Every parent knows that this day will come. The day when our teens tell us they’re interested in or are already dating someone. Perhaps it has already happened for some of us. Our teen is in his or her first truly serious relationship. We likely anticipate it with a mix of strong and often conflicting emotions. I mean, a serious relationship is – well, serious! Do these kids really know what they are getting into?  

On another level, there is a part of us that looks forward to this day. As our children grow into adulthood, we hope they find a quality life partner who will be a great fit for them. We long to see our children in a healthy relationship that grows into a mature love, marriage and family. What greater earthly gift can there be?

Encouragement and Caution

As parents, we naturally want to both encourage and caution our dating children. We’ve been down this road ourselves and have a reasonable understanding of what lies ahead. We know the joys and fun of being in love. We also recognize that the choices made in a relationship can build or break its foundation.

But, how can we discuss this with our kids without sounding like a downer? If the relationship seems healthy, we don’t want our teens or young adults to believe that we’re trying to throw a wet blanket on their joy. And yet, we know that there are potential pitfalls on the road ahead – the ones they would be able to see too, if they would just take the stars out of their eyes for a few minutes! So, how do we both caution and encourage without sending mixed messages? We explain intimacy.

Understanding Intimacy

It is important to remember that intimacy between a man and a woman is a wonderful gift that God designed and gave to us. (Genesis 2)

The pull towards intimacy is natural and, in the right context, healthy and worth celebrating.

However, I think we would do well to help our children, who are approaching the dating years, to understand the meaning and implications of closeness.

There are many facets to intimacy, and they all interconnect. For this article we will only deal with four;

  • emotional
  • physical
  • financial
  • spiritual

Emotional Intimacy

Emotional intimacy is that wonderful, well known, and sought after feeling of being in love! It is very affirming for each member in the relationship to grasp that they are known and loved for who they are. It’s important that this affirmation goes both ways between the couple.

Physical Intimacy

Physical intimacy is not just sexual contact. It includes acts of affection, such as holding hands, hugs, kissing, and other contact that is reserved for the significant other.

Financial Intimacy

How terribly unromantic! Financial intimacy isn’t something we often think about. However, intimacy is far more than feelings. If a relationship is long term, each member brings their financial situation into the relationship and it is as much a part of the relationship as any of the other aspects of intimacy.

Spiritual Intimacy

Spiritual intimacy means asking how committed each member of the dating couple is to their faith? Is Christ the center of their respective lives? Will He be the center of their relationship?

Here is the crux of the matter; intimacy does not stay static, but grows.

If our dating children don’t understand the various facets of intimacy, they may place more emphasis on one area and let another slide. When this happens we end up with a relationship that is off-balance and potentially disastrous.

Emotional intimacy, in particular, tends to be in a hurry! When one level of intimacy is rushed, it can drag the other facets of intimacy along with it. This pace may have a negative impact on the other areas of intimacy, which can, in turn, lead to hurt feelings and heartbreak. The ‘rush’ can mean that young couples become far more physically involved than is appropriate. Or, they may find themselves in financial trouble, especially if debts such as student loans are involved. They can also realize that while the couple has become emotionally close, they have vastly different ideas of what it means to be committed to Christ.

Knowledge is Power

Explaining to our sons and daughters the various facets of intimacy and how they are intertwined is so helpful. It can allow us, as parents, to affirm their joy at being in a relationship while informing them about the potential pitfalls. In doing so, we get to play a part in equipping our young people for a healthier and happier long term relationship.

After all, isn’t that ultimately what every parent hopes for?

What Can YOU Do? Choose one of the intimacy types and talk about it with your teens. Once you’ve thoroughly covered one area choose another and work through them slowly until you’ve covered them all. You can also SHARE this post with others who may find it helpful!

Written by Keith Richmond

Keith Richmond

Keith works for Power to Change and holds a Psychology degree from Trinity Western University. Together, he and his wife are raising four teenage children.