When You Don't Like Their Partner

It’s a perennial cliché in nearly every coming of age movie, book, and sitcom. An adolescent or emerging adult character brings home a new boyfriend or girlfriend, who is met with dismay or disapproval by parents. Perhaps there is a joke (because threats of violence are apparently hilarious) made about shotguns if the daughter has brought home a boyfriend. Often, the scenario is played for laughs, or for soap opera levels of drama.

In real life, it’s not unusual for parents to not immediately like the partner of their teen, or to feel wary or cautious when it comes to supporting their romantic or sexual relationship. But that situation is often emotionally fraught for both parent and child, and if those feelings aren’t handled constructively, it can deteriorate the relationship between parent and child. And in the event a parent’s concerns are truly warranted, such as when a partner seems in any way abusive or dysfunctional, parental nonsupport not only creates a rift between parent and child, it also will often only further cement the romantic or sexual relationship between that child and the other person, putting them more in harm’s way rather than helping them to stay or get safe.

By all means, sometimes, the things you don’t like about a partner are actual, legitimate red flags that you can see, but your child can’t. So how do you go about working out whether or not your concerns are valid, and what to do about them if they are?

“My partner and I have been together for nearly two years, but it seems as though my family wants to tear that away from me because he doesn’t live up to their standards”

A good first step is to take a long, honest look at what your objections to this partner are and where they might be coming from.

For instance, if your child is relatively new to dating, there’s a decent chance much of the discomfort has to do with your own feelings about them growing up and expressing themselves as a romantic/sexual being; about separating from you, having relationships of their own that don’t really include you or aren’t also yours, and just your general worries and concerns about all that can some with and be part of romantic and sexual relationships. You might be worried that they’ll get their heartbroken, or be taken advantage of, or a myriad of other bad or difficult things that can emerge in relationships.

If that’s the case, it can help to remember that many parents feel growing pains as their children… well, grow up. But, what’s equally important to remember is that your child is becoming more and more autonomous, and part of that process is navigating the world of romantic relationships. And yes, odds are that they will have a bad break-up or two. That’s part of how this whole game works, and there’s not anything you can do to stop it from happening. What’s more important than trying to run interference and somehow prevent them from ever being hurt is to let them explore, make their mistakes and feel their hurts, and support them when they ask for it. If you’re supportive and there for them, and doing what you can to stay connected to them, rather than pushing them away with control or negativity, they’ll be far better able weather the hard stuff, because they’ve got you.

It feels like my parents really don’t approve of my relationship, that they feel it’s not something mature and serious, that they don’t like him or that they just plain don’t trust us.   I can’t really explain why I get this impression as they’ve not really said anything specific, it’s just their overall attitude about him when he’s not around, the odd comments they make about him etc.

My mum has commented that my Dad “doesn’t trust boys” and that “he always expects the worst of their intentions”. I assume she means that they expect him to be making sexual advances. I’m not sure how to handle this because actually - yes, he does. We have fooled around and talked a lot about sex…but it’s nothing to do with his “dishonorable intentions” it’s just something we both want and feel comfortable with and it really isn’t that big a deal for us. My Dad, on the other hand said that it was ‘inappropriate’ for my bf to see me in my pyjamas.

I’ve tried talking to them about this. I explained the other day that we felt that they didn’t really approve of us and that sometimes things felt a little awkward.  I said that if they weren’t happy with him coming around our house so often, then I could let him know. They turned around and said I was being childish.

It’s also safe to say that, for many parents, much of the discomfort with a child’s partner is tied up with worries about your child being sexual, both in general, and with someone else. After all, a partner might pressure them into having sex they don’t themselves really want or feel ready for. Or, even if there’s no pressure involved, and sex is wanted, it comes with all the potential risks and hazards that sex with other people always does.

But as they move further and further into their teen years and their emerging adulthood, odds are good that they’re either having sex of some kind, going to, or are at least considering it. Again, it helps to remember that this is part of them growing up, and your job as a parent is to help them to become adults, not keep them from it. You cannot prevent it. What you can do is give them tools to think about and weigh the risks around sex, and reassure them that you’ll be there for them if they need someone to talk to about what’s going on. You can check in with them and keep the lines of communication about all of this open and relaxed to make it more likely they’ll keep you in the loop, and come to you with any concerns, asking for your help as they need it.

