Welcome to our third and final post of our “Let’s Talk About Sex” Series.
The Ideal context for sex is this:
1. You are in a committed and trusting relationship (AKA marriage)
2. You have given full consent for any action
3. You are using physical intimacy to build connection or to build a family (in your marriage)
We already went over #2 consent and coercion in part II. So for this article I want to talk more about dating and marriage, and how to set yourself up for successful relationships.
Children living with two married adults (biological or adoptive parents) have, in general, better health, greater access to health care, and fewer emotional or behavioral problems than children living in other types of families (1).
Trends in families tend to continue and statistically single parent kids are more likely to become single parents themselves. Addictions, toxic relationships, physical and emotional abuse and bad communication patterns can often get passed down to our kids.
When we first had our son I wanted to make a book of pictures for him documenting how his dad and myself met as well as our pregnancy and delivery. I also wanted him to have something that he could keep forever that would let
him know just how his dad and I feel about him. I wrote, “The day you joined our family was the best day of our lives… Mommy and Daddy have been so in love with you since the day we met you… We thank Heavenly Father every day that you joined our family… The more you grow, the more things we find that we love about you… We will always try our hardest to show you how much we love and care about you!! You are a dream come true for us.”
We are very lucky and blessed that we were able to bring our baby into the world under such happy circumstances! We also made clear choices as teens and young adults that gave us a better chance of having everything line up the way we wanted it to. We worked really hard on our relationship and marriage, and continue to do so every day. It is never a given in relationships, they are living things that you have to continue to nourish and strengthen or they will starve and die. Creating the ideal context in families is a lot of consistent hard work, and that work starts when you are a teenager with the decisions you make now.
At this point in your lives you are setting up the dynamics of what your future relationships will look like. In dating you are practicing communicating and learning what works and doesn’t work for you in relationships. You are gaining information about yourself and the people that you date. All the experience you get while dating can be used to your advantage if you try to look for the lessons in each relationship.
It is helpful to be mindful of what type of relationship you want to build and to have bottom lines for yourself when dating. When I was dating I found that it was much more helpful to write a list of things I would NOT put up with than a list of characteristics I wanted in a spouse. You can get along with many kinds of people and you can be attracted to lots of different looks. I made a list and called it “Do NOT Dates.” Some of the things on my list were:
“Do NOT date someone who
Does not respect you
Would call you names
Would ever take advantage of your body
Would use you in any way
Does not support your goals and ambitions
Is not kind to you, to his mother, the waitress…etc. etc.
Is a different person alone or with friends than he is with you
Openly criticizes you
My favorite “Do NOT date” is to not date someone who doesn’t want you.
Often we get so caught up in liking someone or hoping they like us, that we put up with things we shouldn’t. If a person you date is not enthusiastic about you, trust me, you can find someone who is. Along with my “Do NOT dates” I had a list of things for myself to work on, so that I could attract the type of person I wanted to be with. My
List of DO’s
Have the self confidence necessary to set my standards high
Believe that if I can be my best self, I can attract a great person
Believe that it is better to be alone than with someone who does not uplift me, want me, or respect me
Make dating a task of self mastery, so I am working consistently on myself instead of chasing or trying to find someone.
I would suggest that all of you out there that are dating make similar lists. Be thoughtful about what your priorities are, and have the strength to end something if you see red flags or signs that the relationship is not healthy.
Some red flags include:
Being pressured into doing something physical
Being called names
Being lied to- If someone tells you they love you on the second date, and then doesn’t return your phone calls for days, you obviously cant believe what that person says.
Any kind of violence
Pay attention to how you feel around another person. Emotional safety is key in building a healthy relationship.
If you meet someone that is cutting, suicidal, has a pornography problem, has an eating disorder, or otherwise struggling, try to be a friend and encourage them to get healthy. Do not get into a pattern of trying to fix or change the other person. Encourage them to get the help needed to feel better but do not take these problems on as your own. Do not ever take accountability for someone else’s actions.
Work hard on self confidence. Dating involves putting yourself out there, and possible rejection like nothing else in life. If you are mindful about working on your self confidence, and not basing it on what others think of you,
you will have a lot more success finding the kind of person you want to be with. If you are struggling with self confidence you are not alone.
Some things that can help boost self confidence are:
writing lists of things you love about yourself and your body.
writing two or three things per day that you accomplished and are proud of.
Made a new goal and work to achieve it
Learn something new
In dating you must have hope and be flexible. The LDS church preaches an ideal and that is something we should strive for, that doesn’t always mean it works out the way we wanted. Sometimes even if you “do everything right” you will not get the desired outcome.
Cheiko Okazaki said, “We will hold a clear vision of gospel ideals and aspire toward them even as we deal patiently with the limitations of reality.” Unexpected things happen in families and relationships. People get divorced,
people lose their way, people have children outside of wedlock, people hurt others through addictions or selfishness, some people don’t ever get married, some never have children. One of these things may happen to you our your parents. It is ok to strive for an ideal while acknowledging that reality often falls short. This doesn’t mean God has forgotten us. We do not need to judge our families, ourselves, or those around us harshly. We preach ideals in this Church, but we also believe in healing through the atonement, and we believe in being made stronger by our challenges and adversities.
If dating is not feeling like it is going anywhere for you, or if you are getting hopeless, my advice is find a different goal, focus on serving, having gratitude, and building confidence in yourself. Do not settle for an unhealthy relationship.
This will have lasting consequences for you, and possibly for generations. One of my favorite authors, Brene Brown says, “Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.” So if dating is not working out for you, work on loving yourself.
If you are mindful and set high standards in dating, if you develop yourself and trust God, you can increase your chances of having the amazing blessing that Elder Packer talks about when he says, “The ultimate purpose of every
teaching, every activity in the Church is that parents and their children are happy at home”