Top 10 Reasons for Marrying Young

Top 10 Reasons Marrying Young Can Actually be Good--for You and for Society

Our society frowns on marrying young. We want people to be established, be educated, and play the field first.

Personally, I think marrying young can be a very good thing. Tonight my daughters and I will attend the wedding of a 19-year-old woman named Emma. She’s a sweetie, and she’s so happy, and I’m excited for her.

So I thought I’d write about the pros of marrying young. But first, a few caveats:

I do not believe that everyone should marry young.

In fact, in many cases young marriage doesn’t work. If the couple really is not very mature, they could be making a very bad decision. I get nervous when a 19-year-old chooses to marry who hasn’t really seen the world much or expanded their social circle at all. If all they know is a very small corner of the world, they may not know themselves very well yet.

Finally, many young people marry to escape. They want to feel grown up, and they want to get on with their lives, and marriage seems the easiest course.

In almost all these cases, these young marriages will not be good ones.

I’m also fully aware that many people will not meet anyone suitable to marry until they are a little older. I have a good friend who married for the first time at 42 a few years ago. She would have loved to marry earlier, but her love didn’t show up until she was older. I in no way mean to shame people who have not married young. I know often being single older is not by choice. I have frequently told my daughters that while I firmly believe they will marry, no one knows when that will be, and they need to work at being comfortable on their own and with God instead of thinking their lives are only complete once they are married.

Nevertheless, none of that means that young marriages can’t work, and so here are 10 reasons why I think marrying young should come back into vogue. We’ll start with the benefits to society, and then look at the benefits for the couple themselves:

Top TenWhy Marrying Young is Good for Society

1. Drifting Through One’s Twenties Can Waste a Key Decade

When people expect that they’ll marry at thirty (the average age for first marriages is now at around 27 for women), then they tend to see their twenties as their time to explore, not their time to settle down. Everything gets delayed. You can spend a few years experimenting with different careers (or lack thereof), or traveling with no purpose, or hopping from relationship to relationship. As I talked about last week, though, your twenties are an important decade financially. If you can start saving then, you really set yourself up well for life.

And the earlier people start saving and maturing, the better off and more productive society is.

2. Having Babies Younger is Better for Society

Physically, the best years to have babies is in your early twenties. Yet few people are married or ready today at that point, largely because we have extended adolescence so far. While most people had babies young fifty years ago, today having one’s first baby after age 30 is the norm in many circles.

Yet while socially we’ve changed, physically we haven’t. And as fertility rates drop, perhaps it would be better for society to prioritize maturing younger rather than prolonging the years when you “find yourself”, especially since those years really are so valuable.

Why Marrying Young Can Be Good For You

3. You “Grow Up” Together

When you marry at 20 or 21, you haven’t always figured out what you want in a house, or how you want to organize a kitchen, or how you want to pay your bills. You don’t know what you want in a church or where you want to live. But you can grow up and make those decisions together, and it’s kinda fun!

When Keith and I married at 21 we had no idea about how we wanted to spend vacations or what kind of house we wanted, let alone how we wanted to do housework. We just figured it out ourselves. And because we hadn’t had our own routines for so many of these things, it wasn’t hard to merge.

4. It’s Easier to Merge Two Homes when There’s Not Much To Them

Imagine you’ve been doing your finances on Quicken on the computer for ten years, and then you marry someone who keeps all receipts in shoe boxes. That’s tough to find a new way of doing it, when you’re both so set in your ways.

Imagine you’ve had ten years since you moved out of your parents place to set your own traditions for Christmas and Thanksgiving. Now you have to do it all over again, when you’re emotionally wedded to the things you’ve already done.

It’s just tricky to merge two households. It’s easier to start off together.

5. You Can Be a Younger Parent

I remember being 27 years old and having one toddler on my back and one baby on my front and getting on the Toronto subway for 45 minutes, with 2 transfers, to get to the zoo, where I spent 6 hours with the kids, only to reverse the whole process.

There is no way I would have had the same energy to do that if I were 37 instead.

And here’s the thing: so many people say, “I want to travel before I settle down! I want to see the world!” But my youngest will be leaving home next year when I’m just 45. (I’m still tearing up at that a little, by the way). Keith and I are going to do some major traveling! We’re going to buy an RV and start seeing the world, little bits at a time. We’re heading to Australia for a conference. It’ll be wonderful (and hopefully take my mind off of my kids being gone). We’re still young, we’re still energetic, but best of all, we have some money now. We didn’t have any in our twenties. We can travel way more now than we could have then.

6. You Can Be a Younger Grandparent

I think a lot of people forget this one: my mom became a grandma at 51. She was so energetic with my girls. She’s 71 now, and she’s still active, but the girls have such strong memories of her being much younger. They remember when she was still a career woman. They remember her doing really fun trips with them. They will always have very clear memories of her.

On the other hand, my grandparents were 62 when I was born. While I have great memories of one of my grandparents, my maternal grandfather had a massive stroke at 64. He was a really strong, active man, yet I only remember him in a wheelchair with impaired judgment. My maternal grandmother, apparently, was just like me. She was opinionated, extroverted, and great at public speaking. Yet most of my memories of her are post-dementia.

My mom has many friends her age who are just becoming grandparents now. I actually hope my girls have kids young, because I’m looking forward to piling grandchildren in our RV and taking them around North America.

7. You Resist Temptation

If you’re with a guy you totally love when you’re 21, and your parents say, “you have to wait until you’re 25 and that graduate degree is finished before you marry”, how in the world are you supposed to resist the temptation to have sex? Sure it’s possible, but it’s awfully hard.

When you love someone and feel close, you’re going to want to make love. It’s natural. Physiologically for men especially, the sex drive is highest from 18-25. It’s really, really hard to wait, and when I hear Christian parents saying, “I hope my son doesn’t marry until he’s done med school and residency when he’s 27″, I wonder what they’re thinking, frankly. Walking down the aisle to meet the only one you will ever make love to is such a beautiful thing and a gift. But if we start telling hormonally charged teens that they have to wait 15 years post-puberty to get married–fewer will wait for marriage for sex.

8. You Avoid a Lot of Heartache

If people married young, perhaps we’d have fewer “exes” and fewer regrets. So much of the problem in marriages is caused by past baggage. If we put the expectation on kids that “it’s fine to get married at 21″ rather than “you had better not get married until you finish your degree and you have a good job”, then people would treat relationships at 20 more seriously. They wouldn’t think, “this can’t go anywhere, so let’s just have fun!” Often that “fun” ends up causing a lot of tears.

9. You Can Focus Your Goals Earlier

Once you’re married, you can start making real plans. Where do we want to be in 5 years? In 10 years? When do we want to buy a house? What education do we need? Where do we want to live? Certainly you can do those things when you’re single, but it’s often tricky since you don’t know where life is going to take you. Once you’re married, you can nail these things down. And if you do marry at 22, then you will start thinking about buying a house. If you don’t marry until 28, you’re often not worried about buying a home at all, and so you rent for years.

Case for MarriageResearchers have found that marriage boosts one’s income and one’s net worth, all on its own, even controlling for class, race, and education. Being married makes people hunker down and treat life more seriously. And that’s good, because it means that ultimately you’ll be financially better off.

