Dating: Do we have to teach them?
What exactly does it mean to date? I looked up and found many definitions for the words date and dating. Besides the definition that talks about the fruit called a date, all the other definitions pointed to intentional time. If you are intentionally going out to spend quality time with someone, then it’s a date. I read all kinds of articles about how kids these days “talk”, then “hang out”, and then you make it “official”. I never understood the way kids think these days. My girls have rolled many an eye at me when I voiced, “If you kissed him he’s your boyfriend!” Why would I say that? Isn’t it obvious? Apparently not to today’s teens. If you are intentionally spending time with someone on dates to get to know someone, shouldn’t the next step be to commit to one another, as in declaring your relationship as boyfriend and girlfriend? I don’t really know where the kiss is supposed to fit in, but commitment is a big deal! So you go on dates, you commit to intentional time, then you decide whether or not this person will be someone I want to prioritize in my life and call them as my significant other.
Nadia is 18, and she is in her first year at college. She declared at the start of the school year that she wasn’t going to get into a relationship until after the first semester or this year at all. She wanted to focus on her classes and to meet new friends and try new things, like playing the guitar and rugby, and joining a mixed doubles tennis league. The intention was great, but what happens when you meet someone you feel you are connecting with on all the right things. Alex, 18, is also a first year student at that college. Their paths crossed when they both were touring the college their senior year. Then their paths crossed again when they were in the same preregistration class. And yet again, their paths crossed when they had a class together every day. Nadia thought he was out of her league, Alex felt the same about her. But after some lunches together between classes and spending time next to each other in class a friendship sparked. As their paths continued to cross during social activities set up by the college they started “talking”. There it is! “Talking”. Then they started “hanging out”, you know spending time together intentionally. So dating, if we want to get technical. Then he asked to take her on a date. Time for just the two of them. He had listened to all she would say and took mental notes (she likes sushi). Their first date was a nice dinner at a sushi restaurant with lots of talking and getting to know each other more personally. It wasn’t long, and they were dating and calling each other boyfriend and girlfriend. This all happened before the first semester was over. So much for waiting on love.
As I sat talking to Nadia on the phone many times, I would note her approach to this relationship, and take note here parents, it’s good stuff. Without her knowing it she allowed the relationship to flow. She didn’t get stuck on details, she didn’t get stuck on terms used by her peers like “talking” or “hanging out” she focused on the quality of the time that was being spent with Alex. It didn’t take long for the two of them to realize that they wanted to commit to prioritizing one another in their life and they committed! Kind of unusual for today’s teens. Intentional communication and commitment. The relationship is still very young. They are young. But, I like the commitment, I like the communication, and I like that they made it what it is...a relationship. When we call a relationship what it truly is, then committing isn’t a problem. What is the root of a good relationship? It’s Committing to spending intentional time together and communicating. Those of you who are married, I ask you, how is your time and communication with your spouse? Those of you who have children, I ask you how are you teaching your kids about communication and commitment in a relationship?
It’s quite simple how to help your kids to have good relationships when they start dating. You model it yourself. Your kids are watching. Go spend intentional time with your spouse. Verbally speak how important your spouse is to you to your children. Dad’s take your girls on dates. Let them see how being loved and adored looks and feels. Take her to her favorite restaurant. Let her express herself and give her praise. Mom’s take your boys on adventures. Notice I didn’t say dates. Boys do well shoulder to shoulder when it comes to conversation. Moms, on your adventures encourage your son to lead the activity and praise his amazing leadership.
If you are nay-saying my “old fashion” approach where I suggest that girls need to feel loved and boys need to lead and be respected I welcome you to read Dr. Emerson E. Eggerichs book Love & Respect, The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs. In his book he explains how God wired women and men differently. Ephesians 5:22 from the bible it says, “Nevertheless, let each individual among you also love his own wife even as himself; and let the wife see to it that she respect her husband.” Dr. Eggerichs findings are that above all women need to feel loved and men need to feel respected. Science and Scripture reveal the code about the two deepest values in marriage. Love and Respect. If your marriage is on the rocks I encourage you to read this book. If you don’t think that you have time to read it, wives try showing your husband respect and husbands try loving your wife using her love language and see how the experiment goes. Remember you both felt those all important things you feel when you fall in love. Go back to those things that made you love and respect each other. I have shown you how intentional time and communication are necessary for love to last. Take the time today to be intentional about your time with your spouse and be intentional about how you communicate (guys be loving, and gals pour on respect) and that will transfer to you being good stewards of passing on good relationship techniques to your children.