I’m a freshman in high school and am dating a guy who’s five years older than I am. My mom doesn’t like him, so we’ve had to see each other secretly. What should I do? Why can’t the relationship just be about me and him?

Ask yourself these questions: If you are having a secret relationship with a man who is willing to keep it hidden, what does this say of his character? It says that he is willing to be dishonest to get what he wants. If he is hiding a relationship with you, what makes you think he is not capable of hiding a relationship from you? Do you hope to marry a guy who is willing to hide a relationship? Beyond that, is there a reason he is not courting women his own age?

Also, examine how this relationship is forming you. To keep the relationship alive, you have probably lied to your family. But good relationships are founded on honesty with yourself, the other, your family, and God. To the extent that there is deception, there is an absence of love. The Lord has placed you within your family, under your parents’ authority, for a reason. Do not let a guy come between you and them.

Imagine if you had a fourteen or fifteen-year-old daughter who met a charming college guy. I’d imagine you would like to offer her some advice, to say the least. You asked why the relationship shouldn’t just be about “me and him.” But any relationship divorced from your family’s influence and direction is an unhealthy relationship. For example, the other night I spoke with a mom whose son was sexually active, and her eyes were filled with pain and were swollen with tears. Her son does not live in an isolated universe apart from his family, as much as he may wish that was the case. His mom’s heart was broken, but he didn’t care. He wanted sex. It was all about him and the girlfriend he was shacking up with.

Now, I do not know how physical you two have been. But I do know that if it is God’s will for you two to be together, His plan for you will not be ruined by you honoring your parents. If you want to win the respect and trust of your parents, you should begin by respecting and trusting them. Whether we like it or not, parents have a lot of wisdom in this area—just as you will have a lot of wisdom when you become a mother. It takes maturity to realize that your parents may have valuable experience when it comes to relationships and that they want what is best for you. Older people realize that the younger you are, the more an age gap matters in relationships. While no one would see anything wrong with a thirty-seven-year-old man dating a thirty-two-year-old woman, it is more than a bit sketchy for someone your age to be dating a fourth-grader. In the high school to college range, age is still a factor.

In fact, while this can be hard for young people to accept, research shows that the place in the brain where reasoning and judgment take place is not fully developed until a person reaches his or her early-mid twenties.[1] So there is a great deal of wisdom in deferring to the guidance of people who are a bit older.

Though this may be tough to see right now, the situation is dangerous. Why? Consider these statistics: 74 percent of girls who lose their virginity as teens lose it to an older guy. [2] In fact, the majority of teen pregnancies are caused by older guys.[3] Older guys are also more likely to transmit sexually transmitted diseases because they are more likely to have had multiple sexual partners.[4] Lastly, girls who date guys two or more years older are six times as likely to get drunk and smoke pot.[5] Even if the two of you are not sexually active, you can understand why your parents have some legitimate concerns.

You may say, “We’re not into sex, drugs, or drinking. He’s a good guy.” But if you and he plan on making this relationship last, then the truth will be revealed. How many months and years of deception do you want to unveil eventually to your parents? If this guy hopes to be a son-in-law to your mom and dad, he’s not going to make a good impression by lying to them for years. He will only create resentment.

Have the courage and wisdom to step back and be honest with your family. If they want you two to stop seeing each other, honor their wishes. In the meantime, do not worry that you will never find another guy who likes you. Think about whomever you had a crush on four years ago and look at how your tastes have changed since then. The same refining and clarifying of your interests will continue over the next several years.

Have confidence in love. If you sneak around, it shows a lack of confidence in your love for each other, as if the success of your love requires dishonesty. Have confidence in God as well. He can take care of things. All he asks in the meantime is that you honor your parents and wait to have the relationship until you are able to be honest with them about it. You will not regret it. Meanwhile, remember: “Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” (1 Cor. 13:4–8).

[1]. Jay N. Giedd, “Structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Adolescent Brain,” Adolescent Brain Development: Vulnerabilities and Opportunities 1021 (June 2004), 77–85; Medical Institute for Sexual Health, “Maturation of the Teen Brain,” Integrated Sexual Health Today (Spring 2005), 2–9.
[2]. Suzanne Ryan, et al., “The First Time: Characteristics of Teens’ First Sexual Relationships,” Research Brief (Washington, D.C.: Child Trends, August 2003), 2.
[3]. Hsu G., “Statutory Rape: The Dirty Secret Behind Teen Sex Numbers,” Family Policy (1996), 1–16.
[4]. Trudee Tarkowski, et al., “Epidemiology of Human Papillomavirus Infection and Abnormal Cytologic Test Results in an Urban Adolescent Population,” Journal of Infectious Diseases 189 (January 1, 2004), 49.
[5]. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, “National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse IX: Teen Dating Practices and Sexual Activity,” Columbia University (August 2004), 6.

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