From Explaining About Sex to Understanding Affairs

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”Dating – What Should I Tell my Child?”


Dear Dr. Gelb:

My 11-year-old has started asking her dad and me about dating, if we did it, when we started, and when we first had sex. Actually, if I knew then what I know now, I would do things a lot different. I don’t know how much to tell her, or when?


Dear Reminiscing:

Your statement “if I knew then what I know now, I would do things a lot different,” says a lot. So if I were you, I would consider beginning to do things differently. In my opinion, sex education should begin from the moment of birth, while mothers are nursing, or when children are being bathed or diapers changed. This is because sexuality and being comfortable with it is not all about dating or physical intimacy, it is about learning to love one’s body and not be ashamed of it. A couple’s behavior around their children can teach them either to be ashamed of their sexuality or to be natural and comfortable with it.

So how does one talk to children about sexuality, especially a pre-teen? Effective approaches include answering their questions honestly, identifying body parts by their biological name, and finding some tasteful educational books that illustrate the physical anatomy. And in my opinion, it is so important to teach children that sex in itself is a physical phenomena and love is an emotional experience. As one teenager shared with her mother, “I learned in sex ed that people can be affectionate and loving without “going all the way.” This young person was taught that intercourse itself is a reproductive procedure, and so it is wise to refrain until people have chosen the partner that they want to have a child with.

”Infidelity – How Can I Forgive?”

Dear Dr. Gelb:

My spouse died recently of a terminal illness. I loved him so much. As I went through his belongings, it became clear that he had an affair during the final years of his life before he took ill, while we were married. I feel such an urge to know why he did it. Of course there are no answers. Why am I so preoccupied about needing to know why?


Dear Betrayed:

It is not uncommon for an immature man to have morbid (latent) curiosity about the opposite sex. Even where someone is satisfied with their mate, this curiosity can lead to extra marital activity. Guilt for such behavior can be horrendous, and the experience is unlikely to satisfy curiosity because guilt tends to blind gratification.

The behavior you describe does not necessarily mean that a spouse does not love their mate. I wish more people would understand this because it could probably result in fewer divorces and less violence in family life. I do not condone promiscuity. However, I have learned to understand its psychological roots and how healing it is for spouses who are confronted with such betrayal to forgive themselves. This is because many women, upon learning of betrayal, feel responsible, that somehow the affair is their fault, that they did not love their spouse enough or care enough. Self-forgiveness is needed for whatever the woman feels badly about, so that she can begin to be free of guilt.

”’Suzanne J. Gelb, Ph.D., J.D. authors this daily column, Dr. Gelb Says, which answers questions about daily living and behavior issues. Dr. Gelb is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Honolulu. She holds a Ph.D. in Psychology and a Ph.D. in Human Services. Dr. Gelb is also a published author of a book on Overcoming Addictions and a book on Relationships.”’

”’This column is intended for entertainment use only and is not intended for the purpose of psychological diagnosis, treatment or personalized advice. For more about the column’s purpose, see”’ “An Online Intro to Dr. Gelb Says”

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