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Teen Considering Having Sex with Boyfriend

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: I am 17 years old and a high-school junior. I am also a devoted Christian. My boyfriend of three months is a senior who will be graduating soon and leaving for college across the country. I am debating having sex with him before he goes. It goes against all my moral values, and I know I would hate it, but I can't stand the fact that he's leaving. He is not a virgin (I am) and neither is he religious. I am not sure how to talk to him about this.

A: I can understand why you are feeling conflicted about having sex with your boyfriend at this time. The subject of having sex may be surfacing for various reasons: You are 17 and, like most 17-year-olds, you are having sexual feelings about someone you are attracted to; you feel that you are "behind," perhaps immature, because you are still a virgin; perhaps this boy has put direct or subtle pressure on you to have sex, as a way to "cement" your love before he goes away; or you might think that having sex with him will cause him to stay faithful to you while he's away.

You have been this boy's girlfriend for three months. You do not believe that having sex with him would feel right or morally correct. Those instincts are the "voices" that you need to listen to and respect. He needs to respect them, too. Fear of losing someone is not a good reason to have sex. You may believe that this will show him how much you are willing to sacrifice for him in order to please him or 'keep' him, but it will only communicate how desperate you are and how frightened you are of losing the relationship.

Don't forget that this relationship has gone on for only three months. I know that this short amount of time doesn't diminish how much you care for him, but sex should only enter a relationship when the partners have been involved in a long-term, committed, loving relationship where sex is welcomed responsibly by both partners. That is not the case in your situation. Explain your confusion about this matter to him and be very clear about why you do not feel right about having sex at this time. If your relationship is meant to continue and to grow more intimate and committed, it will withstand sexual temptations, fear, and distance. It's very tough to keep up relationships under these circumstances. Having sex at this time is certainly not the way to do it. If he understands and respects your feelings on this matter, without causing you guilt or fear about your future together, you will know that your relationship is worth your continuing emotional energy.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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