Dr. Wes & John: Congratulations to Julia Davidson, a Bishop Seabury Academy sophomore, who will be the student co-author for the Double Take column during the 2007-2008 school year. It was our unanimous conclusion (along with former Double Take columnist Marissa Ballard) that Julia was the strongest candidate among a group of area students who answered the challenge question (below) in our Double Take essay contest. She'll also be the recipient of our first student scholarship.
My boyfriend and I had all the discussions you suggest having before deciding to have sex. When we discussed pregnancy, we agreed that if it happened we would give the baby up for adoption. Recently we had a brief pregnancy scare, which turned out to be nothing, but it forced us back to that earlier conversation. This time I told him that I didn't want to give up the baby, and he told me that I was betraying him and that he wouldn't stay with me. Even after I realized I wasn't pregnant, this issue has divided us. Now I don't know what to do.
Allison Ice, a sophomore at Free State High School, earned runner-up status. If Julia is unable to finish her term, we are confident Allison can pick up the column, and we hope she'll apply again next year.
This week we publish both of their essays and offer feedback. We'll begin with Julia's response.
Julia Davidson: To start out, I'd like to commend you for having said discussions with your boyfriend before having sex. It takes a lot of maturity for a teenager to pre-plan anything, and you genuinely thought about what you were doing before rushing into it, so bravo!
Now to the rest of the problem: not necessarily the issue between you and your boyfriend, but the unexpected division that it has caused. Not to undermine your feelings, but to truly figure out how to handle your own reaction, you must first venture over to your boyfriend's point of view on the whole scenario. Imagine yourself, cliche as it sounds, in your boyfriend's shoes. Having just discussed the possibility of pregnancy, he has agreed on giving the baby up for adoption - a fairly hassle-free deal, right? Fast-forward to the moment you thought you were pregnant and decided you actually wanted to keep the baby. Although it may seem like a logical decision to you, all of the bells and whistles are going off in his head. Is he ready to be a father? Does he want a child? What happened to just giving the baby up for adoption?
Obviously, your change of heart on what your boyfriend thought was a set-in-stone decision scared and upset him. His blow-up was not caused by anger toward you but by his own personal fears - becoming a father, raising a kid and having to make so large a commitment. See how different a situation becomes when we consider the other person's feelings as well as our own?
For the time being, I'd advise that, as a couple, you both give each other a little breathing room. Once you are both calmer and more rational, discuss what happened - why you changed your mind, how your pregnancy scare affected both of you, etc. Although it's hard to approach someone after a disagreement, if you are both mature enough to discuss sex, then you are mature enough to discuss its consequences.
In the end, if the issue is such that there always will be a division between you, then you should not be having sex, no matter how thoroughly planned it seems. However, if you can reach an agreeable and definite conclusion that you know will keep the peace between you, then my work here is done and I wish you a happy coupledom!
Dr. Wes, John, & Marissa: Julia highlighted the responsibilities associated with sex. Her opening was engaging, pointing out the reader's strengths. She showed empathy and optimism for the boyfriend's position, without getting crossed up with the girl. She was clear, concise and direct, while showing the crucial balance between taking a nonjudgmental stance and offering real problem-solving advice. We welcome Julia to the Double Take team as our fourth author and first scholarship recipient.
Allison Ice: Your situation perfectly illustrates how premarital sex, especially in high school, goes hand in hand with problems. As a couple, you put yourselves at risk for countless things when you first started your sexual relationship - things I'm sure don't need to be repeated for the thousandth time - and it's good that everything was discussed beforehand.
However, just because these risks have been acknowledged does not mean they'll go away. You may be on birth control, using protection, doing everything you should be doing, but always keep in mind that nothing is 100 percent guaranteed. If your boyfriend is committed to the relationship and every aspect of it, he should be committed to the responsibilities that go along with it. Make sure he understands that he has commitments firmly attached to sex and its risks, especially the risk of pregnancy. If he continues refusing to accept his obligations should he become a father, there's not much you can do to change his mind. In this case, ending the relationship is unfortunately the best option. It's likely you'll subconsciously feel obligated to stay with your boyfriend because you've given him such a huge part of yourself, but doing so can be risky. Ending it now will be hurtful, but ignoring problems and letting it continue will just prolong your pain more than you now realize.
A critical question you should be asking yourself is whether or not you can imagine eventually marrying him. If not, is it worth it? Even if marriage is out of the question, sex creates lifelong connections between people, be it an emotional attachment or even sharing a child together. So, if you stay together, continue having sex and eventually break up, will you be able to bear such an emotional attachment to him through much of your life? If you do have a child, do you realize that the only relationship you'll likely have with your son's or daughter's father is his or her resemblance to him? All of these possibilities cannot be overlooked.
Once you can answer these questions, everything else will fall into place. But you cannot ignore such a crucial problem and let the relationship continue as usual. This being said, sex is not one of the most important things in a relationship; don't let it become one. You're in high school, so just be patient and wait for someone who will respect you enough to stand by you no matter what.
Dr. Wes, John & Marissa: Allison's answer stressed several important issues: the responsibility one accepts when choosing to have premarital sex, and the need to reach an agreement before continuing the relationship. She acknowledged the feelings of both parties and pointed out the seriousness of their decision. Allison was confident in her advice and defended her strong opinions.
Next week: Wes and John offer their commencement speeches, with advice for graduating seniors.
- Dr. Wes Crenshaw is a board-certified family psychologist and director of the Family Therapy Institute Midwest. John Murray is a Free State High School senior. Opinions and advice given here are not meant as a substitute for psychological evaluation or therapy services. Send your questions about adolescent issues to firstname.lastname@example.org. All correspondence is strictly confidential.