10. You Have Decades and Decades Together

I am so looking forward to growing old with my husband, but I am also looking forward to years and years of having fun together before we do get old. He is my best friend. He is my lover. He is my favourite person in the world. I am so blessed to be able to be with him, and I am so blessed that we do have all these years together. Why would you not want as many years as you could with the man that you choose?

Again, I know that not everyone will meet their marriage partner young, and that’s okay. There’s nothing inherently wrong with marrying later.

My problem is that we’ve started to see marrying young as inherently wrong, and I think young marriage actually has a lot of benefits–probably even more than later marriages.

My dream would be a society that focused on helping teens mature faster so that they would be ready to marry younger again. I personally think that would be a healthier society overall.

So I’d encourage all of us who are parents to stop hoping our children marry later, and start preparing them to launch into life younger. It’s okay to marry in college. It’s okay to marry in your early twenties–as long as you’re sure of your faith, you’re sure of yourself, and you’re sure of your relationship.

What do you think? I’d love to hear!

UPDATE: Oh, my goodness, I forgot about sexual temptation!!! So I changed out #7 since I first published it. How could I have forgotten that?!?

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Reader Question: How do You Prepare for Marriage Long Distance?

Reader Question of the WeekCan a long distance engagement work?

Every Monday I like to put up a Reader Question and then take a stab at answering it–and invite my readers to chime in, too. Here’s one from a woman in a long distance relationship wondering about engagement:

A few years back I met a guy from several time zones away. We got to know each other through facebook/skype/texting/etc, and saw each other in person for a month or so each year. The last visit (3 months ago) we both admitted that feelings had developed beyond that of “just friends”, and we want to try a relationship with a purpose (neither of us want to just casually date).

What kind of advice would you give to those in a long-distance relationship? We are neither young nor desperate, and are willing to take our time. Even so, I don’t want to miss a huge red flag (or HIM to miss one!) that would be completely obvious if we were living close to each other.

This is such a common scenario today, and here are a few thoughts I have on having a healthy (and productive) long distance engagement:

Long Distance Engagement: Making it work

Long Distance Engagement = Skyping with a Purpose

This reader has hit on something really key–when your relationship consists mostly of Skype dates, how do you make sure you’re not missing red flags? When you see each other on a regular basis, you can figure out if they’re lazy, if they’re good with kids, if they’re kind to strangers, if they take care of their home, and other things like that. When you don’t, then all you see is the persona that the person uses online. How do you get past that?

You Skype with a purpose!

And by that I mean that when you do Skype, you aren’t just talking about “safe” things that make you feel close and all luvey duvey. You don’t just bond over childhood memories or favourite movies or things like that. You actually have to ask the hard questions and make an effort to get to know each other. That can be a difficult thing to do, and the first step is doing exactly what this reader did–clarify the expectations of what this relationship is.

What Are We Doing?

One of the problems with long distance relationships is that, especially in the early stages, you’re always guessing about what the person feels about you. You text and they don’t text back for a day. Does that mean they don’t care? You were hoping to Skype tonight but he’s too busy. Does that mean you take the relationship more seriously than they do? And because you can’t really see body language in the same way, it’s inherently insecure.

Long distance relationships for just that reason have the capacity for a lot of heartache. I’ve seen my girls and other kids I know agonize over long distance relationships because it’s just not clear where it’s going. One person may just have fun chatting while the other is really invested in the relationship. And how do you take it to the next level?

It isn’t worth obsessing over someone long distance for too long. I think we owe it to ourselves to clarify what we’re doing. So once you have some degree of confidence, ask, “what are we doing?” And it’s fine to set some ground rules, like, “if we’re going to talk long distance, I don’t just want to be someone you turn to when you’re bored. I expect that we’ll connect twice a week to get to know each other. If you’re not comfortable with that, I’d like to move on…”

Many women assume they’re in a long distance relationship because they have a guy that they like that they skype with every now and then. But he may not see the relationship the same way. So you do have to talk about it, and be prepared to move on if he isn’t that into you.

Once it’s apparent that you both do want to date with a purpose, then it’s time to do some interesting things while you talk online!

Do Some Personality Tests

Early on in your relationship I think it’s fun to take some personality tests online and figure out some basic things about each other. What is your love language? What is your MBTI type (this is my favourite personality test!).

Ask Some Hard Questions

If you’re moving towards engagement, you have to really know each other. But it can be tough and awkward to ask the hard questions. So I’d recommend getting a book, like 101 Questions to Ask Before You Get Engaged, that you agree to work through together. That way if a question’s awkward, you can say, “well, we did agree to work through the book….”

Some people have found the book a little negative–like he’s giving you all kinds of reasons NOT to get married, which can solidify someone’s decision who is commitment-phobic. Perhaps I’d agree in some cases, because I do think commitment is one of the hugest issues in marriage, and you’ll never find that “one perfect person”. However, because of the inherent riskiness of long distance relationships, I’d really recommend a book like this, because you do need to discover those red flags.

Some of the key things you’ll want to know: how does He serve God? What has God been saying to him lately? What is his relationship like with his family? What are his career goals and how is he moving towards them? How do you handle money? When’s the last time you looked at porn? Yes, they’re tough, but you need to know!

Get Other People Involved

As much as possible, use Skype to create some interactions that you would normally have. Meet his parents. Meet his friends. In fact, as often as possible Skype with other people involved, too. You want to become part of his social circle and he should become part of yours.

Once the relationship has become serious, it may be good to set up a Skype meeting between a pastor and the two of you.

And take other people’s concerns seriously. When you’re in a long distance relationship, it’s easy to think of the two of you as living in your own little world, but if you get married, it won’t be just the two of you. It will be your friends, your family, your co-workers. You have people who care about you–listen to what their instincts (and even the Holy Spirit) may be telling them.

Set Up a Schedule to Talk

If you’re moving towards engagement, then you should be skyping/texting/interacting regularly–I would say at least 2-3 times a week for an extended period. If you only talk once a week, then it’s easy to just put on your best face. You want to see them in real life as much as possible–and they need to see you like that, too.

Do A Bible Study

Read and study the Bible together and pray together. Now, some people aren’t really comfortable with in-depth Bible study. That’s not their way of relating to God, and that’s okay. But you can still read a Psalm together. You can agree that “this month we’re going to read through the book of Acts”, even if you don’t do a word study on it. And you certainly can pray together! Make sure that your spiritual life is part of your long distance relationship, even if you can’t go to church together.

Plan for “In Person” Visits

I know it’s expensive, but you simply must spend the money and be together in person several times before you get married. It’s cheaper to do that than to rush into a relationship that’s wrong. Ideally these visits could be for a few weeks, but even a long weekend is better than nothing. Meet his family. See where he lives. Go to church with him (do people know his name? Do they greet him?). The hard part, of course, is where do you stay, since you likely don’t want to stay overnight with him. That’s where meeting some of his friends on Skype beforehand can be good. Or perhaps you can stay with his parents! It may be awkward, but it’s actually good to get to know his social circle and his family anyway.

Once you do get engaged, I think it’s important to move to the place where he lives, or have him move to where you live. Obviously sometimes immigration issues may make this impossible, but if it is possible, be with him on a daily basis before you actually tie the knot.

