(from December 9, 2012)
* Matt’s answers are featured first — Jess will respond soon.
* * *
MATT: Here are some questions from a female reader in the UK. As per my policy, I don’t respond directly — can’t give personal advice for legal reasons — but I am pleased to offer general responses for all readers. The reader’s words are in bold.
Q. How does sex work?
Matt: I’m sure my buddy Jess would agree that sex involves both body and mind. Your body drives you toward sex for various reasons, but it’s your personality that determines the timing and frequency you are comfortable with as well as the partners you desire. You may want sex (or agree to it when you don’t really want it) because of loneliness, boredom, need for emotional support, or just the influence of your hormones (the body chemicals associated with growth and development and sexuality). As I said in Teen Guide, casual sex is risky because deeper attachments often form when they aren’t intentional, and when the partner isn’t suitable in the long-term. So there is a disconnect between when you want to have sex and when it’s good for you. Be careful! Sex always has consequences (good or bad). It’s pleasurable, but it isn’t just for pleasure.
Q. At what stage in your life do you feel love for the other sex?
Matt: That depends upon your definition of love. In my view, love is the result of a mature, complex interaction between people, but you can believe yourself to be in love when you are very young. Sometimes that works out, but you’re lucky if it does. Usually it doesn’t. Connections that are actually temporary at best often seem permanent because of the intensity of your feelings when you’re younger. Later in life, you’ll decide it wasn’t love after all, and question the decisions you made.
If you are very young now, you won’t believe me, and that’s okay. What you are feeling probably seems like it’s what you were meant to feel for the person you are meant to be with. Chances are it’s not, though. There’s a basis for your feelings, but the rest is because of your stage of life, physical and emotional. We older people would like to be able to feel a young person’s passion and can’t, but we also cherish the kind of love that we can feel, that comes from deep commitment, acceptance, and security.
Q. How do I control my feelings for the opposite sex?
Matt: Write them down. Keep a journal or a diary, and don’t share it with anyone. Also, use a lot of physical energy. Play sports. Get exercise. Volunteer. Get a job. Meet and spend time with a lot of people. This will diminish the power of overly strong attachments.
Q. At what age do the feelings tend to calm at?
Matt: As a male, I was worst between 16-19, I didn’t calm down until my mid-20s, and even in my late 20s, I was still capable of getting emotional in a misguided way. Getting married calmed me down most. Now that someone returns my feelings, I don’t feel so needy, and my wife and I just take care of each other.
Your feelings will probably calm when you have more experience of relationships, and when you outgrow the hormone surges of your teenage years.
Q. How do I know if it’s the right time to have sex? What’s the first time like? How do you know if the feelings aren’t just lust?
Matt: There’s nothing to say here that wasn’t said better in Teen Guide. Here’s a short version of my point of view. Sex goes with strong compatibility and commitment and is best saved for a mature version of yourself. The first time is not usually all it’s expected to be. It’s over quickly and you will probably think or even say, “Was that it?” You know the feelings aren’t just lust if you can talk for hours and accept each other’s weaknesses and private feelings.
I hope this all helps.
— originally posted at Matt’s website