Dating Debate: Should Teens Play the Field, or Date Exclusively?

Posted August 7, 2008 by

Photo of elisabeth

Remember the “Teen Pregnancy Pact” story back in June? Recently, EP reader Toni Vitanza weighed in with this comment on our blog about teens and dating. The question for our readers: Do you think it’s better for teens to date around, or is it OK for them to commit to one person? Don’t forget to post your opinion below!

I’m a middle-school parent/teacher, and I have a couple of observations I’d like to hear discussed. One is that we as parents too often encourage (subtly or overtly) our teens to date exclusively and at increasingly younger ages. A lot of folks just think it’s “cute” or they give in to their kids’ requests (demands? threats?) to allow it because it’s too hard to vet every boy or girl their child sees, and just easier to welcome one steady person into family events, etc. But I think this is a total mistake. “Dating” at ANY age, but especially for teens, should be “dating AROUND”….I was substituting in a computer research class for 8th graders this spring and they were researching the impact of the original Star Wars movie (1977). These kids know me well, and so I told them a story about how, when the movie came out, I was 16 and saw it three times in one weekend because I had accepted dates with three different boys for Friday night, Saturday afternoon and Saturday night. Of course, all three boys were dying to see the big hit movie and of course, I sat through it all three times for their sakes, since I really didn’t care, not wanting to rub it in that I was dating others, but with that fact UNDERSTOOD by all the boys involved and the other girls they might have been dating as well. I told the story to the class to illustrate how BIG the movie was, but the teachable moment was not about that at all. It was about what DATING is. What I was doing that weekend was not being promiscuous or trashy or untrue or unfair. IT’S called DATING. And my 8th graders were totally shocked at this. But what’s so shocking? That teens don’t tie themselves to each other in some kind of weird adolescent commitment scenario? Why do we encourage this? Why do we welcome our adolescent’s “boyfriends” and “girlfriends” to every family event? I’ve seen formal family portraits with the “boyfriends” of the teen daughters included. It’s boundary-breaking, big-time! It teaches our kids (especially our daughters) that you HAVE to have a PARTNER. You don’t! It doesn’t create an environment that says, “You have a long life, a lot of education ahead of you, a lot of dating, before you find the person you want to date steadily and only maybe eventually marry. Even then, marriage isn’t for everyone. Take your time. There’s no rush to commit.” Especially not at 15 or 16!!!

–Toni Vitanza

Now it’s your turn. Do you think it’s healthier for teens to play the field, or date one person exclusively? I’d love to hear from teens on this one, too!

About

Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

Popular on Empowering Parents

View Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Kirstine, Ont. Can Report

    I have a 15 yr. old son who is in a relationship with his first and only girlfriend He met a a year ago in his first year of high school. At the onset of their relationship he was constantly texting,online til all hour of the night in chat with her as well as on video cam which he borrowed from a friend and hooked up. She was sending him porn sights and verbally enticing him to check it out so they could try it out when they got together.
    This was his FIRST relationship so to him I guess he felt this is how Love goes and that everything is normal.
    My husband and I did confront him and have also discussed the relationship with the girls parents, who felt the secretive aspect of their teenage daughter was just a stage…..It is not a stage..kids at this age do have secrets over and all the secrets are with reasons We have not told him to end the relationship as we feel this will just make him fight more to keep it going on behind our back however this is not a health relationship for them or for us as a family. We did however remove his cell phone and his computer and all other electronic communication devices. His grades at school were falling and his social network of friends declined. All he wants to do is see her and tries constantly to arrange opportunities to go out to meet her. Obviously he knows he can have his way with her and is not interested in seeing or meeting anyone else when he is having sex offered to him regularly by her.
    I think too many parents like to think that their kids are not involved in teen sex but the electronic age as made EVERYTHING accessable to them and it makes it almost impossible to know where your kids are and what they are REALLY doing these days. I just want to let other parents know that secretive is a sign that you should be investigating and not assuming it is a stage.
    The more guidelines and rules you set down and follow the more you are likely to have either your son or daughter realize you do care about them.
    For us the rules and guidelines came a bit too late and now we are on a rough road to correct the damage and to set him back onto a path of success for himself. At the moment all he wants is to hang out with her and he truly believes he is in love. He does not care about school other than to see her and be with her. I have been informed that their interaction in the halls at school is embarassing to others but to them it is a display of status. Sad really to think that niether has enough respect for themself; but that seems to be how how media has portrayed power and success among youth to be guaged only by sex and once they have it they don’t want to let go. This is NOT dating! It is just children playing sex games and “thinking” they’re all grown up and mimmicking the media they watch and because they are not mature they do not know what LOVE is and sadly some of them will Never know! They are just too busy playing their secret games to allow themselves to experience life and grow up.

