Youth Want to Know How to Build Relationships


Lately, I have had a number of young men who are street dependent coming to me. They all are facing crises in their lives one way or another. After we’ve talked about their particular crisis, they each seem to be left wanting. I said to each, “I see something is still bugging you. I probably can’t fix anything, but I am a good listener. You can tell me anything at all, and I won’t judge you.”

One by one, they have each come to the conclusion that they are lonely and feel the need for a friendship and supportive relationship with a woman. And in one way or another, they have all said, “I don’t know how to do it. It’s so scary to put yourself out there. Oh sure, I understand what to do to get sex, but I want something more than that.” Wow!
After some thought, I offered this advice: “Some people just seem naturally charismatic and it seems like they just know all the smooth moves and everything right to say. Great for them! But most of us, me included, had to learn how to romance a lady. Even before that, we had to learn how to just be around women without being romantic or sexual… just enjoying their company, talking, and sharing a common experience.”
One kid said, “Yeah. I get that, but the girls I hang out with seem to go for the sex part with me but not the relationship part.” I thought for a bit, and said, “Maybe you need to hang out in a different place. Where might you find girls where you can have a shared relationship but not feel the pressure of sex?”
One answered, “Parties away from the street are good. I go to parties. But it turns into drinking and sex for me.” I suggested, “What if you went to the party early, didn’t drink but one, and left as soon as the party got going full blast. I know that might seem strange, but could you do that?” “Yeah… I guess. But why?” I continued, “If you did that, you’d have a shared experience of the start of the party. It can be awkward… it an be funny… people have to talk to each other and there are just a few people around. And you’d leave before everyone gets tanked. Maybe one or maybe even more girls would be saying, ‘Hey? Where did that cute guy go who was just here? I wanted to get to party with him a bit more!’ By leaving early, you got to start on the relationship and the shared experience without the sexual pressures and you left the people you met wanting more.”
“Cool!” he said. “Kind of like flirting?” “A bit like flirting, I suppose. But you are being interesting and showing interest in them to get to know them… not to pick them up. Maybe you go back to that same group sometime soon and they see you. One of the ladies wants to talk to you, maybe you get a phone number to go have coffee or go window shopping sometime.” “Cool! I think I could do that!” he said.
“Where else could you meet girls in some setting where you’d see some of the same people more than once?” “Good question. I’ve been thinking about church for that.” I answered, “I’ve heard that church is good for that, but I think you have to be careful. If you’re not there for what is going on in church, I think the girls can probably tell that and won’t be interested. But if you’re into what’s going on there, it’s a great way to have a shared experience and to start making friends. That’s really what we’re talking about. Making friends with the opposite sex, but not for the purpose of having sex. Just for the purpose of making a number of friends. Maybe one of these relationships over time will turn into a date. Maybe that will work or maybe it won’t, but once you start making friends without expectations, I think you wont’ be so lonely.”
“But it is so scary. I get in there and I just don’t know what to do,” one kid said. “Yeah… it was for me, too. I had to practice. Maybe it didn’t go so well the first time or two. Maybe it was awkward, but it got better over time. I think can for you, too.”
Many street youth come from the foster care system, and sometimes it was the more “boarding house” style of living where there were few adults around on which to see and model behavior. Many street youth come from unstable homes where the parent or parents were doing all they could to keep things going. Maybe the didn’t have energy or time or skills to model dating behavior. And to top it all off, media and pop culture romanticize dating and seem to only show us the charismatic prototype people when the truth is that the skill of conversation takes work and practice, dating is an acquired skill, and that most people must form lots of friendships, to go on many “dates,” to find relationships that last.
I applaud these brave young men who seem to have gotten in touch with themselves and realized that they are lonely. Sex without a relationship isn’t enough for them. And they want to improve their social skills to make friends with women and establish a relationship. Bravo! I pray patience, safe places to practice social skills, and self restraint as they seek to reshape their lives. There is always hope! God gives us that. He is the maker and perfecter of our souls, and His masterpieces are beautiful workmanship.
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