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Are you a teenager searching for information
about sex and dating?

Information Update
from Dr. Andrew D. Atwood, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

This material is presented for educational and informational purposes only. No other claims are made. Always consult your health care professional for specific recommendations.


I’ve placed this short article here, among all the others I have specifically written for couples that are stuck in a sexless marriage (those who have intercourse 10 times a year or less), because I know how many teenagers are surfing the net for helpful information about sex.

When I was a teenager back in the ‘60s, sex went through a huge revolution. Frankly, I couldn’t tell if I was a part of that revolution, or not. We all would have loved the Internet back then. I would have been so much easier to get objective information about sex from the net than from the few books to which we had access, or from your buddies stolen Playboy Magazines, or from conversations with the guys, conversations that were enlarged to hide shame. Frankly, we mostly learned from sheer experimentation.

Today, you can surf the net and end up… well, here.

What are teens looking up on the Internet? Research has indicated the following hot topics:
  • Diet
  • Health
  • Fitness
  • HIV
  • AIDS
  • Sexual Transmitted Diseases – STDs
  • Pregnancy
  • Birth control
  • Sexual behaviors

A lot of the kids I talk with today are most anxious about having a really satisfying relationship with the man or woman with whom they settle down and get married. Let’s face it; lots of teenagers have grown up in homes where their parents didn’t get along very well. These kids, as are kids in general, are concerned with doing better than their parents.

People who are happily married and who have happy and frequent sex, seem to be much better off in life overall. No surprise there.

Below you will find Chapter 16 of my big eBook. Take a long look at it. You will find a map for a common-sense gradual approach to sex. Everyone with whom I have shared this finds it very helpful. There are all kinds of sex problems that could be helped if, from the beginning, one would approach sex gradually. You can control your sexual desire, and you can control your sexual behavior. Read on, and you will see what I mean.

Years ago, a client came into my office carrying a little book about the size of a thin paperback novel. It was a self-published text by Paul Cameron titled Sexual Gradualism. My client, a caring and compassionate person with the financial resources to put her money in the same place as her mouth, invited me to read the little book. Immediately, I could see its logic and usefulness. My client bought me 100 copies and over a few years I gave all but two away.

I can’t figure out how to buy more, and would if I could. I’ve searched the Internet and frankly, the only information I have found isn’t very appealing. But, his little book has a wonderful little map for the journey. I’m tweaking it some and take credit for that. Mr. Cameron gets credit for the basic idea, which is this:

We should build our relationships gradually, through certain steps, by leading with intimacy, following with commitment, and trailing with sex.
And, with each step we get to decide if we want to take the next step.

Let me tell you that I have shared this little map of how to build a healthy sexual relationship with scores and scores of teenagers, hundreds in fact. I have also shared it with even more single adults who, after divorce, are trying to get back into the dating game with a degree of comfort. So, this model might not be applicable to you right now, but it might be something you can share with your pre-adolescent or adolescent child. Everyone should be taught this little model in my opinion. Yes, I am trying to get the word out!

· Leading with Intimacy.

Intimacy is knowing your traveling companion, and being known by your traveling companion.

The wisest way to begin any journey, or to take the next step along the way, is to begin with intimacy. As two people move toward being traveling companions, they take one step closer, and then another, and then another . . .. gradually getting into the car and taking off. Of course, that is a metaphor for gradually becoming life companions - for becoming traveling companions. The first step should always be the step of intimacy.

  • How profoundly do you know your companion?
  • Do you know what is in your companion’s soul?
  • Does your companion know what is in your soul?

Coming to know each other, soul-to-soul, takes some time and effort. This little “Pocket Map for the Journey” will give you some idea of the steps involved in gradually building intimacy.

· Following with Commitment.

Commitment is establishing a contract with your companion that includes the behaviors for which each of you will be accountable.

After a step of intimacy has been taken, the next step involves commitment. At this point a boundary is being drawn around your relationship with your traveling companion that includes the two of you, but which also defines how others will be included, or excluded. Everyone has their own personal boundaries, and every relationship has its own boundaries as well.

  • What commitments are your willing to make to each other at this point in your journey?
  • How exclusive are you willing to be with this person?
  • How much of yourself will your entrust to this person?

Building a “contract” takes time and it happens step-by-step. You, of course, know that. Only the most naïve and Childlike people jump into a commitment without doing their step-by-step homework. Impulsivity here is inviting disaster. On the other hand, there are “commitment challenged people” who will not make, or keep a commitment with their traveling companion. That is a huge problem, which we will address further along the road.

