Should teenagers date?
Perhaps that sounds like a silly question–of course teenagers are going to date! But I want to share with you today my reflections on what dating as a teen did to me.
Today is my first boyfriend’s 41st birthday.
Isn’t it strange that I still remember that? We dated when we were 14, for a grand total of about 6 months or so. I was in grade 10, and I felt so important because I had someone who liked me. He gave me a necklace for Christmas that year and I never took it off.
I eventually broke it off with him (although I think he was about to break it off, too), because I had gone to a retreat where they were talking about purity, and I decided that our relationship wasn’t going in a good direction. I needed to focus more on God. He agreed, and that was that. We remained good friends until I left for university, when we lost track of each other. He found me on Facebook a few years ago, and a while back, while going to a speaking engagement, my girls and I dropped in on him and his wife and I met his little kids. It was nice to see him all grown up. And so much fun to meet his kids! And he’s a pastor now.
He was always a nice boy, and now he’s a nice man, but oh, how I wish I hadn’t dated when I was a teenager. Looking back, I still almost cringe, thinking of all the ways I made a fool out of myself because I just wanted people to like me.
One’s first “love”, if you want to call it that, really does impact your life from then on out.
It determines how you see yourself, and the more that you give your heart away, the more it hurts.
I wish I could have been a strong enough person to not date as a teenager. I wish I could have waited.
My girls have both determined to wait to date until they’re older, although my 16-year-old has gone back and forth with dating over the last few months. I think she still wants to wait, because she doesn’t see the point in dating if you’re not in the position to marry, something which I have preached to her for quite a while.
It’s not that I’m just worried they’ll get too physically involved, although obviously that is a factor. I really do trust them. It’s just that I SHOULDN’T be able to remember this guy’s birthday, and yet I do, because of the emotional impact that relationship had on me. Does that make any sense? I don’t want my girls to date someone for three years, and then break it off, and feel hurt.
It’s not just that I want to spare them hurt, though. It’s also that I want them to figure out who they are without reference to someone else. So much of my teenage life was spent trying to figure out how to please guys that it took me a long time to figure out who I was and who God wanted me to be. I was completely caught up in other people, and worried about my future, and worried that if no one dated me no one would then want to marry me, and on and on. I would have been better off if I had just waited for university.
I would have been better off if I could have trusted that God would bring the right person at the right time.
I was always trying to rush God.
I read a study recently that showed that one’s chance of divorce increased if one’s age at loss of virginity decreased:
Sociology professors at the school found that women who first had sex before age 16 were more likely to get divorced than those who had waited till after turning 16.
How much more likely? Of the female subjects who’d had intercourse at 15 or younger, 31 percent divorced within five years of marriage, and 47 percent split up within 10 years. While the women who had waited till at least 16 had divorce rate of 15 percent at five years, and 27 percent at 10 years.
This is hardly surprising; I’ve been telling people on this blog that waiting until you’re married for sex is really the best thing you can do. God designed sex that way for a purpose.
But it is not just about sex; I think it is also that when we give our hearts away too young, it does damage to us at some level. It’s better to wait, and to tell your kids that you expect them to wait. I wish I had. But nevertheless, I wish that man a happy birthday. He is a good guy–and I’m glad he found a great woman.
If you’re wondering how to talk to your kids about dating, Barrett Johnson has an amazing book out called The Talk(s), which teaches parents how to have ongoing conversations with their kids and keep those lines of communication open. You can get the ebook, or order the paperback.