Knowing each other more deeply is within your reach!
Valentine’s Day has come and gone, but the romance doesn’t have to end. For some, the weeks leading up to and away from the “love holiday” are filled with romantic gestures. Others may have lost that loving feeling. Maybe the romance has faded in your marriage. Life gets hectic, and we lose focus. Work demands increase. Kids bring on a whole new level of exhaustion. Our relationship becomes routine.
Routines don’t have to ruin your romance, though. You can always rekindle that fire, and with a bit of intentionality, you and your spouse can keep the romance strong.
Here are a few ways to get started:
1. Keep dating your spouse.
Remember what it was like when you were dating, before you got married? The long walks holding hands? The intimate conversations while getting to know each other? Prioritizing your budding relationship? Just because you’re married doesn’t mean that all has to stop. Your relationship probably needs those dates now more than ever. Put those date nights on the calendar and prioritize them. Hold hands often. Treat the person you married the same as you treated them when you were falling in love. [This date night can help!]
2. Study your spouse.
We are constantly growing as individuals. Our opinions and views evolve. There’s always something to learn about your spouse. If you don’t know their love language, that’s a great place to start. Your love language is the way that you receive love. Dr. Gary Chapman says there are five love languages: words of affirmation, physical touch, quality time, gifts, and acts of service. We all have a love language (or two) that we prefer. Get to know your spouse, but don’t stop there. Keep learning and pursuing them. Curiosity is a beautiful thing in a relationship.
3. Surprise and delight your spouse.
Leave notes in their lunch, car, or on the bathroom mirror. Text them throughout the day just to say I love you. Surprise them with their favorite drink. Use the knowledge you gained from studying them to speak their love language. Maybe that means taking on some of their household chores or responsibilities so they can relax and recharge. Looking for ways to surprise your spouse shows them they are on your mind, and their feelings are a priority.
4. Commit to pursuing intimacy in all its forms.
It’s common to equate intimacy with sex, but it’s so much more than that. Intimacy is our innermost thoughts and feelings. It allows us to bond with each other on several levels. While many healthy relationships involve intimacy, marriage should be the most intimate. Your spouse should know you more deeply than anyone else.
There are five types of intimacy: emotional, intellectual, experiential, spiritual and sexual. Focusing on each one increases the others. Continual conversation is a necessity to grow your intimacy as well.
Start the conversation with your spouse about these ways to keep romance strong in your marriage.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/Untitled-4-01-1.png5001200Mitchell Quallshttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngMitchell Qualls2022-02-15 14:53:342022-06-24 15:10:14How to Keep Romance Strong in Marriage: Part 1
There are many factors to consider about marriage.
I’m a man who didn’t want to get married. I’ve lived with the mother of my children for 15 years. Fifteen years. Now, I realize the importance of marriage and wish I had gotten married years ago.
Reasons I Avoided Marriage
I grew up around people that didn’t value marriage.
My parents never got married.
I saw so many marriages end in divorce.
I was scared of commitment.
Can you identify with any of these reasons? Maybe yours are different, but for me, I think it really came down to fear. Some parts of marriage seemed practical, but other parts didn’t. I saw a lot of cheating going on, which was scary too. I didn’t want any part of that.
Sometimes our real intentions are hidden a few layers deep. At times, we just need someone to lovingly shake the ground we walk on to bring maturity to the surface. I’ve always been a leader, even though I never really followed the rules of life. Sometimes I tried to make it without what some say: “It’s all his plan for being successful.” I’ve seen the ups and downs of life and marriage, so I was a little terrified.
I’ve racked my brain on how I would explain in my own words about my experience without fear. I didn’t want to bore you about what I’ve been through in a short blog. But in my mind, I know this is going to be a journey for you too.
Like I said, we’ve lived together for many years. So, what has changed? Why am I ready for marriage now?
Here are a few reasons we’re getting married after living together all this time:
1. For me, getting married is about growth and seeing how life goes when you do what’s right by each other.
The years of pain and hurt come at a cost that only you and the person you’re doing life with know about. My fiancé and I have been through a lot. A lot of pain and a lot of hurt. But at the end of the day, my goal is to grow. I’ve seen what can happen when you do what’s right by each other. And even after everything we’ve been through, there’s something better for our relationship in the future. We just have to put in the work to get there.
