Teens, Dating, And Courtship

On Teens, Dating and CourtshipWhen I first met my husband dating him was the last thing on my mind.

We met at a Christian drama group. He was dating someone else. I was in love with someone else (and soon dating that guy). I didn’t even really consider dating Keith.

But we hit it off famously. And we started to do things together, mostly in a group. We’d hang out. We went to Bible study. We had lunch. We’d go out for dessert (none of us had money for going out for dinner).

And about a year into this friendship, after I had dumped the other guy, I realized that I actually liked Keith. Like, REALLY liked him. And so I told him. And we started dating.

My feelings for him grew out of a completely platonic friendship.

A few years ago I wrote a post that has gone viral: 7 Steps to Raising a Teen Who Won’t Date Too Young. I wrote it when my girls were 15 and 13. Now they’re 18 and 16. And so I thought it may be time to revisit what I said, and talk about what I did right, and what I did wrong.

If you haven’t read that post, let me sum it up. I said that I believed that the purpose of dating was to figure out who to marry; anything else was just inviting temptation and playing with people’s hearts. So you really shouldn’t date until you’re in a position to marry. And even if you find someone wonderful when you’re young, those years are better spent trying to figure out who you are. Go on missions trips. Get part-time jobs. Encourage a wide range of friendships. When we date, our social world often becomes very small, and then we miss out on many of the chances to figure out what we like and what our calling in life might be.

I didn’t write about setting a series of rules for kids, because I honestly don’t think that works. In this age of cell phones and computers, kids will find ways to “date” even if they don’t go out one on one. So it’s really more about a mindset than it is rules. It’s about raising kids who have your values, and that means talking with them constantly, doing things with them, modelling a great relationship, and emphasizing your values.

I did all that. And now let me tell you how my girls have done, and what I now think as Becca is at the age where she is starting to date a bit.

Teenagers, Dating and Courtship1. My Girls Haven’t Had “Relationships”

Neither of my daughters has had a serious relationship over their teen years. My youngest is still determined to not to date in high school (you can watch a video of her explaining why here); my oldest has had a few guys she might have been interested in, but it went nowhere and it wasn’t that big a deal. She didn’t start getting interested in anyone until she was 17. So they both have held off dating. Yay!

2. My Girls Have Had a TON of Male Friends

One thing that they have done well, though, is that they’ve had a ton of male friends, and for this I’m grateful. I think it’s a good thing to have friends of the opposite sex. It helps them figure out what they like and what they don’t like. It gives them a wider circle of friends. And since my girls have grown up in a family of almost all women, it helps them understand guys. And that’s important!

My girls really are social butterflies. Perhaps because they’ve been involved in Bible quizzing (sounds nerdy; it’s incredibly fun), they’ve met kids from all over North America. And Katie (my 16-year-old) has almost nightly Skype “dates” (they’re not really dates) with a whole lot of different people, some of whom are male. She’s making some wonderful friends.  Rebecca has gotten involved in a college and careers group in a neighbouring university town from ours, and drove out there every Sunday night this year to meet up with some kids. Again, a wonderful experience. And they both go to a camp where there are a ton of Christians. So they have a very wide circle of Christian friends, and they talk to these friends with social media quite a bit.

They have not missed out on anything by not dating, in my opinion. They still have friends; in fact, they have more than if they had been dating. And they have spared themselves a lot of heartache. So I’m grateful.

3. My Girls Love God

First and foremost, both my girls put God first. You don’t have to take my word for it; here’s Rebecca’s blog, where she’s asking the question “why do we emphasize marriage and not God?”

So those are the good things.

On Teens, Dating and Courtship

Now for the things I’m not as happy about.

1. You Can’t Avoid Heartache–for Everyone

I was naive and thought that, “as long as they don’t date, they won’t have heartache”! To a large extent that’s been true. But my girls have still gone through periodic “will anyone really like me?” periods of angst. It hasn’t been that bad, but it’s been there.

But one thing I forgot was that even if THEY don’t have heartache, guys can. And my girls have had to turn down quite a few guys, and it’s been difficult. There is no way to avoid awkwardness with the opposite sex as a teen, unless you stop talking to those of the opposite sex altogether. And so I wish I had been more proactive in talking to my girls about how to talk to guys when it’s obvious someone likes them.

But the most important thing:

2. “Courtship” May Distort Their View of Marriage and Dating

We emphasized dating=marriage so much that I was worried my girls were fleeing in the opposite direction if they didn’t think they could marry someone. So if one is out for coffee with someone, and she can’t picture herself marrying him, she doesn’t go again.

Yet for about an entire year I couldn’t picture myself marrying Keith. Our love grew out of a friendship. So if you write off everyone you don’t think you can marry after one cup of coffee, you write off an awful lot of people.

We’ve talked and revisited this quite a bit this year, and so my girls no longer have that feeling. But I am afraid that with all the talk of courtship going on in Christian circles, we may be setting up many of our kids never to marry–or to have a hard time finding a mate.

My daughter wants to blog about this soon, and I’ll link to her when she does. (Update: Here’s her link, “Why I Don’t Court“). But her feelings have evolved on this one, as have mine as I’ve watched her grow up.

I still believe that we shouldn’t seriously date someone we won’t marry. But my definition of “dating” has perhaps changed. I think it is a good thing, once you’re old enough to start considering marriage or getting ready for marriage, to see as wide variety of people as possible (not to get PHYSICAL with a wide variety, but to hang out with a wide variety). You really don’t know who you will like unless you do this.

