When can Christians start dating?

Painting:
Painting: “Courtship”, by Edmund Blair Leighton (1888)

First, read this article from a Crisis Pregnancy Center worker.

Excerpt:

I have concerns about the number one way that our culture chooses to perpetuate the cancer of broken marriages and failed relationships– underage dating.

You can follow them on Facebook – the failed attempts at love, I mean. Somebody is always changing their status from “in a relationship” to “single.” Unfortunately, a huge number of these disappointed lovers are too young to be legally married. 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.

And now here’s my take.

Basically, relationships are not meant to be entertainment, but to lead to marriage. So, you can start dating whenever the woman and man are able to demonstrate to each other that they are prepared to fulfill their roles in a future marriage.

For example, the woman should be able to show that she has been able to maintain commitments to caring for others through some period of time, maybe with small children or pets. She should be voluntarily entering into relationships and responsibilities with other people where she is giving of herself – like volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center or caring for an ailing or elderly relative. That shows potential suitors that she has the right attitude to relationships – serving others self-sacrificially, and not looking for tingles and excitement. She should be able to show that she is good at making commitments and solving problems by studying hard subjects in school, i.e. – STEM subjects. And then she should be able to get a job in a difficult field and save money, instead of wasting it on frivolous fun activities. That shows a man that she can do hard things self-sacrificially – even if she doesn’t feel like it.

And for the man, he should be able to show that he is able to do his roles – protector, provider and moral/spiritual leader. He should be able to prove that he is able to mentor and guide other people to learn things and do things that will make them more effective Christians. That’s moral and spiritual leadership. Spiritual leadership is not just agreeing with people, it means leading them to serve God more effectively, perhaps by helping others to make better decisions about their education and careers. A man  should have studied a subject that is going to allow him to find work. It’s not enough to be a hard worker, he has to be able to show from his resume and bank account that he understands how to earn, save and invest money. I don’t think that an unemployed man should start a relationship with a woman, because cannot demonstrate ability in the provider role. He needs to show that he can work self-sacrificially, even if the work does not make him feel happy. He also needs to prove that he is comfortable sharing it with others – since he will have to share with his family when the time comes.

I think there are other ways for men and women to show that they are ready for marriage, but those are some ways. The key thing is that people shouldn’t be dating until they are able to show that they know the roles that they are expected to fill in marriage as men and women. They should also be looking for the right things in others. They can’t be looking for the shallow things that give them tingles, like looks, athleticism, etc. Before men and women start dating, they have to be able to show that they are working on being able to handle their responsibilities, and they have to show that their selection criteria for the opposite sex are at least partly based on the responsibilities that the opposite sex has in a marriage.

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