Dear Renita,
I'm an 18-year-old college student. There's this friend that I am interested in, and he's interested in me. We have had sex several times. We act as if we are together and if you saw us, you'd think the same thing. The problem is, he says little smart things about other girls all the time. Then he says, "I'm just playing." Is there any hope for us? I really like this person.

Dear "There's This Friend..."
Who are you fooling other than yourself? The relationship you describe here is with someone who is more than a "friend you're interested in." Friends who are still in the phase of just exploring their interest in each other don't (shouldn't) have sex with each other. Sex changes any relationship. It has certainly changed how you feel about this relationship. You expect fidelity and commitment from the man with whom you are intimate, and rightly so.

Be prepared to face the possibility, however, that the two of you have different notions about what it means to have sex. Teasing you with comments about other women is probably his way of telling you that he's not interested in an exclusive relationship with you. That's hard to hear, I know, but it's a possibility you need to face. It's just unfortunate that you're hearing this after you've already gotten yourself into a sexual relationship with someone you describe as a friend.

How does sex change a relationship? Sex can blind you into thinking that the communication is really great, that the two of you share similar values, that you're destined to be with each other --when it's only the physical intimacy that's exciting. At eighteen years old, it's easy to delude yourself into thinking that you are ready for sex. It's easy to think that because your body is ready, your heart and mind must be ready, too. But sex is more than the union of your body with another, it's also the union of your histories. His history becomes your sexual history, which in today's culture, if yours was unprotected sex, can be foolish and dangerous. You exchange pasts, for sure. But you also put your futures at risk.

Another reason women my age fall to our knees in despair and prayer when we discover that our daughters and sons your age are sexually active is because we know that young people are not prepared to deal with the rewiring that sex does to one's spiritual self. How do we make you understand that spiritual energy too is exchanged in the sexual act? In that mysteriously powerful moment of two flesh becoming one, all of his and her hopes, dreams, and beliefs merge and become indistinguishable from each other. That may sound romantic when you're young and filled with heady notions about love, but it's a heavy burden to take on when you're still trying to figure out who you are.

In the end, the answer to your question is that at eighteen years old, even if there is no hope for the two of you together, there remains plenty of hope for you as a young woman. The secret is not to confuse what your body wants with what your heart deserves--someone who is committed to you and what your soul needs, which is the time and space to mature into the woman God created you to become.


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