And whatever you do, don’t put pressure on yourself to marry everyone you go for coffee with. The problem with courtship is that we emphasize marriage so much that kids start thinking there’s something wrong if they’re just having fun. So they start convincing themselves “I’m going to marry this person” when they really don’t know them. After all, they’ve been told since they were young that the only purpose for dating was to get married, so if I’m dating, I must be about ready to get engaged!

This whole idea of courtship puts marriage on the front and centre with every relationship they have. That’s very serious awfully fast.

Then they can feel stuck. I can’t break up with this person I’m dating, because you’re only supposed to date to marry. So they stick it out when they shouldn’t.

But I think it may also discourage many people from making friends of the opposite sex. They’re waiting for the “right one”. Yet how does one meet that right one? By going out there and meeting people! I met the “right one” by having a really close platonic friendship for a year. If I were not seeing anyone, unless they were “the one”, I’d be sitting at home alone today.

I also am afraid that we’re emphasizing “the right one” too much. As Gary Thomas said in Sacred Search, I don’t believe there is only one person you can marry. God lets us choose. And if we start thinking that there is only one person who can complete us, we set ourselves up for disappointment in marriage.

Marriage is about learning to become the right person, not just marrying the right person.
(Click to tweet that quote!)

Yes, we need to be very careful whom we marry. But that’s because we should marry someone we can glorify God together with, not just someone who “completes” us or who gives us those infatuation feelings.

I’ve known a lot of girls who “courted” who married the first man they dated. For some that was a really wonderful thing. For others, I’m not so sure. So I guess what I’m saying is that I’d like my girls to not feel as if every guy they go out for coffee with is someone they must marry. And I’d like them not to throw that person aside if they think they can’t marry them after sharing an hour together.

These years, from 18-22, are when we start figuring out who we are and what God has called us to be. We change so much, and we’re not always sure what we do want. I can’t go back with Becca, and she has a very good head on her shoulders, so I’m not worried about her.

But what I’m telling my 16-year-old is this:

Wait until you’re 18, because relationships just distract you from friendships and experiences and God when you’re in high school. But when you do start to date, get to know a ton of people. Have a wide social circle. Have fun! Don’t play with people’s hearts, but don’t put pressure on yourself, either. And keep close to God, so that when the person He has for you does come along, you will know it. And remember that our purpose isn’t to get married; it’s to glorify God. It’s great if we can do that with someone else, but if God has other plans, He will be big enough for you.

Does that make sense? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!


  1. Bethany says:

    I just really really really like your take on this. It is refreshingly practical and balanced. Thanks for being willing to think through and share how your thoughts on dating and courtship have developed!!

  2. Hi Sheila,

    I loved this article! I love all of your writing actually..

    This really went well with the sermon my pastor gave at church yesterday. It was titled “The Right Person Myth”. We are bombarded with these fairy tale ideas that if we find the right one everything will be ok and we will live happily ever after. This is not true. Not even close to true. Marriage is hard, once all the fluttering infatuation fades away you are left with something that requires work – a lot of work.

    If your looking for the “right person”, its usually someone who possesses qualities of kindness, patience, and all of the rest of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. If two people are looking for this same idea of the “right person”, who will make everything ok, how is that ever going to work? It won’t. Your expectations of each other will ultimately cause feelings of resentment and anger.

    His message was instead to “work on becoming the right person”. We need to learn how to love, how to be patient, kind, not envy, not be resentful or mean or jealous. This is not an easy task, but this is what marriage is all about.

    Stop worrying about needing to know if it’s “the right person”, because it just creates a fear that maybe they’re not, and it creates expectations, and that can lead to unnecessary trouble.

    I thought it was great. I wish someone had told me that when I was a teen!

  3. Very good. I can’t wait to read your older post on the subject. I am right now in this stage of life with my oldest wanting to “date”. I did a 4 part series on my thoughts about recently over on my blog. Here is the link to one of the posts (you can find the other posts linked within this one). http://aheartformyhome.blogspot.com/2013/05/teens-and-dating-what-exactly-does-out.html
    Thanks for this post.
    Jen recently posted…Why The Name Change??My Profile

  4. Great post. I have just a couple of thoughts. One, we haven’t taught our kids that “courtship” (or that idea–we don’t call it that) is only FOR marriage, but that it’s purpose is to explore if this is someone you might marry. You can’t know that without spending time together, but if it’s definitely not someone you’d consider marrying there is no reason to date them. Two, I don’t think you can say with absolute certainty that there is not one “perfect” spouse (I use that term lightly) for your child. The Bible does not speak to this specifically. It all depends on your view of the sovereignty of God. I believe that God has already chosen spouses for my children, just like He purposed well in advance for my husband and me to marry. I believe His plans for us are that specific. Of course, they do have the freedom to reject His plan and go their own way, as all of us have done at some time in our lives.

    Thank you for your investment in the lives of so many!

    • Hi Deborah! Great comments. I agree that if it’s not someone you’d consider marrying you shouldn’t date them. The problem is, how can you know if you could marry someone unless you spend some time with them? For many people, feelings develop over time. It’s not there right away. So that’s where we’ve hit this conundrum. I think if you wouldn’t marry them because they don’t love God enough, or they aren’t your spiritual equal, or they have no plans to get a job, then that’s definitely a no. But if they do love God, and you’re just not sure if you click, I think it’s okay to spend some time together. It’s really a difficult thing.

