All of us long to be loved and accepted by others. We want to "be included" in the group, to belong to those we see as important: parents, relatives, friends, boyfriends or girlfriends, and if we choose to marry, our husbands or wives. The need to be loved and accepted is undoubtedly one of the greatest needs any of us has. We are born with that need, and most of us spend much of our lives seeking to find and experience it.But it isn't just a matter of finding people who love and accept us, but we also want people who honestly enjoy being around us. They enjoy our company, and go out of their way to spend time with us. When we find these kinds of people, we know they approve of us - they not only love and accept us, but they actually like us.We also long to experience a degree of affection - to have people who will put their arms around us and draw us close; people who will hug us from time to time; people who will even go so far as to give us a kiss, perhaps on the cheek or on the lips. We need the warmth of physical contact which comes with physical displays of affection. It helps to convince us that indeed we are loved and accepted by others.All of this brings us to the topic of dating and marriage. Not everyone gets married. However, because nearly everyone does, it is important to remember that one of the most important decisions any of us will ever make is deciding which person we will marry, and because dating usually leads to marriage, let's take a look at both of them.back to top
DECIDING WHO WILL YOU DATE AND MARRYIf choosing a marriage partner is one of the most important decisions of your life, and if it is true that you will marry someone you dated, then it is very important for you to make good decisions about which persons you will date. (The word "date" as it will be used in this section simply means a person you relate to as your boyfriend or girlfriend. So even if you cannot officially "go out on a date" until you are older, it is possible you still might have a boyfriend or girlfriend relationship prior to that time.)So what are you looking for in a future husband or wife? In other words, what qualities or characteristics do you hope to find in the person you will someday marry and hopefully spend the rest of your life with? Maybe you have never given this any thought, but perhaps you should. You see, if you have no idea what you are looking for in a husband or wife, then how will you know what to look for in someone you might date? Many young people start boyfriend-girlfriend relationships with people they are simply attracted to without taking time to see what kind of person he or she is. That person might be good looking, funny, popular, and interested in you. That's great. But what is he or she really like deep down inside? After all, what's on the inside is of greater importance than what is on the outside. Physical appearances will change, but the inner qualities (or lack of them) may last a lifetime.back to top
CHARACTERISTICS YOU WANT IN YOUR FUTURE MARRIAGE PARTNERTherefore, we invite you to take a moment to look over the list of qualities and characteristics listed below. These are the top thirty qualities or characteristics Teen Choices students have come up with through the years. They are not in any particular order, but as you read through the list, which ones do you believe are the most important ones? Why not take a piece of paper, and write down your top ten. Think of it this way: You would never marry someone who did not have at least these ten qualities or characteristics. Therefore, is it safe to say you wouldn't ever choose to become seriously involved - date - someone who did not have these qualities? Right? Have some fun with this. You may be surprised at what you discover about yourself from this little exercise.
Sense of Humor/Funny
Loves and Accepts Me
Good Moral Values
Same Religious Faith
Accepted by my family
Did you find it hard to choose ten or was it difficult only choosing ten? Either way, hopefully this helped you see that there are a number of important characteristics you hope to find in someone you would date and possibly marry.So what are you going to do in the future when it comes to choosing who will be your boyfriend or girlfriend? Why not be very selective in who you even start to get seriously involved with. Take time to get to know that person before you make any commitment to be his or her girlfriend or boyfriend. As you get to know the person, perhaps he or she is attractive, has a good personality, and a good sense of humor. But you may also realize that this individual is not always respectful of you and others or you sense that he or she is not exactly the "faithful-type". You deserve to date and ultimately marry someone you can trust, someone who will always treat you with respect, someone who is perhaps your best friend, someone who will always be faithful and true "until death". Don't settle for anyone who does not meet your expectations, and you will never regret it.back to topFAITHFULSpeaking of expectations, we at Teen Choices have taught more than 30,000 teenagers, and when our high school students were asked which of the above characteristics were their three most important ones, we discovered something very interesting. Nearly all of our students chose faithful as one of the top three characteristics they would look for in someone they would date and choose to marry. It seems almost everyone feels being faithful and true is a high priority. When students are asked why faithfulness was so important, here are some of the most common kinds of responses. They want to marry someone who will:
be "totally devoted" to them
not "betray" them by having an affair with another person
not "bring home an STD" from someone they had sex with
be "true to them for the rest of their lives"
"respect" them enough to never "cheat" on them
"love and accept" them long after the wedding day
