UB David + I'll B Jonathan, Inc.


Teen Issues: Friendship, Dating and Sex




Questions from real-life teens with answers from well known columnist, Tim Stafford.

Content originally appeared in Campus Life magazine. Copyright © 2001-2005 by columnist, Tim Stafford. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

UB David + I'll B Jonathan, Inc.


Teen Issues: Friendship, Dating & Sex

Teen Issues: Friendship, Dating & Sex

Questions from real-life teens with answers from well known columnist, Tim Stafford.

Lesson 5: Relationship Survival

Relationship Survival


Can Our Love Survive the Distance?

Question: I recently went on a missions trip and I met a wonderful guy. We feel like we're in love. But we live several states from each other, so I haven't seen him since our missions trip. I thought my feelings might fade when I got back home, but I think more and more about him every day. And he says the same thing.

When we were together, God was very much a part of our relationship. Can God keep us together even though we're apart?

Answer: When you're hundreds of miles away from someone you care about, the difference between a friendship and a romance is all about feelings. You miss a long-distance friend, but you really miss a long-distance love. It feels a little crazy to fall in love with someone who lives half a country away. It's extremely inconvenient. I know this because I lived 2,000 miles away from my wife before we were married. You're bound to feel frustrated. You have these feelings for each other, and you have to decide what to do with them. My advice is to be realistic. You said you expected your feelings to fade away once you two were apart. You know that without the chance to see each other on a regular basis, those intense feelings die out. Somebody else comes along and makes you forget the guy who's miles away from you.

Although that hasn't happened yet, it still may. Yes, God can keep you together if he wants to, despite the distance. But that's his job, not yours. You're wise to just enjoy the relationship a day at a time, keep it going for as long as you like, and let it dwindle away if your feelings change. In the meantime, you have a friend you like and admire. That's a precious gift. Try not to attach too many strings to the relationship. You don't need to vow that you won't look at anybody else, or try to decide now whether God has meant you to be together forever.

Instead, strengthen the bond you do have. E-mail, call and text each other. Share your lives with each other. Pray for each other. Make the most of this friendship with someone you care for deeply. And let the future take care of itself.


Should We Keep In Touch?

Question: I'm a recent high school graduate, about to enter a 10-month discipleship program. I'll travel a lot and need to be totally focused on God, so I'm not allowed to date. But there's a guy I'm interested in, and we think we might get married some day. He wants me to stay in touch, and I'm allowed to do that through letters. He says he'll wait for me, and I believe him. But friends say I should forget about him for the next 10 months. What should I do?

Answer: By all means, keep in touch with him.

I can't think of anything better than to have someone to write while you go through these 10 months. Writing will allow you to articulate what you're learning and doing. And it can be a great source of growth between the two of you.

Given that you both want to write, it's a good idea to say, right from the beginning, that 10 months is a long time and feelings can change. You may meet someone in your program who changes your perspective. He may meet someone at home who changes his. I'd encourage you to acknowledge this to each other, and make a commitment not to feel guilty or hesitant in other relationships. If your relationship has staying power, it can handle a little competition! Let's say that during this time you realize you're interested in someone else, or that the spark has gone out of your relationship. I don't see this as a bad outcome—it'll show you that you probably weren't meant for each other.

When you write, tell him what you're doing, who you're meeting, what you're learning. Describe people, places, activities. Just talking about your relationship will get old in a hurry. But if you write about substantial things, you'll come to know and understand each other better.


Can Our Love Last?

Question: I am a 17-year-old girl, and I've been going out with a 13-year-old boy from my youth group. Just recently he moved a couple of states away, and I really miss him. We are trying to keep our relationship going, but it's hard. I used to talk to him every day, and now I hardly ever talk to him. I've only seen him once since he moved away almost two months ago. My parents and friends say I should give him up because he's too young to understand what love is. I know I love him, but what are the odds that this will last? Is he really too young for me?

