Every now and then I get a teenager looking to get dating advice out of me. Why they want dating advice from a single 26 year old, I’m not sure. My first initial response is to tell them to just leave boys/girls alone but when that doesn’t work (and it never does) I have to tactfully and humbly prepare them for these new life experiences
Entering the dating scene is undoubtedly one of the most awkward parts about being a teenager. It’s a lot like when a child first learns how to walk. They begin to experience new feelings and thoughts they have never dealt with before (and subsequently have no solutions for) towards the girls who not so long ago were “stupid” and “gross” or the boys who were “loud” and “annoying”.
They often need help interpreting their feelings as can be seen by the often humorous way they try to describe what they are feeling; “My heart felt warm” and “I just wanted to kiss her/him”. The reasons for liking the other person, which are often quite superficial, focus primarily on the physical qualities of the other person. I can’t tell you how many boys have told me they were “in love” with a girl who they have only seen with their eyes and not actually spent any significant amount of time with.
When teenagers first develop feelings towards the opposite sex they are in the beginning of a very long and complicated journey. This journey has numerous paths and outcomes ranging from marrying the person God intended you to be with to becoming completely numb and calloused towards the possibility of having a relationship at all. So what are some tips we as adults can give teens going into this phase of life? Here are three.
- Look for satisfaction in God not people. Teenagers (and many adults) need to know that we cannot expect another person to love us perfectly and heal our hurts. On some level the other person is looking for perfect love and healing too. We must point each other to the direction of Him whose love is perfect. A successful relationship is one in which both parties are fully dependent on God for satisfaction.
- You cannot harmlessly have sex with someone. Sex has certainly lost its place of sacredness in our culture. Our culture lies to our teenagers and says you can have sex without any consequences. According to the Bible having sexual relations with someone means you are bound to them, you are “one flesh.” Our culture says that doesn’t happen until documents are signed and even then the commitment isn’t binding because there are eager lawyers waiting to file for divorce on your behalf. They may be able to shred the documents. but they can’t separate what those two have given to each other spiritually. Helping teenagers understand that there is a spiritual aspect to their selves will help them to see how they affect themselves and others by the choices they make.
- Take time between relationships- I remember going to the doctor for what was a regular check-up, but it was around the time that I had just ended a relationship. The doctor asked how I had been doing so I told him about the situation and that I had been feeling down. After I told him, he asked if I wanted a prescription for an anti-depressant. I declined. I went through a hard time so I expected to be down for a little bit. The idea of wrestling with hard times is something we fear. Our culture tells us if you are not happy then something is wrong and you need to fix it immediately, but dealing with pain only causes us to further our dependence on God. We need to let teenagers know that it is normal and ok to feel sad and to not run away from these feelings and to not just turn to the next lover to try and fix it. By avoiding the necessary confession, repentance and healing of the deep emotional pain they suffered from previous relationships and jumping into the next relationship, they continue to carry the burdens of the past, often preventing them from finding success in their next relationship.