Continuing the self-examination, consider whether or not you’ve been harboring any expectations about the type of person you were expecting your child to date. It may be that they are of a different race, gender, or class than you imagined. Or maybe their personality is a little different than what you were anticipating (like your nerdy child bringing home a punk kid). If that’s the case, then it helps to remember that appearances don’t tell you everything, and that there are likely things about this person that are drawing your child to them that may not be immediately apparent to you. Too, part of what’s exciting about being new to dating is getting the chance to explore and experiment with the types of people you’re interested in an see what works for you. So dating someone who seems a little unexpected is actually pretty standard. You’ve had years to get to know and grow to love your child: this person is brand new to you, so you may just need to give it some time.

One other possibility is that you and your teen’s partner just don’t mesh, personality-wise. This isn’t actually weird when you stop and think about it. We don’t get along with everyone who comes into our lives or the lives of those we love. You probably have coworkers, friend’s spouses, or even relatives who, while you feel no animosity towards them, you don’t really feel any desire to be around or great interest in. Who a teen might choose to date may be someone who falls into that similar category. If that’s the case, fall back on being polite and welcoming when you see them, and remember that it’s not you who is maintaining the relationship here, nor is it you who it’s for.

But it may be that your discomfort is because you’re noticing behaviors that concern you. You know how it goes for yourself, no doubt: it’s often hard to see someone’s flaws when we’re in thrall, especially when all of these kinds of feelings in general are so new and so heady.

What you may be noticing that’s got you feeling like this may be red flags, behaviors and mindsets that indicate a relationship that may not be healthy. Either with your child or with others, like you or other family members, someone showing red flags may:

  • Be controlling, or trying to control, who their partner sees, talks to, spends their time with, or what they wear or do.
  • Get jealous or possessive if their partner interacts with others – including their family members – besides them.
  • Belittle, criticize, or mock their partner or you and the things either of you likes or values.
  • Treat your feelings, or their partners feelings, as unimportant or foolish.
  • Try to convince you or their partner  that things are not happening as you or they perceive them; be gaslighting in some way.
  • Make you feel anxious or afraid when you’re around them, or their partner may appear to feel that way about or around them.  Their partner may become more isolated and start to feel less connected to people who aren’t their partner.
  • Blame you, or their partner, for everything or hold you, or their partner, responsible for their feelings.
  • Threaten their partner or you physically.

Relatedly, you may be observing that since they got into this relationship, when their partner is around – or when they’re not, in-person, but are texting, messaging or calling them – your child appears more unhappy than happy, or more nervous and fearful than comfortable and excited.

Conversely, there are also green flags to pay attention to. Someone who is a healthy partner will:

  • Treat a partner, and the partner’s family and friends with respect, and care including listening to your requests and minding limits or boundaries.
  • Be someone around whom their partner, and you, feels happy and safe.
  • Manage their feelings in healthy ways, even when in conflict with you or their partner. While you probably don’t enjoy arguing with them, the thought of what they might do, or how they might react, with you or your child, doesn’t frighten you.
  • Have a whole life of their own outside of their relationship with their partner, and support and encourage that partner having the same.
  • Seem clearly supportive of their partners interests, talents, thoughts, feelings and values, as well as your own, even in ways they may be different from theirs.

Neither of those lists is at all comprehensive (and they apply to non-romantic relationships as well), but they can give you a general sense of what red and green flags look like in practice.

What do you do if you notice red flags coming from your child’s partner?

If you’re concerned about possible abuse happening, you may also want to read In Love and in Danger by Barrie Levy, a great starter book on the subject.

Talk to your child about your concerns, and keep the talk about those concerns and behaviours, rather than talking about the quality of their partner as a person (such as, “He’s just a jerk,” rather than “I feel worried when I see how scared you are not to answer his texts right away.”). Try to do this as tactfully as possible. The more you show open disapproval, or the more you try to forbid any sort of interaction, the more forbidden and thus desirable the relationship may seem. Too, if they feel that you’re judging their relationship or partner, they may stop talking to you about it, which will make it even harder to take the temperature of what’s going on. Make your concerns as straightforward and clear as possible: “I’ve been noticing that partner treats you x way, and I have to say I’m a little concerned about it. How do you feel when they do X?”  Find out how they are interpreting the behaviors that concern you. It may be that the issue has not occurred to them before, or that they’re perceiving the red flag in a very different way (for instance, it’s common for people to initially view a jealous partner as flattering). Too, a partner who is being deliberately manipulative will often play on the idea of “our love is so unique that nobody could understand it,” so be aware that you voicing your worries may been seen or heard through that lens.