back to topVIRGINS AND FAITHFULNESSAnother characteristic that is high on the list of many teenagers is marrying someone who is a virgin. Now people who are not virgins often get married, and make excellent husbands and wives. But teens say there are a lot of advantages to marrying someone who has never had sex - a virgin. Below is a list of some of the most common advantages teens give for wanting to marry a virgin. If they marry a virgin they say the person they marry:
will not have an STD
probably will not be HIV-infected (unless they got it from a blood transfusion or some other means)
will not have a child from a previous boyfriend or girlfriend relationship
will never compare them to anyone else sexually because they have never had sex with anyone else
will help make sex a special, unique experience (if neither has had sex before)
has shown a great deal of respect and love for those he or she has dated by refusing to have sex with any of them
will be more likely to be faithful to them in the years ahead
There's that word again - faithful. Let's talk more about this. Suppose there was this teenager who thought it was no big deal to have sex with any girlfriend of his. So he has sex when he is 15 with some girlfriend, and then a year later, he has sex with his new girlfriend. A couple of years later he has a new girlfriend, and before long he starts having sex with her. Eventually he goes off to college, meets this young woman, and - you guessed it - he starts having sex with her, and eventually marries her. As you probably know, there are a number of teens who are just like this guy: They don't think there is anything wrong with having sex with their current girlfriend or boyfriend. After all, they think, a lot of people do it.But suppose there is another guy. For a variety of reasons, he does not think it is right to have sex with anyone he is not married to. He has a girlfriend when he is 15, but even though it is tempting and some of his friends are sexually active, he is determined not to have sex with her. He is committed to waiting until marriage. But a year or so later, he has a brand new girlfriend. Once again, he is tempted to become sexually involved with her, but he is strong in his decision to wait, so he doesn't have sex with her either. After all, he believes it isn't right to have sex with anyone besides his wife. Now he is in college, and he meets this fantastic girl. Before long, he is madly in love with her. However, he still does not believe it is right to have sex with anyone unless he is married to her, so he doesn't. Several years go by, and he decides she is the one he wants to marry and spend the rest of his life with. She agrees to marry him, and soon they get engaged. However, he still believes it is wrong to have sex with anyone he is not married to, and so six months after he and his fiance get engaged, their wedding day finally arrives, and they become husband and wife. The first person he has sex with is with his wife on their wedding night.Now here is the question: Since marrying someone you believe will be faithful to you is probably one of your highest priorities, which of these two guys do you think is more likely to be faithful? The first guy who didn't see anything wrong with having sex with any girl he dated or the second one who stayed true to his commitment to wait until his wedding night to have sex? Now obviously there are no guarantees, but most, if not all of you, probably would choose the second one like most of our high school students. Why? Because the second guy - the one who chose not to have sex prior to marriage - proved he could control his sexual desires, so he is far more likely to be the faithful-type. The first guy chose not to control his sexual desires, so we have no reason to believe he will control his sexual desires in the future. For all we know, if he meets some woman he is attracted to years after he gets married, he may think, "It's not so bad having sex with someone other than my wife. After all, a lot of people have ‘affairs' ."You see, if you marry a virgin, you are marrying someone who has shown a great deal of sexual self-control, so sexual self-control can be added to our list of advantages for marrying someone who has never had sex, i.e., a virgin. In short, faithfulness requires sexual self-control, so if you want to marry someone who is likely to be faithful and true to you, why not marry a virgin or someone who has chosen "secondary virginity" (he or she already had sex some time ago, but then decided not to do it again until his or her wedding day). Both virgins and secondary virgins show sexual self-control - one of the primary ingredients in faithfulness, which is a characteristic we all hope to find exhibited in the one we marry.back to top
CHOOSING ABSTINENCE OR SECONDARY VIRGINITY
One final note along these lines. If you yourself want to be faithful to your future husband or wife, you should make a decision right now to wait until marriage to have sex (abstinence) or stop doing it until you get married (secondary virginity). As mentioned above, both require sexual self-control, but the person who refuses to control himself or herself sexually is a person who is not very strong and probably cannot be trusted to remain true to his or her future marriage partner. Think about it.There is a great deal more to be discussed about dating and marriage. However, let us conclude by listing several things which will help you and other teens enjoy your dating relationships without a lot of serious consequences, guilt, and regret. Carefully read through these items, evaluate your perspective toward each item, and then make a decision as to what you will do in the future for your sake, the sake of those you date, and for the sake of anyone you may someday marry.back to top
TIPS FOR HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS
1. Make a commitment to wait.It is a known fact that young people who make pledges to remain virgins are far less likely to have sex than those who have not.
2. Find a friend who has the same commitment.Having a close friend who not only feels the way you do but will help you stick with your decision to wait.
