IN OUR PREVIOUS ISSUE, we considered two facts of life.

● When you get emotionally involved before you’re ready for a serious relationship, you will get hurt.​—Proverbs 6:27.

● When you get emotionally involved before you’re ready for a serious relationship, you can lose a good friendship. *​—Proverbs 18:24.

IN THIS ISSUE, we’ll discuss

● A third fact of life about getting emotionally involved

● How you can tell if you have crossed the line in your friendship with someone of the opposite sex

FACT OF LIFE: When you get emotionally involved before you’re ready for a serious relationship, you can hurt your reputation. Mia * says: “I’ve seen boys who are friends  with many girls. Basically, they’re ‘players.’ The girls think there’s something going on, but the boy just enjoys the female attention.”

To think about:

● Whether you’re a boy or a girl, how can getting too close to those of the opposite sex affect your reputation?

“Texting people of the opposite sex is a huge pitfall. You start by texting just a bit to one person, but soon you’re texting a lot and to many people. Before you know it, you’re pretty much dating three different boys, and each one thinks he is the ‘special one’ you’re getting to know better. When they find out the truth, they get hurt​—and you get the reputation of being a flirt.”​—Lara.

The Bible says: “Even by his practices a boy [or a girl] makes himself recognized as to whether his activity is pure and upright.”​—Proverbs 20:11.

The bottom line: It isn’t wrong to socialize with members of the opposite sex. But if you don’t have boundaries, you can cause yourself grief, damage a good friendship, and harm your reputation.

 How can you tell if you’ve crossed the line? One way is to ask yourself, ‘Has a friend of the opposite sex become my sole confidant?’ “If you’re really just friends with a boy,” says a girl named Erin, “he shouldn’t be the first person you want to talk to every day or the first person you want to tell major news to. He definitely shouldn’t be the one you turn to for emotional comfort.”

To think about:

● Why might it seem appealing to make someone of the opposite sex your sole confidant? But what are the dangers?

“The boys that I know are not my closest friends. I don’t speak with them on the phone for hours as I might with a girlfriend. And there are some topics I simply won’t discuss with them.”​—Rianne.

The Bible says: “Be careful what you say . . . A careless talker destroys himself.”​—Proverbs 13:3, Good News Translation.

Consider: Is there a risk in revealing too much about yourself to someone of the opposite sex? What if your friendship eventually fades? Will you regret having revealed such details to that person?

A teenager named Alexis sums it up well. She says: “Don’t avoid someone just because that person is of the opposite sex. On the other hand, don’t lie to yourself and say that you’re just friends when you’re not. Keep your feelings in check, and you’ll avoid a lot of pain.”

More articles from the “Young People Ask” series can be found at the Web site www.watchtower.org/​ype

[Footnotes]

^ par. 5 For more information, see Awake! of June 2012, pages 15-17.

^ par. 9 Some names in this article have been changed.

[Box on page 17]

TRUE STORY: “I was friends with a boy, and we got along really well. But then I noticed our conversations were getting longer and more personal. I could tell we were getting a little too close because he would tell me all his concerns. Then one day he e-mailed me and told me he had feelings for me. I didn’t know what to say. Part of me was flattered​—it’s nice when someone thinks you’re special. But I was worried. I knew we couldn’t continue being ‘just friends’ because obviously he thought we were more than that. I knew that if I told him we were too young to have a romantic friendship, he’d be hurt. I told my parents about the whole thing, and they emphasized how important it was for me and for the boy to limit our contact. That experience made me realize how quickly something can go from completely innocent to very serious. And since then, I’ve been careful to limit my association with the opposite sex, especially when texting. It also helps to socialize in groups rather than pair off. That way your conversations don’t become too personal and your connection with the other person doesn’t become too strong.”​—Elena.

[Box on page 18]

WHY NOT ASK YOUR PARENTS?

Ask your parents for their thoughts on the two “To think about” questions in this article. Do their opinions differ from yours? If so, how? What merit can you see in their point of view?​—Proverbs 1:8.

[Box/​Pictures on page 18]

WHAT YOUR PEERS SAY

Andre​—The more time you spend with a girl, the easier it is for feelings to grow and the more that person will think you’re interested in a romantic friendship. If your goals don’t allow for a relationship right now, then don’t make it appear as if you’re trying to start one.

Cassidy​—I tend to be outgoing, and since I grew up around boys, I’m very comfortable with them—​which is not always a good thing. Treating a boy the way I would a girlfriend is not good​—it can give the wrong idea. Treating a boy as if he were my brother is the way to go!

 [Box on page 19]

A NOTE TO PARENTS

In proper settings, it’s not wrong for young people to socialize with members of the opposite sex. But those who aren’t ready to pursue a relationship that could lead to marriage need to set boundaries. * For them, opposite-sex friendships should be just that​—friendships and nothing more.

What results when two people get emotionally involved before they’re ready for a serious relationship? Any initial thrill soon gives way to frustration. It’s like sitting in a car that has no wheels. Sooner or later, the boy and girl realize that the relationship can’t go anywhere. Some may begin to date secretly​—a situation that is fraught with moral pitfalls. Others break up​—a process that can leave both feeling cheated, hurt, and even depressed. How can you help your adolescent to avoid the treacherous path of a premature romance?​—Ecclesiastes 11:10.

The key is to keep an open door of communication with your adolescent when it comes to opposite-sex friendships. That way you’ll be aware of it​—and available to help—​if a friendship starts to become something more.

Some parents unwittingly close the door to that part of their adolescent’s social life. Consider what some youths told Awake!

“I always wanted to talk to my mom about whom I was attracted to, but I held back because I thought she would overreact.”​—Cara.

“When I’d tell my mom I was attracted to a boy, she would say, ‘Don’t expect me to be at your wedding!’ rather than ‘So tell me about your friend. What do you like about him?’ Had my mom asked questions like those, I might have been more receptive to her advice.”​—Nadeine.

In contrast, note the difference when parents have patiently listened and then provided practical guidance.

“My parents didn’t overreact when I told them about a boy I was attracted to. They said what I needed to hear, but they were understanding of my feelings. Because of that, I find it easier to listen to their advice and open up to them further.”​—Corrina.

“When my parents opened up about whom they liked when they were younger​—even explaining why a certain relationship didn’t work out—​it helped me to realize that it was OK for me to talk to my parents about having feelings for someone.”​—Linette.

Realize, too, that sometimes there are underlying factors behind premature romances.

“When I was secretly dating a boy, it was because he made me feel happy and he listened to me.”​—Annette.

“There’s this one boy I always enjoyed being around. He always gave me attention, which is my weakness. I love attention, good or bad.”​—Amy.

“When my parents sincerely tell me that I look beautiful or that a certain outfit looks good on me, I feel less of a need to get that same sort of compliment from a boy.”​—Karen.

Ask yourself:

How can I make myself more approachable to my adolescent?​—Philippians 4:5.

Am I “swift about hearing, slow about speaking”?​—James 1:19.

How can I reduce the temptation for my adolescent to look outside the home for love and approval?​—Colossians 3:21.

The bottom line: Help your adolescent to learn how to keep friendships with the opposite sex aboveboard and problem free. It’s a skill that will serve him or her well in adulthood.​—Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-6.

[Footnote]

^ par. 37 See the preceding article as well as the “Young People Ask” article that appeared in the June 2012 issue of Awake!

[Chart on page 17]

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BOUNDARIES

DO

associate in groups

get acquainted

enjoy conversation

DON’T

X pair off

X confide

X flirt

[Diagram on page 18]

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SOCIALIZING

FLIRTING

TOUCHING

HOLDING HANDS

KISSING