2. I really feel ready now more than ever.
People often ask me, “Why are you not married yet?” The thing is, I knew I wasn’t ready mentally. But for me, life has shown me that it’s always been about timing. When getting your dream job and trying to climb the ladder to success, the right person pushes you to become better. So many great things are happening in our lives that make me want to get to the next step in life.
3. My support system has grown over the years, and I see what it takes to succeed in life and marriage.
Just being around my family and friends that support me no matter what life throws at me inspires me to never give up and to keep going spiritually and mentally. It goes back to what I’ve been trying to get my fellow fathers to understand. It’s a process in life that we have to be willing to take – to right our wrongs and focus on becoming better. So for me again, I say getting married after living together is part of me trusting and showing and believing.
I feel that it’s important to show my kids that marriage can be a great thing if you both believe in it and lead by example. And I’m looking forward to showing my family that I am committed to being there for the long haul.
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https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Untitled-7-01.png5001200James Woodshttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngJames Woods2021-10-07 14:11:332021-10-07 15:36:083 Reasons We’re Getting Married After Living Together
Romantic relationships are full of big decisions. One decision that’s gonna present itself is A) Do we move in together? and/or B) Do we get married?59% of adults under the age of 45 have decided to move in together at some point. Then there’s the question: What would change if we got married? Is there a difference between living together and marriage?
You want to be on one page about what your relationship is and where it’s going, especially when making big decisions. Understanding the differences between living together and marriage can help you decide what best helps you reach the relationship goals you’re hoping for. Ignoring the differences can lead to lifelong, complicated heartbreak.
What are some differences between living together and marriage? Why do they matter?
While some states recognize cohabitation agreements, they don’t provide the same protection as marriage.
Can make medical decisions on their spouse’s behalf
Have legal rights to inherit their spouse’s estate
Don’t pay taxes on the financial inheritance they receive from their spouse
Need a general power of attorney to make medical decisions for their partner. Otherwise, they may have to defer to immediate family members.
Must be a beneficiary in the will to have inheritance rights (income is taxable)
Health and finances affect almost every couple. You definitely want to clarify what you can and can’t do before you face major decisions. Drama, resentment, and pain can add severe stress if you find out you have less power and control than you thought during traumatic situations. This is especially true if the extended family gets involved.
Clarity on Relationship Status
There’s a greater chance that couples who live together have different relationship goals.
One may think they’re testing the relationship to see if they want to marry. The other might say, “Why marry? We’ll just live together.” Another might say, “It’s just convenient for us to live together since we spend so much time together.”
Married couples get a license. This is a formal declaration about the status of the relationship. Marriage locks in legal benefits and lessens potential misunderstandings about the relationship’s direction.
70% percent of married couples say making a formal commitment was a major reason they decided to marry. Though some marriages do end, research shows that married couples report greater relationship satisfaction.
Whether you live together or are married, you make tons of decisions: bills, home purchases, insurance, etc. If one of you thinks the relationship is one thing while the other thinks it’s something else, you have a recipe for disaster. Being on the same page about the relationship’s direction can decrease the chances of a painful break-up.
Effects of A Break-Up
Divorcing and moving out can both be painful. The path out of marriage is quite different, though. It may seem that you can just walk away if you’re living together. But, what if you’re both on the lease, you’re sharing bills, or you’ve jointly bought furniture? When you’ve essentially joined your finances and lives together, separating it all is difficult. Not to mention that couples often don’t end on good terms. Without a formal agreement, one person can easily end up holding an unfair share of the risks.
Divorces can be complicated, messy, and, unfortunately, nasty. However, the process works toward fairly dividing everything from finances and property to time with kids. And, it can provide closure: the ability to make decisions final.
How Break-ups Affect Children
You can’t tear kids down the middle and divide them in half. Married couples are the presumed parents when there is a divorce. Custody, visitation, and child support are set as part of the divorce. It can get ugly, but in the end, it can be resolved.
