Should young people be dating before they are ready to get married?

A thoughtful post on The College Conservative that I agree with, written by Bryana Johnson.

Excerpt:

I wonder sometimes if I am the only one who winces to hear a thirteen-year old speak with cavalier abandon of his or her “ex?”  Since when is it considered healthy and acceptable for underage people to be in “relationships?” Just what do parents and educators expect to be the result of the romantic conquests of these middle-school children and young high school students? The results I’ve witnessed personally are beyond disturbing; they are downright sinister, and have caused me to question whether or not those who claim to champion marital fidelity and family values are paying any attention at all to the standards we are passing to our children.

The trouble with underage dating is that it presents an entirely faulty view of what interaction with the opposite gender should be about. Rather than placing emphasis on building one strong relationship with one person at a stage of life when a marital commitment is feasible, dating encourages young people to pour their energies into consistently seducing other young people at a time when neither of them are capable of making any long-term commitments. Their “relationships” are destined to fail from the get-go because they are founded on unhealthy perceptions of love and not backed by any real necessity to stick it out.

The beauty of marriage, as it was intended to be, is that it teaches two people of opposite genders to learn to work through incompatibilities and give of themselves. In the same way, the great ugliness of dating as it is practiced by our culture and portrayed by our media, is that it teaches two people of opposite genders to be selfish by giving them an easy “out” when things don’t go according to their initial feelings. I believe it is fair to say that this form of dating is a training manual for divorce, because it encourages young people to grow accustomed to giving their hearts away and then taking them back.

Sadly, parents who should know better continue to display shocking naïveté regarding the absurd practices of driving their twelve year olds out on a “date,” or purchasing provocative clothing for their sixteen-year-olds, or sympathizing with their broken-hearted fourteen-year-olds by assuring them that they’ll “find someone better.” “They’re just having fun,” they’ll tell us, rolling their eyes at what they consider to be our tightly wound principles. I work a volunteer shift at Crisis Pregnancy Clinic where I witness every week the ruined lives and broken dreams that “fun” has left with our youth.

Another defense offered for the ridiculous habit of underage dating is that the kids are “just learning how to relate to the opposite sex.” It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to figure out that what they’re really learning is how to recover quickly from a break-up and set their sights on another gorgeous and equally hormonal person. The culture of dating is a culture of hunger and unsatisfied eyes that are always looking around for affirmation via someone or something else.

But perhaps the most ludicrous and most willfully naïve assertion is that “relationships” between young teens are “not really about sex.” Just what do we think such relationships are about between people too young to be interested in any of the other things (family, stability, home-making, etc. ) that come out of  a romantic involvement with the opposite gender? Contrary to such half-baked assurances, it is all about sex for these young people. Whenever they forget that, the pop-culture is quick to remind them of it. In the media, girls are unfailingly presented as having value to boys only in proportion to their physique and their manner of flaunting it. Boys are presented as bestial and incapable of responsibility. Overwhelming, this is the primary message being offered to our kids by the movies, magazines, music artists, and commercials directed at their age group. It is inexcusably irrational for us to suppose that their relationships with one another are untainted by the stereotypes that surround them.

[…]While social conservatives may proclaim the virtues of pre-marital abstinence and fidelity, their actions don’t line up with their words. They behave as though they expect our young people to embrace or at least abide by the values we preach to them, all the while continuing to direct them in lifestyle choices that foster the opposite principles and attitudes.

I really like it when women are very very direct about boundaries. There’s something reassuring to about a woman who makes moral judgments and doesn’t care about whether it makes people like her less. She’s trying to help people make wiser decisions so that they don’t get hurt over and over and wreck their chances of having a stable marriage. I have to give her my respect for that. I’ve always subscribed to the duct tape theory of love. The more you bond and pull away, the less you can bond to someone you really care about. Teenage dating is breakup training. Boys shouldn’t be dating until they have proven that they can carry out their roles: protector, provider, moral and spiritual leader.

3 thoughts on “Should young people be dating before they are ready to get married?”

  1. I am totally against underage dating. No one has any business dating until they are ready to seriously consider marriage in the near future (next year or two). The purpose of dating should be to find a spouse. There is no other purpose that does not involve defrauding one or both of the participants by promising with actions what cannot be rightfully fulfilled.

    I didn’t date until age 24 when I finally found a man I was willing to consider marriage with. And we both went into the relationship intentionally, making it clear to each other that the purpose of the relationship was to determine whether or not we should marry each other. In fact, when my husband asked me out, I responded by asking him to clarify his intentions and said that I wasn’t interested in dating unless it was with a purpose toward marriage. He agreed wholeheartedly and I think this helped get our relationship off on the right foot. He had been burned before by relationships that weren’t intentional and had pulled out of the dating scene altogether for about 10 years, so he was no more interested than I was in playing at a relationship that wasn’t going anywhere. As we started dating, we actively asked each other questions to reveal our goals and values so that we could determine compatibility for marriage up front, before becoming emotionally attached. Actually, we had asked and answered questions about a wide variety of topics (including marriage, having and raising children, Christian life, boundaries for our relationship, and many others) before we even went on our second date. With this kind of intentionality, we knew within a couple months that we were compatible and were planning to be married.

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