The last time I wrote on this subject, we learned the differences between two terms: “dating” and “courting”. At the end, I concluded two things- that the term doesn’t matter, and that they still need to focus on one thing- marriage.
It is now, several months later, that I realize the term does matter. The differences between dating and courting heavily seperate the two terms, and yet it is something many of us, including myself, do not fully understand.
Dating has become corrupted. Even the great Joshua Harris, glorified guru of the Christian dating industry, mis-defined dating. Actually, he didn’t define it at all. He simply said to “stop dating, start courting”. Yet again I find myself disagreeing with Mr. Harris, despite the fact that these words were uttered well over two decades ago.
Before we continue, let us define these terms in a more reasonable manner.
Dating: building a romantic relationship with a member of the opposite sex, operating under the cover of parents/parental figures and working towards the possibility of courtship.
Courting: building a romantic relationship with a member of the opposite sex, having already dated for a reasonable period of time, remaining under the covering of parents but including members of the church, and working towards the possibility of marriage.
This is a fairly broad definition, and a lot of people will disagree with me. That’s fine. Dating is often a more personal definition then everything else. Once again, I will reiterate what I stated in my last post on dating: so long as those around you know the meaning of the term (whichever definition you use), and your end goals, you will be fine.
Now, if you (like me), are looking forward to the period in your life during which you will be dating, then you should be using the term dating, not courting. Within this situation, when you are a younger person that is first starting to branch out and explore the possibilities of marriage with another, dating is the better term to use, especially if you wish to avoid confusion.
Some people, sadly, make the mistake of doing this too early. Freshmen or eight-graders date and try to excuse it, but I’ve heard it all.
“I’m only doing it for fun.”
“Maybe I will marry her.”
“Our relationship will last.”
“I want to branch out!”
Every single one of these responses has one thing in common- it really doesn’t matter. I see twelve-year-olds “dating” each other, and I become amused. When children “date”, it is nothing more than an expression of “romantic interest” and a mimicry of the culture around them. No Christian teenager should be dating before the age of sixteen, but the reason will not be found here. The reason was eloquently and perfectly written in an interview, published on the Circe Institute. The interview takes place between a man named Gibbs (possibly the student counselor) and a male high-school student that was, at the time, in a relationship.
The interview itself is massive, well over 3,000 words. Thus, I can’t post the full thing here. Instead, I will resort to quoting pieces of it from time to time. If you find yourself disagreeing with what I have already said, I encourage you to read it in full. You can do so by clicking here.
Again, I will say- no Christian high-schooler should be dating before the age of sixteen. The reasons are numerous, but they are, quite unfortunately, discarded by those in relationships before that age. They simply do not care. Within that situation, there is only one thing to be said: no teenager dating before the age of sixteen can give a good, valid reason to do so. There are reasons, of course. Again, I’ve heard them all. None of them, however, are valid nor legitimate.
As a Christian, we understand that the ultimate end goal for dating is marriage. If I were to date, right now, just before I turned 17, it would be because I think I have found someone that I could marry. Thankfully, I am not that foolish.
“Foolish?” You question.
Yes, foolish. The answer to that can be found within a piece to the post given above. Keep in mind: this is a discussion between two people: an adult, Gibbs, and a sixteen-year-old high school student with a girlfriend.
Student: What if we go to college together?
Gibbs: In order to go to the same college together, you will have to begin preparing to go to the same college together at the beginning of senior year. This means you will both have to make a monumental economic and geographical commitment to one another while still “getting to know one another.” That kind of thing makes the relationship incredibly top heavy. It means that you’re asking the other person to undertake marriage-level commitments to you, but without marriage-level rights or marriage-level oaths to govern your conduct toward one another. Very few relationships survive that kind of strain.
Student: So, if dating in high school is such a bad idea, I guess you have a pretty low opinion of people who do it.
Gibbs: No, that’s not true. It tends to be the more responsible, more diligent students who date in high school. The number of rebellious Romeos at ACCS schools is pretty low, as far as I can tell. Dating in high school, especially a private Christian high school, tends to require a little ambition, and given that ennui and sloth are besetting sins of this age, I have a hard time heavily faulting a student who is striving and reaching, even if I think they’re reaching a little too far. If I had to state a preference for student body issues, I would far rather sophomores who were dating than sophomores with smart phones or sophomores who play video games.
