Tuesday, May 14, 2013

From Uterus to University - Putting the Brakes on Dates

This post will be controversial.  Okay, you have been warned.

I had my first "boyfriend" when I was in the fifth grade.  We even kissed one day after school. Fifth grade! By the time I was in junior high school, I had regular "make out" sessions with a guy who I was "dating".  My freshman year in high school, I lost my virginity.  I was fifteen years old!  Fifteen!!! In no way, shape or form was I ready for the emotional mess that I was making of my life.  I was dishonoring myself, my parents, and God.  Too young and immature to realize that "love" is not found in the backseat of a car or in the warm fuzzy feelings of holding hands walking down the school halls.

In my quest to love and be loved, I began a down hill spiral of dating guys, giving away more and more of myself emotionally and physically.  I was convinced that I needed a boyfriend to be a complete person.

My high school sweetheart and I were committed to each other.  I followed him to college, we lived together.  There was nothing left to the imagination. We dated for five years and vowed to be together forever.  "Forever" ended the summer before my senior year in college when he broke off our engagement. My life came crashing down around me.  I was broken.  I attempted for months after the break up to mend myself.  More guys, more loss. As I scraped and scrambled to pick up the pieces, I found that I did not even know who I was.  For years, I had received a large part of my identity from the guys I dated.  I did not know how to be alone.  I did not know who I was. I was twenty-two years old and utterly lost.

In the years that have followed, I have discovered my true self. I have learned tremendous lessons in love and self sacrifice by being a wife and mother.  I have also developed convictions as a parent about what is beneficial for our children.  Pete and I both feel like our life stories, the good and bad chapters can be used as teaching tools for us and our children.  We are not perfect and we know that our kids are not perfect, they make mistakes and they will continue to, but we are here to point them in the correct direction whenever possible.

Pete and I both feel strongly that our kids should not date until they are in college.  College?  Yes, college.  I know that this sounds radical, but it is our opinion that middle school and high school kids are not ready to date.  Let's face it, kids that age are hormonal.  They are naturally attracted to the opposite sex and that is normal, but why fuel the hormonal fire?  Most kids that age are not self-controlled or mature enough to handle a relationship with the opposite sex beyond a friendship.

So friendship is what we encourage. What more do they need from their peers at this age than to work on developing strong, solid friendships?  Isn't that important training ground for the future serious relationships that could lead to marriage?

Kids need to be able to grow, develop and discover who they are without getting lost in someone else.  Kids need to be able to concentrate on their spiritual, emotional, mental and social development, their family relationships, and their school work without the distraction of a boyfriend or girlfriend.

The way we see it, there will be plenty of time for our kids to date when they are ready.  College is a great place to start.  Although, I will say that waiting until at least the second semester of their freshman year in college seems to be a better time to date. That way, they have made it through the first semester adjustment period.  Even in college though, dating should be a carefully thought out endeavor, because really, if you are not ready for a commitment, then what is the point of getting into a romantic relationship?

I want to say that my parents raised me right.  They tried to instill sound moral values into me. The bottom line here is that we as parents can try to help our kids and try to give them the right tools to navigate life; however, our kids are going to make choices that are not the best from time to time.  Our hope that is that our kids will only make those mistakes from time to time and not all the time.

Two great resources on this subject are:  I Kissed Dating Goodbye  and When Boy Meets Girl by Joshua Harris.




  1. Thank you so much, Melissa! I am just entering "those" years... whew. So good to receive input like this from one is honest, vulnerable, humble and committed to making the hard decisions for their family's best.

  2. Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability. I didn't date until college and, although I was not spared from heartache, I was spared until I was emotionally and spiritually ready to handle that ache. I was, as you described, too busy exploring my interests and "killing it" academically in high school. In college, I went to dances with friends (who were boys) and in large groups. I was too busy enjoying relationships with guys and girls to pair off with someone. My senior year of college, I dated a couple of guys for short periods and am glad nothing came of the relationships because I met my husband-to-be in grad school.

    I remember clearly those feelings of desperation and longing for a boyfriend, though. I had great friends and some big time crushes, but few panned out. My bff's were both serial, serious daters. I walked through major heartache with them and, maybe, just maybe, learned some things in the process.

