Courtship, not daring, can foster proper teen behavior
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.