When you have this conversation, try to focus less on your feelings (“I don’t like it/I think this is wrong/I think that you should”) and more on theirs. That may make them more receptive to what you have to say, because it feels like you expressing care for them, rather than you trying to impose your opinions onto their relationship or control them.

It may be that, even after you voice your concerns, your child does not end the relationship. You cannot force them to do so, and attempting to may make them just double down or go behind your back. Instead, if they seem reluctant to end the relationship, let them know that you will be there for them no matter what, and if they want to talk about anything, you’re there to listen. That way, if things go sour, they will be more likely to come to you for help, as they won’t be worried about you saying “I told you so.” Check in gently and often.

It can also help to do your best to include their partner in your family and things you do together, rather than keeping them separate.  That way, you can better observe how things are going, call out any problematic behaviour right to this person, themselves (again, tactfully, please: not in front of everyone, ideally, and with respect and grace), and show your child that you are supportive of their relationships, and are not interested in just shutting anyone and everyone they date out.  If and when you have concerns based on these interactions, then it’s also more clear they’re not baseless guesses, but based on observation they know you were there to make.

Talking to a teen about how they feel about their relationship will also help you gain perspective on what ideas they have about relationships that are off or, conversely, pretty sound. Ideally, well before a teen starts dating, parents have both had conversations about relationships and what makes one healthy rather than unhealthy, and have been modeling healthy interactions within the family in their own behaviour.

Pop culture can also be helpful in this instance. Is there a book you and your child have both read, or a television show you both like that has some relationships you can discuss? Then use that as your starting point. What do they want from their relationships? How do they imagine a partner should treat them? What do they think are important traits in a partner? How would they not want to be treated? Start them thinking about relationships as something that they get to have an active part in, rather than as a something that just happens to them; as something that isn’t outside their control, and is just a matter of fate. And, if it becomes relevant to your conversation, you can even direct them to some tools for thinking about and evaluating the relationships they do choose.

By having these conversations, regardless of whether or not they’re seeing someone, it will feel more natural and less forced when you check in with them about their relationships. Too, it’s a good habit to check in with them about how they’re feeling in their relationship even if you aren’t seeing red flags, and may not be the world’s biggest fan of their partner, but they do seem generally okay, even if you think your eyes may roll out of your head if they go on one more long monologue about that video game or band that is JUST THE BEST EVER, or their half-baked political ideas. This doesn’t have to be a daily conversation, just touching base every so often, just like we do with friends when we ask how their relationships are going. This shows that you do care about what’s going on in their life, that you’re interested in what’s important to them without you having to pry into things they want to keep private, and demonstrates support.

In the end, the best thing you can do is to keep the lines of communication open before, during, and after your teen’s relationships, even if you like their partner plenty. But letting you teen know that they can talk to you about what’s going on, be that something they’re happy about or unsure about, you’re helping keep your own bond strong while allowing them the space they need to grow and learn.

Further Reading

- Sam

This is part of our series for parents or guardians. To find out more about the series, click here. For our top five guiding principles for parents or guardians, click here; for a list of resources, click here. To see all posts in the series, click the Scarleteen Confidential tag at Scarleteen, or follow the series here on Tumblr at


Wheeeeee!  We’ve finished another sweet collaboration with artist Isabella Rotman, and can now offer you some awesome e-cards to send to those you love or maybe-love – be they boyfriends, girlfriends, booty calls,  someone you’re in a poly relationship with, an ex who’s now a friend, a bestie, yourself, even to a sex toy (how it’s going to open email, we don’t know) – for V-Day or any day at all.  Go and check ‘em out here!

anonymous asked:

I am a little confused on what might make or break someone being asexual. I know Libido is not sexuality. But sometimes it is really hard to figure out the difference. (At least for me) Especially having a higher libido. Many things can and do turn me on at random, but when it comes down to actual sex... I just loose interest. I feel like its almost a strange limbo between being Asexual and not, because the line is really foggy for me on what makes or breaks it.


