Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Dating and Sexuality

Questioner: Linda

Subject: Dating and Sexuality

Question: My daughter is 17. She is such a good kid that one would wonder why I need any advice at all. She is a good student, good friend, has great morals, doesnt smoke, drink or have any kind of sex.

She really isnt your "typical" teenager. She doesn't event talk back or ever have a fight with us (her parents), there is nothing to fight about- she's just a good girl. Here is my story- she has a best friend- a boy who she met in 9th grade, they are now in 11th grade. He is also a really good kid, I will call him Bill.

He is a year younger than my daughter. They decided to start "going out" back in June and now call themselves boyfriend and girlfriend. It has been 7 months now. The problem is this- He originally told my daughter he was gay. Then this year changed his status to "bisexual". I told my daughter this did bother me but it was her decision who she wanted to date and I would support her.

I am not worried about sex at this point, she isnt ready for that. I am worried she is too naive to see that their relationship isnt real - they just dont have any chemistry and seem to be just "playing" roles of boyfriend and girlfriend with no real physical connection. Does this make sense?

All of their friends see it, and I think she has her concerns too but she won't talk to me about it - which is my other concern. How can I get my daughter to open up to me? She mentioned her friends want her to break up with Bill so I tried to have a discussion with her, but she felt uncomfortable talking to me about it. Ive tried a few times to talk to her but it just doesnt come out right.

She is such a good kid and I am not complaining- I just wish she would feel comfortable talking to me. Or how can I find ways to help her be more comfortable talking to me so I can give her advice? I really feel this relationship with this boy is just a close friendship and will only end in heartache for both of them. I would like to be able to tell her my feelings without upsetting her.

So my question is this- should I keep trying to open up this conversation or let it be and just let her figure it out for herself? Maybe this is just my problem and not hers. any comments would be appreciated.

Thank you for listening.

Answer: Dear Linda;

I hear two problems here and yes both of them do belong to you.

1. I hear you asking why your daughter won't talk to you. I suspect it may have something to do with my second answer but before I go there consider a few things.

Do you listen more than you talk? Do you spend time with her doing some favorite activity of hers so she can open up with you? (teens often open up more when they are busy doing something with you). Do you interrupt her when she is talking or make judgemental comments? If the answers are all no then read ahead.

2. As I read your posting I read that you like so many of us do as parents, are operating under the assumption that you can spare your daughter from heartache. Not going to happen. They have to do what they have to do and your experience is not going to save them from their making their own mistakes. However who said mistakes are truly mistakes maybe they were great learning experiences preparing you for the rest of your life???

When we as human beings try to spare someone from some situation we percieve to be harmful to someone else we do two things. We set ourselves up as the all knowing person and really who of us is an expert on our own lives let alone someone elses? We can never be one hundred percent certain that anything is best for someone else. Most of us struggle to know what is best for ourselves and this takes a few years and a few close encounters at best.

The other thing being concerned about sparing another person from their choices does is to change the communication from a supportive and understanding to an authoritative and critical style of communication. It keeps us from truly hearing what another person is saying. Our thoughts are on how to get the other person to see the light instead of really hearing from the heart what is being said. A sure recipe to closing down communication.

The last thing this concern does is rob the person of being able to make mistakes and take charge of their life. It conveys to them that you percieve them as incompetent and incapable of handling their own life. This is disempowering.

She needs to know you will be there for her no matter what and that you truly believe she is capable of handling her own problems and that you are there to be one of her sounding boards, and a sounding board who will love her with all of your heart no matter how her situations turns out. This is a recipe for a long lasting relationship with your daughter for many years to come.

Now having said all this, this is not a big issue. She could be doing so much worse as you yourself indicated. So allow her some room for failure and to be less than perfect. Everyone needs some wobble room in their life and she has chosen a pretty benign relationship to make a mistake with, wouldn't you agree?

Congratulations on raising an almost perfect child! Pat yourself on the back and stop worrying.

M Kay Keller