What do you wish you could go back in time and say to your husband at 16 to encourage him?
Or what do you want to say to your teenage son?
I know it’s Thursday and it’s podcast day, but we hit a technical snag this week and we had to re-record some of it yesterday and Katie didn’t have time to edit it all. It will likely go live this afternoon, and then I’ll run the podcast post tomorrow. So sorry about that!
Today I thought I’d revisit something we talked about recently: new advice you’d give a teenage boy, that you may not have thought to give 10 years ago.
We’re in the middle of planning out our book to moms of daughters, and we have a HUGE survey going on (if you’re female, please take it! it helps us so much! And you don’t have to be married for this one).
It’s got us thinking about the advice we give to teens. So following up on my post about what we’d all say to our teenage selves at 16, I asked on Facebook about what you’d say to your husband at 16 about sex and relationships. Once again, I got some amazing answers, and distilled them down to these themes:
Attraction and arousal are not disgusting and sinful.
“Noticing isn’t lusting. Being attracted to someone doesn’t mean you are lusting. You’re allowed to feel attraction without shame. Being a man does not make you a sexually deviant monster- your actions do.”
“You don’t have to feel shame if you have a high drive of sexual attraction right now. This is biologically normal for your age for this to be present and you do not have to feel like you are sinning. Also, don’t fall into the trap of resenting the women you feel lust towards. They do not hold responsibility for your reaction to them. It isn’t a situation where anyone is at fault. The issue isn’t having a sex drive, but what you do with it in how you allow it to impact the way you view and treat others. Take this time to learn how to interact with all people in a honoring, respectful way regardless of what degree of attraction you do or do not have towards them, and be kind and patient with yourself in that process of learning how to do it.”
2. Be Careful of Addictions
“You can’t have a real love relationship while viewing porn. Viewing porn subconsciously teaches you that women are objects to be used at your discretion, not beautiful beings created in the image of God! Almost every guy I’ve met through my men’s groups has admitted their porn addiction started years before they seriously started dating or got married. They never had the experience of “dating” without that toxic view…. it’s very sad. I must add that I fit into this category also and it’s the number 1 thing I wish I could change about my past.”
“DO NOT USE PORN. If you come across it, or get curious, it’s not the end of the world, but seek out wisdom from others and STOP USING IT.”
“Video games are more addictive than you think, and you don’t have as much self control against them as you think.”
3. Relationships don’t define your worth.
“Someone finding you attractive or not does not define your worth. Marriage doesn’t make you worthy, Jesus makes you worthy.”
4. No means no. Trying to change her mind is manipulation.
This was probably the most common theme in all the answers from the (predominantly) women on the Facebook page!
“A reluctant “yes” after 200 “no”s should be treated as a “no” as well.”
“No means no. Don’t ever push or manipulate a woman into anything she isn’t comfortable with.”
“Do not try figure out if she is saying “no”. You want to hear a clear, confident “YES”. But do not take her “no” as a rejection of your value.”
“A drunk girl is never an invitation to do what you want. See her home safe.”
“No means no. Just because it’s accompanied by a smile or a giggle does Not make it mean yes.”
“‘Most marriage books will tell you that young men & men are these crazy beings that have almost animal like sexual instincts with no control. That is NOT the norm.’”
5. You Can Say No, too!
But the women also wanted the guys to know that they shouldn’t feel pressured, either.
“Prepare in advance how you will react when a girl offers herself to you. “
“You’re allowed to say no too. It doesn’t make you any less of a man when a girl is trying to push you too far. Respect each other.”
6. Keep Sex in Marriage
So many had advice on how to reserve sex for marriage, including not getting into tempting situations.
“If you respect her body and save intercourse for marriage, you prove to her your ability to be faithful for life, through health issues, pregnancy, period, etc.”
“Girls often think giving you sex or physical intimacy will buy your love. You both need to know that it won’t. You won’t love her more for being physical with you, and she doesn’t love you more if she is.”
7. It’s okay to break up and go back to being friends.
“It’s ok to break up with someone and move to just friendship. It doesn’t have to be awkward or weird.”
“If you “mess up” or “go too far” with a girl, it doesn’t mean you have a special connection to her or need to make a special commitment to her. Evaluate the health of your relationship and take responsibility for your actions.”