SENSUALITY: your physical senses & your awareness and experience of them

INTIMACY: the ability & desire for emotional closeness with other people

SEXUAL ORIENTATION: your sense of being straight, homosexual, bisexual, or asexual

SEXUAL & REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH: one’s capacity or ability (or lack thereof) to reproduce & feelings and experiences with reproduction

SEXUAL BEHAVIORS & PRACTICES:  what we or others actively do sexually to enact or express our sexuality

POWER & AGENCY:  Power is the ability or capacity to do something, and can also be about strength or force, or the ability or capacity to exercise control over oneself or others. Agency is a sociological or philosophical term that addresses a person’s capacity to act: what a person has the right, ability or power to do.

more here (above, summarized)

SO BASICALLY: your sexual orientation can cross with your libido/sex drive (sexual & reproductive health/hormones) but it doesn’t determine it. If you experience sexual attraction to other people, you’re allosexual. If you experience no sexual attraction, you’re asexual. I have a fairly high libido myself (although it has definitely calmed down now that I am no longer a teenager), but I don’t experience sexual attraction, so I am asexual.

-Mod L
Scarleteen | Sex Education For The Real World

Scarleteen: Sex Ed for the Real World. Since 1998, in-depth, progressive and inclusive articles, advice, discussion and other interactive media millions of young people use and count on every year to help them understand sexuality, sexual health and relationships and make their own best, informed choices.

Listen, I know there’s tons of posts about this website going around but honestly it’s so important please take a look if you’ve ever wondered anything about sex. Even if you haven’t you should look anyway because god knows what sex ed has misinformed you about

Adults have a tendency to view the feelings of teenagers as unreal, fleeting, exaggerated or half-baked, even though when they were young people themselves, they experienced and felt hurt and disrespected by this treatment from adults. This is the core of adultism, and it’s just as noxious as any other kind of -ism is.

For instance, there’s the popular adult sentiment that when people are young, they can’t possibly know what love is or feels like (because apparently love is only real for older adults, which also suggests young people can’t love their parents, either!), or that whatever feelings of love they are having are part of a phase they will outgrow, and whatever comes after, once they’re adults, will be more real. It’s a Velveteen Rabbit setup, where only someone external, with powers they don’t have, can make them real.


Scarleteen Confidential

An excerpt from our Big Five.  If you haven’t checked the whole piece out, you can find it here
As a trans person, how can I navigate authentic gender expression and avoid the identity police?

I’m a 17 year old transmale and I’ve identified as male for about 2 years now. I am 100% confident that I am a boy, but I am also fine having breasts and a vagina. I don’t think of them as female. They’re just my parts! I like wearing things like dresses and skirts as well and I enjoy makeup, none of these things make me less of a boy in my eyes. However, I fear that people will not take my identity seriously because of this. 

Regular, Not Regimental!

Just a reminder: “regular” menstrual periods have, on average, a standard deviation of around 3.5 days. So, if your period doesn’t show up on the exact day you expect it – whatever your criteria is for that expectation – that does not mean you are not regular, and it also does not mean your period is late.

A late period, in medical parlance, is a menstrual period that hasn’t shown up on or after around five days later than the very latest it would be expected.

Want to know more about periods? Check this out:

Awkward Sex Comics Anthology CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS


Awkward Sex

An Anthology of Awkward Sex Comics.

I would like to invite you to submit a comic to Awkward Sex, a comics collection of short awkward sex stories to benefit! In my fantasies this comic will be a wildly funny and wonderful series of comics regarding true stories, fiction, and whatever else you wonderful cartoonists com up with. The purpose of this anthology is to be sold as a fundraiser for


Why Donate to Scarleteen?

Scarleteen has offered comprehensive, inclusive, and thoughtful sex education to millions of teens and young adults since 1998. As Scarleteen’s Artist in Residence, I have seen the huge amount of work that Scarleteen staff and volunteers dedicate towards helping young people every day, and on an extremely minimal budget. Currently Scarleteen is suffering a budget crisis, and I want to do what I can to help.

 All proceeds from this comic will be gifted directly to, to be used to publish new articles, continue direct services to over five million users, and offer something resembling a living wage to Scarleteen staff. Click here for more information about supporting Scarleteen.

Content Guidelines:

I am looking for short comics regarding an awkward sex story. This could be something that has actually happened to you, or something completely made up. It could be narrative, or informational. As long as it is awkward and sexual, the rest is up to you.

