Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Student Wonders When to Make Relationship Physical

DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a 20-year-old guy, and I have been seeing a girl at my university for about three weeks. I really like her because she is funny, sweet and the girl you would want to take home to meet your mother.

Is it too early to have sex? I don't mind waiting until we get to know each other better. I know that many say if you have sex too early, it can ruin a relationship, but on the other hand, it could also lead to a much more intimate connection. How should I approach this? -- Careful, Philadelphia

DEAR CAREFUL: Thank you for being so thoughtful. At your age, it is natural to want to be sexually involved with someone you like. Just on a physical level, your hormones are wide-awake! The challenge is that if you really want to build a relationship with this young lady, it is wise to take it slow. Get to know each other. Spend time together. Learn about what values you share and what interests may be new to you. Do things together that help you to find out if you are compatible. You can even be intimate -- slowly -- without going all the way, so to speak. Take your time.

When you feel you are getting close to ready, talk about it directly. Discover your feelings about sexual intercourse. Learn whether she is a virgin. If not, learn about her dating history as you share yours. Baby steps can lead to a long-lasting embrace.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I am in an awkward situation. My two best friends were dating each other, but they have recently broken up. Both of my friends have told me separately what they feel was a problem in the relationship that led to the breakup. Now it seems that they want me to pick sides. I don't want to do this because they are both my friends and no matter who was wrong or right, I want them to know I am here for them. Still, I don't want either of them to be mad at me. Please help! -- In the Middle, Washington, D.C.

DEAR IN THE MIDDLE: Do not take the bait! You cannot win by taking sides, no matter what they tell you. Refuse when they attempt to get you to choose between them. Directly say that you are not willing to get in the middle of their personal business. Tell them that you love each of them and hope to remain friends with them.

Because you are friends with both of them, you may also want to recommend that they do their emotional brain-dump with someone else. If you are not listening to their whining, regardless of how legitimate it may be, it will be easier for you to remain neutral. Stand your ground. This will not be easy.