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How do I know if I’m in love?

What is love? Am I in love or just lust? Does my partner feel the same as I do? How long will we stay together? What do people in love do? What will happen if I fall out of love? Is it fun to be in love? If I am in love, does that mean I should have sex? These are all questions that come to mind when people talk about “love”. If we base our idea of what true love is on fairy tales, we might think that finding prince charming or an enchanting princess and living happily ever after is the ultimate goal. But for most people, this is unrealistic, and may even leave us feeling unfulfilled or let down. The reality is that being and staying in love takes continual work and patience. Couples who have healthy relationships find ways of working together, and this in and of itself could be considered a sign of true love.

Webster’s dictionary describes love as a “strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties” and “attraction based on sexual desire”. These definitions are completely different from each other, but both accurate.

Everyone has their own definition of love. Especially when you are a teen, everyone experiences love in a different way. Some people fall in and out of love countless times, some people only love one person, and some people never find it. Some people say love is a dangerous thing, and others say it is one of the most beautiful feelings in life. Can it be both? Love can also vary by degrees: some couples feel deeply intense and passionate, while others appreciate one another for being smart or admire one another’s ambition, dedication, athleticism or creativity.

No one can really answer the question “am I in love” for you, that is something only you can determine. Also remember that love is not just what we see in movies. Think of all of the expressions of love in our world like people devoting their careers for the human rights of others, people setting aside time to volunteer in their community, parents and caregivers protecting and nurturing their children and families, young people learning from and sharing things with their grandparents and giving and receiving unconditional love to and from the animals in our lives.  So, are you in love?

What does “age of consent” mean in Pennsylvania?

Age and experience create a power imbalance that makes it impossible for a younger person to freely give consent. In Pennsylvania, children less than 13 years of age cannot grant consent to sexual activity. Teens between the ages of 13 and 15 can consent to sexual activity with peers within a four-year age range. People aged 16 and older can legally consent to sexual activity with anyone they choose, as long as the other person does not have authority over them as defined in Pennsylvania’s institutional sexual assault statute.

View an infographic by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape.

Is my relationship healthy?

All relationships are different. It is very difficult for someone who doesn’t know you and your partner to know whether your relationship is healthy. However, there are some traits of healthy, unhealthy and abusive relationships that apply to almost every couple. For instance, when asked what trait is the most important in a relationship, most teens say “trust.” Does your partner trust you, and do you trust him/her almost 99%? (Everyone can have a pang of jealousy every now and then.) This is a huge sign that your relationship is healthy. However, does your partner question where you have been or who you have talked to when you go out with your fiends? If so, this would signal an unhealthy relationship. Does s/he read your texts, log into your Facebook or other social media accounts without you knowing? That is unhealthy. Here are other characteristics of healthy relationships. Your Partner:

  • Treats you with respect
  • Never puts you down
  • Is okay when you spend time with friends or family
  • Is honest
  • Listens to you
  • Compromises sometimes (this goes both ways)
  • Never pressures you to do things you don’t want to do
  • Encourages you to follow your dreams and achieve your goals
  • Shares their thoughts and feelings with you
  • Never threatens you

Here are some characteristics of unhealthy or abusive relationships. Your partner:

  • Pushes, pulls, grabs, punches or pulls you
  • Forces you to engage in sexual activity
  • Threatens you with a knife, gun or other object
  • Embarrasses you on purpose
  • Tells you what to do or wear
  • Uses Facebook, Twitter, etc. to keep constant tabs on you
  • Giving you an allowance and monitoring what you buy
  • Constantly texts you and gets angry if you don’t immediately text back
  • Threatens to commit suicide if you breakup with him/her
  • Refuses to wear a condom

This topic is so important and is not easily answered in a few paragraphs. This site will allow you to explore the ins and outs of healthy, unhealthy and abusive relationships.

If you need immediate help, please follow this link to Berks Women in Crisis.

Why are my parents are so awkward when it comes to talking about sex?

Most teens say that their parents don’t talk to them about sex at all, or if they do, they are pretty awkward about it. We need to give parents a little break on this one. Their parents (your grandparents) probably didn’t talk to them about sex and so they have no idea where to start or what to say.

This is a perfect opportunity for you to be the leader! If there are certain topics that you would like to talk to your parents about, or even just hear their opinion, why not bring it up to them? The most difficult part is doing it the first time. So…tell them that you have heard about sex (or whatever your specific topic is) from your friends, but you wanted to talk to them about it because you think they will give you more accurate information. They may be hesitant at first, they may say that they don’t want to talk about it, or they may be SO happy that you opened the door of communication. You won’t know unless you try.

I think I might be gay, but I had sex with a girl. Am I gay or straight?

There are gay men who feel pressured to mask their sexuality because of cultural, familial, religious, or personal beliefs that homosexuality is wrong. The fear of being found out is sometimes strong enough to compel some LGBTQ people to perform in situations in which they might not feel comfortable.

In addition, though people tend to view sexuality as being clearly hetero- or homo-sexual, it might be more accurate to think of an individual’s sexuality as falling along a continuum, such as this…Kinsey Spectrum

On this spectrum, there are as many different sexual identities and behaviors as there are people. Sexual orientation is usually comprised of three parts: attraction, how one acts on that attraction, and how one identifies (gay, straight, bisexual, etc).

Identifying one’s sexuality and choosing whether or not to share this information with others can be a complex and confusing process. To answer your question plainly, it’s likely that many gay men do have sexual relationships with women to hide their true orientation, but they shouldn’t have to. For lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, the coming out process can be both difficult and liberating. For most people it takes time to know who you are and it’s okay to be confused, or to be uncertain about whether (or how) you should come out. Remember, you are not alone. There are people out there with the same questions and concerns that you have. And there are people who have already found their own answers. PFLAG is a great organization (and website) that can help you.

Why does my Health teacher keep talking about sex and drugs together?

Substance use can impact your (safer) sex practices. Research has shown a significant relationship between unsafe sex and alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamines, ecstasy, GHB, and marijuana. Your health teacher wants to make sure that you understand that drugs and alcohol can influence your sexual decisions, and aren’t they already difficult enough as a teenager?!

Have you ever resisted doing something even though you felt an intense urge to do it? Maybe you wanted to tell someone off, ask someone out, ride a scary ride, or steal something. But you didn’t. A particular part of your brain (the frontal lobe) was involved when you decided not to do it. This part of the brain helps people consider facts and weigh costs and risks. It helps a person engage in healthy risk-taking, but drugs and alcohol actually block this inhibition center. For example, a regular condom user might decide not to wear one after using a drug that impacts the frontal lobe.

Your Health teacher knows how challenging it can be to navigate sexuality as a teenager (s/he was a teenager once.) Drugs and alcohol can also be a difficult issue to deal with as a teen. Mixing the two is just a disaster waiting to happen!

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