Get Real! Sex and Some Change


Anonymous asks:

Me and
my boyfriend plan to marry after school. I really love him and I
really want him the same way he wants me, but I am scared about if we
have sex then he leaves me. I don’t want to lose him.

Heather replies:

There’s no sense in being anything but frank.

Sex does tend to change things.

It can bring about or illuminate changes in the relationships it
occurs within, changes in our other relationships, and changes in
ourselves. Often, we have to add some factors to our lives we may not
have had to before, like adding the use of birth control or safer sex,
getting sexual healthcare, talking about sexual limits, boundaries and
desires, negotiating sex or navigating through sexual conflicts or
issues. Obviously, certain results or consequences of sex, such as a
pregnancy or a sexually transmitted infection, can also create physical
changes, as well as changes to our lives and relationships.

Sometimes those changes aren’t even negative things, like losing
someone, winding up with Herpes or discovering that sex just doesn’t
feel good or right between you. Sometimes those are neutral or positive
changes, like discovering new and pleasurable things about yourself or
your sexuality (or about your partner and his sexuality) you didn’t
know before, getting a boost to your body image, winding up with a
wanted pregnancy, or having a relationship go to a new and bigger
place, but they are still changes, all the same, and sometimes we’re
just not at a time or place in our lives where we feel best able to
deal with big changes. This is why, in the Sex Readiness Checklist we
have at Scarleteen, one of the questions we suggest people ask
themselves if if they feel able to handle any changes sex may cause.

As well, with any relationship we are in, that relationship
changing, coming to an end, or any one party leaving is always a
possibility, whether we have sex or not, whether we (when we can) marry
or not.

There is absolutely nothing any of us can do to assure that a given
person stays with us, or stays in a certain relationship with us.

Whether sex is part of the picture of not, life changes
things, and time changes things. People change and relationships change
as we live, learn and grow, and there is no magic formula or list of
things to do or not to do — nor an order to do things in or not –
which can put you in complete control of that. One of the trickiest
parts of love and relationships is that while they can feel eternal,
and while we may have times when we want a certain way we feel, or
place we’re at in a relationship, or person to stick around forever, if
we can count on any one thing in our lives, it’s change, and that fact
that nothing really lasts forever.

So, in my book, the way to approach that is to value our feelings as
much as we can while we have them, and to love and honor the people who
are in our lives while they’re here as best we can. I also think it’s
sage and caring to try and be flexible and open enough that when — as
we all tend to — each of us changes, we can still love each other and
be in one another’s lives being more attached to who people are
than to what exact kind of relationship we are in with them. (And if
you talk to older couples who have been together and happy for a very
long time, you’ll hear many say that in a long-term marriage, that kind
of flexibility is key.) By all means, when you find something marvelous
you want to commit to as fully as you can, and really put your whole
heart into, I say go for it, since that’s so much of what really living
life is about, but also understand that trying to always telescope all
your actions based on what will keep someone around can, at a certain
point, get in the way of fully experiencing and enjoying what you have
while you have it.

What I seem to hear you saying, though, in regard to sex, sounds to
me like you are feeling that it is very important to you to assure –
for as much as you can — that when you have sex, you do so in a
relationship with someone who is committed to staying in the
relationship with you after sex. That’s hardly an uncommon thing for a
person to want: many people feel that way, and that’s absolutely valid.

Maybe for you, that means you’d prefer to save sex together for
after marriage: if that’s what feels best to you, you get to do that.
Or, maybe you need to sit down and have a deep conversation with your
partner about your concerns, and if you very strongly feel you want to
have sex before marriage, but are fearful about him leaving, see how he
feels about that, and find out how committed he is to sticking with you
no matter what sex might change for each of you and between you. In
doing that, you can also provide him the opportunity to talk about his
own fears and concerns, which you’ll want to be sure get addressed just
like your own.

It sounds to me like you’re expressing feeling pretty fearful about
this right now, and I know for myself that when I feel very scared
about doing something which is absolutely optional — and sex is, and
always should be — I find it best to take more time to work out how I
feel about that thing and how that thing may or may not really suit my
needs before I go ahead and do it.

So, my personal suggestion to you would be to take some more time to
sort out your feelings and talk with your boyfriend before you become
sexually active.

Not only does that make it more likely that you’ll make the best
choice for you, but sex when you’re fearful simply does not tend to be
very enjoyable or enriching: our minds and bodies don’t tend to
experience a lot of pleasure when we’re scared or freaked out, and it’s
also tough to be open enough to really get close to someone during sex
when we’re scared. The time when it’s going to be most right for you is
when it’s not this scary, and clearly, when you feel a bit more secure
in your relationship than you do right now, and have developed more
trust than you have in it right now. An intention to marry or a promise
of marriage in the future can’t automatically create things like trust
and stability with where you’re at (it’s sage to say that marriage is
more about a demonstration of those things as they already exist): it
sounds to me like it might be a good idea for you, in your
decision-making with this and in general, to think less about a future
marriage and more about where you’re at, how you’re feeling, and what
you need to feel more secure in your relationship today.

Don’t forget, too, that sex is not just intercourse. The only two
big differences between vaginal intercourse and all other kinds of sex
is the risk of pregnancy, and the fact that some people simply attach
more importance to vaginal intercourse for personal, religious or
cultural reasons, particularly before they have it (afterwards, it can
tend to be clearer just how different from other kinds of sex it often
isn’t). In other words, if you are doing things like making out, or
having manual or oral sex, then you already are going to have some idea
of how things are going when it comes to sex and the two of you. If you
are doing those things, you can look at how those have been going, and
if it seems like the sex you’re already having in your relationship is
working well within it and leaves you feeling good — not just
physically, but also emotionally — or not-so-great.

Again, no matter what, you can’t have a guarantee that any choice
you make will assure your boyfriend stays your boyfriend, becomes your
husband or sticks around: there is just nothing you can do to assure
that. Heck, maybe you’ll find that it’s you who thinks about
leaving him at some point; maybe it’s you who will find that sex
changes how you feel about him, your relationship, yourself or your
future plans. Maybe you two will have some changes in your relationship
– or that one of you will decide not to continue on with it or a
marriage — over something that isn’t about sex at all. While you can’t
have that guarantee, you can manage this in a way which is most likely
to keep you and your relationship in a good place.

You’re the best expert on knowing when something is right for you,
and when you feel up to handling something and when you do not. You can
certainly act in ways which are most likely to benefit your
relationship and its quality, such as being honest about your fears,
voicing your own needs and working with your partner to assure that sex
is something you both really want, and feel ready both to manage and
enjoy. The bonus is that doing that not only helps you make the best
sexual choices that you can, it helps nurture and grow more love in
your relationship as a whole.

Here are a few extra links to grow on:

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