Dating, Courtship, and Marriage

I’ve had all of these ideas about dating, courtship, and marriage percolating in my mind for awhile, and decided that I wanted to nail them down.  Overall, I made pretty good decisions regarding these decisions, but there were still some things I could have handled better.  I often think about my kids and the kind of lives I want them to have and the kind of marriages I want them to have, if marriage is what God has planned for them.

I could just let society pass on the usual message of “It’s best to have sex when you’re in a committed (but not necessarily married) relationship, but it’s ok to have casual sex if both people agree that it’s just for fun.   Either way you should protect yourself from disease and pregnancy, which is just as bad as a disease.  Oh, and it’s ok to lie to your parents and sneak around if they try to interfere with your social life because they’re just old and out of touch”.  That last part especially starts seeping in when kids are in first grade (see shows like Hannah Montana and iCarly).

And while in the end I have no control over the way they feel about someone and I may have little control over certain aspects of their relationships, I want to give them the best and most honest information I can so that they can make the best decisions.  So, what is that information that I think they need to know?

1.  Gender Differences:  There are real biological, neurological, and bio-chemical differences between women and men that can not be easily dismissed.  This does not mean that one sex is better than the other or that everyone follows a stereotype.  Just that there are real differences that can affect male/female relationships and understanding.

2. “Don’t hug anyone you’re not prepared to trust.”:  This came from You’re Teaching My Child What? by Miriam Grossman in the section about the effects of pheromones and oxytocin.  The mere act of hugging someone can cause chemical reactions, especially in women, that cause increased trust in bonding even if there is no logical reason to trust or bond with that person.  Even my almost-seven-year old can see how this is a powerful and dangerous thing.  If hugging can do this, just imagine what kissing or more can do to increase trust in or bonding with someone who has not really been proven worthy.

3.  Protecting your body protects your heart.: As an extension (or result) of the information on oxytocin, it is easy to see that the longer you can delay physical intimacy of any kind the more likely you are to not get carried away by your emotions.  You will be more likely to get to know someone for who they really are rather than how you have built them up based purely on how you feel them about them.  And if someone is unworthy of you, you will have fewer regrets once you realize it and probably realize it sooner.

4.  Serious dating should be off the table unless you are ready for marriage.:  Dating usually ends one of two ways–marriage or pain.  The more dating you do and the younger you start dating the latter is more likely to be the outcome.  And it’s usually painful for both parties even if in different ways; one person is dumped and the other person struggles with how to do the dumping.  The perception out there is that the more you date the more you learn about yourself and the kind of person you want to marry, but the reality seems to be that the more you date the more emotionally damaged you’re likely to be when you do meet the right person and then you will waste a lot of time dealing with your previous relationship baggage instead of being happy.

5.  Teachings of the Catholic Church regarding married sex and birth control. This is something that was never taught to me in 12 years of Catholic school.  I got the same old garbled understanding that permeates most of society, and everyone would really be shocked if they knew the whole of it.  For instance, acts of foreplay are supposed to only be done for foreplay–they are not ever supposed to stand alone as married intimacy.  And most importantly my children should know that these rules are in place to protect the sanctity of their marriage convenant as well as procreation, not just “to ruin their fun” or “to meddle in their private lives”.

6.  Female Biology/Natural Family Planning:  My children should know that a teenage girl has an immature cervix that makes her more likely to contract a sexually transmitted disease (even if she does things other than intercourse).  I also think the underlying process of NFP can help women understand and gain confidence in the natural process of the menstrual cycle.  Knowing and understanding your body can help you know and understand yourself.  And then the rules for achieving or postponing pregnancy are essential for living a married life in keeping with Church teachings on married sex and procreation.

7.  Artificial Contraception/Sexually Transmitted Diseases:  I would be remiss (as well as a hypocrite) if I pretended that it didn’t exist.  I think it is important that my kids know what the options are, the pros and cons of each type, as well as how effectiveness rates can drop depending on user error.  They should also be aware that condoms are not the saviors they are made out to be–even when used perfectly they do not protect from all diseases.  For instance HPV has been found on college-age males in places other than where a condom covers, like under their finger nails.  And many STDs these days have no cure or can leave lasting damage even after they are cured.

8.  Important Marriage Topics:  Before any of my children choose to marry I hope they will really get know to know the person they are planning to spend the rest of their lives with.  I hope they have talked with their future spouse about: finances (i.e. credit card debt), faith, children, birth control, division of labor, past relationships, and parental boundaries (as parents and with their in-laws).  Just in case they haven’t, though, be assured that I will.

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3 Comments on “Dating, Courtship, and Marriage”

  1. Kelly Says:

    So I take it I should try to get ahold of Grossman’s books then?


  2. This is an excellent list of some of the “big issues” we will need to address with our children as they get older. As a passionate proponent of natural family planning, I especially see the need to talk about #5-7 and I actually try to help others with #8 on my marriage blog.

    Of course, the best way to teach is to provide a strong example through the way we live our own lives!

  3. barboo77 Says:

    I was only able to get a hold of the one Grossman book, and it was excellent. I also highly recommended the “Wonder” books by Michael Gurian.


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