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Love, Dating and
Big Decisions

by Michelle Paripovich Thompson

(A summary of this month's Youth Update)
If you would like to preview a future edition in Youth Update's private online chat room, contact CarolAnn@franciscanmedia.org.

This Youth Update helps you consider whether you are in love and how to express that love if—and when—you are.

Know the difference between infatuation and love.

Infatuation can, but may not be, part of a loving relationship. Infatuation can draw two people together, but friendship sustains a love relationship. If you think you are in love, Youth Update offers five important questions to help you be sure.

  • Do I love myself?
  • How does this relationship make me feel? Do I feel good (positive, happy, safe, valued, respected) when I am with my boyfriend or girlfriend?
  • Do I want what is best for the person I love?
  • Does that person want the best for me?
  • Is friendship part of our relationship? Do we have common values, interests and goals?

Dating includes the responsibility of sexual decision-making.

This decision-making starts when you decide whether or not to hold someone's hand or to kiss them goodnight, so you need to carefully consider your own beliefs, values and future goals before you even start dating.

If you wait until you are on a date to think about your values and the choices you should make, you most likely will not be able to think clearly. If you feel secure in your values and decisions before you date, it will be easier to communicate these to your date.

The Bible says, "This is the will of God, your holiness: that you refrain from immorality, that each of you know how to acquire a wife for himself in holiness and honor, not in lustful passion...." (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5). The Catholic Church teaches that marriage is the only relationship in which sex can achieve the full meaning it is given by God: the committed, faithful, exclusive and total gift of one's self to another—open to love and new life.

With Church and family values as your foundation, imagine sexual contact as a line of progression. This line begins with hand-holding, progressing to hugging, kissing, prolonged kissing, the high-risk area of heavy petting or fondling—and ending with sexual intercourse.

You may think deciding to have sexual intercourse with your boyfriend or girlfriend will make you feel like one of the "everyone" who is "doing it." (Just remember that a lot of those people are talking and not doing!) The decision to have premarital sex exposes you to many dangers. The physical risk of STD's, AIDS and unwanted pregnancy are well publicized. Condoms help reduce the risks but do not eliminate them. Furthermore, condoms can do nothing to prevent the emotional and psychological risks one takes when deciding to have premarital sexual intercourse.

The only truly safe way to have sex is in a loving, faithful, married relationship. A relationship without sexual intercourse does not mean without sexual contact. Holding each other and kissing are wonderful ways to express your love for each other. A relationship without sexual intercourse leaves time to focus on each other, your hopes and dreams. It allows you to know each other better and focus on your love and friendship.

Chastity is "saved sex." Choosing to postpone sex until marriage may not be a decision teens or TV often talk about, but it is definitely the safe and moral choice, one deserving the highest consideration. When you choose chastity, you will likely find many other teens who support and agree with your values.

If you feel uncomfortable with choices you have made in the past, remember that it is never too late to change your mind and rethink your values. God forgives you for mistakes. Forgive yourself. Seek support from family, Church and friends and begin again!

Acknowledge your feelings and seek to understand them. Think carefully about your feelings and the actions based on them. Seek support and act responsibly. The decisions you make now will affect the rest of your life.

Chris Parker (20) and Jim Olszewski, Jr. (20), members of Hearts Aflame Youth Ministry for high school seniors and college students at St. Bronislava Parish in Plover, Wisconsin, read this edition of Youth Update. They posed the questions you will find answered here. Youth Minister Greg Bergenske invited Chris and Jim to assist.

 

Q.

Girls with low self-esteem seem especially vulnerable to pleas to go further sexually. How can they keep their guard up—and how can others help them?

A.

Girls—and boys too—with low self-esteem often search for anything that will make them feel accepted or loved. They are more likely to be easily pressured into premarital sexual activity. They, like all young people, need to examine their values and beliefs before they get into a situation when they could be pressured. When they know that other peers do say no to sexual intercourse before marriage, they may feel more confident in expressing their feelings to a date. Confidence in the support and acceptance of family and other friends will also give them strength and courage in a vulnerable situation.

Q.

Condoms should not be mentioned in a Catholic publication. You should say what the Church teaches about condoms!

A.

The media and many public school systems have worked diligently to get the "use condoms" message out to teens. To pretend teens aren't hearing this message is ignorance. Condoms are mentioned here to challenge this message and educate teens about the moral and emotional dangers of condom use. The Catholic Church teaches that all efforts to prevent the creation of life during sexual intercourse—condoms and other forms of birth control—deny the gift God has given us in sexual intimacy. Sexual intercourse is a gift by which a married couple give themselves to each other completely and open themselves up to the gift of a child.

Q.

Could you say more about the emotional dangers of premarital sex?

A.

All forms of sexual contact form a bond between two people. If you hug or hold hands with someone, you have made a physical connection. Your relationship is more personal than before. A kiss is yet more personal, and so on down the sexual contact line. Sexual intercourse is the most intimate bond between two people. Movies and television programs overflow with premarital sexual relationships. Often these relationships are treated as careless mistakes. Sometimes they are shown as loving relationships. Occasionally, a movie or program touches on the fact that emotional pain is also part of a premarital sexual relationship. Lack of trust, unequal feelings of love and commitment between partners and the pain of breaking up a sexually intimate relationship are what real people remember about premarital sexual relationships. These painful and confusing feelings and memories will cloud and may interfere with future relationships.

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