Answer: You want to know odds? I'd say they're pretty slim. Given your ages, given the distance, I wouldn't count on your relationship lasting much longer. Very few long-distance romances persevere. And do you realize that when you're graduating from college and starting a career, he'll just be finishing high school?

And yet, what are the odds that any relationship will last? Not very good, and yet some do. That's why we keep trying.

While it's unlikely you and your boyfriend will stay together, I wouldn't say it's impossible. And I wouldn't encourage you to write him off. He's your friend, isn't he? I don't think the important question is, "What are the odds?" What you need to know is how to act. Here's what I'd recommend:

1) Don't act like your life is over because he's moved away. On the contrary, even though you miss your boyfriend, get involved with other people whom you can see and talk to often. Don't sit at home and mope. If this boy is the one for you, God will bring you back together. In the meantime, you need to have a life.

2) Stay friends with your boyfriend. He's an important person who's moved away. Keep in touch as much as you can and as much as you both want to—by writing letters or e-mails, by talking when you can (but don't run up ridiculously high phone bills), by seeing each other when opportunities present themselves. Friendships often fade when you're separated, but they don't have to.

3) Trust in God. He knows your future. It's really not up to you to decide right now whether this guy is the right one for you. Just wait and see what happens. If your life is in good shape physically, emotionally and spiritually, whatever happens will be good, because God is good. In your daily prayers, entrust your boyfriend to God's care.

4) Don't put any limits on each other. Don't let jealousy or premature commitments keep one or the other of you from dating other people. As I said, if you're really meant to be together, you will be. Dating other people would only confirm to you both that you want to be together.


She's Too Busy for Me

Question: I've been going out with this girl for nearly eight months, and we're very much in love. The only catch is, we live in different states, and our parents won't let us make trips alone to see each other. This means I see her about every six weeks. In addition to that, she's a cheerleader and is taking a lot of hard classes this year. I'm not involved in any sports right now, so I have a lot of free time. It seems like she could at least set aside a little time to talk to me. But when I mention it, we always end up nearly breaking up. Can you please give me some advice?

Answer: My advice is that you accept her the way she is. Evidently she has a strong sense of duty and priorities—and that's good. The problem is, you're not high on the list right now. You can fuss about it, or you can accept it. I'd recommend accepting it.

Then ask yourself, "What can I give her while we're in this period?" You certainly can't give her your company. Apparently you can't give her long conversations on the phone. Maybe, though, you can offer something she can appreciate without feeling like she has to sacrifice her priorities. Maybe you can write her letters or send her e-mail. Maybe you can draw her pictures, send her photos, make her little gifts. Maybe you can send her a daily note—with no strings attached. If you're creative, you can probably think of other ways to give a little bit of yourself.

I know this isn't what you had in mind. You want to be higher on her priority list. You want her to give something back! Right now, however, that doesn't seem possible. Nobody would blame you if you went looking for another girlfriend. If you really love her, though, you're going to have to just make the most of it.


How Can We Get Back on Track?

Question: My boyfriend and I decided a month ago that things were getting too physical, and we had to stop doing everything except hugging goodbye. It ended up making things really weird between us, though. Now he's decided we need a "break" until everything cools down. I have a feeling, though, it'll be more than just a break. But if we do get back together, what can we do to make things right?

Answer: It sounds like you and your boyfriend made a very mature decision. You saw where your relationship was headed, and decided to make a change. I also think your boyfriend has good reasons for wanting to take a break. This time apart may lead you to reevaluate whether you want to be together, but that's healthy. As for things feeling rather odd and even uncomfortable right now, I never knew a relationship that didn't have some weird feelings along the way. It's natural to feel strange when you're trying a new way of relating to each other. If and when you decide to start up your relationship again, keep the same spirit. The goal isn't to feel comfortable. Comfort comes with time—anything new feels strange at first. The goal is a healthy relationship. Get to know each other's thoughts and feelings, spend time with each other's friends.