      As for sovereignty, I’d agree with you. But this idea that there is “one person to complete us” is a dangerous one, because it does set us up for thinking that the person we marry will meet all our needs and will be wonderfully romantic and will sweep us off of our feet. And some people are waiting for that, and then dismiss someone who would have been a lovely spouse.

      I’ve seen friends do this, and then regret it ten years later.

      I think God does choose our spouses; but your spouse is to be your spouse not because they are the one person to complete you, but because together you can serve God. It’s just a different way of looking at it, and I think a healthier way than waiting for an idealized version of Mr. or Mrs. Right.

  5. Wonderfully written. Just one typo: Book is written by Gary THOMAS not Gary Chapman 😉 Sorry, had to mention it as he is a personal friend 😉

  6. Smilodon, God's cat says:

    The second thing on your list about your daughters is that they have a ton of male friends. The good in this does suddenly end when you get married. I have a bunch of female friends (I am a guy), Some of them are – or were – single. None of these pose any threat to my marriage, because we keep bright clear boundaries between love, which belongs only to Judy, and friendship, which I extend to many. In fact one in particular has been a blessing in my marriage because I need all the help i can get in figuring out new ways to make birthdays and anniversaries special; I am a guy after all. She has helped plan more than one surprise party. And she was one of the single ones, until I fixed her up with one of my cousins. Now she’s also family.

    This is a bit off topic, but I see you are Canadian. I wonder if you are familiar with the work of Garnet Rogers, who I think is Canada’s greatest songwriters and a major influence on my work. Some of his songs relate to stuff you have written about, like Stars in Their Crown. One, Summer Lightning, was played at our wedding.

  7. I’ve always gone for something in between courtship and dating. Courtship always sounded too serious to me and dating was way too relaxed. I “dated” as a teenager but what that meant was when I got to know a certain guy that I really liked and we developed feelings that were more than just “friends” we would hang out at my house or his house with our families. I had my first boyfriend at 14 and the only reason my parents allowed it was because I was mature for my age and they set up boundaries. Pretty much all of the time we spent together was with one of our parents or siblings. I was with this guy for 2 years. I never wanted to jump from guy to guy and I had no interest in playing with people’s hearts. I “dated” with marriage in mind but now that I am 23 and married I believe that “dating” during high school was totally pointless. I only had 2 boyfriends in high school and though I learned a lot about what I liked and needed in a future husband I could have learned that by just being friends with these guys. As I got older and into college I had a lot of guy friends who I really enjoyed spending time with but I never dated them. We just had fun together without any of the pressures of dating and that was so great. Then when I did meet my husband-to-be I had no interest whatsoever in dating him. He was a great guy, a terrific friend, but I wasn’t thinking of him as anything more than a friend. But as I got to know him more and spent more time with him things quickly changed. We’ve been married for almost 3 years now and we have an awesome marriage.

    All that to say that my thoughts about “dating” have evolved. Our children won’t be allowed to date during high school but we’ll encourage them to have friends of both sexes. We want to have an open and honest relationship with our kids so that they’ll feel free to be open with us about their feelings. I think too often the feelings of teenagers are downplayed and they’re told that their feelings aren’t real. I want my kids to know that their feelings are legitimate and I want to be able to work through their feelings with them. I only have a 1 year old at this point but my hope is that we can approach teenage dating/relationships with a sensitive attitude and a prayerful spirit.
    Sarah @ The Biblical Family Blog recently posted…Real Marriage SeriesMy Profile

    • Well said! I agree–teenagers’ feelings are real. I just wouldn’t encourage them to develop in that way, and that’s what I’ve been talking to my girls about. So far they agree. The next five years, though, will be very interesting!

      • I agree! I wouldn’t want to encourage their feelings to develop too much too fast. That’s why I hope that we can be very open about relationships so that my husband and I can help them wade through their feelings. I want my kids to know that their feelings are okay but teach them how to respond and what to do with those feelings. I think that makes a big difference!
        Sarah @ The Biblical Family Blog recently posted…Real Marriage SeriesMy Profile

  8. I love the original post, but also love this update. My kids are still little, so I hadn’t thought about some of the potential problems that you mentioned here. We already talk with my oldest (7) about how it’s sort of silly to date in high school (or before! a girl had a “crush” on him this year at school – yikes!), since you aren’t going to get married in high school. Right now, that makes total sense to him…but I guess we’ll see what happens in a few years!
    Megan G. recently posted…breatheMy Profile

    • PS – My husband and I were friends for several years before I realized I had feelings for him, too. I’m so thankful I didn’t write him off right away, and that he was a loyal friend to me those years.
      Megan G. recently posted…breatheMy Profile

  9. Sheila – love this; love you! – I wondered if you could expand on your comment, ,
    “And so I wish I had been more proactive in talking to my girls about how to talk to guys when it’s obvious someone likes them.”
    What would you suggest for this – it can be so akward!!
    Thank you for your heart and your guidance,

    • I haven’t figured this one out!!!!

      Perhaps there isn’t a way to avoid the awkwardness. I don’t know. It’s funny how difficult this is walking through as a mother. My girls have had GREAT guy friends–boys that I have come to know and love, too. And when my girls have to turn them down my heart aches for the boys. But the girls do try to be upfront–“we aren’t dating until we’re in university”. So it’s not their fault. This stuff just HAPPENS when you’re teens.