  • Page limit of 4 pages. If you have your heart set on something larger, feel free to e-mail me and we can discuss it.
  • Black and White only
  • Half letter 5.5" x 8.5"
  • The title of your comic should be included in the content of your comic, either as a title page or a header above your first page.

How to Submit:

Please send either thumbnails, a script, or a completed comic to Isabella Rotman at by March 9th. Submissions must include:

  • A Title
  • Your name and return e-mail
  • A page count
  • Thumbnails or a script (if you have more than this completed please send that as well)
  • A link to your work, either a website, blog, or samples.

What will be included:

Because I am bankrolling the printing for this myself I need to keep the page count reasonable, I cannot afford to print every submissions. I will be choosing which submissions are included on their content objectively, not by the name of the cartoonist submitting.

I will not choose submissions that include:

  • Pornographic material that is not plot relevant
  • Violence for the sake of violence, or sexualized violence
  • Trademarked Characters or settings (anything that can get us sued)


March 9th: Submission Deadline:

March 12th: Contributors Announced

March 23rd: Send Artist Bio, a self portrait or photograph, and (if you choose) sample images for me to advertise online

April 6th: Pages Due

Release Party: Yet to Be determined. Probably The weekend of April 19th or the weekend of April 26th.  


All copyright remains with the original artist. Neither Scarleteen nor I claim any rights to your work other then the sale of the Awkward Sex Anthology for the purpose of fundraising. Awkward Sex comics does not claim first printing or publishing rights, so stories submitted may have been published before or can be published later by the artist.


Payment (or lack thereof)

 Because this is a fundraiser, unfortunately we cannot offer any payment towards artists. All artists included in Awkward Sex will receive three complimentary copies. The release of Awkward Sex will take place at a fundraising release party in Chicago (date and location to be determined), where contributors will be invited to sell their work with 50% of profits going towards (Profits = Cost – Material cost). It is my hope that Awkward Sex will offer some amount of distribution and face time for it’s artists both online and in print. This is for an extremely worthwhile cause. Please think of your submission as a donation towards a wonderful organization that serves as a resource to people in great need of sexual health education. Also keep in mind that we claim no rights to your submission and you are free to publish it yourself at a later date. 

Thank you so much for considering submitting to this anthology! If you are unable to submit, or choose not to, please consider donating directly to Scarleteen here, or supporting Scarleteen and local artists by purchasing this book or attending the release party!


Isabella Rotman, 

anonymous asked:

You linked to scarletteen!! I once wrote an article for them this is so exciting. You are totally my hero.


I like Scarleteen, I have yet to read anything on their site which makes me want to throw a shoe at a wall, which was sometimes the case with my previous go-to sexual health resource, Go Ask Alice. 

They’re a pretty good resource, and I keep linking to them whenever people mistake wang-charming-for-cash as some kind of medical credential. (Not that I mind people asking me STI questions! It’s good to ask! But all I’ve done is read shit on the internet and harass my medical providers and do my best to sort the alarmist bullshit from the decent info.) 

Scarleteen Confidential: In Defense of Teen Media

For two years, I worked in a bookstore that was aimed primarily at children and teenagers.  It was a job I quite enjoyed, but I quickly discovered that when you work near books, people always want to tell you their opinions on said books.  That’s fine most of the time.  But I noticed a pattern when parents or adults would refer to The Hunger Games series.   They would express dismay over a child wanting to read the book, wondering what they saw in it, and either implicitly or explicitly stating that they thought the book was not good for youth to be reading.  I would usually give a neutral response about how yes, the book is dark (for those who do not know, the series focuses on a dystopian world in which children are forced to fight to the death on television as a form of political control).

What struck me about these conversations was that ninety-nine percent of the time, the adult in question had not even read the book they were criticizing.  They dismissed it, either as inappropriate trash or as mindless fiction without ever actually seeing what it had to say.  

I realized that this fit with a larger pattern in terms of how adults often interact with and view teen media.  Adults are quick to dismiss anything aimed at or consumed by teenagers as vapid and not worth paying attention to.

