Recently, I interviewed a few young men about the topic of dating. I enjoy talking to this age group and helping them open up on this delicate topic. Letting them share about their good and bad relationship experiences always surprises me. Men really do want to open up. One of the questions I asked these men was about the pressure to date. All of them shared that they did feel some pressure when they were younger, but as they grew older it depended more on how influenced they felt from their peers and the media.
In my opinion, the pressure to date can have an extremely negative impact on young men. I believe that young people are not ready to give away their hearts to another person until they more fully understand the purpose of marriage and relationships. Unfortunately, young people jump right into relationships and sexuality, which results in heartbreak. Still, a bad relationship experience is the factor that caused these men to be more careful about dating. One of these guys said it this way, “I had to learn the hard way!” How sad!
Why do young men and women feel such pressure to date? We tend to blame movies and the media for relationship problems in America, but the pressure to date can come from our friends and even our family.
Think about it. Have you heard someone close to you say...
“You’re not getting any younger!”
“When are you gonna give me some grandkids?”
“Who is your date for the prom? You’re going, right?”
“Did you guys hook up?”
“Are you two together?”
If you’re a teen and everyone in your peer group has started to date, you may feel that you have to as well. If you are not ready, however, dating can make you feel uncomfortable and unhappy especially if you find yourself breaking up after a week. Awkward! Most television programs aimed at teens feature numerous young couples. It can be hard to watch these and still feel like you shouldn’t be dating. Popular media makes teen dating out to be normal and often gives a false impression of what relationships are like.
Fast forward a few years and several relationships later. You may feel wounded or cold to the whole dating scene. Or worse, you may not value those you date and think that relationships are all about sex. Why not wait? When it comes to dating, we have it all wrong. Many young people think that when it comes to dating, it’s learn as you go. The problem is that if you have the wrong perspective on dating and the purpose of relationships, you will leave yourself open to mistakes and heartbreak. And heartbreak leads to emotional trauma. It can be a vicious cycle.
The young men I interviewed agreed on one thing--they should have waited until they were older to start dating. They felt that waiting would give them a clearer picture of the consequences of forming emotional attachments. They all agreed that either going out with girls as friends or going out on dates in groups was a much better option. The reason they didn’t try dating in this manner involved the status of having a girlfriend or not knowing about the options.
Another factor that these men agreed about was the purpose of dating. As they put it, I should date to get to know a person as a friend and to determine if that person is a potential marriage partner. The real purpose of dating is finding a mate for life. This is refreshing to hear in a time when casual sex is the norm on TV and in many high schools.
In my opinion, parents should be teaching their children about relationships from an early age. Discussing our own marriage story is a great start, but we as parents need to go further and teach our children about the type of commitment a typical marriage involves, how to get through conflicts, about sexuality, when to start dating, and how to find a marriage partner.