      I guess I thought it wouldn’t happen to us, but it did. And I still think many of the boys are delightful. Who knows? Perhaps my girls will look at them differently when they are in a position to have a serious relationship.

  10. As a mom to 4. One 22 yo old son co-habitating, a 21 yo son who is waiting until marriage, but seems to think he’ll never get married, a 16 yo daughter that says boys are gross :) youngest is 14 yo boy….We really instilled the courting idea, but then they don’t get to know anybody. This post makes so much sense.
    Katey recently posted…My Kids Have Always Known WarMy Profile

  11. Loved this article! My mom wouldn’t let me date until I was 16. I was furious about this (although I’m now very thankful for my mother deciding this. Who knew that my mother actually knew what she was talking about?! 😉 ). It was so embarrassing to have to tell these guys that I really liked that I wasn’t allowed to go out with them. But I remember right before my 16th birthday my friend was talking about her boyfriend and said how she likes him but she would never marry him. She was just dating him for fun. That just seemed odd to me. I had never really given marriage a serious thought until that moment. Did I really want to mess with someone’s heart and/or have my heart messed with just to have a little fun. From that moment on I decided that when I was allowed to date, I would only date someone who I seriously considered marrying (my parents actually thought I was nuts for my decision. They thought I should date around.). That eliminated every guy I knew. When I turned 16 there was not one boy who I was interested in. Shortly before my 17th birthday I met my husband and 6 months later we started a courtship. We were married shortly after my 19th birthday. My husband had never dated anyone before me either and it was the best gift we could give each other. Some things I have decided to do differently with my children (even though the subject has not come up yet seeing as how they are 3,2, and 13 weeks) is to not allow them to date until they are 18. You can’t get married until after you are 18 so what’s the point in dating before then? 2. To encourage my children to ALWAYS have at least one other person with them at all times. Even the most godly people can give into their feelings and cross that line. My husband and I learned this the hard way; which is why we had to bump our wedding date up a couple of months if you know what I mean 3. To encourage my children to save their first kiss until they are officially engaged. Kissing can sometimes go to far and can lead to other actions. Hopefully my boys will understand that doing these things not only honors themselves and their future mates but also honors God which is the most important thing of all.

  12. This is the closest thing I’ve read so far to what I really think about this. I had 2 serious boyfriends in HS and I think I am still dealing with the consequences 18 years later. I love this. This is great advice and such a more cautious way to approach courtship and marriage rather than the – only date who you are going to marry – type of advice. I need to link this to my blog so I can revisit it when my kiddos get a little older. (They are 10 and 8). THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!
    AJ Collins recently posted…Intimacy in Marriage: Part 1 – Defining intimacyMy Profile

  13. Nice post. Our world, even in the church is out of control about dating. We joke with our kids when they are 5 about boyfriends and girlfriends with our kids. We let them watch shows where dating and hooking up are common things. Then we wonder why our kids are obsessed with dating and getting pregnant in high school or before. I have seen too many 13 year olds that were either boy-crazy or girl-crazy, that I decided to try something different with my kids.

    I told my kids from the time that they started talking that they could not date until they were out of college. Preferably with an advanced degree on top of that.

    A couple of year of years ago, I was teaching the Senior High Sunday school at church. I took them through a wonderful book called, “Waiting on Prince Charming.” The basic premise of the book was that people should not date until you were at a point in life where you could seriously consider getting married.

    Has it worked? Well all I can say is right now my 17 year old & 15 year old sons are not interested in dating until they are at least in college if not beyond college. I can’t say that it will last, but I am happy that we have not had to deal with they dating demon yet.
    Jed recently posted…The Attitude of GratitudeMy Profile

  14. It wasn’t until I “broadened my scope” that I met my husband. He didn’t look like the type of guy that I was usually attracted to, or have the exact hobbies/interests that I had. But there were a lot of different parts of his character that I appreciated and found valuable (and still do). He was also very certain in his faith as a Christian. Our question soon after we met, both knowing that we were looking for a mate, was whether or not we were compatible. I had also done some thinking about this before I met him. Was he “the one”? Actually in our case I would have to say yes, but only because of all the confirmation we received from our families and friends that we were a good match for each other. But we still have our share of problems, some because of who we are (personalities and sinful nature) and some because of situations that have come in our life together. We met on a Christian online dating site, states apart, so we spent time writing and talking before we met in person. I think this helped us get to know each other better too. But our attitudes, receptiveness to looking in many places for a mate, our faith, many discussions (some fueled by premarital counseling reading), and willingness to be open to each other was what led us to marriage. It wasn’t a particular method or set of rules that brought us together.

  15. Thank you so much for posting this. As my husband and I get ready to meet our first child, things like dating and relationships in our world today have been on my mind a lot. My husband is of the mind that we can’t stop our children from doing something they want to do(mostly b/c our parents couldn’t stop us), but I feel very differently about it. I know several teens in our church who love God very much, are interested in the opposite sex, but who are not dating. I plan on using every resource, including your blog, to figure out how to do that, how to teach our children to focus on God and live their lives, not be focused on finding a boyfriend in middle or high school. Thank you for your wisdom on this subject.

