When I was in middle school, my boyfriend broke up with me.
I handled it maturely – by hanging up on him and calling my friend in a rage. You see, I’d wanted to break up with him, but with our school dance a week away, I was waiting so I’d have a date.
My only defense was stupidity. I had no clue how to relate to the opposite sex. Over the next 10 years, I learned by trial and error, and though it all worked out because I married a great guy, I look back and realize how I could have saved myself some grief and embarrassment had I been a little smarter upfront.
Here are 10 dating truths for girls to know in a culture that presents a very distorted view of how romance should be.
1. No boy is meant to be your savior. Boys may be part of your universe, but they shouldn’t be the center of your universe.
Why? Because God designed you to center your life around Jesus. Unlike people, Jesus is perfect and unchanging. He’s an anchor for the soul. Anything you prioritize above Him is an idol, and sooner or later, idols let you down.
Girls often put boys on pedestals as they mistake infatuation for love. This sets you up for disappointment and puts unfair pressure on boys. It forces them into a role they’re not meant to play: to be a girl’s end-all, be-all everything.
Boys will come and go, but God is forever. Root your ultimate hope in Him, and you’ll still be standing strong when feelings or situations change.
2. Dating is about rejection. Keep your relationships innocent, and you’ll have an open door to future friendships. A priest once told me that dating is about rejection, and the purpose of dating is to find the 1 person you’re meant to marry.
This eases the sting of rejection. It’s a good reminder to keep your relationships innocent because it’s 99.99% guaranteed that any boy you date won’t be your husband.
With some boys, you’ll know immediately if you’re compatible. There may be one date – and that’s it. With other boys, you may have to dig deeper. It may take months to see the hidden qualities that aren’t readily apparent – like how he dismisses you when his friends are around or makes no effort to know your family.
A guy in the same community with two ex-girlfriends sees both of them because their kids are the same age. With one ex, he’s still good friends because their relationship was short and innocent. Their families can hang out together. With his second ex, he can’t interact like that because their relationship was heavy and sexual. Even 20 years later, the memories and awkwardness linger.
Treat any boy you date the same way that you hope some girl is treating your future husband – as his guardian and friend, not his lover.
3. You date (and marry) to your level of health. Many females feel so lonely that they’re willing to settle. They discount their value as they tell friends, “Set me up with somebody – anybody – I don’t care who.”
In the most popular NYT article in 2016, “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person”, Alain de Botton said this about loneliness: “No one can be in an optimal frame of mind to choose a partner when remaining single feels unbearable. We have to be wholly at peace with the prospect of many years of solitude in order to be appropriately picky; otherwise, we risk loving no longer being single rather more than we love the partner who spared us that fate.”
At any age, it’s better to be alone for the right reasons than with someone for the wrong ones. Too often, girls and women settle for bad relationships because 1) they don’t believe they deserve better, 2) they don’t see themselves as a gift, 3) they’re scared to be alone, 4) they’re overly attached to a guy, 5) they’re overly invested in the relationship, or 5) they’re insecure and don’t realize they were made for more.
But healthy relationships require respect and self-respect. Any relationship centered around the wrong things (i.e. physical attraction) will fail once the novelty wears off and someone sexier comes along. Boys can be predators or protectors, and while predators prey on girls who are vulnerable, protectors like girls who set a high bar for the boys they allow into their life.
Work on getting yourself in a good place – knowing your worth, rooting your identity in Christ, embracing your value as a child of God – and you’ll attract better guys. Water seeks its own level, and if you’re not in a healthy place or at a mature age, it’s not the time to date.
4. Where there’s smoke there’s fire. Trust your gut instincts. I once had a guy tell me, on a first date, that all guys cheat. He said it matter-of-factly, and I knew then that there would be no second date.
Some red flags are obvious, and some are covert. Either way, trust your intuition. Know that in the real world, you will encounter charmers, schmoozers, liars, cheaters, womanizers, manipulators, perverts, narcissists, and creeps. Any guy can be charming and disarming at first, so you need discernment and a keen radar.
In short, look for character. While no guy is perfect, guys with major character flaws – like lying or a bad temper – can wreck your life. Even the worst guys have good qualities, so don’t be fooled. Notice how a guy treats you and others (especially his mom and the wait staff in restaurants). Is he a gentleman? Does he get mad at guys who disrespect girls? Does he work hard and have humility? Does he make you a better person? Do you like his friends? Do your friends like him?
Never be scared to be firm with a boy or use your voice. If a situation feels unsafe, get out or seek help. Predators look for easy prey, and when it comes to protecting yourself, you can forget about being polite and focus on your safety.
5. Being single can be rich & rewarding. Chase your dreams, not boys. I know single women who are happier and more content than many married women.
Here’s what they have in common: 1) active, purpose-driven lives and 2) many friendships. They build people up and radiate joy. While many would love to meet the right guy, they’re not holding their breath waiting. Instead, they press forward to build a great life and use their God-given gifts.
A boy may be part of God’s plan for you, but he’ll never be The Plan. Being single gives you the time to work on your faith, your friendships, and your life calling. Rather than wish it away, use it wisely. Remember Saint Paul, often considered the most important person after Jesus in Christian history. Paul wrote over half the New Testament and spread the Gospel globally. Sure, he would’ve been a fantastic family man, but he could not have done his life-changing work to the same degree.
I often hear girls say they just want to get married and stay home to raise children. This is a great dream – it was my dream too – but nobody knows the future. Some girls won’t marry. Some girls who do will lose their husbands to death, illness, or divorce. Being able to support yourself and your family (if needed) is important. Believing you’re incapable, or that you need a guy for financial security, makes you more likely to settle and make poor dating decisions.
