“Friendship is always a sweet responsibility, never an opportunity.”
~ Kahlil Gibran
Hanging out with friends (dating) is typical of teenagers. Everyone is aware of the shakiness that is part of a teen’s life caused by strong hormonal urges. This instability in the life of a teenager, trying to make sense of all the changes taking place in his/her life, does not make it an ideal period to date, though the urges are very strong in teenagers!
There is a growing attraction in teens towards the opposite sex. We are attracted to a person because of the pleasure he or she gives or for other practical purposes. If you are capable of respecting the boundaries of friendship, it is good to be friends with those of the opposite sex.
Make dating fruitful and life-oriented
As teens grow older and more mature, and achieve their basic goals like completion of education, making a career, etc., dating can be fruitful. In dating, the success mantra is how capable you are to set limits for yourself. True love waits and is capable of self-giving.
The purpose of dating is:
- To get to know the other person better.
- To establish healthy relationships.
- To make wise choices.
- To nurture companionship.
The need to get to know the other, to get to know his/her family and gain knowledge and to check necessary compatibility is the basic aim of dating. Through dating, some are able to find a suitable partner for marriage.
Marriage: A lifelong relationship
Marriage is a lifelong and demanding relationship, with love balancing amid tensions of every kind. Compatibility and maturity are the two major factors that need to be considered when marriage is contemplated, and these are learned in and through genuine friendships. Dating can become a part of preparation for marriage.
What does dating communicate to two teens who are serious about it? It will definitely give them opportunities to verify whether they are well-matched, can really get along well and whether either of them is mature enough to marry. A boy and a girl will not be alike in all things. The differences will be seen as a source of attraction rather than division. In married life, the couple enhances each other bringing into the relationship what the other lacks. This is possible only when they both agree on basic life attitudes and have a certain level of maturity. Couples have to build up a stable platform; thus the lesser differences can be turned into acceptable compromises.
Young people, before deciding to get married, need to consider the question of maturity. Maturity is a word loaded with meaning. A teen needs to take note of his/her and their partner’s maturity. One cannot just sign his/her whole life with a marriage partner who hardly knows himself or herself. Dating can help teens, to a certain extent, to enlarge their horizons together.
It is equally important to terminate an unhealthy relationship before things go beyond repair. Painful as it may be and difficult as it may seem, pick up the courage to say “No”. And say it at the right time.
Inner beauty is of prime importance
In a world where values are crumbling down at every moment, it is wise to give more importance to the core character or the inner beauty of the person. What is good looks, fashion, wealth and fame when compared to compassion, genuine love, and true humanity?
For many teenagers, love at first sight appears to be a bed of roses filled with great adventures. Besides having one’s feet on the ground, those who are dating should also keep their gaze fixed on the realities of life. So the question is: what about your compatibility when the excitement of love gives way to the routines of daily life? The most important task is to identify the major problem-generating areas that make any relationship difficult, like personal, family, religion, nationality, lifestyle, maturity, etc. Taking these into consideration is vital before a person moves into a lasting relationship.
Learning to strike a balance
Dating can provide teens with joy, and help them grow in a healthy way, accepting each other and getting to know each other’s compatibility and maturity. However, dating is risky when it leads to a too-soon marriage. It is good to remember that once a serious relationship gets initiated, it takes little or no effort to get more and more involved. Learning to strike the balance is difficult but important.
The significance of accompaniment
Accompaniment is a wise and loving process in which an adult will lead and guide you. Having a counsellor or an adult who can accompany you and your friend in the dating process may prove very helpful. I have known many teens who blossomed into maturity through dating under the guidance of wise counsellors. Such teens know how to grow in intimacy keeping sex exclusively for and after marriage. One cannot just sign his/her whole life with a marriage partner who hardly knows himself or herself. Guided dating will help teenagers to enlarge their horizons together.
Balancing your love
Loving a girl/boy is right, but one has to be careful and take time to talk to oneself. Is she/he causing you too much distraction? Can you concentrate on your studies and other responsibilities? Can you still make time for your parents and siblings? Are you aware of the consequences of early dating? These are certain facts that you may overlook, carried away with your love and friendship.
In our orientation programmes, we often tell young people about the challenges of having a home to accompany the partner, the need for a stable career, the need to get along with each other in the world of their intimate living, and above all, how they need to stay connected in the circle of love extending the bonds of caring love and friendship to their families and those around.
This can help you find time and wisdom to nurture lasting friendships. Finally, before you start dating, ask yourself again: Am I ready for dating? Is this relationship what I really want? Am I personally, psychologically, socially, intellectually, religiously and emotionally ready to bind myself to a person when I know so little of him or her, of my world and my future?
Here are a few tips that will stand you in good stead:
- Become other-centred. Build up the type of social life that permits you to meet and know different persons.
- Respect persons for what they are. Never take advantage of them. People are basically good and we need to treat each other with goodness and love.
- Learn the art of living with differences and never try to suppress them.
- Take time; don’t burn off your career and ruin your life or someone else’s.