    Reply
  2. intothemystic Report

    I agree with Jessie. My parents didn’t really acknowledge that I was entering into a “dating” scene or even the fact that I could be around hanging out with boys. So, I did it behind their backs. And I so wish, they would have acknowledged it and supported it. When I say support, I mean talk/walk me through it. It could have avoided so many things and many fights. Obviously, they caught on. Then they set the ground rules. One, they must meet the boy. But, at the same time, that made it so serious and most of the time, I never wanted to be serious. So my advice: set the ground rules early and acknowledge the fact that they’ll be hanging around with the opposite sex (whether they want to or not…it may be a friend who brings them into that situation). This is usually around 7th grade…so 13-14 years old.

    I guess you can I started dating around in high school. I started dating exclusivly when I was about 16-17 years old to an older guy. But at the time, I was pretty mature for my age. That was my first boyfriend and he was very respectful of me and my parents. But, I knew our lives were heading in different directions, and I still had a lot of figuring out to do. I went most of college without a boyfriend and I’m very glad I did. I had more time to figure out who I was and who I wanted to be and I have the best girlfriends a girl could ever ask for. On the other hand, I know girls who HAVE to have a boyfriend. They’re just more dependent. However, in my opinion, they seem to be the girls who are more insecure and unhappy.

    My advice, tell your young adults to put yourself first. When I say that, I mean, be self-responsible, do things for yourself. Find what you love, love what you find. You’ll find someone when you find what you love.

    Reply
  3. Jessie Report

    While I am of the opinion that 12 – 13 years old is a bit young for dating, I think in this day and age it’s something that every parent needs to prepare for because if you don’t acknowledge it, it’s just going to happen behind your back. That being said, I really think it’s up to the teen to decide on what they want to do though I do believe that it is a good age for teens to play the field so that they can understand what type of person they are seeking. Getting too serious at a young age can really lead to major heart ache down the road as both people mature leading to the possibility of a difference in likes/dislikes.

    Reply
  4. Jeana9 Report

    I agree with most comments that dating should not be exclusive but, think about it there gonna date exclusively any way if they rely want to

    Reply
  5. Marlene Report

    Although I believe that it would be best for girls to date a variety of different boys without making a committment when they are in high school, as a high school teacher I know that the girls who “date around” get a bad reputation whether it is deserved or not. Even though on average more than half of the students graduating high school each are virgins, students tend to believe that everyone else is having sex. Because of this belief, the girls who date around are assumed to be sleeping around and the boys rather expect them to do so.

    My 16 year old daughter has not started dating yet, but I pray daily that she will meet and date a boy of good character and morals. If that happens, I will be quite happy to have her date him exclusively.