· Trailing with Sex.

Sex, for our purposes, is the sexual behavior you and your traveling companion engage in while traveling along the Journey of Life.

Sex begins with a look, and it ideally ends with a look of a different sort.

The first step is to see each other and get turned on. The vision impaired people I have worked with have helped me to appreciate that it can also be an auditory thing, that at the first sound of someone else’s voice, one can get turned on. We all know how true that can be. The folks out there who pander phone-sex for an exorbitant fee know the power of a voice, and the vulnerability caused by unmanaged anxiety. Put the two together over the phone and somebody is making a bunch of money.

Sex done well has been preceded by a commitment, which has been preceded by intimacy. It is that simple.

Everyone I have ever shown this little map to has seen the common sense of it, so I know you will as well.

Here is the “Pocket Map” that I have developed so that you can judge for yourself where you are on the Journey of Life.

Your sexless marriage problem might be the result of not having alignment between your levels of . . . Intimacy, Commitment, and Sex.

“The Sexual Gradualism Pocket Map”
Make a conscious decision before you move step-by-step, level-by-level along the Journey of Life
Toward Grown-up Maturity

  Leading with Intimacy Following with Commitment Trailing with Sex
Level 1 Step 1 We’ve spent up to 72 hours together in heart-to-heart conversation in which we have been open and honest with each other. I know about my partner’s family history and my partner knows mine. There is some anxiety, but it matches your level of intimacy Step 2 I like this person, and I think I’m liked in return. I like spending time with this person and the time we do spend together is rather enjoyable. We are both on our best behavior. Step 3 We enjoy being in each other’s presence, looking into each other’s eyes. We both seem to want to look nice for the other. I enjoy my partner’s presence, smell, and touch. In fact, we are holding hands, touching lightly, hugging in kindness, and we are both thinking about more physical closeness, but we are both a little anxious. We kiss lightly, if at all.
Level 2 Step 4 We’ve spent up to 144 hours in intimate conversation and I have gotten to know my partner’s extended family, joys, sorrows, fears, hates, and loves. I have laughed together. I also know what your partner enjoys doing without you. You have had some serious anxiety at times, but you have managed it. Step 5 I do really like this person and I do really like spending time together. I make time to be together pretty much whenever I can. I know about this person’s commitment to family and friends, to work and play. Once in a while our separate commitments clash, but we seem to address whatever the issues are and move on. Step 6 We are now kissing, with deep passion. We tongue each other and touch each other all over, but still with our clothes on. We can spend a lot of time doing this, and it feels wonderful. The anxiety here is mostly anticipatory anxiety, but there is some concern about how secure we are with each other.
Level 3 Step 7 We’ve spent 216 hours together in intimate conversation. Now I know about the principles around which we both have our lives organized. We have fought and overcome our pain. We have experienced intense anxiety, addressed the issues involved, and we are working them through. Step 8 I am “in-love” with this person, and that is for sure. I am committed to my partner’s best interests as much, or even more than my own. Given the opportunity I find myself opting to spend time with my partner more than with others. We are committed to resolving the conflicts we have at times, and we seem to be able to do so regularly. Step 9 Now we are fondling each other. Breast and genital fondling is exciting. As time moves on we begin to undress and experience each other’s naked body. There has been some oral sex as well. There is great wonder and anxiety here, but it is full of positive energy. At the times when we think we have gone too far, we back up, talk, and touch again until we are comfortable.
Level 4 Step 10 We’ve spent 288 hours together in intimate conversation. There is nothing of significance form the past or the present that hasn’t been shared. Our visions for the future have been shared and our level of comfort is complete. There is no anxiety. Step 11 I love this person. We have been together now for some time, experienced the best and worst of each other, and yet I seem to be as committed to my partner’s welfare as I am to my own. I feel respected and valued, and I find it easy to respect and value my partner. We are talking marriage. Step 12 Now we are having intercourse and we are doing it regularly. We have moved beyond most of the anxiety and now experiment, or actually, play at really doing each other. We enjoy giving and receiving pleasure. Neither of us feels used as we explore our sexuality in ever more erotic and intimate ways. At times, with our eyes fixed on each other’s eyes, we come together as one.

