Sixteen and Swooning
By: Katie Mattiuzzo
With flutters and firsts, passion and pressure, how do Christian teen girls hold tight to their standards while navigating the dating scene?
My first dating relationship was when I was 16 years old. The freshly washed black car filled with the music from his hand-selected playlist as we drove off on our first date to dinner and a movie. A seemingly mundane moment became magical in our car ride conversation when the song “Beautiful Day” by U2 came on. He leaned to me and said, “It is a beautiful day, you know?” My heart swooned with the emotion of 12 teen girls combined as the night continued.
Later that night he reached over and held my hand. Hand holding might have been fairly common for most girls, but for me who had never had physical contact with a boy it was enough to make me want to flee and throw up. I tried desperately to disguise my novice insecurities by carefully studying the interactions of Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst in the Spiderman comic book playing out before my eyes ... it couldn’t hurt to get some last minute tips from this screenplay couple.
It was a perfect evening.
My last first date was in January 2006 with the boy that would become my husband. The excitement was still there, the sudden bouts of nervous nausea, the swooning heart ... it was just as perfect as my first first date back in high school.
My favorite movie quote is from Win a Date With Tad Hamilton when Topher Grace’s character looks into the eyes of the girl he’s secretly in love with and says, “Guard your carnal treasure.” That’s what it’s all about ... guarding your treasure. Your innocence. Your purity. Your emotions. Your heart. Keep it safe. Control who you share it with. This might mean waiting to date until college when you’re more emotionally and spiritually ready to introduce a relationship into your life. You know yourself — your temptations, your workload at school, your involvement with church and family — if a boyfriend would only distract and cause tensions in those areas of your life, embrace this phase of single life and know that you’ll have plenty of time to pursue a relationship when the timing is right.
When you’re ready to date, here are some important things to remember:
1. Do not date an unbeliever. Second Corinthians 6:14 (NLT) lays it out there — “Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness?”
Dating someone who, at the very core of them, doesn’t know the same Truth is not acceptable. “Missionary dating” may work a fraction of the time, but that’s not God’s will for us or an ideal model of dating. Not only are you telling God that you don’t trust Him to bring a godly man into your life by taking things into your own hands, but you’re also setting yourself up for a difficult struggle in your physical relationship.
2. Set your standards and stick to them. It’s not a matter of just stopping when you’re uncomfortable. The line of what’s “uncomfortable” will probably move the longer you are dating that person and as your affection grows. Set concrete standards of what is not acceptable: scenarios, environments, etc.
It can be really difficult to maintain your standards because often it means maintaining your pride. Compromising situation — your standards — embarrassment — pride rebuilding — confidence and self-worth. But speak up when you’re about to compromise on one of those standards and let this Scripture run through your mind — “I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken” (Psalm 16:8, NIV).
3. Keep everything in perspective. In a dating relationship it’s so easy to get caught up in a wave of new emotions. Remember that God is a big God who has big plans for your life. Breakups can knock the wind out of you and be especially heartbreaking when it happens for the first time. When my first boyfriend broke up with me I sat on my bedroom floor and cried hysterically for hours. He was my first date, first hand hold, and first kiss so the emotional loss I experienced seemed huge. But after a few days of being miserable I decided that this wasn’t going to ruin my life. I was going to enjoy the rest of high school, make friends, and look forward to the man God would someday bring into my life.
If your boyfriend is continually pushing the line you’ve established, break up. It’s not worth running the risk of making a compromising decision you have to live with forever. In the moment it might be devastating but in the long run you’ll be at peace when you tell the man you marry that you’ve saved yourself for him.
In every decision you make in your dating relationships think ahead to how it will affect your happiness when you meet the man you’re going to marry. Take it slow, be intentional, and be firm with your standards about the physical aspect of your relationship. You want to be able to give someone your whole heart someday — not the broken pieces left over from years of damaging relationships.