“… let’s talk about all the bad things and the good things that may be…”

I knew that would get your attention! But seriously, let’s talk about it. It’s not the dirty three letter word our grandparents and parents considered taboo. And, it’s definitely not what society makes it out to be. Truth is, in the end, the “different” relationships that both men and woman seek will include sex – so really, men and women both want it.

Unfortunately, all to often both a woman and a man settle for something less than meaningful involving sex in their relationship. Society is continually setting these expectations that lower the standards of what a real relationship should be based on and when certain amounts of intimacy are acceptable. We hear things like “3 Date Rule”… Really? What happened to waiting until you’re married? Sex is constantly being redefined – for example “soaking.” I don’t care what you call it, if you’re in – it’s sex. (For those of you who have been misinformed by your peers or your girl/boyfriend or the slow deterioration of your conscience see Wikipedia – Sexual Intercourse. If the most socially influenced encyclopedia in the world can still define it correctly, you should be able to, right?!!!) I’m sure when you’re a parent the, “But, mom, we were just soaking!” isn’t going to fly for you. How does anyone expect to fully trust themselves in or commit to a relationship of value if they are continually lowering their standards or trying to redefine acts they are performing to minimize or completely eliminate a sense of guilt, consequence or responsibility?

And, in our situation – whether still a virgin or experienced – we’re all vulnerable. The allure of it can be quite attractive. From what I remember of it (though my memory grows more faint over time), it’s fun. Some use it as an escape, not caring who the partner is, just looking for a feeling that simulates even an ounce of what they hope to have in reality. Society keeps advertising that’s pretty much all there is to expect out of relationships, so many settle for less to get it. Others buckle to the temptation when one or both partners get lost in a moment that could have been prevented/avoided by limiting themselves from crossing boundaries society mock as being immature or childish for trying to keep. And, there are some who make sex such a taboo thing to discuss one wonders if they will ever really be able to experience just how good it can be.

Really, all there needs to be is a healthy level of respect about sex. Respect for what sex is – as defined and intended by God. Respect for those you spend your time with in the dating world. And, most importantly, yourself.

Set rules with people you’re interested in dating and communicate – verbally, not just physically. Physical communication – making out, french kissing, etc. – can be quite confusing and doesn’t really tell you how the other person is feeling, rather sparks feelings that can put those who aren’t careful into autopilot as the body just takes over. “But, Kevin… It’s so difficult to talk to someone and get to know someone and share feelings with someone. It’s so much easier to just cuddle, hug, kiss, make out, caress them… Isn’t doing all that letting them know I care about them?” … Um, not really. All of that can be done without knowing someone. All of the feelings that need to be there in order to have that kind of a moment with someone don’t have to be real, don’t have to be lasting, and don’t even take much effort. It’s called the “natural man.”

I saw a quote from an unlisted source that said: “It’s easy to take off your clothes and have sex. People do it all the time. But opening up your soul to someone, letting them into your spirit, thoughts, fears, future, hopes, dreams… that is being naked.” Our parents’ generation… wait they were from the hippie era (at least mine were).. Our grandparents’ were from a time that was more conservative and focused on a relationship with a certain foundation under it. Feelings were – at least in the example I had in my Grandma and Grandpa Hansen – openly expressed and an important part of building a relationship. Now, it would seem people have less trouble getting physically naked with each other than they do getting down to the real things that hold a relationship together and exposing themselves emotionally. Almost as if we are more willing to sacrifice modesty and chastity in order to avoid the vulnerability to hurt and pain that can come from feelings that aren’t reciprocated. In reality,though, feelings, emotions, compatibility as a couple, etc. are all going to come around as priorities. So, why allow yourselves to get wrapped up in moments of pleasure and false comfort that are only going to create more pain and discomfort and have the potential of making things more personal when it’s discovered you’re really not compatible with each other?

