Last week, I was at youth church camp, hanging out with kids ranging from 8 to 18 years of age. At one point, I ended up in a small circle of teen girls, and the subject turned to boys. It’s one of their favorite subjects, so why not? *smile*
Thankfully, these lovely young ladies were comfortable sharing their thoughts about romantic relationships and asking for wisdom from me and another woman who joined the conversation. What did I tell them?
Let me share the dating advice I gave these teen girls, with the years of hindsight I now have. Maybe it will help another parent figure out what to say to their child.
Dating and relationships can wait. I wish I hadn’t dated so much in high school or worried about relationships. In today’s culture, the likelihood of finding The One when you’re 16 years old is extremely low. Of course I know people who married their high school sweethearts, but they’re the exception, not the rule. The rest of us bounced around boyfriends, with little more to show than wasted time, broken hearts, and only a handful of great memories. If you happen to find someone, fine, but it’s okay to take your time and start dating later.
Focus on God, yourself, and friendships. Whether you’re 16 or 46, you should feel confident and comfortable as a separate person before adding another to your mix. Figure out who you are in relationship to God, to yourself, and to your friends first. Once your own identity is better formed, you’ll be a better choice for someone else and better able to discern the right person for you.
But won’t a romantic relationship or marriage change you? Yes, it will, and should. But you won’t be mixing your baggage with someone else’s baggage. You’ll be iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17), not bludgeons. I’ve had the bludgeon relationships, and they are not fun. I’ll take my solid marriage, thank you, which is far better at pushing me to become the person I should be in Christ.
Remember real hearts are involved. Skipping around from boy to boy is a bad plan, because real hearts are involved. Only two options for a relationship are possible—it stays together, it breaks apart. And broken relationships typically break at least one heart, sometimes both.
Just because you’re young or you didn’t think it was a big deal doesn’t mean your choices couldn’t hurt someone else’s heart. We need to consider others’ hearts as well as our own. Don’t jump into relationships lightly.
Guard your heart. Speaking of hearts, guard your own heart. Don’t throw yourself wily-nilly into deep romantic entanglements. When you engage in a relationship with someone, you’re giving them a bit of your heart. Can you trust them with it? You don’t have to know this person is The One before investing in a relationship, but you should have some confidence he cares about you as a person, not merely a girlfriend or Saturday night’s date.
Sometimes we pursue that guy that gives us the tingles, but we know deep-down he isn’t trustworthy. Bad. Idea. Just consider your choices and guard your heart.
Love is wonderful. A lot of what I just said might sound like I’m opposed to romance, love, passion. Not at all! When there was a discussion of which boys were cute, I immediately piped up and said that Spock (hubby’s nickname) was super-hot and totally caught my eye. They smiled and laughed, amused to see I still get the tingles for my guy—22 years later.
I let them talk about cute boys and what they liked in boys. We discussed how truly nice guys get more attractive over time and catch your eye when maybe they hadn’t before. I spoke positively of the two girls there who are in relationships (with great Christian guys). I let them know fluttery love feelings are ticklishly good, that romance is worth pursuing with a wonderful man, that love can last for decades. I also stressed that these young women are worth it for some godly young man out there waiting for each of them.
Closing up, I might want to mention that word had gotten around among a few of these young ladies about my own rules for my teenage sons being allowed to date. The one rule these girls seem to like a lot is my sons must first demonstrate they know how to treat a lady—and part of the evidence is how they treat the most prominent woman in their life, their mom.
What dating advice have you given your teenagers? What excellent dating advice did you receive? How did your dating affect how you viewed marriage?
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