Student: So if I’m not dating, what should I do if I want to prepare for marriage?
Gibbs: Do your own laundry. Get a lousy job bagging groceries as soon as you can. Poke your head in the principal’s office once a week and say, “I have ten minutes and nothing to do. Do you need some chairs or tables moved around or something?” Don’t get a phone. You’ll have to get one when you’re an adult, but hold off as long as you can. Learn to cook something basic, hearty, and tasty, so you can give your mother the night off every now and again. Figure out which one of your teachers lives the best life and follow him around like a shadow, do everything he does, ask him what he thinks of birth control, taxes, NPR, something controversial. Feel free to annoy this teacher with your interest in his life and opinions. Do pointless tasks with your dad— he probably drives to the city dump once a week or something like that. Go with him. It doesn’t matter if you say anything. It’s enough to be there with him. He’ll say something. Learn one book of the Bible really well, probably Ecclesiastes or Proverbs or St. Matthew’s Gospel. When you watch movies, watch black and white movies. Learn a few old prayers by heart which you can say while you walk from one class to another. My favorite is, “I know, O Lord, that I justly deserve any punishment Thou mayest inflict upon me, for I have so often offended Thee and sinned against Thee in thought, word, and deed,” but I also like, “Not unto my judgment, nor unto my condemnation be my partaking of Thy holy mysteries, O Lord, but unto the healing of soul and body.”
The above paragraph is, without a doubt, the greatest advice a teenager can receive within the realm of dating. Of course, this doesn’t completely answer our question: why not date before sixteen? Let’s look at another piece of this discussion between Gibbs and our new favorite high-schooler.
Student: Very funny. Look, let me ask you one more thing— and I’m still not breaking up with her— but let me ask you one more thing. If God didn’t want teenagers involved in romances, then why does He inspire romantic feelings in teenage hearts?
Gibbs: A fine question. While God awakens the heart (and body) to the desire for romantic love, wisdom demands we learn to control those feelings, not be controlled by them. Man is made of the earth, and the earth must be subdued. A great many desires are natural, but we may not indulge them whenever and however we want. The desire for love emerges many years before it can reasonably (or legally) be satisfied, and the patience and self-control learned in those intervening years is, perhaps, the greatest preparation for marriage you can undertake. You might say that God inspires the desire for romantic love so early just so you can develop the necessary patience for marriage.
Student: But what about the few happy couples out there for whom none of what you’re saying is true? Are you saying that everyone out there who married after dating in high school is secretly miserable?
Gibbs: Absolutely not. I will gladly admit there are a few counterexamples to nearly everything I’ve said.
Gibbs left out something: the chances of a high-school relationship working out are extremely low.
High school sweethearts that get married while still teenagers only have a 54% chance of having their marriage last 10 years.
High school sweethearts that wait until at least the age of 25 to get married have a 10 year success rate of 78%.
Only 19% of people who marry their high school sweethearts attend college.
14% of couples had met in school.Brandon Gaille
The chances of high school sweethearts getting divorced are over twenty percent higher than the national average. So, quite literally, we can say that those who date before graduating from high school have a far higher chance to get divorced. Yes, it’s that simple.
The chances of high school sweethearts getting divorced are over twenty percent higher than the national average.Tweet
Alright, that’s all for now. We will continue to explore this topic next week, so be sure to watch out for a new post. If you haven’t already, make sure to also click that Follow button below (or to the side). That way, you’ll receive an email the second I release the post. Thanks again, and I hope you have a fantastic day!
Citation for the interview: Gibbs, Joshua. “What About Dating in High School?” Circe Institute, 24 January 2019, https://www.circeinstitute.org/blog/what-about-dating-high-school.
Gaille, Brandon. “21 High School Sweethearts Marriage Statistics.” Brandon Gaille, 19 May 2019, https://brandongaille.com/20-high-school-sweethearts-marriage-statistics/.
Last Post: A Recap of Kobe Bryant’s Memorial
Related Post: The Art of (Christian) Dating
Featured Post: What The Holiness of God Taught Us About Speech