Note – you may be the parents of a child and think this topic doesn’t pertain to you.  Let me encourage you, CHILDHOOD is the time to start coaching your kids on dating and relationships, when they are FAR in the future!!!

A few years ago I remember driving through the middle of the night from my childhood home in West Virginia to where I currently live in Florida.  It was somewhere around 4AM and everyone in the van was asleep but me.  I was groggy, but I was thinking about my family.  I started thinking about my oldest daughter, and how much I love her.  And then I started thinking about the fact that one day some boy was going to ask her out.  After a few minutes I noticed that I was gripping the steering wheel with white knuckles and my adrenaline was pumping so hard I started to get the jitters.  I imagined all of the ways I could physically harm this boy, and it was a bit therapeutic.

Sadly, I’m a youth pastor, so I can’t really beat up young boys and stay employed.  So I do the next best thing.  I try to brainwash every kid about the fallacies of our modern dating structure and the wisdom of a better way.

Among the 7,000 things that tend to go wrong in dating relationships, I think there’s a fundamental flaw at the bottom of the way our culture approaches dating.

Romans 12:9-10 says “let love be without hypocrisy.  Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.”  This is the opposite of the modern dating culture.

First off, the “love” is hypocritical.  People think that the best way to get to know someone is by dating them.  Unfortunately, most people are on there best (fake) behavior in the beginning parts of a relationship.  You don’t get to know the person, you get to know the caricature of the person, one who is pulling out every single stop to impress you.  It’s almost like two actors are going out.  By the time most people have really figured out who they are with, they’ve crossed some physical boundaries and the relationship has gotten much more complex.

This brings up my next issue.  Our dating culture doesn’t abhor what is evil and hold fast to the good.  It isolates the couple from other healthy relationships, amplifies this sense of physical and emotional possessiveness that makes people think that they “own” the other person even though there has been zero long term commitment.  The ownership of the other person’s time and emotions quickly leads to a sense of sexual ownership.  What’s next?  Compromise, broken hearts, and regret.

Finally, because the typical pattern of dating doesn’t start with a basis of friendship, there’s much less urgency to be devoted to one another in brotherly love or outdo one another in honor.  How many times have we heard “I could never date them, they’re too good of a friend”?  Why do we say that?  Often it’s because we value the friendship and don’t want to ruin it with a bad dating experience.  By default, though, this means that with the normal people we date we don’t value the friendship as much.  Which means we don’t protect them.

As a dad who made plenty of mistakes as a teenager, I offer these pieces of advice for parents to influence their kids (when it’s time for them to start dating)

  1. When it’s time for you to start dating, only date people that are already your friends.  Why?  Because this will make you be much more selective about dating, and you’ll not be willing to hurt your friend if you’re pretty confident that the long term relationship won’t work out.
  2. When it’s time for you to start dating, only date in groups, for a very long time.  Why?  Because there’s safety in numbers.  Because there’s much less pressure to be someone you’re not and do things you shouldn’t.  Because you should crave the wisdom and advice of your friends that can also get to know the other person and see how you are together.  Because if you’re in a group you’ll be much less likely to see daddy lurking in the background with a hammer in case the boy tries bad things.
  3. When it’s time for you to date, be clear that they don’t own you, your time, or your body.  Beyonce was only right about one thing ever.  “If you like it then you should’ve put a ring on it.”  Until that time, they’re just a boy or girl that you’re enjoying and growing in interest. But they don’t own you.  Be free.  Most of your life, you won’t be.
  4. When your’e analyzing who to be with, don’t think primarily about how well they treat you. Why?  Because if they like you, they’re going to be pulling out all of the stops to impress you.  You’re going to get a false impression of who they are.  Instead, look at how they treat the person from whom they have nothing to gain.  THIS is who they really are.  One day, they will treat you that way.

This is plenty for now.  Next week I’ll share some thoughts on coaching your kids about physical relationships.  Gulp.