In today’s world, dating is treated as a recreational hobby. Many do it for fun or for sport, not really realizing the consequences early dating can bring. Many children begin dating as early as ten when their bodies begin to develop and emotions run high. While some view this as appropriate or even healthy, acting upon such emotions at such a young age is detrimental to growth and maturity.
So, to avoid a serious loss in growth and maturity, when should we start dating? Assuming you’ve read my post about Christian dating, you know what real, Christian dating is and what God created it for. You would also know that God calls us to only date when we are preparing for marriage. Of course, it’s very possible that the first person you date will not become your spouse. We are, after all, human and we do make mistakes. But, if the full intent of the pursuit of marriage still remains, the courtship is valid and holy in God’s eyes.
Granted, some courtships, even with the intent of marriage, become tainted and sinful. These are usually brought about by a lack of self-control, which can lead to all kinds of sexual or spiritual sin. This is a rather large topic, however, and we’ll talk more about this next week.
Now, since you know about all of that beginner stuff, let’s get into the nitty-gritty. A common, dating-related question revolves around age. Is there a specific age to start? The answer, while not entirely surprising, just might catch you off guard.
Instead of giving a specific age to begin dating, I will give you five criteria to consider before legitimately dating.
Guys, if you want to make a lasting impression, you need to have a little bit of money. Enough to take her out to Taco Bell or buy her roses on her birthday. Ladies, you need to have enough money to help pay for the bill, because some of us are cheapskates. Of course, this may be proven invalid if you are a rich kid or have a nice job. If that’s the case, then put that money towards more lasting pursuits, such as college, charities, church, or New Hope Uganda. Once you are in college, work a job, and have a little bit of money, then you are pretty much ready to start dating. Even then, however, you aren’t ready to support a family, which is why many wise Christians wait to date until they have finished college. Then, hopefully, they will have enough money to sustain a family.
Again, this is very debatable. Some irrational teens claim that they have the maturity needed to sustain a lasting relationship, but then contradict themselves when the relationship falls apart two months later and they are left single. Trust me, this is more common than you might think. The amount of growth and maturity needed to keep a relationship from falling to ruin is far more than most understand. But, upon entering college, the world is suddenly thrust on a teen’s shoulders, and they are forced to mature rapidly. Often, a teen will return home from their Freshman year at college as a totally different person, both mentally and spiritually. It is thus advisable for teens to wait until they are past their first year in college before dating.
3: Real-World Experience
Personally, my closest friends were completely boys until about eight months ago. For some sheltered teens, this may happen even later. Chances are, if you are a Christian homeschooler like me, you have absolutely no idea how to properly treat a lady. Your dad probably wants to teach you, but he’s either too busy or too embarrassed to actually guide you through the process. Many teens don’t enter close friendships with members of the opposite sex until their freshman year at college. There, they learn proper manners from their peers, both male and female.
Real-world experience is crucial in sustaining a meaningful relationship. The ability to lead your wife and shepherd your family partially relies on your experience in those areas. Sheltered men and women are far more likely to divorce than those who have experience and foreknowledge in this area.
4: Emotional Stability
If you are before the age of 17, you won’t be emotionally ready to handle a full relationship with members of the opposite sex. This applies mostly to ladies, who are wired as emotional beings. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not being sexist. It’s the truth, but there are obviously exceptions. Some ladies don’t react as emotionally as others. Some guys react more emotionally than their peers. But, for the most part, ladies are more emotionally wired then guys. Because of this, ladies find it very difficult to sustain romantic relationships before the age of nineteen.
If you’ve seen the blockbuster movie Incredibles 2, you probably remember that scene in which Violet, the teenager superhero and oldest daughter of the Parr family, is asked on a date by Tony, a popular guy at her school. Due to unfortunate circumstances, Tony is unable to attend the date and basically leaves Violet hanging. She returns home and spends the rest of the night crying and eating ice cream.
This is what I mean by “emotionally wired”. While a guy might be disappointed or annoyed by the loss of a date, ladies often take it personally. Again, this is a scientific fact, not sexism. You can find more information here and here. Now, because women are more emotional than men, they often find themselves feeling sad or depressed when confronted with the results of a failed relationship. Both sides, however, still retain a level of emotion. Both sides are very capable of becoming too emotionally attached to each other, only to break up after six months. This is, to quote Matt Winkler, “practice for divorce”. If you are dating before the age of seventeen, you are most likely practicing for divorce.
5: Spiritual Maturity
You won’t have the spiritual maturity needed to sustain a Godly relationship. Obviously, this doesn’t apply to non-believers. If you are reading this and you are not a Christian, feel free to skip this paragraph. If you are a Christian, this applies to you. Many Christians do not mature spiritually at a fast rate until they enter their Freshman year of college.
Spiritual maturity is described as “relationship with God”. In essence, many Christians do not progress in their relationships with God at a relevant rate until they are Freshmen in college. By relevance, I mean that they do not grow at a rate that will actually matter to their relationships until they are in their first year of college. Because of this, I would actually say that very few Christian guys are able to appropriately lead their girlfriends in a legitimate, healthy walk with the Lord before the age of eighteen or nineteen. This is a difficult statement for many to swallow, but one that has tried and found true. Again, there are exceptions to this- if a parent were to deem their child mature enough to lead or be lead in the proper way, then they are, of course, free to do as they please. This must be left to the parent’s judgment, provided that the parent actually knows what maturity entitles and how mature their child must be.
Note: All of these have exceptions. None of these reasons are overarching, set-in-stone rules that must be followed at all costs. If a teen is dating with the permission of a wise, Godly parent, then we assume this list does not apply to them in the way it does to the other readers.
Hopefully, by this point, you’ll have a set plan of when you want to date. Or, if you are a parent, you have a set plan of when you would like your child to date. At the very least, you have a general idea of the proper age for dating. As stated before, dating is a difficult subject to discuss, especially within the realm of Christianity. The subject is touchy at best, but this list is made up of the most open, honest, and Godly criteria possible.
To reiterate what I previously wrote- the list is different for everyone. Some may fit all boxes by the age of seventeen. Others may wait until 25. Yet, at the end of the day, it all comes down to this- how does God want you to walk? Are you trusting His plan, or trying to force something? Waiting may pay off in ways you never thought possible.
“At the end of the day, dating all comes down to this- how does God want you to walk? Are you trusting His plan, or trying to force something? Waiting may pay off in ways you never thought possible.”Tweet
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