Chase your dreams and find fulfillment before a boy ever enters the picture. Create a life that makes the right guy think, “Wow, I really like her, and I want to be part of her world.”
6. You need good friends before and after you date. Your friends impact your lifestyle, and your lifestyle impacts the guys you meet and attract.
If your friendships are superficial – mostly about fun and going out – you’ll meet superficial guys. If your group considers substance abuse and hook-ups normal, you’ll have toxic friendships and romances. The company you keep matters and affects the direction your life takes.
Choose friends who are good souls, capable of deep, meaningful conversations. Create a circle that lifts you up, has strong values, and cares less about you dating the hottest guy in school, and more about how he treats you.
And if you fall for a guy, don’t neglect your friends. Don’t pour all your energy into the romance. Chances are, you and the boy will break up, and you’ll desperately need your friends again.
Many women who had serious high school boyfriends regret overinvesting in those relationships because it kept them from cultivating strong friendships and investing in themselves. Even if you find Mr. Right, you still need your peeps.
7. Today’s hook-up culture is the downfall of healthy relationships. Saint John Paul II said the opposite of love isn’t hate; it’s using people.
That’s the issue with the hook-up culture: It’s about using people for personal pleasure. Taking a sacred gift designed for marriage and devaluing it.
A girl who got caught up in the college hook-up culture explained it this way: “For girls, it’s like beating boys at their own game, using them more than they use you. You brag as a way of coping. Nobody gets tipsy at parties because you have to get hammered to survive it, and it’s degrading but you get used to it. Girls hook up because they want a chance at a relationship, yet the guys are so drunk they don’t even remember it the next morning. Girls tolerate it to stay relevant and social. It’s like being a mistress of the night.”
Eventually, she said, your body and emotions can’t take it. The excitement fades, and you end up feeling empty, guilty, regretful, angry, and used.
Sadly, we live in a culture that applauds meaningless hook-ups. Many girls participate because dating is so rare that hook-ups seem to be the only option. But with hook-ups, there is no intimacy, emotional connection, or courtship. There is no slow burn, the gradual growth of a flicker that turns into a flame.
God created girls and boys to enrich each other, not use each other. Only with mutual respect can you discover agape love, the highest form of love that is unconditional and unselfish.
8. Sex is a glue – and sex before marriage glues you to the wrong person. Dating isn’t the same as being married. There’s not the same commitment; there’s no promise made before God. Even the best guy can leave any time, declaring love on Monday and ending it on Tuesday.
God created sex as a glue for husband and wife, and in that context it’s good and holy. But like any gift from Him, problems occur when sex is taken out of context. Besides the risk of pregnancy, sex before marriage can lead to emotional scars, STDs, clinginess, insecurity, and heartache. It clouds your thinking and can make you stay in the wrong relationship. If you date like you’re married, your break-up will feel like a divorce.
The longer you date – or the more attracted you are to a guy – the harder it is to set physical boundaries. Set boundaries together. Remember that love says, “I can wait” while lust says, “I have to have it now.” Any guy who loves you will believe you’re worth the wait.
You can grow closer to a guy by not having sex and taking away something he’s meant to share with his wife. And if you become his wife, it will make your wedding night incredibly special.
9. The best romances have a strong friendship. Friedrich Nietzsche said, “It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes an unhappy marriage.”
Chemistry without friendship will fizzle, because friendship carries a romance through rough patches. Friendship creates an irreplaceable bond. Friendship makes you want to grow old together.
Your dating years are a prime time to learn about friendship with boys. Developing this skill early prepares you for marriage.
I learned in college how guys make great friends. Sometimes, when sorority life felt like too much, I’d hang out with my buddies. They were funnier and more relaxed. I liked their perspective and what they brought to the table.
Being with them felt like an escape, and I believe that is what the two sexes find in each other: an escape from life, pressure, and even our own gender at times.
Approaching boys as potential friends, not boyfriends, takes the pressure off. It frees you from trying to impress them. Dating or not, you need solid guys in your corner: guys who watch out for you, take up for you, and tell you what guys are really like. The world is full of love stories that began as friendships, and even if your friendships stay platonic, you still win.
10. Marriage is a gift – with the right person. Tim Keller, in his book on marriage, says, “Marriage provides a profound ‘shock absorber’ that helps you navigate disappointments, illnesses, and other difficulties. You recover your equilibrium faster.”
I once heard a priest explain how the purpose of marriage is to help each other get to heaven. The reason why marriage doesn’t exist in heaven is because we don’t need it once we get there. As the deepest, most intimate human relationship, it’s designed to draw us closer to God and cultivate Christlike character.
Despite what the man-haters say, good guys do exist. Still, marriage is a major decision, so don’t take it lightly. Sharing a life means sharing a bedroom, a bank account, a family, and problems. It may mean moving to a town you hate or making sacrifices you don’t want to make.
People say, “Marry your best friend, the guy who will be up with you at midnight to soothe a crying baby.” I’d also say to marry the guy who gives you peace. Look for a soul connection that feels right deep in your bones.
It’s easy to get misguided in a search for love, but done correctly and at the right age, dating helps you decide what you do and don’t want. It teaches you about yourself and shines a light on C.S. Lewis’s point that there is a sword between the sexes until an entire marriage reconciles it.
Dating is highly subjective, so don’t let one boy’s opinion (or 20 opinions) determine your worth. God loves you even if the boy of your dreams doesn’t, and whether you’re dating or single, you can still have amazing life full of friendship, faith, and purpose.
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My two books for teen girls, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know and Liked, have been used widely across the U.S. for group studies. For more posts, subscribe to this blog or join me on Facebook, Instagram and the Girl Mom podcast.
Posted by Kari on October 4, 2020