Infatuation describes the crazy feeling of being so into someone you can’t think about anything else. You think about their looks, every word they’ve spoken, the way they move, what they wore. You can even be infatuated with someone you’ve never met, like a movie star or rock singer. You dream about meeting them one day and what will happen…
It’s fun to be infatuated. It’s exciting and makes ordinary life a bit more interesting.
But is it real?
OK, so you’re not likely to just bump into your favourite movie star and start up a fantastic relationship (bummer!), but what about that girl or guy you’ve been infatuated with for months? What if by some miracle you actually got together with this person?
This is where reality sets in … He likes that band? She goes for that team? He makes that sniffing sound with his nose all the time? She doesn’t like my friends? ... Infatuation is fun but it isn’t what makes a relationship work. You need a lot more than that. A real relationship flourishes on other stuff (see below).
So why do we long to be in relationship? Simply because we all have an in-built need to belong, to love and be loved. We long for intimacy.
Experiencing the feelings of love and intimacy can be the most wonderful and the most heartbreaking moments in your life. The longing, the need and the desire for intimacy are a part of life for everyone. These longings can be even stronger if you are troubled by the feeling that you don’t "belong".
But sometimes we make mistakes about how to find intimacy and belonging. The media often gives the message that having sex is essential to a relationship and will bring a couple closer. Will it?
Sex can be a wonderful part of a real love relationship, but of itself the act of having sex does not remove a person’s feelings of loneliness or lack of belonging. Sex does not and cannot replace love.
True intimacy is experiencing emotional closeness. Physical closeness (like sex) can happen without any love or intimacy at all. Teenagers are more likely to mistake physical closeness for emotional intimacy and feel deep hurt and regret afterwards.
A large British survey of nearly 8000 young teenagers asked about their first experience of sexual intercourse. The results showed over a third of the girls and just under a third of the boys regretted having sex at such an early age. A fifth of the girls said they had felt under pressure. The boys’ regret related to putting pressure on girls. Alcohol and drugs were also factors (1).
A 2004 Australian report into teenage sexual activity showed 1 in 4 sexually active secondary students reported having had unwanted sexual intercourse, with alcohol being most commonly cited as the explanation. In the same report 1 in 4 reported they were drunk or high at their most recent sexual encounter, and 1 in 5 women and 1 in 20 young men reported coercion (being forced) into unwanted sexual activity (2).
Is it a real decision if you do something just because the group says so, or because that’s what everybody seems to expect? Is it a real decision if you hand over your control to alcohol, drugs or other people’s desires? It’s important to stand up for yourself.
Saying no when everyone seems to be having sex can feel lonely. However, it means fewer regrets down the track. Give yourself time to be free to be yourself and find out what you want out of life. Hold out for someone who will commit to loving you for yourself, not for what they can get.
There are lots of good reasons for choosing to wait, like self-respect … avoiding pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections … protecting yourself from emotional hurt … honouring a religious belief … preparing for a lifetime commitment with one special person. If someone says they love you, they will cherish you for who you are. Being prepared to wait is a statement of their love and commitment.
Whether or not to get into sex is something to really think about – not just because of the risk of STIs, but because of pregnancy, abortion and emotional hurts. There’s no such thing as casual sex. People’s emotions and physical well being are always on the line.
Most teen magazines, movies and TV soaps give the impression that pretty much all teens are having sex. Not true! By age 19 only half the teen population has had sexual intercourse. If you are a virgin you are not alone - and you’re keeping safe. Saying No to sex as a teenager is a smart move.
Being able to judge whether your feelings are REAL LOVE can be difficult, especially as a teenager. Questions that you might ask of your relationship include:
RESPECT - Does he or she listen when you speak? Does he/she know the things that are most important to you and vice versa?
EQUALITY - What do you do together as shared interests? Do you share each other’s friends?
AFFECTION - Are there any signs of affection or kindness apart from sexual activity?
LOYALTY - Is he/she loyal to you regardless of what his/her friends think and do?
LIBERATION - Do you have someone to turn to apart from your boyfriend/girlfriend? What is the future of your education and other life goals if this relationship continues?
OPENESS - Do you and your partner express negative feelings of guilt, anger, depression? Do you and your partner freely express positive feelings of love and affection?
VIGOR - Is the intensity of the relationship one sided?
ENRICHMENT - Do you like the way you act whilst in this relationship? Do you believe that you have matured in it?
There are many ways to show that you care:
When you are open and honest with each other it’s amazing how close you can feel – that’s the beginning of true intimacy.
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