Monday, October 27, 2008

The Teen Dating Scene

Normally, we take questions from teenagers, but today we make an exception and take a question from a mother and her teen daughter. We're also doing things a little differently by having two authors of the answer.

Q: This is from me (a mom!) and my lovely 16-year-old daughter, who recently started away-school after being homeschooled from kindergarten until high school.

Mom says dating is for when a) you know you are called to the vocation of marriage and b) you are at a point in life when marriage is a possibility (say, late college-age, or at least when there is some spiritual and intellectual maturity and a job!). Dating is not a game, and is bad preparation for marriage to be constantly hooking up, getting romantic and/or intimate, then breaking up ... and going onto a new person. Modern dating was never envisioned by the Church, so there are no "rules" for it. But it's easy to see how harmful it is to be playing at love without looking for a person to spend the rest of your life with. So, at this age, I think having male friends is fine, going out in groups is fine, but "pairing off" is a bad idea. St. Francis de Sales says: "... if you hope to enter into a temporal marriage, guard jealously your first love for your first husband. In my opinion it is very deceitful to present him with a heart quite worn out, spoiled, and weary with love instead of a whole and sincere heart."

Daughter says she isn't going to get physically intimate with a guy, she just wants to have fun and see what its like to have a guy totally crushing on her. All her friends at school are dating. What's the big deal? Unless the Church comes out with some statement against dating, there is nothing wrong with it.

What's your take on this?

A: As a couple who has recently started dating, we would like to point out the seriousness of an intimate human relationship. There is great joy and pleasure in dating, but there is so much more than just feelings and fun. A relationship based solely off of feelings will only end in broken feelings.

Your daughter "wants to have fun and see what it's like to have a guy totally crushing on her," and this is normal. But the question is: is this an adequate reason to date a guy?

We say no. This way of doing things is totally unfair to both parties. Using a guy to get his attention and to "have fun" is just that, using a guy. She would be screwing with this guy's thoughts and feelings. Also, in a sense, deceiving him and betraying his trust. Isn't this simply using the way that he thinks and feels about her solely for self-pleasure?

What many young women don't realize is that solely seeking emotional closeness has the same addictive qualities as guys seeking physical pleasure. A woman can become addicted to an "emotional masturbation," enjoying the waves of pleasure coming not from physical stimulation (as it happens for guys) but from the emotional stimulation. If not guided spiritually, this will lead to a self-centered relationship with a long list of abuses.

To have a truly joyful and fun relationship, the spiritual aspects need to be set on a higher level than the physical and emotional. This can be done with maturity, prayer, and counsel. It is not something to be taken lightly, but something that needs to be respected and honored as sacred.

Kristina and Paul