    Reply
  6. Lee Report

    I wish I’d read this a year ago! My 14 year old daughter started dating a boy in her class (she was 13 when they met) and my thought was , “Well she’ll have to navigate this eventually.” I knew very little about him, but that he liked to play video games and that’s about it! She, on the other hand is a talented flute player in both Jazz and regular band and an A/B student who had shown much maturity in picking a nice group of girlfriends.
    As time passed she would ask if he could come over for the afternoon/stay for dinner/come to the movies/go over his house…always supervised mind you. I thought it was a good way to get to know him and I was right. The smooching started soon after that and then I started hearing comments he’d make under his breath about wanting me to leave the room (who’d want a parent to witness the kissing). He’d also deliberately NOT call his Dad to pick him up when I told him it was time to leave! I finally told her that her Dad and I didn’t approve of them just hanging around surfing you tube and sitting on the couch, and was not happy with his defiant behavior, but nothing changed. I started trying to limit the # of times he’d come over, and would hear “What’s wrong with him, you don’t like him” I’d read their aim convos to get more of a picture (absolutely no sex or discussion about it, as a matter of fact they talked about how it was gross), but I noticed a references to the fact that he didn’t like people and no one liked him…and a lot of disparaging talk about politics esp. minorities not deserving or living off the government, Obama and his awful socialist/communist ideas, we’re all going to die if we leave Iraq because the terrorists will kill us, I hate democrats..and on and on. He also stood in front of my door told me not to say hi to his Mom because “she’s not a chatty person and she hates people!! Paranoid, negative, and intolerant views to say the least. She’d never agree w/him on these issues, just try to change the subject. So, he’d get in a bad mood maybe once week and she’d be so upset about it and spend hours trying to cheer him up, and after the election he completely snubbed her that day and again she’d spend hours trying to make him come around. Well, talk about getting the cat back in the bag, I’d finally had it when I commented on my daughter’s suddenly/overnight negative politcal blog post and he rebutted calling me a moron and was very rude !! We are appalled at how he manipulated her and how she’s allowed it and I’m now certain that she’s way too immature in judgement and emotion to have let herself get caught up in this. Thank goodness her grades haven’t suffered, but she has wasted far too much time on aim and on the phone with him. It is not enriching her life to focus on this relationship! We are now dealing with trying to scale this WAY back and even end it, but she’s insistent that she loves him. She was in tears when I told her we’ve had it. Is this the typical 14 girl year old attracted to the “dark loser”?
    Do we say we made a mistake to allow her to date at 13/14? My husband says, “No more!”

    Reply
  7. sandra Report

    I think it is great that your daughter has found out that she seeks a boy with christian beliefs instead of the thrill seeking typical teenage boy.
    BUT by all means, this is a man you are talking about not a kid! Just tell her she will find someone with these same values, but much closer to her own age when God is ready for her to meet that person. I would not let my daughter date him, but, I would praise her for seeking a christian person to date. This man your daughter is talking to is taking a chance on going to jail for sexual assault if he becomes intimate with her. Remember your daughter is a minor and he is considered an adult.

    Reply
  8. S needs help! Report

    I have a beautiful 15 year old that is a great student, athletic, active in our church and has always had alot of male friends. She Also has alot of girl friends. Recently she met a guy through some people – very normal, and he asked someone for her number. (he did not know her age) They started texting and talking, and he said he loved talking to her because she wasn’t fake and he thought she was as beautiful on the inside as on the outside. He is very religious and has been on alot of mission trips, does not drink, or smoke and my daughter thinks he is perfect. She has just started High School and is finding out that alot of the boys have started drinking and most of the older ones already do. Some even do drugs. She has told me about this and is really feeling let down that all the boys her age are starting to drink. She has always thought they were different. The problem is she (and I) found out that mr. perfect is 20 years old! At first she said he was like having her own personal preacher! She said he gives her great advise on how to handle situations and how to deal with boys. This was the first week or so. I told her he was too old for her to talk to and that something must be wrong with him to be talking to a 15 year old! I read her text’s everytime I could and talked to her about him alot. It has now been a month and he is still around, he now wants to come over and hang out with her…. I figured he would just go away, she is 15!! He is 20!! He did say in a text that he has a hard time believing she is only 15. They talk about the bible, god, missions he’s gone on and just everyday stuff. He plays music at his church and really does sound like a great guy! I have met him one time, the time she met him. He works at a local restaurant. I would not have thought he was 20! HelP! She has always thought older guys were scary, and harry, and not something she was interested in. Now she actually told me, “maybe there is a reason I met him, he will only be 24 when I get out of High School”…..He is leaving for Hawaii in November and will be back July or August. She will turn 16 in September and has asked if she can DATE him then! (She is not allowed to date till she is 16) She is thinking way ahead….. He seems to really like her for some reason, I feel he does not know the real “15” year old her. I do not know if I should have him over and let him really get to know her, – maybe he will go away…. Or just forbid her to talk to him anymore…. we have always had a good relationship and she is a good person, but I don’t think she would take that very well… HELP!

