Dating for beginners

Going out with someone can be fun and exciting. It can lead to a relationship that lasts just a few weeks or you could be together for many months or years. You may be one of the small number of people who meets their true love first time round. But, however long your first relationship lasts, there are some important things to remember about being safe and about learning to cope if things don’t work out.

Asking someone out
Asking someone out can be nerve-wracking. Before you make your move you need to get some idea about how the person you’re interested in feels about you. Small things like making eye-contact and smiling are good ways to start. But don’t be put off if this doesn’t work at first. The other person may not return your smile because they are shy or nervous as well. Try to get to know them a bit first as a friend. Knowing what they are interested in can be a good first step. If you are not yet bold enough to ask them out, try inviting them out as part of a group. (That way you can get to know them better – you might even decide they’re not the one for you anyway.) Next time you might have the courage to suggest that just the two of you go out.

Coping with a break-up
Coping with the end of a relationship is tough, especially if it was not your decision to break up. You are likely to feel sad, angry, lonely and even embarrassed at the thought that all your friends know. But they too will go through the same feelings at some point so try to ignore any teasing. Try also not to dwell on your sadness or cut yourself off from your friends and the things you like doing. Talk to someone you trust about how you feel. The end of a relationship is always hard to deal with, whatever your age, but you will move on and find someone else in time.

Drink, drugs and sex
Drinking and taking drugs to relax can seem like a good idea, especially if you are at a party and are feeling nervous. Alcohol and drugs make you less inhibited and you may feel more confident. But you could find yourself making poor decisions if you are drunk or under the influence of drugs. You could find yourself in an embarrassing situation where you wake up next to someone the next day with no memory of what happened. Worse still, you may have had unprotected sex and ended up with a sexually transmitted infection. If you pass out, you could also be vulnerable to attack. When you go to parties, make sure you take condoms and decide beforehand how much you are going to drink – and stick to it.
Your first relationship may not end up being a lifelong romance. But, then again, you may find that what starts out as something light-hearted in time becomes more meaningful. The important thing is to feel relaxed, happy, and to have fun with the person you are with.

What if I am gay?
Most people feel attracted to someone of the same sex at some point in their lives, often during puberty, without being gay. It often takes time to truly understand your sexuality. If you are sure you are gay and feel ready to come out, you should tell someone you trust. There are lots of organisations around that will also provide support and advice and help you if you’re experiencing homophobic bullying.

Tips from an expert
Jude Kemp is a manager of Brook’s Young People’s Information Service
Your first relationship may not end up being a lifelong romance. But, then again, you may find that what starts out as something light-hearted in time becomes more meaningful. The important thing is to feel relaxed, happy, and to have fun with the person you are with. Here are some tips:

  • Communication is vital. Listen to what your girlfriend or boyfriend has to say, and be prepared to negotiate and compromise if you don’t always agree.
  • A relationship can mean as much or as little as you like. The important things are that you enjoy being with each other, you’re honest about your feelings and your relationship is based on affection and respect.
  • Love is a powerful emotion that builds over time. It is based on respect, attraction and trust. It is not about control. If someone you are seeing tries to get you to do anything against your will, don’t stick around.
  • It is important not to feel pressurised into doing something that you are not comfortable with, be that kissing, touching or having sex.
  • It’s great if you can talk to your parents about sex, as they may be able to give you advice or come with you to the clinic or the doctor to help sort out contraception. But sometimes this is difficult and you do have a right to get advice without involving your parents either from your GP or from a specialist clinic for young people, like Brook.

    What if we decide to have sex?
    The most important thing to remember when you are considering having sex with someone is that it is your body, and it is up to you what you do with it! Having sex can involve getting closer to someone physically and emotionally. You need to feel comfortable and able to talk openly with that person about what feels good for both of you and what you are prepared to do – and not do – at this stage, plus any anxieties you may have about having sex for the first time. If you agree you both want to have sex, you also need to talk about and decide upon which contraception you are going to use.

    Safety first
    REMEMBER, only condoms protect against both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, and this is why it is important they are always worn during sexual contact.
    REMEMBER, people who have sex before they feel ready or when they feel out of control, for example when they are drunk or have taken drugs, are more likely to say they regretted it later.

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