We get asked this all the time. And we’re so glad you’re asking! It’s a pretty darn important one to ask. When is a good time to enter into the exciting/complicated world of dating?
Is it when you reach a certain age?
Is it when you can drive a car?
Is it when you start liking somebody?
It’s not quite that simple. This might not be the answer you’re looking for, but there is no magic age. No specific feeling. There is no clear-cut rule that everybody can count on. But in order to answer the question, “When should I date?” you first must ask, “Why should I date?”
Dating isn’t about making yourself feel good. It also isn’t about looking cool or popular or mature to other people. Dating can’t make your life easier, or satisfy every desire. When we date for any of these reasons, we’ll eventually be pretty disappointed.
Date to get to know someone that you like being around. Just take some time to find out what that person likes, what they don’t like, their values and beliefs, and if you two make a good team.
Date to learn about yourself. You’ll find out more about your strengths, weaknesses, and how you can grow as a person.
Date to practice caring for another person for who they are, not how they make you feel. A relationship is not just about you, it’s about that other person, too. Treat them like a real human being with a story just as unique and detailed as your own, who deserves to be respected.
Date with the understanding that you might not marry the person you date, and yet you shouldn’t date anyone you couldn’t see yourself marrying someday. You don’t need to find your future spouse on date one. But if you start getting to someone and they don’t have the qualities of a healthy person, and someone you could be with long term, don’t drag on the relationship! It’ll only hurt you both. On the other hand, your date may have some awesome character traits that could make a great spouse someday. Dating teaches you how to be a healthy spouse someday, and what to look for in a partner.
Believe me, I know how annoying that sounds. But if they’ve got a rule about when you can date, it’s not because they’re out to get you. It’s because they love you and want to help you make healthy choices!
How do you know when you’re ready to care about someone? Ask yourself some questions. Do I want to spend time getting to know someone for who they really are, the good and the bad? Do I want to spend time getting to know that person’s family and friends? Am I willing to respect their feelings and not pressure them to do what I want them to do? If the answer to any of those questions is no, don’t sweat it. It just means you need some time before you dive into dating. Keep learning through friendships and family relationships how to love others (because the best dating/marriage relationships are built on friendship!).
And don’t date just because your friends are dating or you see teens your age dating on your favorite show. That’ll just bring more hurt than it’s worth. People aren’t shoes. Sometimes we buy shoes because we like the way they look or our friends have a pair. That’s normal, but treating people that way is not.
Dating can be super awesome! But so is being single. If you’re not dating anybody, don’t worry, it’s normal for teens not to date. Whether you’re ready to date or not, know that you have plenty of time and opportunities to learn, grow, and have fun without a significant other. Now go out there and keep figuring out how to love people well!
By Kath Crane