    Reply
  9. toni vitanza Report

    A couple of suggs. for Tammy…this from the mom of a 15 yo boy who gets plenty of attn. from girls, appropriate (some) and inappropriate (a lot). I’m also a middle-school substitute teacher for 22 yrs. I grew up in a small town and my son is doing the same. I’ve seen relatives in small towns deal w serious problems (sneaking out, promiscuity, shoplifting, bad grades, etc.) that have to do with kids just not having enough to do, being under-stimulated and being too much under the small-town microscope, not having opportunities afforded in larger schools/towns (advanced coursework, fine arts, etc.) and really believing that their small-town, small-world existence is the only one worth living and what they’re slated for, and that there’s nothing else out there worth delaying marriage for. Here’s what I say: KEEP THOSE GIRLS BUSY. I have mixed feelings about Boy Scouts, (don’t like their homophobia and insistence on monotheistic religious belief) but the Girl Scouts are way under-utilized. Start a troop if you don’t have one. You have a girlcentric home; take advantage of that. Those girls need real hobbies (and “boys” and “talking on the phone” and “facebook” don’t count) and interests. They need charity work, esp. working with women who have maybe not made the best choices and the kids who suffer because of it. They need to be challenged in school; if they make good grades w/o too much work, then get them in honors classes where their time will be taken up with a little more studying. (My son helps volunteer in local political campaigns. Maybe he will be like the 17 yo delegate at the Democratic Convention, who knows.) Have a conscious idea of collecting things with your daughters…not Beanie Babies…but SKILLS and EXPERIENCES. Start a garden, learn to can vegetables, change the oil in your car, sew on a button; they need to know how to do things instead of assuming a man will do them. Invite their female friends and classmates. Make a list: 20 Things To Do Before You’re 15. Then start on the list. I would also suggest travel (if you can) or at least focusing on places and lifestyles vastly different from your own. Encourage them to read biographies of famous women, especially ones who didnt get famous for being married to or mother of a famous man. For every one-page book report, give them a reward. Make that reward temporal (your time) rather than monetary (something you buy or provide). For every “Seventeen” there should be a National Geographic Travel or Time on the coffee table. Stop emphasizing how pretty they are and tell them how smart or resourceful they are. Praise their talents; if she’s good at art, take her to a museum, study a female artist, check out a book from the library about art. Expose them to successful women who delayed marriage/parenthood or decided against it altogether. Make them clearly aware that they have choices, but that having a steady boyfriend at 12 is not going to be one of them. Your ex will not think that boyfriend is so cute when your daughter is pregnant, or too dependent/afraid to be away from him to attend an event without him, or has lost her sense of herself and her future without him. And haven’t we all seen that?

    Reply
  10. Tammy Report

    I agree with the thought that our teems and even pre-teens are taking this whole boyfriend/girlfriend thing way to serious. I have 3 girls ages 17, 12, 10 and I have made it very clear that you should not tie yourself down to just one person while still growing up yourself. I refuse to let my 12 and 10 year old girls have a boyfriend and they just don’t understand how mom can be so mean when daddy thinks it is ok.(we are a split family of course) They say but mom everyone has a boyfriend. I just believe that their time is better spent doing other things rather than hanging out with a guy and getting involved in situations that they are not ready nor equiped to deal with physcally but more important not emotionaly ready for. If there are any other parents out there with this same view please write and let me know how I can explain it better to them so that it is not a constant fight. Thank You