8. You can’t save girls who are being abused or who are traumatized.
“I would tell my sons to be extremely cautious about helping girls that say they are in abuse and scared. I would tell them to report those kinds of issues to an authority figure immediately. “
“Don’t take so much responsibility for other people’s actions or try to fix their mess ups.”
9. Masculinity and Femininity Are Tricky–but they don’t always have to be
“The differences among men and the differences among women are MUCH greater than the differences between men and women. An average man is different than an average woman, sure, but relationships don’t exist between averages, they exist between individuals. It’s way more important to get to know an individual woman and HER preferences and desires than to waste your time trying to figure out “what women want.”
“It can be very hard to be a boy/man. You are given a VERY narrow lane of what you are allowed to do and be and be accepted as “masculine.” This is a burden you must work to change but it is unfair and hard. That’s important to acknowledge.”
“God designed you to be an awesome, godly man with a unique purpose… don’t let the cultural norms of manliness define your success or failure as a “real man”.
10. Remember that women are individuals.
’You may not understand “women” because they’re individuals and no matter what some influencer or pastor told you, there’s no “secret” to cracking us because we are all different.”
“Don’t lump all women together or use broad categories, even if various adult leaders in your life tell you to. Invest the time and energy to get to know the women and girls for your life as individuals. Hear them when they speak to you about their needs, wants, frustration, dreams, sense of humor, passions. When getting to know a woman, don’t give more weight to a stereotype, book, or relationship class than the actual woman herself telling you about herself.”
11. Learn to Do Housework.
“Help with the kitchen work! It’s going to do you so much good in the long run.”
“it’s freaking SEXY to hold up your end around the house. Nothing says, “we are a team, and I see you as my equal” in quite the same way.”
“Learning to clean and pick up after yourself is a must!”
12. Make friends with girls. They’re not a weird species.
“Make friends with girls! It’s ok to be friends with the opposite sex. Women are not some strange “other” species. And, newsflash, girls enjoy A LOT of the same activities you do. (My sister and I enjoy fishing waaaay more than our husbands do, lol)”
“Treat all girls decently and with respect. Good manners are attractive. Have healthy friendships with girls. Listen to them, get to know their point of view. “
“Girls make great friends! Be friendly, have fun, and get to know a great group of friends. And then someday you may find that you want to spend the rest of your life with that certain friend, and you’ll already feel comfortable with her and know her well because of the friendship you built.”
“it is really fulfilling and fun to have non-sexual relationships with women. That will help him work out what kind of person he might one day want to marry. He needs female friends.”
“Girls are not a mysterious different species and they aren’t sex objects. They are just people and you should talk to them, hang out with them, and care about them as people first and foremost.”
13. Strong romantic relationships are based on friendship first.
“Make sure you are still friends, and friends first, because romance and intimacy aren’t always going to happen. If the “hot and heavy” emotions are what’s carrying a relationship, it’s not going to last. If you can’t like or enjoy or be with a person beyond the romance and intimacy and fluttery crush feelings, it’s not a real relationship. And TALK. Talk about everything. Your hopes, your dreams, your goals, your beliefs. While dating, don’t back down from those conversations. Don’t even amend them just to match or impress whoever you’re dating. Be yourself. That’s the truest way see if a relationship is going to move beyond just “more than friends.”
“Look at your girlfriend/wife as an individual. It’s ok if she doesn’t think just like you, in fact it’s much better that way! Respect her and value her thought processes, and don’t think that when she challenges something you think or disagrees with you that it is disrespectful of you. Accept your differences and learn to work together to find what matters most in your relationship and in your life together.”
“It’s normal and healthy to find girls attractive, but healthy relationships start with knowing each other’s hearts first and building emotional intimacy.”
14. Periods are a thing. See them in a healthy way. And learn about sex ed!
“Periods are not gross, or dirty. And, women who suffer with mood swings, extreme pain, heavy bleeding, nausea, food cravings, fatigue, etc. during their period ARE NOT CRAZY or irrational or any of those utterly awful stupid things some guys say. Women suffering an awful period are just that, suffering. We are still rational, thinking, valuable people. This is a time to love and support her. I imagine you will find her moods less “crazy” if you have compassion for what’s happening to her.”