This mirrors ways adults often tend to react to or view teenagers and their emotions.  Something that lingers with me from my teen years was the feeling that the adults in my life viewed my emotions and ideas as poorly thought out or lacking in substance. That feeling is often echoed by users in our direct services. They feel guilty for their emotions or try to minimize them, in spite of the fact that their emotions make sense and are proportional to the situation they’re in (and even if they weren’t, that doesn’t make them any less real to the person experiencing them).  They’ve picked up from the culture around them that teens like themselves are too emotional for their own good.  They’re left feeling as thought they can’t reach out or express what’s going on in their hearts and minds because the adults around them will be dismissive of it.    

This assumption runs both ways: if teenagers are overly-emotional and silly, then any media aimed at them must also be that way, and worthy of either hysterical scrutiny or dismissal instead of measured, thoughtful engagement by adults.    

Both Roxane Gay and Sherman Alexie have written brilliant pieces about why many teens gravitate towards darker stories.  What’s curious to me is that this is a hard concept for many adults to grasp.  We were all teenagers once, so is it simply that they can’t remember what being one felt like?  Why do we so often dismiss the things they like and deeply connect with?

Taking a critical, good faith look at the media teens are drawn to requires us to consider two uncomfortable ideas: that teenagers are thinking about and talking about complex, darker aspects of life and that they may be seeking these stories out because tough things are happening to them. The cultural narrative is one in which childhood and teen years are times of innocence, freedom , and safety.  The reality is that teens deal with suicide, sexual assault, coming out, lust, joy, fear, loss, chronic illness, racism, etc just as adults do, and with far fewer years of experience that could help them cope with or explain what is happening.  And for some, the first time they see themselves or their experiences reflected back at them is in those stories that adults dismiss as “merely” YA (young adult) literature.  

Too, YA lit, or pop music, or movies, even if they don’t make big profound statements or tackle heavy topics, often have an emotional truth to them.  We listen to the latest boy band ballad not because it reveals new, radical truths about love.  We listen to it because it hits directly upon what it feels like to be young and in love.  We read coming of age novels, set both here and in imagined worlds, because even if they’re pretentious, corny, or poetic and well-written, they echo something real about our own lives, hopes, and fears.

And media can be a major point of connection between individuals, and when you’re young, you’re just starting to learn  how to find your people.  That process can feel fraught, and is filled with lots of trial and error.  Having a book, music, or T.V show in common with someone makes it easier to find people with whom you might be able to form a more solid bond.  The things that we love act as beacons, helping people with shared passions and interests find each other.    

Even if teen media isn’t serving some deeper function, even if it’s just an pleasant escape or distraction, that doesn’t invalidate it.  We all deserve spaces to for escape, and I’ll wager that we all have books, movies, T.V shows, and music that we enjoy that are considered fluffy or trashy by others.  Those qualities are not unique to teen media (soap operas or the latest car chase movie franchise anyone?), and it is disingenuous to act as though they are.    

I think there’s also the component of adults viewing teenagers as a different species from themselves.  When the adults at the store wondered aloud (often in front of the teenager in question, but never addressed to them) what they could possibly see in these books I was always tempted to answer, “Why do you read the books, watch the movies, and listen to the music that you do?”  Teens are people, and they enjoy and consume the things they do for all the various reasons that people do.

Why write about this at all?  Because if we undervalue and scoff at teen media we are subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, undervaluing the experiences and thoughts of teens.  

That reinforces the notions that they already have about whether or not the adults in their lives will listen to them or value what they have to say.  So, they will often start to wall off that part of their lives so that adults can’t criticize or judge them. And while it’s certainly not a one to one correlation, that self-protectiveness can lead to them not wanting to open up about or discuss other, more important or sensitive aspects of their lives, even when they need or want support and advice from the adults around them.    

What can you do to subvert these unhelpful norms?  One very simple thing is to just stop passing judgment on media you haven’t even consumed, or that isn’t something you connect with yourself.  You can decide if it seems like something for you or not, but don’t just dismiss it out of hand because it’s popular with teenagers.  Something else we encourage is that you expose yourself to the media that the teens in your life are consuming.  That doesn’t mean that you have to read and watch everything that they do, as that can feel as though you are encroaching on spaces that they’ve carved out for themselves.  But it will provide you with yet another window into what’s going on in their lives.  And hey, you might find that you enjoy some of it.  

Media can also be a way for you and the teens in your life to connect.  Having a television show or book series that you enjoy together and talk about in depth helps maintain the bond between the two of you.  And, as previously mentioned, these stories often address complex topics, and that creates a space for you and teens to talk about subjects you might not normally discuss.  

