Dating is no trivial matter. So before you’re ready to focus on one particular person, you need to take time to study a very important “subject”—how to build friendships.
Before we go into how to build friendships, let’s understand what dating is and when to identify whether you are ready for it.
Before we answer what dating is, let’s ask your opinion about these scenarios below.
- You regularly go out with a certain member of the opposite sex. Are you dating?
- You and a member of the opposite sex are attracted to each other. Several times a day, you send text messages or talk to this person on the phone. Are you dating?
- Every time you get together with your friends, you pair off with the same person of the opposite sex. Are you dating?
You most likely had no problem answering the first question. But you may have paused before responding to the second and the third.
What exactly is dating?
Really, dating is any social activity in which your romantic interest is focused on one particular person and that person’s interest is focused on you. So the answer to all three questions is yes. Whether on the phone or face-to-face, in the open or in secret, if you and a friend of the opposite sex have a special romantic understanding and communicate regularly, it’s dating.
What is the purpose of dating?
Dating should have an honorable purpose—to help a young man and woman determine if they want to get married to each other.
Granted, some of your peers might take a casual view of dating. Perhaps they simply enjoy being with a special friend of the opposite sex, without any intention of marriage. Some might even view such a friend as little more than a trophy or an accessory to be seen within public to boost their own self-esteem.
Often, though, such shallow relationships are short-lived. “Many young ones who date break up with each other a week or two later,” says a girl named Heather. “They come to view relationships as transitory—which in a sense prepares them for divorce rather than for marriage.”
Clearly, when you date someone, you’re affecting that person’s feelings. So be sure your intentions are honorable.—Luke 6:31.
If you date with no intention of marriage, you are acting like a child who plays with a new toy and then discards it
Think about this: Would you like someone to play with your feelings as if they were some child’s toy—to be picked up for a moment and then quickly abandoned? Then don’t do that to someone else! The Bible says that love “does not behave indecently.”—1 Corinthians 13:4, 5.
A youth named Chelsea says: “Part of me wants to say that dating should be just for fun, but it’s no fun when one person is taking it seriously and the other isn’t.”
Tip: To prepare for dating and marriage, read 2 Peter 1:5-7 and pick one quality you need to work on. In a month’s time, see how much you have learned about—and improved in—that quality.
Am I old enough to date?
- At what age, do you think, is it appropriate for a youth to start dating?
- Now ask one of your parents the same question.
Chances are, your answer is different from that of your parent. Or maybe not! You might be among the many youths who are wisely putting off dating until they’re old enough to know themselves better.
That’s what Danielle, 17, decided to do. She says: “Thinking back two years ago, what I would have looked for in a potential mate was so different from what I would look for now. Basically, even at this point, I don’t trust myself to make such a decision. When I feel that my personality has been stable for a couple of years, then I’ll think about dating.”
There’s another reason why waiting is wise. The Bible uses the phrase “the bloom of youth” to describe the period of life when sexual feelings and romantic emotions first become strong. (1 Corinthians 7:36) To maintain a close association with one particular member of the opposite sex while you’re still in this phase can fan the flames of desire and lead to wrong conduct.
True, that might mean little to your peers. Many of them may be all too eager to experiment with sex. But you can —you must— rise above that kind of thinking! (Romans 12:2) After all, the Bible urges you to “flee from sexual immorality.” (1 Corinthians 6:18, New International Version) By waiting until you’re past the bloom of youth, you can “ward off calamity.”—Ecclesiastes 11:10.
Why wait to date?
Being pressured to date before you’re ready would be like being forced to take a final exam for a course that you’ve barely started. Obviously, that wouldn’t be fair! You need time to study your subject so that you can become familiar with the kind of problems you’ll face in the test.
It’s similar with dating.
In the meantime, you can enjoy the company of the opposite sex. What’s the best way to do so? Spend time together in properly supervised mixed groups. A girl named Tammy says: “I think it’s more fun that way. It’s better to have a lot of friends.” Monica agrees. “The group idea is a really good idea,” she says, “because you get to associate with people who have different personalities.”
In contrast, if you focus on one person too soon, you set yourself up for heartache. So take your time. Use this period of your life to learn how to cultivate and maintain friendships. Later, if you choose to date, you’ll have a better idea of who you are and what you need in a lifelong partner.