According to Brookings Research, U.S. children of cohabiting parents are twice as likely to see their parents’ relationship end by age 12. If and when that happens, the child is only presumed to be the birth mother’s child. The father must walk through the process of establishing paternity. This can get even messier given the nature in which many couples end their relationships.
Thinking of living together and marriage as the same can lead to disappointment. Reminds me of the time I ate a sweet potato, thinking it was a regular baked potato. Ignoring the differences can increase the likelihood of a future break-up or divorce and complicated messiness related to finances, possessions, and kids.
Researcher Scott Stanley encourages couples to make clear decisions on their relationship path instead of simply sliding into relationship situations. It’s important to keep your desired goals in mind — then doing the proper research to make the best decision for you.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Couple-01.png8542048Reggie Madisonhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngReggie Madison2021-06-10 13:22:232021-06-18 15:19:18What’s the Difference Between Living Together and Marriage
Do your homework on the topic and move forward from there.
You may be trying to decide: Should we move in together? Or perhaps you already live together and have some questions.Is living together bad for your relationship? Is this going to be good or bad for us?
You’ve probably heard lots of strong opinions. Let me be straight-up with you;there’s no simple answer.
I hope to give you information that you may not have known before and let you come to your own conclusions. That’s how we make wise decisions about relationships, right? Find out all you can, weigh the arguments on both sides (even if you lean to one side at first), and go from there. That’s what I hope you’ll do.
Some of what makes this question not-so-simple is that you’re dealing with likelihoods. What are the odds that living together will be good or bad? I don’t know about you, but I’m not a gambler. I don’t like betting against the odds. Life turns out much better when you know what’s most likely to happen.
Here’s what we can gather about likelihoods:
It seems reasonable (or likely) that living together should improve the odds of doing well later in marriage. Not only is there little research supporting this belief, but the evidence isn’t that strong.
As a matter of fact, living together before marriage has been most strongly associated with poorer marital outcomes. Experts call this the “premarital cohabitation effect.” Those who have lived together before marriage are more likely, not less, to struggle in marriage. And these marriages are more likely to end in divorce.
As living together before marriage became more accepted in society, people thought the association with divorce would decrease, making it less likely. This also has not been the case.
In fact, couples who lived together tend to report having very little struggle in the first year of their marriage. (It makes sense: They’ve already negotiated the initial shock of all the changes that come with moving in.) But in the years after, the cohabitation effect comes into much greater play, making divorce much more likely after their first year of marriage.
If you want to compare living together with what marriage may look like, you could be setting yourself up for unrealistic expectations. There are fundamental differences in trust levels and relationship satisfaction between married and cohabiting couples. Couples who live together are much less likely to trust in their partner’s faithfulness, truthfulness, and responsibility than married couples.
I realize this might paint a bleak picture of living together. I don’t mean for it to; this isn’t my opinion nor anyone else’s. It’s simply the likelihood that research shows us.
Here’s another thought: There’s a theory out there that says moving in together makes it much harder to break up if the relationship goes south. The evidence tends to back this up. When you share bills, furniture, living space, a pet, and a bed, splitting up isn’t so cut-and-dry. (This is ironic because almost a quarter of people living together report they are testing the relationship.) Even if you feel you’re beyond the testing phase of your relationship, research shows the commitment level of couples living together is typically different than married couples. All this needs to be weighed very carefully before making a major decision.
Some final questions to consider: If you decide not to move in together, what’s the worst that could happen? Would it deter either of you from considering marriage later on? If it would, what does it say about your relationship?
And if you decide to move in together, what’s the worst that could happen? Would it deter you from breaking up if you needed to? If so, what would that say about your relationship?
At the end of the day, you have to come to your own conclusions. Again, I encourage you to step back and consider what’s at stake. Do plenty of homework and move forward from there. Be careful to discern between facts and mere opinions or personal perspectives. The health of your relationship and future marriage just may well depend on it.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/BlogPicCoupleMoving-01.png8542048Chris Ownbyhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngChris Ownby2021-06-04 10:26:562021-06-09 10:24:00Is Living Together Bad for Your Relationship?
Find out if living together will help you accomplish what you want.
Living together is pretty common these days. For many, living together is a natural progression in the evolution of their relationship, which may or may not lead to marriage. But it has its own set of complications, and there are things every couple should know before they move in together. I’m not trying to convince or dissuade you. Instead, I want to give you food for thought so you can make healthy decisions for your life.
This blog is for you if:
1. You are not seriously dating.
2. You’re seriously dating and thinking about moving in together.
3. You live together but recognize there are more things you need to discuss.
No matter your relationship status, talking about significant issues can create the healthiest connections.
Here are some questions to ask:
What’s my long-term plan? Our long-term plan?
What’s my level of commitment? My partner’s commitment level?
Here are FIVE essential topics every couple should know about and consider before they move in together.
1. Your reason: Why should we live together?
Be honest with yourselves and each other. Is it about:
Moving out of your parents’ house or away from that annoying roommate?
The next step toward marriage?
Continuing blindly down this path can lead to disappointment. Additionally, you should know your partner’s reason for living together. A Pew Research study offers many couples’ reasons, which include:
Natural next step
Learn more about each other
Want to test the relationship
Share your reasons. It’s natural to be hesitant about having this conversation, but there’s no such thing as a risk-free relationship. Talking about it allows you both to be vulnerable and transparent.
2. Your expectations: What will you (or won’t you) share?
Now that you’ve shared your reasons, communicate your expectations with your partner. Assuming things can damage your relationship, especially if you think you agree, but you don’t. Your expectations should be realistic. If you have different expectations, you each may have to compromise. Now’s the time to get down to the nitty-gritty.
Discuss things like:
Who’s cooking and/or cleaning?
Who will shop and/or do the laundry?
Who does the yard?
Are we having meals together every night?
What are your long-term expectations (house, marriage, kids)?
Talking about this isn’t sexy, but it’ll help your relationship in the long run.
3. Your finances: What’ll it cost you?
Many couples think living together is cheaper than living apart. This may or may not be true, but they often don’t communicate about finances.
Who will move in where?
How much will we pay for rent?
Will we get a new place? Will we both be on the lease?
Who pays for what (groceries, car payment, car insurance, rent, cable, electricity, water, internet, phone, etc.)?
What’s our personal debt (credit card, student loan, etc.)?
4. Your habits: How will they impact your relationship?
When living together, you become well acquainted with the habits and behaviors of your partner in a whole new way. Knowing that they exercise at 4:00 AM is one thing. Experiencing them exercising at 4:00 AM is something totally different.
Are they a night owl or an early bird? Neat or messy?
Are they an exercise, sports, home improvement, or cooking fanatic?
How do they handle stress? Express emotions?
What’s their work life like? Working remotely, hybrid, or in the office?
Do they bring work home every night?
5. Your other relationships: How will you interact with your village?
While focusing on each other and excluding friends and family may be tempting, living together won’t mean you’re on an island. You each have friends and family in your lives that matter; they support and challenge you to be better versions of yourselves. Nurturing those relationships can benefit your growth as an individual and as a couple.
Living together is not something to do without some considerations.
Remember to think about:
What do I want out of this relationship?
What’s the end goal?
Do I want to get married?
Do I want to have children who are healthy and stable?
However you answer these questions, you’ll want to find out if living together will help you accomplish what you desire or if it will hinder you. It’s up to you to decide.
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Anotha-One-01.png8542048Gena Ellishttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngGena Ellis2021-06-03 16:14:402021-08-25 11:40:325 Things Every Couple Should Know Before They Move In Together
Make their heart happy with these out-of-the-box ideas!
Valentine’s Day is a great time to get outside the heart-shaped chocolate box and celebrate love and romance in a BIG way! If you want a hand in making this day unique for your Valentine, you’ve come to the right place.
These 10 creative ideas will help you connect and play as you set this Valentine’s Day apart from any other date night.