I know many couples who have married after a long distance engagement, and they’re all still married and still happy. My daughters did the hair for one wedding last year that was just a blast–she was from Pennsylvania, and he was from Saskatchewan, and they met in Bible quizzing. I’m not against long distance relationships at all. I just think you have to be super careful and super wise, and go in with your eyes wide open. But in this day and age when technology makes long distance engagements possible, it opens up a whole new world, and I think ultimately it’s a good thing.

But I’d like to hear from you–what would you add to this list? If you married after a long distance relationship, what’s the one best thing you did while dating? Let us know in the comments!

Good Girls Guide My SiteAnd, of course, if you’re getting married, I can’t recommend The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex highly enough! I wrote it for any engaged or married woman, but it’s really my prayer that more engaged women will read it, because I think if you understand sex better from the beginning you’ll save yourself so much heartache–and you’ll have so much more fun. I’ve got a special chapter in it for the wedding night/honeymoon, so please read it before you get married!

Fatherhood Material

Here’s a reprint from a few years ago that I think fits in really well with this week’s posts on 10 things I wish I knew before I got married and how to prepare for marriage–not just the wedding. Let’s talk today about what makes good fatherhood material.

Fatherhood MaterialIn the recently released movie Knocked Up, professional journalist Alison discovers she is pregnant from a drunken one-night stand with loser Ben. She doesn’t want to raise the child alone, so she chases Ben down and tries to turn him into fatherhood material. I think Alison’s onto something. Single parenthood is a rough road, and Alison knows that her baby will need a dad.

Unfortunately, Alison did everything backwards. She got into a relationship without realizing that this guy may end up being the father of her children. It’s better to make sure a guy will make a good dad before you wind up pregnant. For many young women, though, fatherhood material is the last thing on their minds. They’re looking for cool, popular, even a little dangerous, or simply someone to like them. None of those things ultimately holds up.

So to prepare for Father’s Day, I thought I’d explore what makes a guy a good catch.

My friend Richard, who has four daughters, has imprinted the following qualities into his girls’ heads, and they’re so good I wanted to share them with everybody.

Number one: a guy should be a Provider.

Now I know that sounds sexist and many of you are ready to line your birdcages with this paper right about now. But think about it: if you want to stay home with your kids, at least for a while, you need to be with someone who can pay the bills, not someone who will sponge off of you. That doesn’t mean he has to be rich! It simply means that the guy should have a good work ethic, should be motivated to find a job, and should take this responsibility seriously. It also means that he can’t have any major addictions that are going to keep him from working. Alcoholics, chronic drug users, or gamblers should be disqualified immediately. You’re relying on this man to help keep your family together, so choose well.

Next, he needs to be a Protector.

You’re giving him your heart; how is he going to treat it? Will he be faithful, or will he think only of himself? Will he be kind, or will be constantly berate you? And how does he treat your body? Does he value that, too, or does he pressure you into things you’d rather not do? That’s not real love, and that’s definitely grounds for dumping him before the relationship goes too far.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, he has to be a Pearl.

Don’t marry the grain of sand expecting that one day a pearl will emerge. Find the pearl first. Many of us women marry the sand—the potential that we see inside our guys. But what if that potential stays hidden forever? You can’t change someone, and it could be that your sandy guy actually likes his rough edges. If you want to marry a good guy, then only date good guys.

That may sound like a pretty tall order, but I think too many girls give up, figure such a thing isn’t possible, and date losers instead.

Treat yourself, and your future children, with more respect. Once you’re in a dysfunctional relationship, it’s much harder to get out, and, like Alison, you may find yourself tied to this guy forever. It’s better to be alone than with someone who will end up being bad for your kids. And ironically, the more we treat ourselves with respect, the more likely it is that we will start to attract these Pearls.

If we’re going to wait for the Pearl, though, we also have to make ourselves Pearls, too.

That means building a good life so we have something to contribute, and it means valuing the steady guy more than the dangerous guy who seems so cool. I don’t think such great men are as few and far between as we sometimes believe, and settling for less only hurts your future children. This Father’s Day, I’m teaching my kids to look for the Protector, the Provider, and the Pearl. They have a great example in their dad, so they have a leg up on other young women. But regardless of family background, a girl can ensure the next generation is stable and happy if she saves her heart for someone who truly deserves it. It’s worth the wait.

If you like Sheila’s social commentary, don’t miss Reality Check, the book! It’s chock full of her musings on where society is headed–and what we can do about it!

Reader Question: I Hate My Daughter’s Boyfriend!

Reader Question of the Week“I hate my daughter’s boyfriend.” That’s a tough situation to be in. And that’s our Reader Question this week! Every Monday I like to put up a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it. Here’s this week’s from a woman who is not pleased with who her daughter is dating:

I am concerned about my daughter’s current boyfriend. It seems to me and my son that he doesn’t respect my daughter and he is getting her involved with odd things – role-playing games, songs with bad lyrics, etc. She is 18, so I have limited power, but any advice would be great. Her dad doesn’t really see it, but he is gone a lot for work.

This is a difficult one, isn’t it? Personally, I’m really blessed, because I love my daughter’s boyfriend, but I’ve often thought about what I would do if one of my daughters decided to date someone I didn’t approve of.

And the truth is that once they’re a certain age there really isn’t a whole lot you can do. You can’t forbid them; they’re an adult. Nevertheless, you do have influence, so here are some thoughts I have on how to tackle this problem.

I hate my daughter's boyfriend! Handling a relationship you disapprove of.

Keep Your Daughter’s Boyfriend Close

You know the saying, “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer?” I think this applies doubly for a situation like this!

Here’s the thing: if you tell your daughter that he is an awful person, and you tell her that you don’t like him, what’s she going to do? She’ll hang out with him anyway, but she’ll do it away from you! You’ll end up driving her away from the family.

Teenage love is a strange thing. People feel all these intense things, and believe that this is real love, and we’re alone in the world, and no one else understands us. Pretty much all teenage couples feel this way to some extent. Add in a slightly controlling or “dangerous” boyfriend, and you’ve already got those feelings doubled.

Then, if you start reinforcing this by telling her how awful her boyfriend is, she’ll take that as a sign that this is true love, and that only her boyfriend does understand her.

Instead, have him over a lot. Engage him in conversation. Ask him to help with things around the house, like fixing some plumbing or changing the oil on your car or something. Treat him like he’s part of the family.

Won’t this tell your daughter that you like him? Not necessarily, especially if you follow the next few steps. But what it will do is show your daughter how he sticks out like a sore thumb. If he is really different from your family, and your daughter is comfortable in the family, and then she finds that he just doesn’t fit, it could easily make him look more pathetic. If she only spends time with him away from the family, he can look better than he really is.

Here’s another benefit: even if you don’t like this boy for your daughter, he is a child of God. And right now, you have influence over him. I can think of two moms that I know who didn’t like their sons’ girlfriends. But they embraced those girls, they mentored those girls, they interacted with them on Facebook and tried to make them feel like they were valued, and when those destructive relationships did end, those girls had seen what Jesus’ love looks like.

If you bring that boy into the fold, you’re not blessing the relationship. You’re simply exerting influence, and showing your daughter that you trust that she will eventually make the right decision. And then you’ll know more what’s going on in their relationship, because they’re living it under your eyes.

