Teens, if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance your parents asked you to read this and thought it applied to your situation. I hope it does!
Dating in a culture of “hooking up,” is really frustrating for many, many teenagers. I have client after client that complains about this. They say they aren’t interested in making out with someone before going on a date. They don’t want to be drunk to find out if they like someone or not. They don’t think it’s okay that everyone has a “thing,” or is “talking” but never really commits.
The Bible doesn’t really talk a lot about dating in a direct way. It does talk about marriage, divorce, adultery and respect. There are examples of lust gone wrong (think David and Bathsheba), jealousy (Leah and Rachel with Jacob), dating with the intention of commitment (Solomon and the girl), and the benefit of doing everything with parental consent out in the open (Isaac and Rebekah).
One thing that is clear to me is that God doesn’t intend for you to date in secret. If you feel you have to hide it from your parents, or you’d be ashamed to talk about it in front of people in your faith community, something is wrong. This means you’ve gone father than you should, or the person doesn’t believe what you believe, or you’re one person with your boyfriend or girlfriend, and another in front of people in your church family.
Even if you aren’t Christian, this still holds. Now it is true that some of you have crazy parents 🙂 Some of you have parents who are unreasonable beyond what a teenager thinks is unreasonable. Even your parents’ friends have suggested they lighten up. Dating in the open in front of these types of parents will result in your being punished even if you are dating a saint. Others of you have parents who just let you do anything. If you were to tell them about your dating forays, they would be completely permissible no matter what. While that is convenient, it doesn’t protect your emotionally developing heart. It also doesn’t protect you from the physical consequences that can come with sex. Neither type of parenting is doing you much good when it comes to you dating.
For Christians who want to remain close to Jesus as they date, I’ve found there are a few things that can really help:
- Date someone who loves Jesus more than you do. It helps you grow and mature in your faith. You will both seek out opportunities to be together while serving the community. You will go to church services together. It makes it fun!
- Decide ahead of time why you’re dating, and make that clear. If you both know you’re going separate ways at the end of senior year, then don’t let yourselves become serious. You don’t plan to get married, so keep it light and fun. That way in the future if you do meet again, you actually are leaving open the possibility that you might date to marry each other.
- Keep it public; date in the open. The more you do where others can see you, the less irresistible temptation you face.
- Be friends with everyone, but be selective about dating. As followers of Christ we’re called to show love and respect to all people, no matter what they believe or how they live their life; Jesus was this way. However, when it comes to connecting yourself on an intimate level with someone, you must be very wary. You need to make sure they are strong in the same faith as you. Otherwise, no matter how good your intentions might be, you will find yourself less and less interested in Christ as you become more interested in your significant other. Hint: Your boyfriend or girlfriend should not be in competition for your heart with Jesus.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT