before God together, is seriously sexy.

We tend to think about intimacy before marriage in these terms:

Physical Intimacy = Bad

Emotional Intimacy = Good

Spiritual Intimacy = Very Good!

What are we doing here? First, we’re portraying physical intimacy as a bad thing–it’s dangerous!–which often does a real number on women once they’re married, because it’s hard to flip that switch once you are married and start to see sex as a good thing.

But we’re also turning sex into entirely a physical thing, and forgetting that it is so much more than that.

We’re actually cheapening sex.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with praying together before you’re married. In fact, I think it’s a very good thing! We need to know that we can pray together and have a spiritual life together.

But here’s the thing we also have to know:

It is precisely WHEN we are praying together that we are most likely to fall sexually. It is WHEN we are spiritually and emotionally close that we are most likely to experience real sexual temptation.

And all of this applies especially to girls.

Many girls can “turn off” the sexual cues they get when they’re kissing, and can resist. We know that we’re not going to have sex before we’re married, we decide that in our heads, and we don’t let it go too far.

But when you’re praying together and feeling close, all of a sudden those sexual feelings will come on, full blast, when you didn’t really expect them. And if you, as a “good Christian girl”, have drawn up all of these physical boundaries, and have been concentrating on spiritual and emotional intimacy, you may be very surprised when all of a sudden you find yourself in a compromising situation you never dreamed of.

So what am I saying? That we shouldn’t be emotionally or spiritually close?

No, I’m not saying that. Here’s what I’m saying:

Intimacy is a wonderful thing, and intimacy in its fullness is meant to be experienced only in marriage.

It is wonderful to start to feel intimate before you’re married. But be aware that sexual temptation is often far more tied up in emotional and spiritual intimacy than it is in sexually “fooling around”. If you draw all kinds of lines that you “will not cross” physically, but fail to talk about what’s going to happen when you’re praying together or sharing deep memories or crying together and all of a sudden you feel tremendously drawn to each other, you’re likely setting yourself up for a fall.

Certainly talk about what you want to do physically, but I think a better conversation to have is this one: we are going to feel really drawn to each other the closer we get–closer in every way, not just physically. So let’s just set some boundaries like we won’t be in each other’s rooms late at night, or we’ll try not to hang out in an empty house too much, or we’ll have a friend that we text constantly for accountability.

The root of temptation is often not sexual, and if we make everything into something physical, we set ourselves up for inadvertent failure (and a whole lot of shame), and we also don’t present the full picture of who we are sexually.

Does that make sense? Let me know in the comments if this is something that you experienced when you were dating/engaged. When did you feel closest? How did you handle boundaries?

P.S. I’m doing a whole bunch of FLASH GIVEAWAYS on my Facebook Page over the next few days to celebrate getting to 20,000 fans! Head on over and watch for the giveaways–and then just comment to win!

 

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.