    Reply
  11. Shelley G Report

    I believe that the problem being discussed here lands solidly in the relationship shared between FATHER, MOTHER and CHILD! I relate it to that of driving a car to my 13 yr old daughter. Too much gas will take you off the side of a cliff and not enough will get you run over. My parents were overly “religous” (lacking a personal relationship of faith with God)and strict, so I rebelled and moved out of the house at 15 for good. So far, we are succeeding at keeping the lines of communication wide open with our daughter. We are careful to let the rope out a little at a time (much harder to get the cat back in the bag) and explain why she would want to make these kind of choices. We’ve encouraged her to make us the scapegoat if necessary. She isn’t allowed to date, or be dropped off unchaperoned with other teens yet (movies and the mall requires a parent still). We’ve set lots of limits but made them all very fair and age-appropriate. We discuss how there will be a time to date and it will be at a later age so that both (girl and boy) will be mature enough to “care” for the others feelings. We talk a lot about how the most admired girls are always the ones you can’t quite catch. She “gets it” mostly and is on board so far with the plan. We also encourage her to choose her girlfriends very carefully at this point too because you will be know your child by who they associate with! We always have our little moments, but errors are always encouraged because they are the way we grow most of the time…the key is how we handle our mistakes that accounts for character. There is no hard and fast age to marry in my opinion. I married my husband and father of my three children 18 years ago (I was 24 and he was 28) it’s been an uphill battle ever since…but the best thing I’ve ever done. He is an awesome guy and he’s lucky to have a wife like myself who “cares” for his feelings deeply. As I said earlier…it’s what we do when we fall that defines our future. My husband and I are committed to our marital happiness and our families legacy so we keep growing and moving forward. I hope this will inspire our children to choose carefully, set boundaries and love deeply! God Bless every parent on this blog for doing the best job they know how – do yourself two of the biggest favors – pray WITH them and don’t bury your head in the sand. They need a parent NOT A FRIEND!

    Reply
  12. April A. Black Report

    Maybe I’m old school, but I think that 12 and 13 year-olds are way too young for dating. A chaperoned movie or arcade trip with parents
    is fine. Middle School kids start way to young with “Going Steady” In my day at High School “Going Steady” was for high school seniors that were very serous and many times in sexual relationships with their “Steady.”
    Kids today are rushed through their childhood
    and often times grow up way too soon because of today’s societal pressures. My son is 13 and has crushes on girls, but I advise him to hang out in large groups of guys and girls where there is no pressure to pair off. Maybe if more kids were encourgaged to do this perhaps there would less pregnant 15 year-olds.
    Just ramblings of an old foggy.

    Reply
  13. Lynda Willis Report

    Have any of you ever heard of courtship. I realize it is a foreign concept, but I believe it is God’s plan for all children. Where did dating come from? I think that it is from Satan. How much pain, heartbreak, disease, and unplanned pregnancy must young girls and boys suffer through before we see the error of this modern tragedy? You can find books about courtship and learn about protecting your children. It is up to the parents to train their children in the ways of God that lead to eternal life.

    Reply
  14. Kelly J Report

    Hi
    I have a 16 yr old daughter who has lived with her father since 14 (not by my choice). She “dated” around and I had great concerns that she was being very promiscuous. She currently has one boyfriend and she has admitted to me that she is having sex with him. She is currently on bc pills. I have struggled with this decision: date around or not. First, I dont know how much control we as parents can really have over their choice. I have a nephew who grew up in a very religious family where he was forbidden to have a girlfriend and still managed to do it secretly.
    Secondly, I think whether they decide to stay single or get attached seems to be somewhat personality based. My daughter (through her dating) has been looking for a boy to “settle down” with. She is more of an introvert, few girlfriends, gets emotionally attached etc. I was and am that type of person. I did not date around as a teen but had one boyfriend for a long time when that ended I found another one to be with for a long time. However I had girlfriends who where just the opposite.
    Anyway, I guess what I am saying is that as much as we might like to influence our children the best that we can, I think that they are ultimately going to do what they want and what they feel they need to do and like it or not, we need to accept that.
    As far as my opinion in the matter, I think there are pros and cons either way. I myself met my husband at 19, married at 21 and divorced 23 years later. I made a bad choice, hadnt really grown into who I was going to be. Looking back, I would advise kids these days that if you are going to hook up for awhile, don’t marry until you are over 30. (dating around or going steady) Too many changes occur inside of you through your 20’s and 30’s to really make a good decision that is going to last a lifetime. There are a few lucky ones but its rare. I am 50 now and remarried (went steady for four years before committing) Some things never change. However, my eyes are open wider and I know myself better, what I want in a relationship and understand the different wiring between men and women. All things that teens regardless of dating around or hooking up dont understand and probably wont understand until they become much more mature with age and worldly experience.

