An Alternative Approach to Christian Teen Dating — The Better Mom

An Alternative Approach to Christian Teen Dating — The Better Mom

You know the rules for dating, right?

Group dates only, no one-on-one in high school.

Don’t even think about dating until you’re 16. Or 18. Or 21.

Don’t date until you’re ready to mate. The purpose of dating is to find a future spouse.

Have you heard those before? Chances are you’ve spoken those very same rules to your children. Or you lived them out personally in your own high school days. I get why.

The Purpose of Christian Teen Dating

The purpose of dating IS to find a future spouse. As Christians, marriage is to be honored. It’s a reflection of Christ’s relationship to the church; marriage matters! For that reason (and many more), casual hook-ups are never our goal—in high school or ever.

And yet. I believe we’ve placed such an emphasis on the “future spouse” part that we neglect to consider some other objectives or positive outcomes of dating. And what has resulted is a generation of kids who are delaying their first relationship, some of them into college or adulthood, then marrying the first person they date because that’s what they’ve been taught to do.

Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. Plenty of solid, godly marriages have resulted from that approach. And yet, it’s also not a guaranteed formula for success. In fact, some of my daughter’s friends have told me about a trend happening among young Christian couples today in which they’re so determined to follow the rules (no sex before marriage), they marry whomever they’re with just so they can have sex. They call this their “practice marriage.” Given that approximately a third of marriages in the church end in divorce, these kids figure they’ll just get divorced later if the relationship doesn’t work out.

Crazy, right?

I mean, since when did the command to wait for sex until marriage usurp the command to honor the marriage covenant?

The Christian Dating “Rules” Have Been Confused

But that’s the problem. Our teens and young adults today are hearing confusing messages. They’re applying biblical rules to worldly culture. And the “don’t date ‘til you’re ready to mate” message only further fuels the confusion. Here’s why.

  1. First, when young people are told their whole lives not to date and then they finally do get into a dating relationship, they feel a lot of pressure to “do it right”—the goal is marriage, after all—but they have no idea how. Because, for one thing, they’re total newbs. They’ve never done this before! Did you ride your bike in a straight line for miles the first time you ditched your training wheels? Probably not. And neither should we expect kids to handle dating like pros when the whole concept of selfless, romantic love is brand new.

  2. Secondly, consider that if that first relationship happens in college or beyond, guys and girls miss out on the opportunity to glean some guidance from Mom or Dad while everybody lives under the same roof. Is it better to date in high school? Not necessarily. But could it be a perk in some ways? Sure.

    When my daughter first showed interest in a relationship with a young man, his mom and I set boundaries and remained in constant communication with one another. We talked our kids through their crush and encouraged them to keep Christ at the center of their friendship. It was an amazing growth opportunity for our kids and for us as parents. We grew closer to our children as they shared their hearts with us, and we built communication lines that remain the foundation of our relationship with our teens.

  3. Finally, when the core message we send our kids is, “the only purpose of dating is to find a spouse,” they risk marrying the wrong person just because he or she was the first person they dated. Dating to find a spouse is ONE purpose of dating, for sure. It’s the biggest one. It’s the end goal.

I’d like to suggest there are some additional goals meanwhile. Such as…

  • Dating to learn more about who you are and who you’re compatible with.

  • Dating to discover your own shortcomings and how you can improve the way you view and treat a partner.

  • Dating to discern how you do or don’t deserve to be treated. What if your son or daughter’s first relationship is an abusive one, but they believe they’re supposed to “date to mate,” therefore they marry someone who treats them poorly and is never given a chance to discover that healthy relationships involve not harm but rather comfort, encouragement, and safety?

Alter the Dating Guidelines

I know in some Christian circles the idea that dating might have benefits beyond marriage is probably considered heresy. But those aren’t the circles I’m interested in joining. My children—and your children, too—are precious treasures, sons and daughters of the King. And finding a life partner is one of the biggest decisions they will make here on earth. I’d rather my kids view the process as a learning and growth opportunity versus a sprint to the finish line.

So yes, my daughters might date multiple boyfriends before they settle on a spouse. Or they might not. Either way, our guidelines are this: whomever you date, he must be of marriageable character. Meaning, he must love Jesus, exhibit honesty and integrity, champion you with a servant’s heart, and share your core values.

But the reality is, sometimes you can’t know that for sure—or which among the worthy is uniquely right for you—until you’ve tried them on for size.

So no, kids, don’t date to mate. Date to validate character, to learn who possesses the depth of faith and integrity worthy of your commitment, to discover how to die to self for the sake of another, and to grow closer to your Heavenly Father who will be your chaperone through it all. Then when you’ve reached an age of mature conviction and that special someone is revealed, ditch the dating altogether—because THAT one is a keeper.

Blessings,
Becky Kopitzke
Beckykopitzke.com

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