Alternate notes every hour. Be creative. Chat via text, video, over the phone, face to face, on a mirror, with chalk on the driveway. Use different categories for the notes: sexy, flirty, romantic, funny, silly, memorable, thankful, adoring, etc.
Homemade Couple’s Selfie Photo Shoot. Jazz it up with the wardrobe. Have multiple wardrobe changes: nightwear, 70s wear, athletic wear, beachwear, warrior outfits, superheroes, etc.
As a couple, shower someone with love who may not be feelin’ it right now. Write a letter, send flowers, spend time with them, tell stories, and listen to their stories. Your love for each other will grow as you share it with others.
Stick romantic Post-it notes on candy that your special someone likes and hide them all over the place. Put them in drawers, cars, kitchen cabinets, bathrooms—anywhere your Valentine might go. They’ll be finding them for days. (Hershey Nuggets work great for chocolate-lovers.)
Re-create a meaningful meal you’ve had, or create a new experience. For instance, remember what you ate on your first date? What would you want if you were in Italy? With the internet, you can look up any recipe and make it happen. Share the meal by candlelight or lay out a blanket and make it a picnic.
Create anticipation. The day before, choose not to see each other. Use that time to create suspense for the next day. Leave notes in unexpected places. Send cryptic messages or deliver a message through a friend. Put a note on their windshield or surprise them with a video/audio message teaser. See how much excitement you can build for each other.
Write a romantic love story about your relationship (fact or fiction). It may be full of fantasy against the backdrop of common interests like Game of Thrones or Star Wars. Write it, tell it, or record it—but have FUN with it!
Though you love your significant other every day (DUH!), go the extra mile this Valentine’s Day and show your special someone how much you love, respect, and value them with these creative ways to celebrate. With just a tiny bit of prep, you can take your relationship up a notch and grow the love you feel for each other.
*Bonus: First Things First also offers Virtual Date Night Replays for more creative date nights to celebrate Valentine’s Day together.*
You can educate yourself and be ready for the tough conversations.
If there is a generational divide today it is definitely digital. It’s not like parents don’t know how to use smartphones and understand how to use social media—they do (mostly). The generational divide is a mentality. Parents send texts and make posts on social, but they fail to realize that online, digital life is the main life that matters to their teens. What’s worse is, parents sometimes seem blissfully unaware of some of the dangers that left unchecked and unsupervised, can get their teen into serious trouble. And if they don’t understand the dangers, they can’t possibly be talking to their teens about them.
Dating Violence in the Digital Age Pop Quiz:
You probably know what “sexting” is, but what is “sextortion?”
How many clicks is PornHub, a porn site filled with often violent porn, from Snapchat?
Define “sexual bullying.”
What percent of teens who experienced digital abuse also experienced physical abuse?
True or False: If you aren’t dating, you are less likely to be abused and harassed.
“Sextortion” is using threats or pictures already in your possession to get an individual to send more (often more explicit photos or videos) or sometimes even money to ensure you don’t send out pictures to the school or family members on social media.
5 clicks from one of the most popular teen apps. And pornography is often teaching boys (and girls) about human sexuality and what is acceptable and normal behavior—even if it is violent.
“Sexual bullying” is the name-calling, psychological, and often physical abuse suffered by someone who has had a compromising photograph shared around the school. It has caused victims to have to switch schools and even commit suicide.
52% of teens who have experienced digital abuse will also experience physical abuse.
False. Not being in a dating relationship does not spare someone from the potential abuse physically or online.
★ Here is one more sobering statistic—while 25% of teens are harassed or abused digitally, only about 9% seek out help. (And it is rarely from parents or teachers.)
Based on the data, if parents want to help guide and guard against things like this happening to their children, they really need to get educated and be willing to initiate conversations with their children. Otherwise, you’re leaving your teen to navigate a Digital City with creepy people and dangerous back alleys.
A. Be a parent that is approachable, askable, and relatable.
Don’t freak out over what you hear. Steer clear of interrogating your teen with a million questions. If you can’t keep your emotions in check, your teen won’t talk to you about the digital part of their lives for a really long time. (Also, realize your teen could do nothing wrong and something explicit could be sent to their phone.)