    Reply
  15. Robert Report

    My heart goes out to kids – they mature physically much earlier and are then thrown into a hyper sexual world in school and the media (I am a high school teacher and parent of 2 – and grandparent of 1). Both my boys (and I myself come to think of it) found their wifes at the age of 25.

    I waited for marriage for sex and one of them did. There was so much pressure on the other – from “Christian” girls at church to be sexually active.

    I wish we could arrange marriages – we could cultivate relationships by doing family things with other families that have kids the same age as ours and whose parents we know. That wouldn’t have prevented the sexual temptation for my son – but what if they married at the age most people have throughout history and Bible times: late teens. When a 14 year old is told he will have to wait until after college for intimacy – well most of them give up – it’s too long and we seem to be doing it not for moral reasons but to have them finish college (MONEY REASONS!).

    Consider encouraging and even financially supporting younger age marriages. If they know they only have to wait a couple of years and they are married in college it can protect them from a lot of dangers. (the statistics on Christian youth are not much different from non Christian – most will have sex outside marriage if they wait until after college to marry)

    Work on teaching youth (and modeling) commitment – character and commitments is the glue that will hold marriages together (along with counseling) when there is no earthly glue left.

    THere also seems to be a biologic bonding that goes on at a younger age – if kids date around and are promiscuous that special bonding seems to be weakened. Think back to your first real “love” (and I agree – romantic love is not unconditional agape love). There is still a bond for most of us. We weren’t designed to date around. Certainly not to sleep around as so much of modern dating is. By the way if the stats are right that over 50% of teens have sex by the end of high school and not everyone dates – it’s probably 90% of those who date that are sexually active – the others weren’t able to but would have if they had a romantic friend.

    So for the reduction of disease and unwed pregnancies – consider earlier “encouraged” marriages with lots of counseling and monetary support so they don’t fail just because of the money issues. In Bible times they would inherit land and a house and were able to survive as a couple from the age of 16 or so. (Mary was probably 15 or 16 when she had Jesus)

    Reply
  16. Elisabeth Wilkins Report

    Hi, Everyone. Just thought I’d weigh in. I don’t have a teen-ager in the house yet, (and believe me, I’m glad for the lead-up to adolescence–I need all the training I can get before my son reaches 13!) but everything I’ve been hearing/reading points to the whole “friends with benefits” phenomenon. I thought the trend now was for teens and pre-teens not to date exclusively, but to treat sex very casually. (Check Judy B.’s comment at the top.) So my question is, how do you encourage your teen to date around while also warning them about the whole “friends with benefits” trap? Maybe this is a naive question on my part, but I’m curious to hear what parents of teens have to say about this one.

    Reply
  17. patti Report

    May I please address your comments.

    1. I do not consider unconditional love to be romantic love, I think more of agape love described in Corinthians. It has nothing to do with letting people walk on us. It is the ablilty to love a person and not what they do, which I believe is what Christ taught. Forgivness does not mean you will stand by and be mistreated again, its means you can forgive them for their behavior.and move on not harboring ill feelings.and most definetly does not mean you accept whatever treatment someone give you.,Something that I hope and pray I have instilled in my daughter.
    2. Marital success whether dating one man or one hundred the rate is over 50% divorces.
    3.Forgivness and longsuffering is not something you wait until you are 30 to learn, it is adapted to the age and the situations of which you are faced and how the person handles it.
    4.The one in millon comment was not made toward the individual it is the chances of meeting someone when you are 12 that you would marry.Certainly there are other people one could marry .
    5.If you read my post I said I could only pray that they were not sexually active. I am not naive, but I have tried to make sure that she knows that I would make sure she had acess to birthcontrol if she so chooses.
    6. My last comment was we have to pray for wisdom to raise the child God has given us. what works for one does not work for all.

    My daughter caught this post and said to tell you that she was havng fun, and not ruining her reputation as many of her friends have by dating all around. She is comfortable in her relationship and for her dating one guy at at time has worked. She dated another guy for a year and half..said she had good and bad memories but was glad to move on..

    and for me I fell in love with the first guy I ever dated at age 15, I dated around alot because he did not feel the same..I married at 19 to a 21 year old guy that I met when I was 17. My first love was killed shortly thereafer, do I regret marrying when I did, for many years I did..but 34 years later, we have weathered all kinds of storms, and I mean on both our parts, sometimes the only thing that kept us together was the word committment. Would I have been better off to have waited until I was 30 and dated a lots of men, who knows?? If I had to give a blanket answer about teens and dating around I would definetly say date around, but not everyone falls under the blanket.
    p.s. we were married 17 years before we had our daughter.