It's almost like starting out with someone you don't know. Take it slow! And find some trusted Christian friends you can ask to pray with you and hold you accountable in your dating relationship. With their support, you'll be less likely to give in to temptation.


Should I Ask Her Out Again?

Question: I broke up with my girlfriend a few months ago, but I think I'm starting to like her again. I've been praying about whether or not I should ask her out, but I'm not sure I should. I don't think it's fair to ask her out again if we'll only break up soon. I don't want to use her or to play with her heart. How can I figure out if I made a mistake breaking up with her, or if I'm just lonely or selfish?

Answer: You have a great attitude. So many people think only of their own feelings, but you're concerned about your girlfriend's heart. You're right to worry. Dating is not a game. The Song of Songs, which celebrates love, also warns lovers to be careful and "not to awaken or excite my feelings of love until it is ready" (3:5, NCV).

How can you know whether to try again? I'd give yourself another month, to see whether your feelings change. During that month, spend time with friends, both male and female. Maybe the company of others will help you feel less lonely.

If after that you still have feelings for your old girlfriend, ask her out. First talk to her, though, and tell her honestly of your doubts and fears. You owe her that. But if you still really care for her, it's OK to give the relationship another chance.


Is He Using Me?

Question: After dating for two years, my boyfriend and I agreed God wanted us to break up and get right with him before we continued our relationship. At first we continued to see each other despite our decision. But eventually he told me we needed to really be apart. He also told me he wasn't sure if he truly loved me for me, or just loved the fact that I was there and knew everything about him already. That hurt me a lot.

I thought I was getting over him, but a few weeks ago he called me and said he wanted to talk about "us." I wanted him to come back to me, but now I don't know. I wonder if he's just using me because he's lonely and can't find anyone else. What do you think I should tell him?

Answer: It sounds to me as though you're quite fearful of the unknown. (Who isn't?) You liked the security of your relationship and when it ended, you found it shattering. Then you got comfortable without him, and now you're not sure you want to leave that for more unknowns.

Life is full of unknowns, though, and the only real security is God. I don't think you'll be able to settle down in peace unless you explore what your ex-boyfriend wants. Your questions are good. Is he just lonely? Is he using you? Ask him. And if you start dating again, go slow. Start at the beginning of the relationship. Don't try to jump in where you left off—because you're not there any more.

It's going to feel insecure, but take a chance and talk to him. Ask God to give you wisdom, and he certainly will (James 1:5).


I Want Him Back

Question: I got into a serious relationship when I was 15. My boyfriend and I always went to church together. I totally fell in love with the guy.

We broke up two years later, during his senior year and my junior year. I felt like we broke things off without really knowing where to go from there and drifted apart.

A couple of weeks ago, we started chatting again online. I am a senior now, and even though I wouldn't want to rush into anything with him, I honestly think we could have a future together. Sometimes I picture us together in 10 years, married with children.

What does all of this mean? I think God is putting these thoughts in my mind, but I don't know how to interpret them. I'm wondering: How do I get my ex-boyfriend back? Should I even try? We broke up a year ago, but my feelings are as strong as ever. Will I ever know his?

Answer: It's impossible for me—or anyone—to say whether you and your ex-boyfriend are meant to be together. One thing I can say for sure, though: You are thinking way too much. In your dreams you're settled down with children, while in reality you aren't even currently close friends with the guy. These fantasies won't help you build a solid relationship. In fact, they're probably distracting you from reality.

My advice is to stop thinking and start moving. Tell him how you feel. Ask him whether he's ready to try again. If he is, then you can see where it leads—one step at a time. If not, your question is answered, and you can begin to move on, for good.

My guess is that if you start going out again, you'll soon remember why you broke up the first time. It's easy to attach your longings for love to a fantasy figure you never see. The real-life person can bring you down to earth.

But to really know, you'll have to make contact.


Questions from real-life teens with answers from well known columnist, Tim Stafford.

Content originally appeared in Campus Life magazine. Copyright © 2001-2005 by columnist, Tim Stafford. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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