If you don’t want to engage with a certain piece of media, but you’re curious about what it’s about or why a teenager likes it, ask them.  That could result in a “I don’t know, I just do” or a ten minute explanation about their feelings about love, time travel, friendship, and aliens.  Regardless, you’ve at least expressed an interest in their lives and hobbies, and you’ve granted them the respect of asking them about those things rather than by-passing their opinion in favor of one from an adult.  

In the end, it’s best to let teens know that you respect them and their desire to interact with the things that they enjoy.  That can go a long way towards making them feel as though they have an understanding space in which to explore ideas and experiences, and towards them feeling valued as people.

- Sam

This is part of our series for parents or guardians. To find out more about the series, click here. For our top five guiding principles for parents or guardians, click here; for a list of resources, click here. To see all posts in the series, click the Scarleteen Confidential tag at Scarleteen, or follow the series here on Tumblr at

Ask Trixie: My future husband is a 40-year-old virgin and I'm worried he won't have a high-enough sex drive

I’m a divorced 37-yr-old woman dating a 40-yr-old virgin man. I am the first woman he has kissed, the first real relationship he has had. He’s a little shy, but incredibly kind and treats me better than any man I’ve ever dated. We both attend a “wait until marriage” church, so my only sexual experience is with my ex-husband. My problem in that marriage was our desire levels did not match. I wanted far more than he did. My concern in dating a 40-yr-old virgin is that if we marry and become intimate, I will have the same problem I did before. Is it possible for a man to stay a virgin so long and still have a high sex drive?? Or am I dooming myself to the same fate I had before if I stay with him??

First of all, it’s awesome that you’ve found such an amazing guy. And I also think it’s great to hear that your boyfriend has found a woman who obviously has such strong feelings for him (we get so many comments from older virgin guys who can’t imagine any woman being interested in someone with little to no sexual experience). 

Having said that, your question raises questions for me. Like, what does a “wait until marriage” church ask you to wait for? Intercourse? Any kind of intimate activity? Because you don’t have to be putting penises into vaginas to have some pretty intense sex (and get a good feel for how often each partner wants said intensity). 

The most important question is: Have you asked your fiance about his sex drive? Because many ‘older’ guys who have never had partnered sex do have strong libidos. Does your fiancee masturbate? Does he have sexual fantasies? Does the very sight of you make him horny, even if he knows he can’t act on it just yet?

Aside from that, though, having un-equal libidos is not that unusual in long-term relationships. And those libidos can fluctuate and change over time as well (after all, there’s no normal, only what works for each relationship) I’m reminded of a post on Em & Lo asking how men feel when a woman has a stronger libido than her male partner. The men’s answers were fair to lame, in my opinion, but here is one good comment that all their other readers especially liked. This is an excerpt:

I am married and I think it is safe to say my sex drive is much higher than my husbands. Our sex life is great, the two of us have a very open communication of what feels good and what feels great. However we both also know when the other is too tired for sex. More than not its me knowing when my other needs a break. Having sex is not a chore my husband has to check off his list, but an experience we both enjoy, a lot.

I must tell the truth he looks forward to that week of cramps and menstruation because sex is the furthest thing from my mind and he gets a “break” but sure enough after only four days he’s still pawing at me. Sure there are at times a feeling for him to preform, but it comes with the awareness of his current needs and my libido. It would be outrageous to think that every time I wanted sex I would get it, much like it is outrageous to think that every time a man wants sex the woman *must* put out. And I think that outrageous statement is what is behind these “advice answers.”

There needs to be room in a relationship for a woman to say, “No” just as much as there needs to be room in a relationship for a man to say, “I’m too tired.” And in my relationship there’s plenty of room for that, along with acceptance, commitment, and consent.

I’d also strongly recommend reading Scarleteen’s Getting Married When We (May) Want Different Things From Sex. In this case it’s the female partner who hasn’t had sex and frankly isn’t all that interested, but it gives a lot to think about in terms of how to negotiate the problems that situation might bring.

What do you the rest of you think? Can couples negotiate a big gap in libido? Does it make sense to ask mature adults to wait until marriage to become sexually intimate? Let us know what you think! Got a question about virginity, sex, relationships, feminism or filmmaking?  Ask Trixie here.