    Reply
  18. toni vitanza Report

    I’m not sure we should want our children to love and be loved “unconditionally” by a romantic partner. Unconditional love is one thing between a parent and child, or between a supreme being and a human. But I don’t love my husband (of 16 years)”unconditionally” and I don’t want him to love me that way. There are things a spouse of mine could do that would end my love for him pretty quickly, and I’ve definitely seen it happen to others. Haven’t we all? I don’t think my husband is going to do any of those things, but they exist. If I had a daughter, the very LAST thing I would want for her — at any age but esp. at 18 — is to think that she should love a young man “unconditionally.” I would want my daughter to have PLENTY of conditions for a relationship to continue. Maybe “dating around” doesn’t have much to do with marital success (and I don’t confuse marital success with happiness, btw, and I would really have to see those “statistics”) …but dating around for a few years — preferably without the steady always in the wings as a comfortable fall-back to forestall those inevitably painful solo spells when we grow the most — at least would mean that a person was older (better educated, more work experience, exposed to different types of potential partners, etc.) upon first marrying, and we all know that this would improve the chances of marital success. I question what in their young relationship has required anything like “long-suffering” or “forgiveness.” That bothers me. You talk about her possibly having “met her match” in a “one-in-a-million” scenario. But the problem is, it’s not like that. There probably ISN’T “the one” out there for everybody, as much as we like to think that. There are probably a good handful of people I met in my dating life (I married at 32) with whom I could have had a reasonably successful and rewarding marriage. And it’s not a “one-in-a-million” scenario…as exemplified by an earlier poster, way too many people pick somebody in the third grade, and there you have it. Not a lot of room for personal or interpersonal growth in terms of relationships. It sounds to me like you have a great kid and little to worry about, so who am I to say, but I would like to interject that just because you don’t KNOW they’re using birth control of some kind doesn’t mean they aren’t. I suspect you’re aware of this, but not everyone is; look on CNN if you want to see parents who are completely in the dark, and inclined to stay that way, about the reality of their child’s life. (I’m speaking of the Casey Anthony case, but there are plenty of others.) I have to support the comments of Jill Stewart; she is more the rule, I am afraid, than the exception, to the kind of end these sorts of prematurely committed relationships meet. Maybe not in divorce, but in lingering or subtle unhappiness, or lack of certainty about how life woulda/coulda/shoulda gone. I say, steer our kids away from this and toward a more open life in terms of dating.

    Reply
  19. patti rail Report

    Hello,
    My daughter almost 18, has never had many close friends, even though she is bright beautiful and independent.Girlfriends have never been a strong point with her. She has always seemed to get along better with boys. When she was in the 6th grade she had her first big crush. She is now a senior, her 6th grade crush has been her boyfriend off and on since then. She has dated others and so has he but they always seem to wind up back together. I agree with you, when they were younger it was ‘cute”, I have gone back and forth with the “rightness” of their relationship. I dont have an answer,Ive prayed for them, neither of them is interested in getting married anytime soon however the subject does come up as something in the future,”maybe” .Will college break them up? I dont know,this time they’ve dated excluviely for a year with one break up. Ive encouraged her to date others and she has and so has he. What I do observe in there realtionship especially on his part, is the bibical defination of love. Patience, kindness, not holding account of wrongs, and longsuffering and forgivenss. Would I prefer her to date around? At our age I think we would all say yes, but dating around does not mean that our marriages will work when we finally do get married, statisics show that. What I want most for my daughter is to learn to love others uncondionally and to experience being loved unconditionally not just in her relationship with him but in all. Maybe dating around will expose her to differnt types of people and as we say, see whos out there but if by some wild one in a millon chance she met her match in gradeschool then thats ok too..my daugher and her boyfriend, are great kids,she is gifted and talented, should graduate as salutatorian, will have enough college credits to graduate highschool as a college sophmore, works in a pharmacy, does not do drugs or party around. He’s been a state champion powerlifter, state recongnized line backer compete is dirtbike competitions and is going into firefigher training, as he is already volunteer fireman, and they both will graduate highschool this year. Has their relationship hindered thier maturing and enjoying life as teens, I dont think so. Am I concerned about sex? Of course, but Ive sat down and talked to both of them, so far they have chosen to not use birthcontrol..I can only pray that means they arent sexually active..my daugheter has girlfriends that use birthcontrol and believe me..they date around..so its not for just one guy. Please dont misunderstand me they are not perfect kids,sometimes I wished they both lived on different planets. I think it is impossible to say that what is right for one is right for all teens. All we can do as parents is pray for wisdom in raising the child God has given us.