  16. I was a teenager during the big courtship craze in the church and looking back as an adult, I can honestly say it damaged my ability to have friendships with the opposite sex. I became so trained to “guard my heart” that being around guys was uncomfortable because I was constantly worried that I would say or do something wrong. I wish I’d had more guy friends. I feel like I missed out. I’m reclaiming that now. Not that I spend a ton of time with men other than my husband – but when other men are around, I don’t feel awkward. I can converse and laugh and joke appropriately. It’s nice. I hope I can teach my sons how to be friends with girls. All this “dating” stuff starts sooooooooo young any more.
    Melissa recently posted…Disappointment and HopeMy Profile

    • I think the courting craze grew out of a backlash. But I do think that it did some damage to some. I caught it with my girls, and they really are fine now. But I know what you mean about it making you feel uncomfortable around people…

      Thanks for your comment!

  17. DonnaRae says:

    A church friend put your article up on facebook and I just had to take a look. Your article is great. I am a 67/yo grandmother that reared 2 girls(with the help of my husband) Years ago we did not have all the helps as we do today on how to rear your children. I think the biggest thing is communication with your children, and that is almost daily…it is just part of your life. When my oldest was 6 I had the honor of leading her to the Lord. We were in a good Bible believing church, had our children in Christian school, and went to a great Christian camp. Now, this does not make perfect kids when you do all this. The oldest daughter dedicated herself to do what ever God wanted her to do or go. She made up her mind she was not really going to date in high school, but had lots of male and female friends and played sports. There were 4 of them that were really good friends and loved the Lord. Today, my daughter and husband are on the mission field (17/yrs) serving the Lord in Taiwan. For the other friends, one set of them married each other and are serving the Lord, the other girl an guy in the group have each married fine Christians and serve the Lord in their chuches.

    The families these girls and guys came from were fairly much like our family. They had good relationships with their parents and had good lines of communicatins with their children. Both my girls were not really interested in dating until they got to college. We talked about this for years in our home, about how young people can ruin their lives getting to serious before they are old enough and what can happen. Thank God they took all this to heart. Oh, the second daughter has been married 8/yrs to a Christian man and has two beautiful daughters.

    Saying all this to say(I am wordy :) ) Talk to your children daily so they know what is expected of them and what God expects. You are the parents and set the example. I also firmly believe that if we as Christian parents will be honest with our children, and live by example we will have a lot less problems with them.

  18. I totally grew up in a courtship mindset, to the extreme that I didn’t even date until I was 25. I told myself I wanted to finish school first so I could actually have time to devote to a relationship–I went to a very rigorous school–but looking back I think part of my decision to wait was formed out of sheer terror of the whole process! I am similar to the other commenter, Melissa, in that this sort of all-or-nothing philosophy really stunted my ability to make friendships with guys, and I also felt very uncomfortable if I happened to be with a guy apart from a group. I had major anxiety from the time I was 14 (high school crushes) until just before I met my husband when I was 27, to the point of being sick and losing weight. I remember hyping up every guy I went out with or was even interested in in my mind as being “the one”, and so I put a huge burden on myself which really hindered me from getting to know those people, because I had already formed in my mind that they were my Possible Future Spouse. By the time I did meet my husband, I was so tired of feeling anxious that I just couldn’t bring myself to think that I was meeting my husband, which was why I was able to enjoy and even EAT lunch with him on our first date. The vast majority of my dating has been through eHarmony, so the whole process of getting to know the other person was for the purpose of marriage, which had both benefits and drawbacks for my own social growth.

    Thank you for writing your thoughts and how you’re handling this in your daughters’ lives. This will be helpful as I help my own kids navigate through this, and hopefully they will have a much more enjoyable and way less stressful time than I did.

  19. Thank you for sharing and your daughter’s post is wonderful. I agree with your advice 100%. As I attended high school, I felt that if I didn’t have a boyfriend then I was worthless. I was pretty strong in my faith but didn’t trust God the way I should in this area. I have been reading my journals from when I was 18-22 years old. I jumped from one crush to another with unobtainable guys. I would label a guy as my boyfriend and just when they got attached, break it up. I was obsessed with my dream of marrying and having kids. I deeply regret hurting the guys that I did because my actions probably didn’t make them feel worth much either. Noone ever met my list of qualities I thought my husband should have. I met my husband at church and he was nothing that I wanted either and our dating life as well as our early marriage would reflect that attitude. Looking back, I feel deeply sorry and horrified that I did not act like a godly young woman. Now, God is teaching me these lessons and has given me the opportunity to apologize to some of the guys I hurt. I even had an emotional affair but God is healing my brokenness and without that broken life, I would not be who I am today…which isn’t perfect but it is a woman striving to seek God. I thank God everyday for giving me my husband. I stayed with him all this time because I felt God pushing us together. I love my husband. He was not always a godly man or who I wanted to be with but God knew he was the best for me. Iron sharpens iron and we are that for each other. I appreciate my husband more knowing that God formed him in order to be the best man for me. We have two little girls and my goal is to teach them to trust God. I don’t want to see them giving their hearts away when what they are really searching for is a Savior.

