Q. I read your column because I like reading about other people my age. I like your answers. So now I’m writing, myself. I like when you talk about relationships. I used to think maybe someday I’d want a relationship, but now I think maybe I won’t ever. I’ve never even seen a good one. My mom and dad never made it. My gram has a new guy every month or so. It goes on and on like that in my family. I’m not interested in a relationship now. Like one with sex. Do you think that’s OK? What if I never want one? The whole idea of sex is bizarre. Would it be weird if I never wanted to get married or be in a relationship? 17-year-old
Mary Jo’s response: I think it’s completely OK if you don’t want a relationship. Each person is unique, each person has different dreams, each person reaches adulthood differently. At 17, your main focus should be growing up. Take time to understand yourself before starting a relationship. Enjoy your independence and be honest with friends.
Not everyone wants a physical relationship as an adult. Remember, there are many kinds of relationships; not all connections involve sex. Platonic (nonsexual) relationships can be with family, friends, teachers and co-workers. Learning to communicate and enjoy friendships can become a great life skill.
Never wanting a physical relationship with someone would not be weird. Individuals who identify as asexual are not sexually attracted to anyone.
I’ve been a counselor for many years; I’d like to put on my “counselor hat” for a moment. Most people have reasons for their feelings – very little happens without cause. Your family history of negative relationships may be influencing your choices. Think about it – you may have witnessed a positive relationship. Teachers, coaches, parents of your friends – are any of these people role models for healthy relationships? It’s normal to fear betrayal and be hesitant to trust if you’ve never experienced a committed relationship that works. They do exist. Give yourself time to mature. Enjoy life. Be open to friendships. Practice kindness. Learn to listen. Volunteer and help others. Most important – find the courage to talk with your mom and gram and share your thoughts.
Be aware of unhealthy relationship traits. I like the website http://www.loveisrespect.org/ because it helps young people decide the types of behaviors to avoid in a relationship.
Here are some relationship hints:
• Be responsible for your own happiness: I often hear young people say, “When I have a boyfriend (or girlfriend), I’ll be happy.” Waiting to be in a relationship to experience happiness isn’t wise. The possibility of joy is everywhere in life. Yes, people in healthy relationships are often happy, but people are in charge of their own happiness. Discover what gives you joy.
• Successful relationships take effort: Compromise, communication and commitment are all foundations of healthy relationships.
• Honor and respect are key: Healthy relationships provide an opportunity to treat another person with kindness, to cherish another individual and to share life’s ups and downs.
• Physical attraction is important, but long-term relationships require more than sex: Develop connections with people who enjoy the things you enjoy. Connect with people who are different. Be open to possibility. Explore friendships. A successful relationship often includes shared values; at a minimum, people in a relationship need to share their core values openly and discuss future plans.
I think the future will open many doors for you. Remember, you’re a person of worth. You are not your mom, your dad or your gram. You will make your own choices. Keep in touch as you grow older. I send you wishes for joy and fulfillment.
Peer Educator response: It’s tough to consider a successful relationship if you’ve never seen one. You’re your own person. Keep talking with Mary Jo. Some of us felt the same way about relationships and now feel differently. Give yourself a chance.