    Reply
  20. Sheri Report

    I agree teens should not date exclusively. My oldest son dated a girl last year & it negatively affected his grades in school & his behavior at home. He acted like a totally different person. His girlfriend wanted to be with him as much as possible, which meant he had to meet her before school started in the mornings, after school & weekends. He even got in trouble for answering one of her text messages in class, which he wouldn’t normally do. I think exclusive dating in teens is too much for them to handle emotionally. I told him his relationship was more like a marriage and that he should date around until he gets out of college. He took my advice, and he’s slowly getting back to his old self again.

    Reply
  21. Jill Stewart Report

    I don’t think teens should date exclusively. I did and I have told my sons that this is a big mistake. I met my now ex-husband at 16, married him at 21, and divorced him at 39. If you date exclusively you miss out on a great experience, then later in life you may regret that. You learn a lot in those teen years and dating more than one person can teach you valuable lessons.

    Reply
  22. Jo Report

    Of course, it always depends on the person and the situation. When young people start to become obsessed with the opposite sex, it usually enters their lives by storm and takes over. It is followed by much discussion and comparisons with friends along with lots of gossip. These topics occupy most of the day and schoolwork is displaced. Attention is taken away from their own goals and instead become part of a negative pool of thoughts and behavior. They begin to quickly learn much of the outside world that they find intriging and fascinating. These influences get in the way of their school success and often lead to more disrepectful behavior since that is what music and movies also teach them.
    Be prepared when the first love, then heartbreak occurs. This is devastating for the young person and can consume their lives. I understand that love is part of life but it takes away from educational opportunities that could lead to many positive feelings about oneself. Dating is fine in small doses but young people don’t seem to do things lightly. They live in a very fast-paced world and need to slow down.

    Frustrated

    Reply
  23. toni vitanza Report

    This is in response to the first poster, Judy B…..One of my pet peeves at the school was girls who would write the name of their lastest crush/boyfriend/conquest, whatever….on their bodies and clothes. I vowed one day that the next time I saw this I would send the girl to the office. But since she hadn’t violated any rule, I really couldn’t do that. It’s so unladylike that this is hardly the word for it. I’ve told the girls that there isn’t a man alive worth carving a name into their bodies or clothes with a Magic Marker. And it’s a reflection on their school, for sure. If my daughter came home with some boy’s name written all over her hand or jeans or backpack, I would wonder just what those teachers WEREN’T keeping her busy with. I hope Judy saw my posting about the “young ladies” of the 8th grade who felt compelled to write the most surprising things in my son’s yearbook. So it doesn’t surprise me at all that girls are advertising their willingness, or their “skills”…

    Reply
  24. Judy B. in Philly Report

    I agree that kids shouldn’t be dating exclusively, but I’m also concerned about the lack of respect for themselves that teens seem to have. Last year, my sons told me that girls came to their highschool wearing different bracelets based on what they were willing to do sexually. I’m sure these girls felt like they were emancipated, but to me it just seems like they took 5 giant steps backwards into the dark ages…

    Reply

SEARCHING FOR SOLUTIONS TO DISRESPECT?

Join our NEW Total Transformation® Learning Center!

Practical, affordable parenting help starting at $14.95/month BECOME A MEMBER TODAY!

Empowering Parents is the leading online resource for child behavior help

150,000+

Parent Coaching Sessions

7.5 Million

Global Visitors

10+ Years

Helping Families