Monday, June 11, 2012

High School Dating

More from the Bulletin Cover Archives . . . 


Boys are supposed to like girls.  Girls are supposed to like boys.  This is known as general attraction.  It only becomes a particular attraction when a young man or young woman enters a relationship with a person who has the potential of becoming their souse.  We do no favor to adolescents when we encourage and permit them to enter into romantic relationships too early or for purposes other than seeking a spouse.

In a recent conversation with teens I know rather well, I asked how long they thought an average high school couple waited before the relationship became sexual. Their answer: generally one month, not longer than three before sleeping together.  Other varieties of sexual expression begin even sooner.  I would like to believe that these answers are anecdotal and the result of locker room braggadocio, but experience in the confessional demonstrates that these teens are correct; the interval from the time a boy and a girl start “going out” until the time they have sex is very brief.  This fact reiterates an obvious truth: dating is for mating.  Unless your teenager is looking for a spouse, he or she should not be dating.

Popular media has done its best to convince us that “going out,” is necessary for healthy teens.  As a result, instead of virtuous friendships with members of the opposite sex, teens are entering into exclusive romantic relationships built upon a foundation of emotional and physical attraction.  The attraction is natural, but must be appropriately directed and expressed.  Such direction and expression can only be achieved through virtue and self-restraint.  Parents too often allow their kids to skip this step, and as a result, “feelings for one another,” generally remain precisely that – feelings.  And a feeling is a poor foundation for a good relationship.  Already a flimsy foundation, these feelings become more intense as the relationship progresses.  Because dating, by definition, permits certain physical expressions of feelings, the two parties almost immediately try to communicate their affection through kissing and sexual touching.  Unfortunately, if the two remain a “couple” for very long, their feelings will intensify, and they will desire to manifest them in a more intensely physical way.  Viola!  Three weeks later, they are in bed together.  Both use one another for emotional affirmation thus assuring that neither, upon the time of the nearly inevitable demise of the relationship, will be able to look to the other with any degree of respect or even as a friend ever again.  This sort of high school dating is as cute and harmless as C2 strapped to a suicide bomber’s chest.

So, if teens should not date, how can they learn to relate appropriately to persons of the opposite sex?  This learning should occur under the watchful tutelage of parents.  For instance, a young man might invite a girl he likes to share a meal with his family and join them for a family activity.  He might ask her to accompany his family to Mass.  He will most certainly ask permission of a girl’s father before doing any of these things.  Her father will insist on meeting the boy and perhaps his parents before giving permission.  Parents will permit their teens to attend events with other teens of the opposite sex only when they are in a public venue, or when they are supervised by adults that the parent knows and trusts.  Parents will set and enforce strict curfews.  They will check on their kids periodically, making phone calls to the child and supervising adult.  Parents might permit young people to have time alone on occasion, but only in the home of one or the other, only when a parent is present, and never in a bedroom.  Parents will insist that guests of their teenagers go home at a reasonable time.  Parents will forbid their child from bringing a person of the opposite sex into their home unless they are present, and they will forbid their children from going to an unsupervised home after school.  They will do all of this not because they are Puritanical tyrants, but because they love their children, and do not want them to become bitter, jaded, angry, and broken for the sake of a cute prom photograph.  If you want your child to be happy, emotionally mature, and prepared to truly enter into the demands of married life, do not let them date in high school. 

1 comment:

  1. I had a friend who was a serial dater in high school. She claimed it was good practice for marriage. I never dated in high school. Guess who's been married once and who's been married three times.


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