Ask Your Daughter What She Wants in a Relationship

Talk to your daughter about the future. Where does she want to be in five years? In ten years? What kind of job does she want? How does she picture herself living? Does she want children? Then ask her in the abstract: what kind of man would make a good father? What are your non-negotiables for a husband? Eventually you may ask her how she sees her boyfriend fitting into this.

The main point: Don’t volunteer your own opinion. Simply keep asking questions. It’s better for her to come to the conclusion herself about whether he’s marriage material than for you to tell her repeatedly.

Share Your Specific Concerns to Your Daughter about her Boyfriend

In this case, the mom is worried about the role playing games and the songs she’s listening to. Again, start with questions. “What do you think of that song?” Share with her that this isn’t a song that you thought that she would like. And ask her, “have things changed? Do you feel differently now?”

If she no longer feels the same convictions that you do, you can’t make her suddenly have those convictions. But you can make her confront her own hypocrisy. Ask her, “how does this connect with your faith?” If she can’t answer it, then at least she can start to see that her faith may be weak. You can’t have a real God experience without realizing that you truly need Him and you’ve messed up. It’s totally okay to help her see that.

One word of warning, though: It could be that she does still love God, but she’s going to express it in different ways than you would. I know some teenagers, for instance, who the parents have told me have “rebelled” and have “turned their backs on God.” However, from my perspective they haven’t done that at all. They’ve gotten tattoos, and they’ve got different views of some social and political issues, and they’ve started going to different churches. But they still love God, they’re still in ministry, and they still pray and identify as Christians. They just do it in a different way from their parents.

I’m not saying that’s what happening here; I’m just saying that sometimes we react to what we perceive is a child leaving the faith, when really they’re choosing to express faith in a new way. I know that’s hard, because it means that your child is rejecting your family culture. But please, in those times, remember that God is bigger than your family culture, and see the faith that is still in your child. Approve of it. Bless it as he or she goes on a different journey, and don’t make him or her feel guilty for choosing something other than what you would do, as long as the essentials of the faith (say, the Apostle’s Creed, for instance) are still there.

What if the Relationship is Dangerous?

But what if it’s not a question of just disapproving of the guy, but a question of the relationship honestly being dangerous? Maybe she’s at risk of pregnancy because you’ve found that your daughter is sleeping with her boyfriend, or you fear he’s violent or controlling. That doesn’t look like the case for our letter writer, but some of you may be facing a more dire situation. Here are some thoughts in that case:

Do Not Let Your Daughter Sleep with Her Boyfriend in Your House

When You Discover Your Daughter is Having SexIf your daughter is going to sleep with her boyfriend, she’s going to do it somewhere. Either your house, his house, a friend’s house, or the car. Those really are the only options.

You can make sure she doesn’t do it at your house by not letting them in the house alone, and by never letting them be in a room with the door completely closed.

If he still lives with his parents, you can talk to those parents and ask that they not leave the two of them alone, though you have no guarantee that the parents will follow this advice.

If the car is an issue, you can stop letting her borrow your car.

Here’s a more detailed post on this issue:

What to do if you discover your daughter is having sex

Give Her a Taste of Reality

The quickest way to end a fantasy is with a little dose of reality. If your daughter is completely rebelling, and is involved with someone that you know is bad for her, and is openly sleeping with him or doing drugs/alcohol, etc., then sometimes the best thing to do is to issue a bit of tough love. Tell her that she cannot do these things while living in your house, and tell her that if she is going to make these choices, then she will have to support herself.

Will this be hard? Absolutely, and this is really only for the worst case scenarios. But sometimes a person needs to go through a year or two of horror to come back and realize that’s not the way she wants to live her life.

Maybe it’s not to that level, though. Let’s say your daughter is involved with a slightly older guy that has kids with another woman, and he has to pay child support. Have her make up a budget. Have her figure out how much money will actually be left over if her boyfriend pays the full child support. Have her talk to one of your friends who is always in court battling her ex about money or access (you likely have at least one friend that does this; I have several!). Let her see how hard life will be.

If Necessary, Call the Police

If you suspect your daughter is being physically or sexually abused, call the police. Will it make her mad? You betcha. But it’s difficult for the authorites to prosecute unless they have a paper trail showing a pattern. And it could be that this guy has already been charged with domestic violence with other women. Violence is violence; don’t keep it in the family.

Remember that She is in God’s Hands

Finally, and this is the hardest part, remember that she is in God’s hands. You’ve done all you can; you’ve raised her for eighteen years or so, and you’ve instilled all the values in her that you can. Now it’s time for her to make her own decisions–even if you don’t like those decisions.

So pray hard, and lean on God, and learn to trust Him. He really does love your child, and He will protect her wherever she goes. Sometimes it takes a few years in the wilderness for her to figure out what she wants. Those are going to be tough years for you. But God can carry her, and He can carry you, too.

Now’s the time to learn to trust. It’s not an easy lesson, but it’s an important one. And He will be enough for you.

Now I’d love to hear from you: has your child ever dated someone you didn’t approve of? How did you handle it? Or if you ever dated someone your parents didn’t like, what made you eventually see the light? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

Intimacy Before Marriage: It’s More than Just Sex!

Intimacy Before Marriage: Do we focus on the wrong temptation?Yesterday Darby Dugger shared a great post about her biggest regret: not staying pure until marriage. I’ve written at length on the blog about why we should wait until marriage for sex, and why God made sex just for marriage. But sometimes I fear that in all of our talk about saving sex for marriage we forget that the biggest sexual temptation isn’t always a physical one. Intimacy before marriage isn’t only about sex.

And so I thought today I’d share the BIG ISSUE that often causes couples to fall in the area of sexual temptation.

Here’s the scenario: a couple decides they want to wait until marriage to have sex. Yay! That’s all very good. And so they sit down and they talk a lot about boundaries. Will we kiss? If so, for how long? 10 seconds? 15 seconds? Can we kiss on the neck, too? What about hands? Where can they go? Just on the back? Nothing under clothes? Can we ever lie down together? Can we snuggle on a couch together? Etc. etc. etc.

I’ve read Christian books that talk at length about which of these boundaries you should have. As a teen, I sat through talks that laid out extremely specific boundaries that couples should adopt (right down to how many seconds you can kiss, as if we’re holding a kitchen timer or something).

We add rules upon rules to what we’re going to do physically–as if that should be our primary focus about intimacy before marriage.

And that’s where we make what can potentially be a big mistake.

Good Girls Guide My SiteWhen I wrote The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex (an awesome book for every wife, but ESPECIALLY for those about to get married!), I divided the book into three main sections: how sex works physically, emotionally, AND spiritually.  All three go into having a great sex life. And, in fact, all three are highly related to our libidos. Like I shared in the book, the times when I feel most like jumping my husband are the times when I hear him pray out loud for our girls. Hearing his heart for our children, whom I love very much, and going before God together, is seriously sexy.

We tend to think about intimacy before marriage in these terms:

Physical Intimacy = Bad

Emotional Intimacy = Good

Spiritual Intimacy = Very Good!

What are we doing here? First, we’re portraying physical intimacy as a bad thing–it’s dangerous!–which often does a real number on women once they’re married, because it’s hard to flip that switch once you are married and start to see sex as a good thing.

But we’re also turning sex into entirely a physical thing, and forgetting that it is so much more than that.