3. Say "No" With Confidence.Choosing not to have any kind of sexual relationship before you get married is nothing to be ashamed of! Your words and your actions should make it perfectly clear that when you say "no" to someone who tries to talk you into having sex, you mean "no". Those who truly love you will respect your decision to wait.
4. Set your standards well in advance.Know exactly where you are going to "draw the line" (how far is far enough) in physically expressing your affection. There is a simple rule you should consider following: Never allow anyone to touch you anywhere your underwear touches whether over or under your clothes. If you stick with this decision and don't do anything more than hug and kiss, you will avoid all serious consequences, and will never have any regrets.
5. Let your decision be known.As a relationship begins to grow, let your boyfriend or girlfriend know the standards you have set. You may want to explain why you feel the way you do, but you shouldn't have to. Your decision to wait until marriage is a decision others who truly care about you will accept. It is also important to tell your friends you've decided to wait, and encourage them to do the same.
6. Do not get involved with someone you think might try to pressure youYour decision about sex is one of the most important decisions you will ever make, so why waste time with someone who does not respect your decision?
7. Avoid risky places and situations.Don't allow yourself to get into a situation where it may be hard to hold to your commitment to wait. For example, don't be alone with a boyfriend/girlfriend in a secluded place, don't go to parties where there is no adult supervision, and don't drink alcohol or use drugs.
8. Avoid sexually explicit movies, music, and TV programs.Many of the lyrics in today's songs and the programs on TV or at the movies lead people to believe that "everybody's doing it" and "nothing bad will happen" if you do. The facts make it clear that neither of these is true.
9. Avoid using alcohol or drugs.Alcohol and other drugs dramatically affect your ability to control your actions, so your chances of having sex greatly increase if you are under the influence of some drug. (NOTE: One study found that 60% of women who got infected with an STD were drunk at the time, and 90% of rapes on college campuses happen when one or both of the people involved have been drinking.)
10. Plan your dates.Don't just "get together" without specific plans. Decide what you will do on each date, so you won't find yourself in a situation where it might be very difficult for you to stick with your decision not to have sex.
11. Weigh the consequences.Whenever you are tempted to have sex, remind yourself of some of the problems you might experience such as unplanned pregnancies, STDS, AIDS, emotional pain, feeling used, getting a bad reputation, and guilt.
12. If someone keeps pressuring you, break off the relationship.True love never pressures anyone to do something that might hurt that person, but always respects others enough to wait!
(The above tips were adapted from Joe S. McIlhaney, M.D., SEX: WHAT YOU DON"T KNOW CAN KILL YOU, pages 100-103.)back to top
FINAL THOUGHTSHopefully the information contained in this section will be helpful as you move through this period in your life called dating which, for most of you, will lead to marriage. There are a lot of decisions you will have to make during this time in your life, but please keep the following things in mind:
You alone can decide who you will choose to be your boyfriend or girlfriend;
You alone can decide to control your sexual desires by choosing to wait until marriage to have sex or to stop having sex until you get married;
You alone can decide how far you will go (where you will "draw the line") in physically showing your love and affection for those you date;
You alone can decide how best to let others know you will not engage in any kind of sexual relationship before marriage;
You alone can choose not to allow others to pressure you into doing things you honestly don't feel are right for you;
You alone can decide not to drink alcohol, do drugs, or anything else which might cause you to make bad decisions when you are with others especially boyfriends or girlfriends;
You alone can decide whom you will marry;
You alone can decide to remain faithful and true to the one you marry.
What conclusions can be drawn from the above information? Generally speaking, are 12 to 14 year olds far more likely to have sex with their boyfriend or girlfriend than older adolescents? Indeed they are. That explains why it is obvious that the earlier serious relationships ("dating") begins, the more likely the young person will become sexually involved. Therefore, this information explains why many parents do not want their children to get "too serious" with a boyfriend or girlfriend at a young age. In fact, a number of parents through the years have discouraged or even forbidden their young adolescents to date until they are at least 16 years of age. This research would indicate that this is probably a good idea. (Echenique, Jeannie, USA TODAY, "Early Dating May Lead To Early Sex", November 5, 1986, p. D1.)Another interesting fact is that once teenagers start having sex, they are more likely to have several sexual partners before they get married. The Centers for Disease Control study1 on premarital sexual experience among adolescent females reported that of the girls who became sexually active before the age of eighteen, 75% had had two or more partners, and 45% had had four or more. It may be of interest to also note that young people who had sex by the age of 15 were more likely to be dissatisfaction with their current marriage and their current sex life2 as