Why Teens Should Not Be Allowed to Date

Editor’s note: Recently at Acculturated, the issue of teen dating came up. Should teens be allowed to date or are they way too young to put themselves through the pleasure and pain of romantic relationships? Our two writers, Ashley McGuire and Amelia Rufer, weigh in with two provocative perspectives. 

In one episode of Friday Night Lights, Julie Taylor breaks down in her mother’s arms and asks, “How could he do this to me?” Julie is a high school girl who has broken up with a high school boy. They got way too serious, had sex, broke up when he went to college, and now she can’t understand why he would move on with his life.

This must be the most tired and familiar storyline in American households. It doesn’t have to be. Teenagers should not date. It’s that simple.

Think about the purpose of dating. It’s not just some fun thing people do. It’s going into dating with that mindset that takes a wrecking ball to the heart.

No, the most essential purpose of dating is to seek out and get to know a potential spouse. Sure dating also entails emotional and spiritual growth. But a big part of that growth is to prepare you to be a better spouse and parent. Life and nature have this pretty stubborn trajectory, and marriage and family is the direction we hurtle, whether we like it or not.

So let’s go back to teen dating. Pretty sure there is a broad consensus that teenagers should not get married. With the exception of maybe the Duggar family, people on both sides of the aisle tend to agree that men and women should be emotionally (and heck, physically) mature before they take lifelong vows, especially if those vows are to stand a chance of actually being life-long. Ok maybe the Duggars are a bad example because Josh Duggar (married son) actually seems like more of a man than your average 30 year-old. But I digress.

Heck, call me a bad social conservative, but I don’t even think women should get married until they are in their mid-twenties and have had a little time to experience some independence after college, which yes, I think they should attend. Unmarried.

The average female body doesn’t even stop growing until around the age of 25. And call me crazy, but it seems un-ideal for a woman to have a baby when her body is still growing and developing. And considering that babies are the natural result of marriage, well – it’s worth thinking about these things.

Okay so we all agree that we definitely don’t want teen pregnancy or teen marriage. Let’s work backwards to find out to prevent it.

Babies. People should not get married unless they are ready for them. Considering that half of all pregnancies are unplanned and that contraception has a 10-30 percent fail rate – even if you think you are going to thwart nature – be prepared for things to go otherwise. Who doesn’t know at least one newlywed couple that found themselves pregnant and surprised? We want people to be married when they have babies, it works out better for everyone. Which brings us to…

Marriage. People should not date unless they are ready to marry. Not ready to marry tomorrow, necessarily. But not entirely closed off to marriage or physically and emotionally unprepared to marry in the somewhat near future. Otherwise it’s just two people stringing each other along. Add in complete emotional immaturity and surging hormones, and I present you: Teen dating.

People often scoff at teen heartache as a youthful fancy. But teen heartache is the very worst kind. It’s often the result of intense intimacy minus the emotional maturity needed to process it all. It’s pure emotional and physical mayhem. (Good grief and we all went through this before Facebook.)

The data backs this up. A recent study at the University of Toronto found that people who got involved romantically at a young age were far more likely to have behavioral problems down the road. As the Wall Street Journal reported:

Entering into intimate relationships too early can leave teens ill-prepared to handle typical problems couples face and without the support of peers at the same stage of romantic development, researchers said. These experiences can increase the risk of unsafe sexual activity, alcohol use and delinquent behaviors, the study says. Late-starting daters, while also out of step with peers, appeared to have no apparent social or emotional difficulties.

Logic and data tell us that teen dating is bound for disaster. But our culture glamorizes and monetizes teen dating, whether it’s Victoria’s Secret’s trashy teen lingerie line or Glee. Teen dating is the ultimate set-up, the worst house of cards, the biggest emotional ponzi scheme.

But if we want to take a cut at the disturbingly high teen pregnancy rate, we could start by discouraging teenagers hardly able to control their sexual urges from dating and physical intimacy. And if we want to do something about teen angst and misery, we could try stopping them from getting into emotionally intimate relationships that are laced with mines and rigged to fail.

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  • noif

    Eh….that study points to problems with pre-teens dating.

    Funny to see that I’m right in the “on-time” sweet spot. I always thought I was way late to the dating game.

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  • Areyoudown

    This is the most unprofessional piece of garbage I have ever read. First of all, how far do you expect to get in this by using A TELEVISION SHOW, meant for ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES to support your claim? Not to mention you drifting away from the subject. You have made SOME decent points, the rest of which were you mentioning yourself, (when not much really care), and everything else was just you being an unfunny, unprofessional, excuse for a “writer”, or whatever you are. I hope you look at this garbage and realize how terrible and poorly it was made. Never write again.

    • Anonymous

      I know this is an older article (5 months ago), but I disagree with you; the author was professional. It seems like you are the teenager who wants to date, but found this article and is merely responding in an angry at the author’s opinions because of what you want. I find the use the tv show illustrates a common example of immature teenage relationships.

      I remember middle school. I remember 8th grade English class and the boy besides me asked me if I date. I used the logic this author uses. “No way! We are only 13. Since we are not going to get married, there is no point in us dating.” I thought of dating as a waste of my time because the purpose of dating is to find a spouse. Since I was too young to get married, there was absolutely no point in dating and I already knew my chances of my marrying my middle school boyfriend were slim to none. Of course, marrying your high school sweetheart does happen and I do realize that there is always the exception to the rule-
      at least one couple had a successful relationship in this world, but life as a teen is too unpredictable to have a successful happy loving relationship. What high school would you go to? What if your parents moved out of town? For these reasons, I agree with the author. Dating young sets up a relationship doomed for failure and heartbreak.

      Even worse, the relationship could result in an unplanned pregnancy if they become sexually active. Condoms have about a 18% average failure rate, which means that there is about a 1 in 5 chance that your daughter could become pregnant within 1 year of using condoms. This is like playing Russian roulette, where the benefits are few to none while the risks are very high. Also, most teen fathers will leave the teen mom. This demonstrates that most teen dads didn’t love their girlfriend at all. Eight out of 10 teen dads don’t marry their girlfriend. I wonder the result of the two teen dads that did marry their teenage girlfriend- if they married young, the relationship probably ended in divorce. Again, there are exceptions to the rule, but dating young sets up a relationship for failure.

      In today’s world, not everyone dates to find a spouse. Dating is “casual,” equated to simply as having a good time and some people date with no intention of ever marrying. I find that so sad because people are now simply an object to discard, not a person to be cherished. Dating and marriage are simply not taken as a serious life-long commitment as it deserves.

      I do disagree with the author on one point- about uncontrollable sexual urges. I do believe that teens can control their sexual urges because about 50 to an upwards of 59% of high-schoolers are virgins. This does mean the opposite, that a significant proportion of teens are also sexually active, but it is less than we tend to attribute as “common” knowledge, that knowledge that teens are promiscuous and absolutely out of control.