We’re actually cheapening sex.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with praying together before you’re married. In fact, I think it’s a very good thing! We need to know that we can pray together and have a spiritual life together.

But here’s the thing we also have to know:

It is precisely WHEN we are praying together that we are most likely to fall sexually. It is WHEN we are spiritually and emotionally close that we are most likely to experience real sexual temptation.

And all of this applies especially to girls.

Many girls can “turn off” the sexual cues they get when they’re kissing, and can resist. We know that we’re not going to have sex before we’re married, we decide that in our heads, and we don’t let it go too far.

But when you’re praying together and feeling close, all of a sudden those sexual feelings will come on, full blast, when you didn’t really expect them. And if you, as a “good Christian girl”, have drawn up all of these physical boundaries, and have been concentrating on spiritual and emotional intimacy, you may be very surprised when all of a sudden you find yourself in a compromising situation you never dreamed of.

So what am I saying? That we shouldn’t be emotionally or spiritually close?

No, I’m not saying that. Here’s what I’m saying:

Intimacy is a wonderful thing, and intimacy in its fullness is meant to be experienced only in marriage.

It is wonderful to start to feel intimate before you’re married. But be aware that sexual temptation is often far more tied up in emotional and spiritual intimacy than it is in sexually “fooling around”. If you draw all kinds of lines that you “will not cross” physically, but fail to talk about what’s going to happen when you’re praying together or sharing deep memories or crying together and all of a sudden you feel tremendously drawn to each other, you’re likely setting yourself up for a fall.

Certainly talk about what you want to do physically, but I think a better conversation to have is this one: we are going to feel really drawn to each other the closer we get–closer in every way, not just physically. So let’s just set some boundaries like we won’t be in each other’s rooms late at night, or we’ll try not to hang out in an empty house too much, or we’ll have a friend that we text constantly for accountability.

The root of temptation is often not sexual, and if we make everything into something physical, we set ourselves up for inadvertent failure (and a whole lot of shame), and we also don’t present the full picture of who we are sexually.

Does that make sense? Let me know in the comments if this is something that you experienced when you were dating/engaged. When did you feel closest? How did you handle boundaries?

P.S. I’m doing a whole bunch of FLASH GIVEAWAYS on my Facebook Page over the next few days to celebrate getting to 20,000 fans! Head on over and watch for the giveaways–and then just comment to win!

 

Why Do Teenagers Rebel? Thoughts from a 19-Year-Old Who Didn’t

Why Do Teenagers Rebel? A 19-year-old explains how it doesn't HAVE to happen!Why do teenagers rebel? Is it automatic? And can you do things that prevent teens from rebelling? I asked my 19-year-old to help us answer that today!

“All kids will rebel, and my job as a parent is to be there to help catch them when they fall.”

I’ve heard Christian parents say that to me time and time again–strong Christian parents, too. But the Holy Spirit does not have an age limit. The Holy Spirit is with ALL Christians, young or old. And so if we can expect ourselves to act appropriately, we can certainly expect our teenagers to as well.

I’m a big believer in this philosophy, and I’ve written about these two different approaches to parenting before. This week, I thought I’d let other people speak about how to raise kids to make good decisions. We started on Monday about how to raise kids who won’t date too young, and then on Tuesday my 16-year-old chimed in telling us why she’s not dating in high school.

Today I’ve invited my 19-year-old to share her thoughts on why teenagers rebel. I said to her, “can you just write something explaining why you DIDN’T rebel?” She sent me this. It makes me tear up to read it.

Hello. My name is Rebecca Gregoire, and I was the perfect teenager.

Obviously I’m saying that as a joke, but by most standards, I truly was pretty perfect. I never drank, never smoked, never partied, never dated, never even swore. (Honestly. I didn’t swear until I was 18.)  I may have been moody, but I always had a good job, and was extremely involved in church and volunteered in childcare and youth ministries. I didn’t rebel at all–I walked the straight and narrow all through high school, and am continuing to do so now that I’m living on my own.

I’m not saying all this to try and make myself look great–I’m saying it to make a point. I’m saying it to destroy a myth that has been hovering over Christian circles for way too long.

Teenagers do not have to rebel.

I am living, breathing proof of that statement. And so are the three girls I live with, and my best friends at our university IVCF group. We didn’t rebel.

Before I continue, let me tell you something else about myself.

I am not demure in any sense of the word. I don’t like listening to authority, and I often get frustrated when I’m told what to do, or how to do it. I like to question everything. I’m naturally extremely proud, a challenger of authority, and extremely stubborn.

Why am I telling you this? To prove that I’m not “naturally predispositioned to submit”. I’m actually the complete opposite.

Whether or not teenagers rebel isn’t contingent on their natural personality, and kids aren’t “guaranteed” to rebel. Obviously teenagers aren’t guaranteed to NOT rebel, either, but there are things you can do that make it less likely.

My family had two children who were complete opposites, and neither of us had a rebellion stage. So it has to be something about the family, not our natural dispositions.

So why do teenagers rebel? And why do some teenagers never rebel? I’ve tried to pinpoint what kinds of things my parents did that helped my sister and me not rebel (though, of course, there are never guarantees that a teen won’t rebel), and here’s what I’ve come up with:

5 Reasons I Didn’t Rebel as a Teenager

My parents instilled in me a sense of family honour

Often teenagers feel distant from their families, like they’re part of it by blood, but that’s it. In my family it was never like that. My mom and dad would make decisions on their own, of course, but they always talked everything over with my sister and me. Even things that we weren’t directly impacted by–we’d discuss everything over the dinner table.

My family is the kind of family where everyone is involved–it’s a team experience. A result of this is that I received a huge sense of family pride, dignity, and honour.

Family honour has been lost in our culture. We are so focused on ourselves, and have become extremely selfish. And I think a lot of that is that parents put their children’s wants over the family’s needs. In our family, Katie and I never went without. But we didn’t get everything we wanted–I wanted an X-Box when all my friends were getting one, but because that would cut out of major family time my parents said no. A small example, I know, but it shows the worldview my family had. No matter what, family comes first.

When your mindset shifts from “me” to “we”, your behaviours and your actions aren’t just going to affect you–you begin to see how what you do affects other people. What I do when I’m in my free time reflects on my family, whether good or bad. And for me, that was a huge incentive to be responsible and make my parents proud.

Dayspring House Full of People I Love

My parents were extremely encouraging, but also demanding

There needs to be a middle ground. I cannot stress this enough.

So many parents I see are all about the encouragement. Their kids can’t do any wrong in their eyes, and they just constantly pour love and affection and butterflies and rainbows into their children’s life. And then other parents are the opposite–they don’t pay any attention to their kids unless they do something wrong and then they blow up. Or, even if they don’t explode in anger, they only ever criticize and never praise their children.

My parents had a happy medium. We weren’t coddled, but we weren’t picked on, either. My parents chose their battles, and also encouraged us when encouragement was necessary but didn’t lie and tell us we were great at something when we weren’t. For instance, my parents never would have told me that I should go for a career in gymnastics, because I am not flexible in the least.

We always knew where our parents stood, and through that, we always knew that they were honest and had a better understanding of who we were.

My family talks about everything

Open communication was big in our family. My mom and dad always made sure not only that they had time to talk to us, but that they had a specific time and place to do it, too. When I was younger, we talked before or after reading bedtime stories, or at the dinner table when we were eating together. When we got older, that spot moved to the hot tub we had in our backyard and car trips to and from the grocery store, friends’ houses, etc.

