Seeking clarity

Joey Garcia

I’m 14 and my parents don’t think I’m old enough to date. They don’t know that I have a boyfriend. We’ve been dating for six months. I was with my previous boyfriend for three months. They didn’t know about him, either. I can’t talk to my parents about stuff but I have some questions. My boyfriend wants to take it to the next level. How do I know if I’m ready?

Where’s the elevator headed? Are you talking about making a commitment to one another? About holding hands? French kissing? Getting undressed? Oral sex? Intercourse? A lot of questions, I know, but it’s important that you get very clear.

If you are uncomfortable naming what you’re considering, you’re not ready. If you can easily state what your next relationship level is, you still might not be ready. If it’s sex, give yourself lots of time to make a decision about your body. Respect yourself enough to honor that promise of no or yes or only this far. Deciding in the moment—like in the middle of a make-out session—puts you at risk for regret.

Most adults prefer to believe that teens are not sexually active. Most teens prefer to allow adults to maintain that denial. Of course, teen denial persists, too. Here’s how: Some teens decline to admit that having oral sex is being sexually active. It is. Warnings about the physical consequences of sex (sexually transmitted diseases) are common. But the emotional consequences cause as much, if not more, crises. So ask yourself: Can you handle rejection? Getting dumped? Cheated on? Could you manage the fall-out of your parents finding out the details of your relationship? A lot of high school students who break up after dating two or three months exhibit the same level of depression, anxiety, anger and hopelessness as adults divorcing after 20 years of marriage. So before you make changes in your relationship, be certain you are emotionally prepared for the possibility of a breakup.

You must also be honest with yourself about your boyfriend. Does he treat you with respect, kindness, generosity? Does he treat other people well? Do you feel safe with him? These might seem like no-brainers, but you would be surprised how many teens date someone who threatens them or hits them.

I also noticed that you didn’t mention your boyfriend’s age. Sometimes high school seniors who are too emotionally immature to attract girls their own age will date freshman girls. The freshman girl is flattered, but shouldn’t be. If you’re in that situation, proceed with caution. And, since you can’t talk to your parents, befriend a teacher or another caring adult with whom you can talk about your relationship. You deserve to have a sensible sounding board to confide in.

Finally, a note to parents: Please reconsider your age-based rules around dating. Your awareness of your teen’s levels of maturity and necessary areas of growth are more important than adhering to what your parents set in stone for you or even what most experts say. Those old rules may still apply, but by holding them lightly, you can keep the lines of communication open between you and your teen.

Meditation of the week
“Of course I am not worried about intimidating men. The type of man who will be intimidated by me is exactly the type of man I have no interest in,” says Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Are you ready to release the past?

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