Smartphones, the internet, video games, and social media all have their benefits and their dangers. Fortunately, there are tons of resources available on the internet to educate yourself.
B. Be aware of the signs of dating abuse and harassment.
RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. They have an excellent list on their website of warning signs.
Have you noticed any of these warning signs in your teen?
Their boy/girlfriend calling to check where they’re at and who they’re with.
Demanding to be the first person called and the last person called each day.
C. Help your teen be aware of the short-term consequences AND long-term.
Not only could your teen become the victim of mental, psychological, and physical abuse, but a simple nude photo sent to their boyfriend or girlfriend puts their future at significant risk. The internet is forever, no matter how much they may think something is deleted. When a future employer or the school of their choice Googles their name, what’s going to come up?
Use these resources below to help you start the conversation about dating violence in the digital age…
***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/andrew-neel-JBfdCFeRDeQ-unsplash-scaled-e1605642161914.jpg253600John Daumhttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngJohn Daum2020-11-17 14:43:402022-04-06 09:10:15Dating Violence in the Digital Age
Here's one key to guiding your teen through romance.
I was sitting at my middle school son’s football game. Some parents around me were discussing who was dating who in the school. I kept quiet during the conversation, but was anxiously waiting for them to mention my son. They did. I was astonished and a little embarrassed because I was totally unaware my son was “dating.” I knew for a fact he didn’t go anywhere with anyone. That’s what I consider “dating.” All he did was talk on his phone.
How does that constitute dating?
As soon as we left the game, I must confess I blindsided him with the question, “How is your girlfriend?” [Mom Smirk.] He gave me one of those looks only a teenager could give. “Mom, I don’t have a girlfriend.” [Teen Eye Roll.] “That’s not what I heard.” The more we went back and forth, the more frustrated he became, and the angrier I became. He was ADAMANT he didn’t have a girlfriend. Truth be told, I was confused. I soon recognized that not believing him was damaging our relationship.
How could I have prevented this from happening?
Could I have better engaged my son in a conversation about his “romantic relationship?”
This is a time when the teacher becomes the student. Be humble and allow your teen to teach you the new relationship lingo. Your willingness to learn and listen shows you respect your teen’s perspective and you care about what’s going on in their world.
Recognize and Accept Things Have Changed
When your teen says things have changed, believe them. The words and labels they use—DIFFERENT. The modes of communication they use—DIFFERENT. The definition of relationships—DIFFERENT. Trying to impose the “old way” on them will be met with rolled eyes, resistance, or worse.
Be An Askable ParentWhen You Talk to Your Teen About Romantic Relationships
Take time to listen. Be open and genuine. You might hear some “stuff” that shocks or surprises you. You have to use your poker face. You’ll be tempted to turn a conversation into an interrogation. If your teen perceives a negative reaction from you or gets bombarded with a billion questions or a long lecture, it can cause them to stop talking and create distance.
Cultivating and maintaining your relationship with your teen provides space for this conversation. As your teen grows, your relationship with them should grow from more directive to coaching them through life and relationships. The more you try to control or force a relationship with your teen, the more they can pull away from you.
If your teen says they are in a romantic relationship, here are some conversation starters to ask your teen:
Are you able to be yourself in the relationship?
Do you show respect and feel respected in your relationship?
Do you have realistic expectations about the relationship?
Are you feeling pressured in your relationship?
Do you feel you have the time to devote to the relationship?
The key to guiding your teen through romantic relationships is to stop being a talkative parent and become a parent your teen wants to talk to. Keeping the lines of communication open between you and your teen builds and supports the relationship.
Sure, “dating” might look different now, but there is still no substitute for a close, healthy relationship with your teen.
Check out some other blogs on healthy dating habits here:
https://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/pexels-pixabay-248021-scaled-e1603198861415.jpg192600Gena Ellishttps://firstthings.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ftf-logo-300x186.pngGena Ellis2020-10-20 09:01:182021-03-30 08:57:22How Do I Talk to My Teen About Their Romantic Relationships?