The biggest part, though, was that we didn’t just talk about school, work, and the like. We talked about whatever was going on in our lives–whether I was thinking about a new blog post idea, how Katie was doing with her skating, or what movie we really wanted to see–anything that came to mind. Our parents became our confidants, and that built a level of trust.

Moreover, our parents shared things with us, too. Now, don’t get me wrong, there is definitely a line here. But in our family, my parents simply humanized themselves to us. My dad would tell us about his favourite movies growing up, my mom would ask our opinions on knitting patterns. She’d even tell me when she had angst over commenters on this blog!

This built a partnership between us. A partnership where one was the parent and one was the child, of course, but nonetheless, a relationship where the actions of one person directly affected the other. Because of that relationship, I never felt like I needed to rebel to be heard, to be understood, or to get my way. I knew that if my parents said no, it was for a reason.

We were never expected to rebel as teenagers

My parents never encouraged any idea of teenage-hood rebellion. They never joked about us rolling our eyes, acting exasperated, or having attitude at all. Rather, they actually made us think that teenagers and the whole rebellion process was stupid and unnecessary. I always figured that I would grow up straight from child to adult, with no “silly teenage stage” in-between. You may think that this is no fun, or that kids need their time to be silly and make mistakes.

But what kind of message does that send the teenager? If kids expect that when they hit 13 they’ll start wanting to go to parties, or go out with boys, or watch inappropriate movies, then they will grow up to fulfill those expectations. On the contrary, if they are raised to believe that those are all optional, and actually unnecessary and somewhat frivolous, they won’t want to disappoint or seem silly, and so are more likely to make positive choices and act like an adult. This doesn’t mean that we miss out on a childhood, or miss out on teenage years–it just means that we use them for training for adulthood, and have fewer regrets when we’re through it all.

Also in this category is that we had very few rules. My parents never needed them, because they didn’t expect us to break them. When parents have a lot of rules it always seems to me like they’re trying to control their kids, and if you have to control them, you’ve lost the battle already. My parents always assumed we’d pick up on their values and make good decisions. Through our close relationship, heart-to-heart talks, and–when necessary–confrontations, we learned their expectations, they learned our points of view, and our family worked together instead of parents trying to reign in their children. Now, I only think this worked because we grew up in such a structured, close, and trust-filled family, but that was a big thing for me. I never felt stifled, so I never felt a need to rebel.

God was centre in our home

Our home never revolved around work, sports, school, or activities. It didn’t even revolve around other people–it always hinged on God and his plan for our family. Growing up in that kind of an environment shaped my view of my actions, choices, and the effect I had on others. When you’re used to basing everything on God’s will and God’s plan, suddenly the parties don’t seem as important. It isn’t as tempting to lie about who you’re hanging out with. Smoking, drinking, and the like just doesn’t really have any appeal, because they don’t help with your ultimate goal–to become a person God will use for great things.

So many times I see families who drop everything for good grades, or who don’t go to church if it’s a busy week at work, or who choose extracurricular activities over youth group and the like. My family, however, was the opposite. If we were tired, too bad. Get in the car, we’re going to church, because that’s what God’s called us to. If Mom and Dad had a hard time with work, we went to church because that’s a place of rest. If I was struggling with school and needed the day to study I didn’t have that choice, because it was my decision not to study earlier.

God came first in everything. And my choices were shaped because of that worldview.

As for Me and My House Wall Decal

I honestly don’t think there’s any one way to make sure your children don’t rebel. Every child is different, and every family contains unique people. But all I know is that for me, this worked. In my family, the trust, communication, and centrality of God in our home made my teenage years one of partnership with my parents rather than a constant battle.

So don’t give up hope–the teenage years don’t have to be war!

Like this? Think it might encourage other parents? Please share on Facebook or Pin it! Just use the buttons below.

Life as a Dare

You can find Rebecca at her blog, Life as a Dare, where she writes about her quest to simplify faith, relationships, and life in general.

 

 

 

The Talk(s)If you’re wondering how to foster a relationship like this with your kids, what Rebecca writes about sounds a lot like what Barrett Johnson is teaching us in his book the Talk(s) ! He really emphasizes keeping open communication with your kids. It’s the best book I’ve read about how to talk to your kids about sex, dating, and relationships, and it’s my store here! Or you can order it in paperback here.

 

This post contains affiliate links.

A 16-Year-Old Explains, “Why I’m Not Dating in High School”

A 16-year-old explains 5 reasons why she's not dating in high schoolDating in high school: will all kids automatically do it?

Will ALL kids automatically have sex, get their hearts broken, or do things they regret afterwards?

No, I don’t think so at all. And it makes me sad when I hear parents say,

“well, I know they’re going to mess up, because all kids do.”

I’m in the middle of a week where we’re talking about how to encourage your kids to do the right thing and make good decisions. It all started when I saw some commenters on some old posts saying things like, “The quickest way to make your child do something is to tell them not to,” and then explain why they don’t expect their teens to do the right thing.

That made me sad, as it sounds so horribly defeatist.

But rather than arguing my self, I thought I’d let my daughters do it for me! On Thursday my 19-year-old will tell us why teenagers don’t need to rebel. Today I’m going to let my 16-year-old explain why she’s not dating in high school. These are her words, not mine, and her arguments, not mine. I show you just to encourage you that it IS possible to raise a teen who won’t want to date in high school, and to tell those of you, especially those with younger kids, to encourage a super close relationship with your kids, teach them to love God, and then EXPECT them to do the right thing.

Here’s Katie:

 

The Talk(s)Wondering how you can encourage your child to choose not to date in high school? Barrett Johnson, who guest posted yesterday, has a great new book out about having the Talk(s) with your kids! It’s the best book I’ve read about how to talk to your kids about sex, dating, and relationships, and it’s my store here! Or you can order it in paperback here.

 

I know Katie would appreciate her video being shared as much as possible! So please hit the Facebook Share buttons and Pinterest buttons below!

Reader Question: When Should You Allow Your Teenager to Date?

Reader Question of the Week

Every Monday I post a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it. This week, though, we’re going to do something a little bit different. We’re going to take a whole week to answer this question:

How do you raise teens who will make good decisions?

Lately I’ve been noticing a bit of a disturbing trend in some of the comments on older posts. Whenever I talk about setting limits for teenagers, especially when it comes to dating in high school, someone invariably comments with something like this:

The quickest way to make sure a teenager does something is to tell them they can’t. To me, maintaining a good relationship with my daughter is the most important thing to me, so we haven’t told her she can’t do things. We just trust her, and we’re there for her, because as parents, that’s all you can do.

I find that a very defeatist attitude. And so I’ve been thinking and wrestling with how to tackle it, and here’s what I’ve decided.

Today: I’ve asked Barrett Johnson, the author of the amazing book The Talk(S) (about having continuing talks with your kids), to share about when you should allow your teen to date.

Tuesday: Rather than talk myself about teens and dating (since I’ve done that already), I’ve asked my 16-year-old daughter to join us on the blog and guest post.

Wednesday: I’m jumping in to talk about how to model a good relationship with your kids.

Thursday: I’ll wrap up the series by asking my oldest daughter, who is now 19, to write about why it is that she never rebelled.