  20. I am glad my mom e-mailed me this article! There are great truths in this! The part that was hard for me though, was the part about having plenty of guy friends. I am 20-years-old, single and have very few guy friends (one close-ish guy friend and one or two not very close friends). Part of the reason I don’t have many guy friends is because we moved churches so often until I was about 11. I feel like I missed out on the “boys are fun playmates” stage. When we finally settled down in a church, I was at the “boys are awkward to talk to” stage and it’s been hard to really get to know guys well since then. Also, I am not a really outgoing person. It is hard enough for me to make friends with girls. The way I make close friends is by having meaningful conversations one-on-one or in groups of 2-3. I don’t know if that’s too much for guys to handle or something. But it is hard for me, because I tend to easily become emotionally close to people I make close friends, which is fine with my girlfriends but harder with guys. With guys, it becomes hard to differentiate between being good friends and liking a guy as more. Also, the outgoing girls get their “first pick” of the guys they want to be friends with, so then the rest of us quiet girls feel like we have to fight to be friends with any of the guys. Also, there are guys who already have close groups of friends who don’t branch out.
    I like guys! Guys are awesome and I would love to have more as friends, but sometimes I just don’t know how to be friends or make friends with guys. It all feels so complicated.

    To sum it up (it is hard for me to not ramble lol): I didn’t grow up with guy friends, it is hard for me to meet girls, let alone guys, it is hard to “hold the guys attention” long enough to get a friendship started and sometimes I feel like a bumbling, awkward failure when it comes to being friends with guys. :/
    Kirsten recently posted…Jehovah TsidkenuMy Profile

  21. Christine says:

    Thank you for sharing your experiences with your daughters. I come from a family of 3 girls and we all had very different ideas of dating! I now have a son of my own and another little one on the way and when I dream of their future I don’t know how I feel about them dating! I can’t imagine having my son with a broken heart or worse, hurting another person’s heart. When I was a teen I was a lot like your daughters. I didn’t start to date until I was in university. I had 2 serious boyfriends. One who got too serious too fast and scared me away and another that wouldn’t get serious with me, but I hung around much longer than I should have. Ultimately though, I believe, through God, they were on my path to lead me to my husband and career. Both of them taught me valuable lessons about love and life. I do agree with your comment about being able to glorify God in a marriage. That is exactly how I feel about my relationship now. We have only been married for 2 years and together for 3, but when we met I knew that he was my match.

    My next sister has only dated one guy and he has only dated her as well, he is the guy for her. They met when she was 25 and he was 29. The both traveled down God’s paths and came together, ironically though what brought them together was that they don’t believe in God anymore, but I have faith that God has a plan for them! 😉

    My youngest sister has dated many guys since she was 13. She has had 2 long-term boyfriends 3-4 years, but ultimately decided that none of them have been good for her. Often was the case she outgrew them, her thoughts changed, her plans changed and they were not able to adapt to her dreams so she left them. Hers is the dating scenario I feared! I pray for her to find her match! Someone to share her dreams and goals and to be able to make new dreams and goals together that outshine any she just had for herself!

    I agree a lot that the teen years are for friendships, I still have many wonderful friends form that time in my life (mostly girls though!) and then in my 20s I grew as a person. I travelled, I earned a degree and a post-grad, I experienced a lot of life lessons. Finally by the time I was 28 I had been led down a wonderful, exciting, sometimes heartbreaking path to my husband and our children and my career. I wouldn’t change anything! I would encourage your girls (as I intend to encourage my son and the next one) to continue exploring the world in their 20s, there is so much out there, so much beauty, so much joy, so much of God. Have faith in His plan and make your choices as wisely as possible! (I should add, my faith in His plan is that He has a destination for us, it is up to us to choose the easy or the hard way there!)

  22. Great article. Thanks for writing and sharing your experiences. I was raised in a Christian household, but my parents didn’t set clear boundaries about dating. I had my first boyfriend at 15, and really got my heart broken. I took the whole thing too seriously for such a young age. In later teen years I dated a lot, and often had a boyfriend. In retrospect, this was such a waste of time and almost constant temptation to sin. But it was the scene at my Christian school, all my friends had boyfriends as well. So i wish I had waited till college to date, if then. I had no intentions of marrying the boys I dated and knew it, I was college and career bound. I met my husband in grad school (at age 22) and we married two years later. He agrees that he also wasted a lot of time in serial dating relationships, not only his time but the girls’ time as well. Our oldest of four is almost 13 so we will soon be facing this. With boys things may be a little delayed since they can’t drive and don’t have much ability to date before then, but I want to discourage the pairing off into boyfriend-girlfriend relationships that happen before car dating as well. Thanks again for your post!

  23. Bible quizzing!!
    Which ministry do you quiz with? We quiz with BQF and i could not agree more about it being a place for healthy teen relationships of all kinds.

  24. I think all of these things can be emphasized without focusing on age. My husband and I started dating when we were 14/15 and we got married when we were 22/23 after I graduated for college. We met at church and also went to the same high school. We both have always had lots of friends (of both sexes), hobbies, interests, and jobs apart from each other. We both always knew that marriage was the end goal and neither of us would have seriously dated someone that we knew we weren’t going to marry. And based on our life situation I can pretty much guarantee the we would not be together now if either of us had some arbitrary idea about not dating until we were 18. While we did go to the same school, we were in different grades and were never in the same classes, activities, or groups of friends and by the time we were 18 we were in a long distance relationship that we would have never started if we hadn’t already loved each other and already knew what we wanted in life. Our relationship worked only because we worked hard at it (which greatly prepared us for marriage). And while we will teach nearly all of these things to our daughter (and any future children we have) if she meets someone like her father when she is 14 I will absolutely pray for her relationship.

