Sarah Weir
March 11, 2015 6:30 am

Dear Sarah,

I’m 17 and I come from an extremely conservative household. I love my family and share virtually all of the same values as my parents. However, I’m feeling stuck in a difficult place. I’ve been dating my boyfriend for six months and we’re very serious. We are sexually active (but we haven’t had actual sex yet). Because my parents—and his—are so traditional, no one can know about it; if they did, they would keep us apart.

I don’t regret being physical with my boyfriend at all. I love him and he loves me. When we’re together I feel safe and comfortable and it feels right. BUT, at the same time, the guilt of disobeying my parents is eating me alive. My boyfriend seems like the perfect match for me and has all the qualities on my “Mr. Right” checklist. It may sound ridiculous because we’re young, but we are already talking about getting married one day.

How do I move past my inner turmoil so I don’t feel so confused about my boyfriend and my family?

Thank you so much,

—Guilty Love

Dear Guilty,

In my humble opinion, it’s absolutely normal for someone your age to have sexual feelings and crave physical intimacy with another person. On a purely biological level, teenagers typically are smitten by “spring fever” all year long—your hormones are buzzing and emotions are heightened. With all due respect to your parents, their hard line on this issue is working against some pretty powerful natural forces.

It sounds like you are in a consensual, loving relationship and have decided to stop short of sexual intercourse, which all seems quite reasonable and wise given your age and conservative family background. So, from my point of view, double thumbs up. Also, since you anticipate that your parents would punish you harshly should they discover that you were fooling around, I’m not surprised you are determined to keep it a secret. I suspect a portion of your guilt comes from that secrecy, not just because of the values you were raised with or your “disobedience.”.

Sneaking around can feel a little dirty—like you must be doing something wrong if it can’t be out in the open. However, let’s reframe the situation as a matter of privacy and autonomy instead of a violation of your parent’s rules. Your body, your mind, your spirit—they all belong to you. You are on the cusp of becoming an adult, and as an adult it’s important to contemplate and determine what your own values are. It’s OK to have some opinions and attitudes that differ from your parents’—most of us do!

If your upbringing did not include any sex education, I suggest you go to the library and read some books on reproduction and sexuality in order to support your well-being and stay healthy. Here are some suggestions: Changing Bodies, Changing Lives: A Book for Teens on Sex and Relationships, It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex and Sexual Health, and The Real Truth About Teens and Sex: From Friends with Benefits to Hooking Up—What Teens are Thinking, Doing, and Talking About and How to Help Them Make Smart Choices.

Love, Sarah

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