I think hearing from my daughters on this one is likely better than hearing from me!

This is going to be our “You can do it, parents!” week. You CAN have a great relationship with your kids. Your kids WON’T automatically mess up. It is possible to raise kids who won’t date too young. And so today we’re going to ask the question, “when should you allow your teenager to date?”

Here’s Barrett Johnson, author of the AMAZING book The Talk(s), guest posting. I read an early version of his book, which is all about having ongoing talks with your kids as they grow so that you can steer them in the right direction when it comes to relationships. He explains it so well, and really helps to empower parents!


When Should You Let Teenagers Date“If everyone jumped off a cliff, would you do it, too?”

Every parent has used some form of that line before. I’m not sure it has ever worked to change anyone’s behavior, but we use it anyway. It’s our attempt to convince our kids that what our world practices as normal behavior is often severely skewed and even badly broken.

I believe this definitely applies to typical teen dating habits. With clear evidence found in the horrific divorce rate and with rampant sexual sin in both married adults and young people, we cannot assume that our current western system is working. Wise parents will both realize this and then be deliberate to equip their kids accordingly.

There is not a clear directive of exactly what that looks like for each particular family. Instead of looking for that ever-elusive formula, it is our responsibility as parents to prayerfully seek God’s leadership regarding how it will look in each of our unique situations.

That is why I don’t think it is wise for parents to give their kids a set age (as in “wait until you are sixteen”) when they can begin dating.

A strict line like that is full of potential disastrous complications. Telling a boy who is 15 years and 11 months old that he cannot have a girlfriend and then a month later telling him he can (and giving him keys to the car) is too much freedom preceded by too little practice. Not much good will come of that.

While there may not be a firm recommended age where every teenager should be given the green light to begin dating, one study clearly makes the argument that it is wise to put it off as long as possible. This is especially if we desire to help our kids to remain sexually pure leading into marriage. A number of years ago, USA Today reported the shocking correlation between the age that dating begins and the percentage of those who had sex before graduation. Here’s what they found…

When Teens Date Young it has Repercussions

Age Began Dating and Percent Who Had Sex Before GraduationThe takeaway: we are free to encourage our 6th or 7th grade sons to have girlfriends and to let them “date” within the context of our homes. We have every right to drive our 13 year-old daughters to the movies with their “boyfriends.” It seems innocent enough, but don’t be naïve about this research. We can assume that this won’t happen to our kids, but the evidence strongly suggests that the earlier a kid starts dating, the more likely he or she is to become sexually active. Blindly sticking our heads in the sand and insisting that our kids are different and that they will somehow beat the odds is irresponsible in light of the data.

You’re going to have to tell you kids that they may not be allowed to date until well after many of their peers. Beginning these discussions when your kids are far away from any interest in the opposite sex is ideal. For here is the mistake that most parents make: they do not start setting parameters on dating until their kids start exploring their first relationship. If a young teen is already there and her parents start dropping rules on her for the first time, it may get ugly.

Think about Your Guidelines for Teen Dating Early

For this reason alone, it is not a bad idea for you to begin considering guidelines for dating while your kids are still in diapers. If you don’t begin to show them at a very early age what will be normal in your home, they are likely to assume that their “rules of engagement” are identical to everybody else’s.

If you haven’t told them any different, why wouldn’t they think that?

The Talk(s)Barrett Johnson is the husband to Jenifer and the father of five great kids (including four adolescents). He serves as the Family Minister at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church outside of Atlanta and his blog, INFO for Families, gets more than 40,000 hits a month. He has just released his first book, “The Talk(s): A Parent’s Guide to Critical Conversations About Sex, Dating, and Other Unmentionables.” It has been created to help every parent to equip their kids to make wise choices in a sexually-charged culture. Find out more at www.infoforfamilies.com. Get the ebook here, or the paperback here.

Tune in tomorrow for the second in our series, when my 16-year-old daughter explains why she’s not dating in high school!

Why Do We Have Middle School Dances Again?

Every Friday my column appears in a bunch of papers in Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week I tackle the ridiculousness of middle school dances.
Middle School Dances are Ridiculous on so many levels. Read on...

Love is the Air.

Drug stores are selling boxloads of cards so that 8-year-olds can tell all 23 kids in their class, “You’re special!” Flyers are reminding men that they had better show up with a gift. Engagement rings are selling like hotcakes.

Yet perhaps love shouldn’t be in the air for everyone.

When it comes to middle schoolers, for instance, love is definitely better off waiting.

In fact, a study reported in USA Today found that the age that kids start dating is highly correlated to the age at which they first have intercourse. Ninety-one percent of kids who started dating at 12 had had sex by high school graduation, compared with just 20% of kids who started dating at age 16. Delaying pairing off pays off. And a huge 2012 University of Texas study found that delaying sex until your twenties meant better romantic relationships later. People who wait for both dating and sex tend to end up happier.

It’s not just happiness, though, that improves if you wait. It’s also academic achievement. Kids who remain virgins throughout high school are one third as likely to drop out of high school and twice as likely to graduate college. Other important findings: kids who remain virgins in high school are less than half as likely to suffer from depression and less than half as likely to go on welfare as adults.

If you want a society with predominantly productive citizens in stable relationships, then, we’ll want to encourage kids to wait to have sex, which includes encouraging them to wait to date. Whether you’re looking at it from an economic standpoint, a moral standpoint, or a public health standpoint, it just doesn’t make sense to encourage kids to date at early ages.

All of this leads me to ask: why on earth, then, do we have middle school dances, all put on by our Boards of Education?

Are we out of our collective minds? We’re taking kids as young as grade 6 and holding dances during school hours. Why encourage kids that young to pair off?

I got my first “boyfriend” because of a middle school dance in grade 7. I’d never even thought of dating him before, but he asked me to dance, and all of a sudden we were “going out”. Looking back it was embarrassing, but then all I felt was pressure. All the girls were wondering, “is anyone going to dance with me?” And all the boys were wondering what the girls would wear. Kids who had never thought of “asking someone out” suddenly got fixated on it.

Ask a school principal and they’ll likely say they only hold these middle school dances because parents insist on it, and that’s probably true.

Too many parents think “it’s so cute” when little Jenny has a boyfriend at ten.

But even if this starts out as clean fun, the younger kids start to date, the more they’ll experiment as they age. Do you really want your child going down that road?

Maybe some parents want middle school dances, and likely a lot of the kids do, too. But that doesn’t mean other parents have to stand for it. You could suggest a square dance caller instead. You could offer to host a party with hula hoop contests and limbo contests instead of a traditional dance. You could pick up your kids early and take them home that day. Or better still, you could ask at the next PTA meeting “what advantage are we getting from asking 12 and 13-year-olds to pair up?” Because unless you can tell me the benefit, I’ll never believe that it will outweigh the potential harm.

The Talk(s)Do you want to open up conversation with your child about dating? I’ve got a great resource–Barrett Johnson’s book “The Talk(s)”, about how to keep those conversations regular and natural. Get the ebook or get it in paperback. It’s the best book of its kind that I’ve seen!

Have your kids attended middle school dances? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

Reader Question: How Do I Resist Having Sex with My Fiance?