  25. Thanks for sharing that. I have a son who is in his final year in high school and has faced a lot of pressure from both guys and girls to be in a “relationship”. I’m thankful he’s not succumbed to the pressure and might actually make it through high school without a “girlfriend”. Even as a parent of a boy I find it scary the pressure that girls put on the boys to be sexually active!!! (It’s not just moms of daughters who ought to be concerned!) I’m am so thankful that he’s taking his time to find his way and mature through his friendships with both boys and girls and has not rushed into “relationships” like most of his buddies have. Now I’m praying more and more for my daughter who just started high school – scary years! Though she is so strong in her faith and love for Jesus I think she’ll be ok. But she’s had to turn a few boys down (and some repeatedly) so we’ll see how her resolve is as the pressure mounts with the next few years! Anyway, I enjoy your blogs and posts. Thanks! :)

  26. Makes perfect sense! Once again, thank you!

  27. I think your articles are very educating and informative. We have six girls and one boy, one daughter who recently married decided not to kiss her future husband until her wedding day. This was her decision and we supported her in it. We have family discussions on relationship continually ever since they were small. They grew up being taught to wait for relationships. While agreeing with all your articles I have one question that I would like to bring out. While agreeing with the concept of having healthy relationships with those of the opposite sex it is worth considering the effects on the male when they develop friendships. Our daughters have in the past tried friendships with males but often had to discontinue because of the response of the males. We don’t like encouraging this because it opens the door for them to get the wrong message and get hurt even though our girls try very hard to keep it from happening. My husband takes each daughter out for coffee or dinner to keep communication open and help them understand the male aspect of relationships.
    I do agree in the aspect of group dynamics of male and female relationships. This is healthy and helps them to interact with the opposite sex in a safe setting. We have a very strong open communication with our children and if there is any interest in someone they bring it up to the family. We talk about the person’s values, family life, and characteristics and give them the chance to either meet the whole family or go for coffee together with a few of their siblings (the married daughter and husband work perfectly now). This method has helped our family personally. It’ s our way of continually investing in our children’s lives to help them find their future mate.

  28. My kids are still little, but we already talk about these issues a little with our 8-year-old. He sees teenagers being affectionate at church and has questions about boyfriends/girlfriends, etc. I do think it’s sort of hard balance to find. I was friend with my husband for several years before I developed feelings for him, too. And I’ve heard single friends/relatives of mine insisting on having “fireworks,” when I’m not sure that’s a realistic goal 100% of the time. Sometimes the fireworks can come out of a deep friendship.

    I have some regrets from my own teen years, but one thing I don’t regret is having lots of male friends (although I was probably too flirty with them!). And, I ended up marrying one of them! I think your boundaries and discussions with your girls sound really healthy and balanced. I’m so glad you talk about these issues!
    Megan G. recently posted…Goodbye & HelloMy Profile

  29. AH! I have just read briefly your tips and update. I wish that we could sit and talk for awhile because I desperately need some guidance. My son is 15 and we have already had a couple things come up that makes me think NEITHER of us are ready for him to be in a relationship. I want to do this right, but I don’t want to hurt the relationship with my son either. I need to model how we deal with this clearly and effectively so that my daughter who is 9 gleans from this as well. I am so heartbroken and lost. I don’t know what to do and not sure who to talk to. My husband admits to not knowing what to do either. He is the only child and didn’t really have relationships until college. I had relationships when I was my son’s age and I know what mistake I made and I am petrified! I know God is the giver of all wisdom and I have been searching and praying. I don’t want my children to have the same experiences growing up that I did (especially when it come to relationships with my parents). ok, I will stop now.
    Kim recently posted…GratitudeMy Profile

  30. Deborah Arch says:

    Hi Sheila,
    I love your articles and you’re my favourite blogger on relationship and marriage. You explain things so well, and it’s really helped me in my marriage (7 weeks!) Thank you! :)
    I just wanted to clarify, you mentioned above “I think it’s a good thing to have friends of the opposite sex.”, and talked about your daughters having coffee with them, is that in the context of being single?
    In my experience, if I was ever friends with the opposite sex it always (probably began) and ended in that person liking me, even though I made the boundaries clear straight up – that I was only interested in friendship. I also probably didn’t know how to appropriately interact with the opposite sex and treated them similarly to how I would my brothers or a girlfriend – but who doesn’t look back at the teenage years and wish for more wisdom back then!
    My parents always taught me to only have friends of the opposite sex in a group setting, therefore going for coffee would have been getting into the dating scene.
    Now that I’m married (actually, when in a serious relationship) I don’t believe it’s appropriate to meet with friends of the opposite sex alone, or call/text them to ‘chat’. Those types of conversations are reserved for my husband and my girlfriends.
    I haven’t maintained any close male friends, because in my opinion they never saw me as platonic in the first place, but my husband, brothers, dad, and mutual friends fill that need in my life. I can have healthy conversations with my husband’s friends, my girlfriends’ husbands, or any other man I meet/know, but I ensure I do this in a respectful manner and never alone. For things to be right, it also has to look right. I always interact with men in a manner that would never make their wives uncomfortable (obviously!), but many other women don’t seem to do that, because like me as a teen, they must view them as ‘only friends’ and treat them inappropriately under the assumption that the men don’t view their friendliness as flirty because they’re only ‘friends’. I trust my husband 100%, but other couples may struggle in this area for a number of reasons. I personally would never put myself in that position to have a wife uneasy by my friendliness, or a man develop feelings toward me, so I tend to keep my distance a bit.
    I’m sure you’ve probably covered this in another post, but was your statement in regards to a single status and dating, as is the topic of the post?

