QUESTION: My boyfriend and I have been seeing each other for almost a year. Initially, he would freely show me a great deal of respect and affection. Lately, however, I’m seeing less and less of this attention. I don’t want to be overly sensitive, but I don’t want to be used as a doormat, either. How can I know for sure what is the case?
DR. DOBSON: Give yourself a little test by answering these questions about the relationship: Are you making all the phone calls to the other person? Does he tell you the truth invariably? Have you been “stood up” without a reasonable excuse? Do you fear he is slipping away, and is that causing you to “grab and hold”? Are you tolerating insults that others would not accept? Does he show evidence of cherishing you and wanting to make you happy? Does he reveal your secrets to others and make comments about you in public that embarrass you? Is he physically abusive at times? Does he ever reach for you instead of your reaching for him? Do your friends ever say, “Why do you put up with the stuff he does?”
These are questions that only you can answer. But if you are honest with yourself, you will have no difficulty identifying disrespectful components to your relationship. If you come up with the wrong answers, the solution is not to beg him to do better. It is to pull back and see if he follows. If he doesn’t, you’re better off looking for someone else.
QUESTION: I don’t believe kids are as easily influenced by the media and entertainment industry as you say. What they see does not necessarily determine how they behave.
DR. DOBSON: Well, look at it this way. Back in the early 1980s, the most popular movie was a science-fiction film entitled “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.” It included a brief scene where the little creature from outer space was given a few pieces of the candy Reese’s Pieces. The brand was not named, but children recognized it during its few seconds on the screen. In the months that followed, the sale of Reese’s Pieces went through the ceiling. Isn’t that a clear example of a movie’s influence on children’s thinking?
Why do advertisers spend billions of dollars to put their products before the people if what we see and hear does not influence our behavior? Why do schools and colleges purchase textbooks for children and young adults if what they read does not translate into influence of one form or another? Of course children are vulnerable to what they witness! We all are. How much greater impact is made by dramatic, sexually oriented, no-holds-barred musical and theatrical presentations that are aimed at the hearts and souls of our kids? Whom are we kidding when we say they are not harmed by the worst of it?
QUESTION: When parents need help with sex education, who do you think should provide it?
DR. DOBSON: It is my strong conviction that churches believing in abstinence before marriage and in lifelong marital fidelity should step in and offer their help to families sharing that commitment. Where else will moms and dads find proponents of traditional morality in this permissive day? There is no other agency or institution likely to represent the theology of the church better than the church itself. It is puzzling to me why so few have accepted this challenge, given the attack on biblical concepts of morality today.
A few parents who enroll their children in private schools are able to get the help they need with sex education. Even there, however, the subject is often ignored or handled inadequately. What has developed, unfortunately, is an informational vacuum that sets the stage for far-reaching programs in the public schools that go beyond parental wishes, beginning in some cases with kindergarten children.
Dr. Dobson is founder and chairman of the board of the nonprofit organization Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, Colo. 80995 ( www.family.org). Questions and answers are excerpted from “Solid Answers” and “Bringing Up Boys,” both published by Tyndale