Is there hope for a loveless marriage?Every Monday I like to post a Reader Question and take a stab at it! Today let’s deal with one I get frequently from young women: “I want to wait until marriage, but it’s hard!”

Here’s one email that I received:

My boyfriend and I really want to wait until marriage to make love. We know how important purity is. But we’ve been so tempted, and we’ve already gone further than we should. We haven’t had sex yet, but I’m afraid that it’s just a matter of time. I don’t want to start my marriage like that! What do I do?

I know that’s a struggle so many people have, so I thought I’d address it today. Let me start by saying congratulations that you want to wait! You’re making a good choice. And as you wait, it will also become easier to make the decision whether or not this is the person you want to marry. So very good choice!

Now, if the problem you’re having is more that you’ve already begun sleeping with him–or maybe even living with him–and you want to stop but you’re afraid you’ll lose him, read this post on how to stop sleeping with your boyfriend. But if it’s more that you’re feeling really tempted to sleep with him now, and you’re afraid that you won’t stay pure, read on:

 

How Do I Stay Pure with My Boyfriend--and resist having sex?

Know Why You’re Waiting

It’s hard to wait if you figure it’s just something you’re SUPPOSED to do in order to be a “good girl”. Then it’s all too easy to doubt yourself, and all too easy to get a warped view of sex, where sex is seen as something wrong that “good girls don’t do”. Nothing is further from the truth!

God wants us to wait because sex is supposed to be intimate on many levels: physical, yes, but also emotional and spiritual. It truly binds you together. And when you wait, you’ll enjoy a better sex life afterwards (as I found in the surveys for The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex). I’ve written a few posts on why God wants us to wait for marriage, and I’d suggest reading them (and getting my book!) so you have a better view of sex–and more incentive to wait!

Here’s what one woman said on Facebook when I asked my readers what their advice for waiting is:

I didn’t succeed with this, and oh… Do I wish I did. I fell into temptation. Although we did marry, and are still married 15 years later, I still find myself wishing we would have waited for marriage. I can just imagine the sacredness of the wedding night. After a long wait, completely seeking God and relying on His promises. Then feeling that huge sense of accomplishment when you know you’ve done what He commands! Sex is a gift, and when used how its intended, such a privilege and blessing. I’ve recently watched two very dear couples to us successfully wait until their wedding night, and one of them, we’re close enough girl friends for her to share with me how rewarding it was, and I would give anything to be able to experience that. Once its spent, its spent. If I’d known then what I know now, we would have definitely waited. Persevere for the reward God has for you! You will not regret it! And, congratulations!

Have a Short Engagement

Seriously. When you feel that close to each other, it is hard resist. There’s a reason that Paul wrote, “it’s better to marry than to burn” (1 Corinthians 7:9).

I got married in December. Sure, a summer wedding would have been prettier, but we wanted to marry, and why wait twelve months when we only had to wait three? If you’re sure, and he’s sure, short engagements are likely better, and much easier.

Resist Temptation by Hanging out In Public

If it’s feasible, try not to spend too much time alone in each other’s apartments or homes. I know that isn’t always feasible, especially if you each live on your own, with no roommates. But then try to plan things to do, rather than just hanging out. Go for lots of walks. Volunteer together. Take up some sports you can do together.

When we hang out at each other’s homes, we tend to make out a whole lot. And even if you don’t have sex, you can still get more physical than you would want to. But there’s another danger: if your relationship becomes mostly physical, then you get married without having anything fun that you tend to do together. So it’s better to spend those weeks and months before the wedding finding things you enjoy doing together that don’t involve a liplock.

Get Acccountability

Do you have a good friend you can trust whom you can ask to pray for you? Do you have housemates that can hang out with both of you as a couple? If you have another couple, or a friend, that you can go to for accountability, that can help you resist. If you know someone is going to ask you pointed questions: “did you put yourself in a compromising position this week?”, or “did you go further than you want to go”?, it’s easier to say no. And if you have someone that you can talk to about where you should draw the line, that can help, too.

Be Careful About Praying and/or Talking Too Much About What You’re NOT Going to Do

This one may seem counterintuitive–after all, if you want to wait, shouldn’t you be praying together? Well, yes. And no. You see, praying is one of the most intimate things we can do together. And while I absolutely recommend that couples pray together, you could be finding that this is part of the temptation. So if you’re really struggling after you’ve prayed together, it could just be the natural pull we feel towards sex when we also feel connected in other ways. So maybe you should keep your prayer life in public, too!

But there’s another thing to consider: if you’re trying to remain pure, and you talk about it all the time, you can aggravate the problem. Let’s say that you’re experiencing a lot of sexual tension. You want to have sex, and you’re really drawn to him. What’s now going to happen if you start talking about where to draw the line? You’ll start to talk about what you CAN’T do, and likely how these things make you feel, and it just can make the whole problem worse.

You already know where the line is. You’ve already decided. You don’t need to talk about it again. Next time you’re in a compromising situation, instead of starting a big conversation about it, why don’t you go make cookies? Or go out for a walk? Or just do something else?

Fight with the Weapons You Have–Memorize Scripture

If you’re feeling tempted, you’re hearing in your head all these messages–

you’re going to fail, you can’t resist, it would be SOOOO good, it’s hopeless!

Why not start filling your head with Scripture instead? When Jesus was tempted, He fought back with Scripture, and you can, too! When you’re going through a hard time in your Christian walk, now’s the time to pull closer to God. I’ve got a list of the 50 best Bible verses to memorize, and if you focus on those, and learn a new one every week, and keep reciting it, you’ll likely find it easier to fight back against temptation! And there are some great verses, too:

Dayspring I Can Do All Things Plaque

Ultimately Waiting Until Marriage Is a Heart Issue

Ultimately, though, you can put all the boundaries in place, and all the accountability in place, and none of it will work if you’re not seriously committed to waiting. I did wait because the idea of NOT waiting was never an option. I grew up always knowing I would wait, and even though it was tempting, we did. We were alone together in my apartment, and we still waited. At some point you either have the self-control or you don’t. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t put boundaries around you, but I guess I’m not as adamant as some of the people on my Facebook Page, because I really do think that it’s ultimately a heart issue. You need to decide INTERNALLY to wait, and you need to just be sure, within yourself, that this is what you’re going to do. I really like this reply by one woman:

Internal motivation vs external rules will carry you much further. I know a lot of folks are saying you should not be alone, but I don’t see that as a healthy way to spend the weeks/months leading up to marriage at ALL. My husband and I were engaged for over two years (he was in a strict military academy for 4 years, and was not allowed to marry or live off base until graduation). We were alone all the time, but stayed active with our church, multiple Bible studies, and just set our minds to waiting until the wedding. We were both virgins when we married, and relied more on the grace of God than rules we set for ourselves.

I do think that if you’re really struggling, setting up rules like don’t be alone, have accountability partners, don’t hang out in bedrooms, etc., are definitely a good idea. But, to be honest, my husband and I didn’t  have those rules, and we waited, because we were also immersing ourselves in Bible studies together and praying together and serving in church together, and we were just totally committed to waiting. I know that doesn’t work for everyone, and I think we all have different temptations that we’re prone to. But ultimately deciding to wait until marriage for sex is a heart issue, and external rules will only take you so far.

What do you think? What do you recommend for couples who want to wait until the wedding? Let’s talk about it in the comments!