Let me say a word about the hours in my model. I figure that 72 hours is about the amount of time two people should spend in each other’s company before they even take the step to Level 2. That is, 72 hours, or nine 8-hour days, is about the amount of time that two people should spend hanging out and getting to know each other. Is that too much to ask? That would be 8 hours a week for a couple of months. I count telephone and email time in there as well even though people tend to be more intimate over the Internet than face-to-face. Intimate conversation done face-to-face can be more anxiety producing than intimacy over the Internet. However, and I want to be perfectly clear about his, relationships that are built over the Internet can be incredibly misleading. In fact, I would give it about a 90% on the misleading index. People who establish a lot of commitment with someone after exchanging intimacies over the Internet are asking for trouble.

I have moved these levels in 72-hour increments, as you can see. I figure 72 hours in 2 months per level.

Of course, it is your life and you are in charge of the clock and the levels of intimacy, commitment, and sex that you want to have with your partner.

The main point of developing your sexual relationship gradually is that you get to decide at Level 1 if you want to move to Level 2, and then on to 3, and 4. At certain points along the Journey you get to stop and decide.

If the answer is, “Well, this is okay, but I don’t think I want to keep going,” then it is time for you to get honest with yourself first, and then with your partner. If you don’t, you will have a big problem. A really big problem.

Here are some ways you can screw this up, and how the screw-ups may be contributing to your sexless marriage problem.

  • Have a lot of sex, and skip intimacy and commitment altogether. This is typically referred to as “promiscuity.” Your relationship will end as soon as one or the other of you grows up a little and looks for a mature relationship that leads with intimacy, follows with commitment, and trails with sex.
  • Have a lot of intimacy, and never establish commitment or sex. People who have a narcissistic trait in their personality commonly do this. They get off on being the center of someone else’s emotional attention, but give nothing back. However, it might also be the case that such a person is frightened of both commitment and sex and prefers to be “just friends.” Or, in fact, that person is just a friend and nothing more.
  • Have a lot of commitment, and little intimacy or sex. If such is the case, this is usually a very dependent person who is clinging to a relationship and neither giving, nor getting, much in return. Or, it is just a shallow friendship.
  • Have a lot of intimacy and a lot of commitment, but little sex. This is likely where most of the people who are reading this eBook are coming from. You know each other, are committed to each other, but something has gotten in the way and you are struggling with a sexless marriage problem.
  • Have a lot of sex and intimacy, but little commitment. At this point in my career, I firmly believe that if someone is afraid to commit, they are, in fact, afraid to commit. Without resolution of the issues right there, the relationship will always be void of appropriate commitment and occasional bouts of anxiety will be common.
  • Have a lot of sex and commitment, but little intimacy. Two people traveling together like this can be pretty happy, up to a point. One or the other will always be vulnerable to an encounter with someone who establishes more intimacy. Lots of affairs begin right here.
  • Just enough intimacy, commitment, and sex. This might be what I call "The curse of good." This is the relationship that is good, not great, but just good. Both of you are traveling along, not going very far, very fast, or to very interesting places. It is good. Not great. Just good. Usually someone wants to scream at some point, wants to jump out and do something different, wants to put the pedal to the metal for a while, wants to break out of the boredom. Maybe this is you.
  • In this Chapter I have given you a “Pocket Map of Your Journey.” Sexual Gradualism is a common sense approach to gradually building a relationship from intimacy, to commitment, to sex, step-by step, and level-by-level. You get to decide at each step if you want to stop, or if you want to Journey to the next step, or the next level.
  • You can use this “Pocket Map” to diagnose your own relationship. If you aren’t together at the same Level, one or the other of you will have an increase in the amount of anxiety you are experiencing. That is guaranteed.
  • Your sexless marriage problem could be a result of one of you being at one Level, and the other at another Level. There can be great frustration in such a case, so give it some careful thought.

Dr. Atwood

Hopeful Solutions for Your Sexless Marriage is the BIG, 173 page eBook written by Dr. Atwood. The companion volume is You Can Save Your Marriage. You can find both at www.HopefulSolutions.net. Dr. Andrew D. Atwood, LMFT. 534 Fountain St. NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503 - Voice 616.456.1178 - Email DrAtwood@HopefulSolutions.net. ©2002-2004 Save Your Marriage, PLC. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: The material presented on these pages if for your information only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice. It may not represent your true individual medical situation. Do not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting a qualified health care provider in person. Please consult your health care provider in person if you have any questions or concerns. Always use common sense and research your own personal situation thoroughly.

Copyright 2002-2004 - Save Your Marriage, PLC
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