“PMS is a thing. Be tolerant, and sometimes the less said, the better.”
“Don’t be squeamish about periods. The best boyfriends & husbands understand & bring chocolate.”
“Educate yourself about sex. Like, ask men you trust and don’t be afraid to learn about it. Please.”
15. Seek God with your whole heart.
So many people left a variation of this one!
“Get in the word!”
“Really get to know Christ….not just doing religious activities, but knowing him personally.”
16. Be Who God Made You to Be
“If you have dreams, or feel a real calling for something, don’t let others tell you you’re too dumb or not good enough. Don’t put limits on yourself.”
“It’s okay to not have your parents’ approval in every aspect of your life. You can’t please everyone. Focus on pleasing God.”
“What God thinks of you matters more than how the world judges you.”
“It is great if you are a “leader” but it is great if you are not in a specific situation or if your personality strengths are different. Or if you choose to let others lead. You are NOT required to be a leader to be a man. At work, in a marriage or anywhere.”
“You don’t have to struggle fighting between the world’s ways and what the Bible tells you. If God says to do/not do something; that means you can and He will help you. It’s not your strength that matters; it’s being confident in Gods’ strength and love for you. The hard or unpopular decisions you make and stick to now will reap major rewards in your future!”
17. Feel your feelings, don’t run away from them.
“Deal with and get help with your anger.”
“Anger (I’m talking anger, not violence) is not a bad thing, but if you allow your anger to explode on the people you love, it is going to cause emotional wounds that might never fully heal.”
“You are DEEPLY and accepted for who you are, it’s ok to ask for help. Boys/men don’t get enough acknowledgement of how much they need to feel loved and encouraged.”
“Boys and men need human connection and relationships as much as girls and women. This is HUMAN. Anyone who says otherwise is being sexist against men (or needs more education).”
“Don’t bottle up. There’s nothing wrong with feelings or emotions and appropriately expressing yourself”
“It’s okay to have feelings. And you have the right to have those feelings listened to and validated by the people around you.”
“Finding a safe person you can share your feelings with is *so important.*
18. BE the Change.
Next to all the “no means no” advice, the one that seemed to have the most emotion behind it was this one, with many women saying a variation of it:
“Be the guy who doesn’t laugh at sexism. Be the guy who calls out other guys for bad behavior. Be the guy who doesn’t “rate” women by their appearance (or the appearance of specific body parts). Be the guy that celebrates the accomplishments of women,, and lifts them up,, without any expectation of a reward. Be the guy who knows women as the image-bearers of Christ that they are and speaks it over them, about them, to them, and to others.”
“You have a duty not only to respect women and their autonomy, but to speak up and against other men he sees disrespecting it, even if it’s just “between bros” talk.”
“Just because you don’t experience it doesn’t mean it’s not happening to other people. Learn to listen and empathize with other people. Women are people too.”
“If it’s not enough to not be that guy, you have to speak up when other guys are being that way, including and especially at church. Question church teaching that makes women less than, even if it’s not explicitly stated. They’ll take you more seriously than us.”
“Call out other guys if they’re acting like jerks.”
As Terry Crews said, “You’re not the big boss man just because you can make people do what you tell them to do. You’re a real boss when you can make YOU do what you tell YOURSELF to do.”
Again, really interesting insight on what teenage boys need to hear!
I think many of the themes we said to girls apply, too, especially about not believing someone just because they’re an adult and how it’s okay to think for yourself, so consider these just an add-on to what was said to girls.
And, again, I’ll end with a few from Facebook that deserve to be run just as they are!
In The Whole Story, our puberty course for moms/daughters or dads/sons, we talk a lot about healthy relationships.
We talk about boundaries, and dating, and sex, and so much more. Especially in the older versions of the courses, we can help you have those conversations with your kids. We start the conversations–you can finish them. If you want to make sure that you’re having these healthy conversations with your kids, check it out. My sons-in-law David and Connor do a great job sharing their experiences with the guys, too.
You're telling me WHAT goes WHERE?!
Talking about sex with your kids doesn't always go smoothly.
That's why we created The Whole Story, our online course that walks parents through the tough conversations and does the hard parts for you!
Did we miss something? What would be your #19? Or is there something you’d take out? Let’s talk in the comments!
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum
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