Take pause to think things through. Get to know the person you’re spending time with. Chances are, if you’re interested in someone enough to engage with them in truly getting to know them and be their friend, the physical aspects of a relationship shouldn’t be a problem at all, so they can wait. President Kimball offered advice as to what would make a marriage successful. While not all dating leads to marriage, marriage should come as a result of a healthy dating relationship. Here are his points, with additional comments from what I caught in reading them:

First, there must be the proper approach toward marriage, which contemplates the selection of a spouse who reaches as nearly as possible the pinnacle of perfection in all the matters which are of importance to the individuals. And then those two parties must come to the altar in the temple realizing that they must work hard toward this successful joint living. Sure, it hurts when you really like someone, have invested emotions into a potential or actual relationship with someone, and it doesn’t workout for whatever reasons. But, having incompatibility discovered during dating is much better than avoiding getting to really know the person and marrying for what may be good reasons, but just not enough of the right reasons.

Second, there must be a great unselfishness, forgetting self and directing all of the family life and all pertaining thereunto to the good of the family, subjugating self. Premarital sex or other forms of physical intimacy that should also be reserved for marriage are actually pretty selfish in nature. You’re satisfying a need – even if both of you want to satisfy it – without honoring or giving respect to the nature of what is being done. Making love is supposed to be the pinnacle bonding point of a man and a woman in marriage.

Third, there must be continued courting and expressions of affection, kindness, and consideration to keep love alive and growing. Relationships worth having, from the moment of early courtship and on through marriage, require commitment and work. Some people are good at fulfilling most elements of this while dating, but abandon a fair share of dating behaviors during marriage. If you have really gotten to know the person you’re dating, you’ll know what kinds of things are important to them. And, these things won’t change after marriage. If physical intimacy took a higher priority than really getting to know and understand the needs of your girl/boyfriend, you might find yourself seriously lacking in your ability to fulfill their needs in marriage that go beyond sex. Really get to know the person you’re dating and keep getting to know them – from the little things to the big things. The finer details being cherished in a relationship may just be the way we can prevent the minutia of mistakes made from tearing it apart.

Fourth, there must be a complete living of the commandments of the Lord as defined in the gospel of Jesus Christ. “… In this there is safety and peace.” If you want a temple marriage, find someone who is temple worthy. If you don’t want to cross certain lines, find people who will respect those lines. Dating isn’t easy, and the nature of physical attraction in relationships brings on challenges. Finding someone to date who has a desire to keep the commandments isn’t going to make the relationship impermeable to mistakes, but it does make keeping a chaste relationship less of a challenge.

“Kevin… Seriously?!!! We’re all adults here and able to make decisions about stuff like this on our own.” Certainly you are. Just a few questions, though… How are we, who have children, supposed to teach our kids what real relationships look like if we’re always settling for less than what we we ourselves hope for our kids to find? And, looking back at all the people you’ve dated and all thing things you’ve done with them… How many of them did you marry? As you’re going from one relationship to another, has anything you’ve done with others or the idea that the new person your dating may have done things, too, create pause, but up walls, or interfere in any way with how you’re able to open up and express yourself with them?

So, while dating, talk about it. Not in the way teenagers in the cafeteria or construction workers talk about it, rather have a serious, respectful discussion with someone you are feeling close to about what you feel is appropriate to be doing while dating and how you plan to protect yourselves and each other from taking things to points physically that don’t align with where your relationship is. If you can’t be on the same page together about this, chances are there are a whole lot of other concerns you haven’t even scratched the surface of that will bring other problems out of the woodwork later on. If mistakes are made along the way, face them together sooner than later. Work with each other to determine if you can get back to respecting each other and the boundaries you’ve set. If you find you can’t and the same mistakes or worse mistakes keep occurring, then consider another quote: “You can’t make the same mistake twice, the second time you make it, it’s a choice.” Come on, people. We’re adults. We know that if something lead to another thing one time, it will most likely lead to it again so re-align the relationship and avoid those things that keep allowing things to go too far.

I may offend some people here, given the demographics in Idaho… I’m really not much of a country music fan. I know, I know. I just made myself ineligible a large number of single women out there – assuming other things about me haven’t already. There are some artists/groups I really like, and one that has a song I enjoy because it goes against the grain of the culture we have now with regard to sex is Lady Antebellum – “Just a Kiss.” It’s really refreshing to hear a great love song that admits there are strong feelings there and speaks of a willingness to keep things simple so as not to mess up a possibility of something greater.

“No, I don’t want to mess things up.
I don’t want to push too far.
Just a shot in the dark that you just might
be the one I’ve been waiting for my whole life.
So, baby, I’m alright. Oh, let’s do this right, with just a kiss goodnight.”