Courtship, not dar­ing, can fos­ter proper teen be­hav­ior

The Covington News - - Religion -

Ques­tion: My old­est son is ap­proach­ing the age where we had pre­vi­ously agreed to al­low him to date. The more I think about it, though, the more the whole idea con­cerns me. It seems that even in the best of dat­ing sit­u­a­tions, the neg­a­tives ex­ceed the pos­i­tives. I can’t help but feel that I’m set­ting my son up for fail­ure. Sev­eral of my friends have adopted the con­cept of “courtship” rather than dat­ing. Could you please ex­plain this idea to me, and sug­gest which of the two ar­range­ments you fa­vor?

Dob­son: Sim­ply put, the “courtship” con­cept is a re­ac­tion to the dat­ing model which is thought by many to be un­healthy. Dat­ing cou­ples go through a se­ries of short term and of­ten un­sat­is­fy­ing re­la­tion­ships over a pe­riod of five or ten years or longer. They are be­ing taught to flit from one re­la­tion­ship to an­other like a hon­ey­bee buzzing from flower to flower. Why would they not be in­clined later to bail out on a mar­riage part­ner when bored or frus­trated? Dat­ing also en­cour­ages sex­ual fa­mil­iar­ity and ex­per­i­men­ta­tion. It isn’t dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand why an in­creas­ing num­ber of par­ents feel this tra­di­tional model un­der­mines com­mit­ment, ex­clu­siv­ity and per­ma­nence in mar­riage.

The courtship model, by con­trast, seeks to post­pone emo­tional and phys­i­cal en­tan­gle­ments un­til they oc­cur with the prob­a­ble hus­band or wife. The fam­ily is very sup­port­ive in help­ing to choose that spe­cial in­di­vid­ual for a se­ri­ous courtship when the time is right. Un­til then, re­la­tion­ships be­tween the sexes are lim- ited to group sit­u­a­tions in care­fully con­trolled set­tings. Phys­i­cal in­ti­macy for the sake of tit­il­la­tion and ex­per­i­men­ta­tion are con­sid­ered to be most in­ap­pro­pri­ate. It is the ul­ti­mate in “sav­ing one­self” for the man or wo­man with whom a life­time will be spent.

Many par­ents, and un­doubt­edly the ma­jor­ity of teenagers, would con­sider the courtship model to be ex­treme and ter­ri­bly re­stric­tive. Not ev­ery teenager would tol­er­ate it. I be­lieve it is a good idea in those set­tings where both gen­er­a­tions are com­mit- ted to it and are will­ing to work to­gether to make it suc­cess­ful. Courtship is not rec­om­mended in cases of ado­les­cent re­bel­lion or where there is great re­sis­tance to the idea. Whether or not to take this approach, there­fore, is a mat­ter for in­di­vid­ual fam­i­lies to de­ter­mine.

Ques­tion: What are the prospects for the very pretty or hand­some child? Does he or she usu­ally have smooth sail­ing all the way?

Dob­son: Well, that child has some re­mark­able ad­van­tages, as I have de­scribed. She is much more likely to ac­cept her­self and en­joy the ben­e­fits of self­con­fi­dence. How­ever, she also faces some unique prob­lems which the homely child never ex­pe­ri­ences. Beauty in our so­ci­ety is power, and power can be dan­ger­ous in im­ma­ture hands. A four­teen-year-old young wo­man, for ex­am­ple, who is pre­ma­turely curved and rounded in all the right places may be pur­sued vig­or­ously by males who would ex­ploit her beauty. As she be­comes more con­scious of her flir­ta­tious power, she is some­times urged to­wards promis­cu­ity. Fur­ther­more, women who have been cov­eted phys­i­cally since early child­hood of­ten be­came bit­ter and dis­il­lu­sioned as they age. I’m think­ing par­tic­u­larly of Hol­ly­wood’s most glam­orous sex queens, such as Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe and Brigitte Bar­dot, who had dif­fi­culty deal­ing with the deper­son­al­iza­tion of body wor­ship as the years passed.

Re­search also in­di­cates some in­ter­est­ing con­se­quences in re­gard to mar­tial sta­bil­ity for the “beau­ti­ful peo­ple.” In one im­por­tant study, the more at­trac­tive col­lege girls were found to be less hap­pily mar­ried 25 years later.

It is ap­par­ently dif­fi­cult to re­serve the “power” of sex for one mate, ig­nor­ing the ego grat­i­fi­ca­tion which awaits out­side the mar­riage bonds. And fi­nally, the more at­trac­tive a per­son is in his or her youth, the more painful is the ag­ing process.

My point is this: the mea­sure­ment of worth on a scale of beauty is wrong, of­ten dam­ag­ing to the haves and have-nots.

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