  31. I can’t tell you what a Godsend this message was to me today! Thank you so very much! I am a mother of 14yr old twin boys and they’ve just started high school…I have held fast to the “no dating” rule until high school and when WE tell you it’s ok…I can’t tell you the number of crazy looks I get from other parents that think I’m crazy! It is so refreshing to find others that feel this way. But we are in the middle of trying to get one of my boys (whom has a crush on a girl from church choir) to understand that it’s just not the right time right now. He’s nowhere near understanding the complexities of dating and the mental anquish…although on that last part, it”s ALL we seem to be going thru with him! To summarize, they are good friends and she goes hot and cold with talking to him. He doesn’t know what to make of that and is continuing to talk to all of his other “girl” friends about it via text (which is a WHOLE other problem with this generation!) – to the point that he was describing himself as “depressed” and considering “cutting” himself! Now if you knew my boy- THAT is the opposite of who he is! He has counseled other “girl” friends of his regarding their cutting- and I believe this is a strange culture developing in this generation. Needless to say, I feel completely lost on how to help him understand and overcome this feeling. We are a strong Christian family and we are deeply involved in our church and student ministries…I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your sharing this information! I plan on sitting down tonight and talking with all my boys about your article. I pray that this helps them to understand….With a heavy heart and much gratitude! Thank you. Lisa

  32. Tiffany says:

    I have to gently disagree with your sentiments. Mostly I would say that what you’ve said is good, except that you seem to be advocating for not dating before you can be married (18). I know that you have written a post about the positives to marrying young but you seem to have conflicting posts. While I don’t think that dating around 13 is the best idea, but 16 and 17? My husband and I started dating at 16 and dated all through high school and college. The one “regret” I have is that we weren’t encouraged to marry sooner. The only problems we had were after we went to college, when we were ‘old enough’. They centered around not knowing where to go with the relationship because the next logical step was marriage but we were put on hold per se because we weren’t supposed to be married yet, which caused several issues. While I think you’re right in encouraging healthy relationships I would advise against eliminating dating until you are of marrying age.

  33. I agree with you 100% on this, and have tried to teach my children (daughters AND sons) the same mindset! They have been “later-daters”, but have had many friends of both sexes. “Friends first, lovers later,” my mother always said!

  34. This one has been tricky in our house. First son, 19and no issues. Second son decided he was in love at 15 and wanted to be allowed to date. We had always emphasized relationship (first to God) over rules. We expected our boys to treat women the way they would want other guys out there treating their future wife.

    Which worked physically, but our now 16 year old got into an emotional relationship via texting (with someone local) That sort of took us by surprise, mostly because he was quite sure that we would allow him to “date” her because he was in love.

    We haven’t gone psycho parents on them and forbade the relationship, but the first time they were allowed to be out together in a group setting, there was hand holding. …and then the days worth of exclaiming over said hand holding and many wishes for more, etc etc.

    All that to say, there is a very good reason children should not be allowed to date. They are children. At 16,they don’t have adult brains. They aren’t able to think critically about their actions and future consequences. They are usually so full of hormones that even with adult brains they couldn’t reason well. Every time I say that I feel like I am being disdainful of teens. I’m not. I just understand their development process. They shouldn’t be allowed to put themselves into positions where they can hurt themselves. We don’t throw kids into the pool before they can swim, right? We don’t expect 10 year olds to write 10 page research papers, right? 16 year olds aren’t adults and shouldn’t be given adult responsibilities, like situations that could turn them into parents. ..

    And the main reason they want to is because their friends (and society in general) pressures them into thinking they should. My boys didn’t have any problems until one girl showed up in their circle whose parents hadn’t made it clear that dating was of the table at this point (though they have now). Again, not blaming her, but they had a large. ..large circle of friends where no one was allowed to date and so it was no big deal. They didn’t feel any lack at all.

    On the moving forward and how to handle “courtship”, we’ve taught our boys how to be gentlemen. Same mentality as above on how to treat women … until you are ready to and have made a commitment to someone, you have no claims on her physically, emotionally (intimate conversations), or by time (exclusive dating). Dating, casual friendships that could include coffee, meals, events, etc but that DON’T include touch, deep emotional intimacy or exclusivity are fine. When you want to move beyond that, it should be with the expectation that you are heading towards engagement/marriage. ..that is kind of regardless of age.

  35. Wondering about your take on friendships with the opposite sex in marriage.

Comment Policy: Please stay positive with your comments. If your comment is rude, it gets deleted. Any comment that espouses an anti-marriage philosophy (eg. porn, adultery, abuse and the like) will be deleted. If it is critical, please make it constructive. If you are replying to another commenter, please be polite and don't assume you know everything about his or her situation. If you are constantly negative or a general troll, you will get banned. The definition of terms is left solely up to us. Sheila Wray Gregoire owns the copyright to all comments and may publish them in whatever form she sees fit. She agrees to keep any publication of comments anonymous, even if you are not anonymous on this board.


  1. […] UDPATE: It’s been two and a half years, and I’ve now written an update to this post about how it worked with my girls. Things I did right, and things I’m tweaking. Check it out! […]

  2. […] 6. 7 Steps to Raising a Teen Who Won’t Date Too Young And I’ve written a more recent follow-up to that post, now that my girls have gone through a lot of the teen years, here. […]

  3. […] friend used this strategy when his daughter began seriously dating. The young man in question approached him in trepidation, and they sat down and started chatting. […]

Leave a Comment


CommentLuv badge