    I commend you and Pete for your stance and hold the same because of my experience. What I lived through as a teen and young adult was different that what you did, but the lessons learned were the same. We want so much more for our kids.

  3. I'd like to share my perspective as their daughter...it was not easy for me in high school when my friends around me who were Christians especially were dating. But looking back now I see how my maturity and self-confidence and spiritual discipline were not in a place where I was ready to handle a serious relationship with a boy ('cuz that's what they are at that age, NOT men). Now I did struggle with rebelling behind my parent's back so I did experience some of the heartache and unnecessary stress that I know they were trying to help me avoid. I know for some people high school relationships do work out and lead to lifelong commitments, but then again why the rush to start so soon when neither person is independent or stable? And as for the college part, I definitely think taking that 1st semester to establish who you are as an individual can be helpful, but hopefully that has been developing already up to that point as well. I think the biggest thing about the 1st semester is that for most, it is the 1st time really living away from home and becoming independent. It's a lot to navigate and adjust to and every adjustment needs careful attention and discipline, change should never be rushed. I have learned SO much and gone through a lot in one year since I began college and I already feel like a different person from last year. And I feel so much more grounded now and stable and ready to take on greater responsibilities. I certainly have not arrived, but no one ever does. But we do enter stages where when we have become faithful in smaller things, God brings gradually larger things he entrusts us with. I think the most important thing to remember in this and all areas of life decisions is that we should take every decision to the Lord because he knows each of us as we are uniquely wired and He is ready to guide each of us individually as He desires. I think it's so cool how we can share our stories and testimonies of God's work and lessons learned and gain insight from each other.

  4. Thank you Monique, Anne and Amanda for your comments. Amanda, Dad and I are so grateful that we can journey with you as you grow into the beautiful woman that you are becoming. It isn't always easy, is it? But it is always worth it. Love you!

  5. Melissa, our stories are nearly identical. I carry a lot of burdens as a result of starting down that road so early in life. It's something I warn my own kids, and the teens I work with about constantly. My teens do not date, but they do have good friends of both genders. I so appreciate those families of teens who are like-minded! The friendships from like-minded families provide an opportunity to practice manners, etiquette and learn to relate to the opposite gender without the pressure of a dating situation. I am so happy our teens are friends...and nothing more ;)

  6. Ah, Jen. You are a champion for teens! Thank God that you are using your life story to reach out to help others. Beauty from ashes...

  7. Hi there – if I may weigh in from a different angle of the same perspective…. I wholeheartedly agree with your beliefs regarding dating while in high school. Here’s my story (it may start out a bit hokey, but it will make sense in the end, I promise). Here goes… I was not one of the “cool kids” in high school, I was always the guy the pretty girls “just wanted to be friends” with, I did not have a high school sweetheart and I graduate high school a virgin. I suppose it all seemed harmless at the time, but the sad irony of it all was what I had built up in my mind regarding relationships and dating was beyond ridiculous. I had no idea what I wanted, nor would I have even known how to react in a situation that I so badly wanted. It wasn’t until college where I started actively dating and what an eye opening experience it was. Had I been in this type of situation years prior, I would have been absolutely clueless, perhaps even disrespectful as the desire to keep up with the cool and popular kids made me even more of a dork that I had come to realize. Though, I was very thankful I never had that chance to over-react or perhaps even disrespect a random young lady due to my 17 year old ego, hormones, libido or whatever you want to call it. And in a nod to your post, I was not ready for much of anything.
    After a few failed relationships, I began to search for who I was. I had a career, I had talent but I was lonely and lost. In 1999, my best friend got married, after being the best man and sanding by his side, I knew I did not want to be single – but I didn’t want to appear desperate. Fast forward 2 years… As they say, things happen for a reason and when you are least expecting it…so at the ripe old age of 28, when I met my lovely wife of almost 11 years I learned that I would believe in something else I never thought possible: love at first sight. We never rushed into anything, but I have always said “the first time I saw her smile, I knew it was forever.”
    So, I would have to say, I agree with you assessment that kids should not date until they are ready. Great post, I enjoyed reading.