Let’s Talk About Dating – Part 2
In yesterday’s post I talked about why dating is an important topic for student ministries to tackle. I made the bold stance that I believe our students are capable of dating in a way that honors God and prepares them to be the kind of husband or wife that God made them to be. There’s no denying the fact that the dating scene has been warped by our over-sexed culture; however, let’s never forget that we serve a much bigger God than the evils of American media. Just because Satan warps something doesn’t mean we must abandon the idea and let him win. That said, I completely respect the wishes of parents who are against dating. God has given them a job, and I believe that they must lead their students in a way that they feel that they are called to. That being said, as a leader of student ministry I know that nearly every student in my ministry is either dating or deeply desiring to. So…let’s talk about dating.
At the core of any healthy romantic relationship is a solid foundation of friendship. It is a “must.” When I mentor a student who is beginning a dating relationship, I spend a lot of time talking about friendship. If we are going to help students discover healthy dating, we must first teach them the principles of healthy friendships with the opposite sex.
We must teach our students the differences between guys and girls. Relax, I don’t mean anatomically (though if you are mentoring teenagers be prepared for awkward questions along these lines as well!). Guys and girls are VERY different. One of the damaging results of the “Twilight Effect” is a completely false view of the “perfect guy” that adolescent girls are sucking up (sorry for the vampire pun!). Essentially, the guys that are illustrated in the romance books, TV shows, and movies are completely unrealistic. The truth is, they are girls with guy body parts.
We need to teach girls that guys are created by God with a perfect design to make them, well, guys. Let me illustrate with the example of how we process information. Guys process information very differently than girls do. Studies of the human brain show that, while girls process information using both sides of the brain simultaneously, guys only use one side at a time. This does not mean guys are “slower”. In fact, it means quite the opposite. Guys process information slightly more quickly but more linearly as well. This usually results in a “problem solving” reaction to situations. Girls, on the other hand, usually respond to a situation more emotively than guys do because they are responding from more “zones”.
What does all this have to do with students? Everything! Girls need to learn that guys are not devoid of emotion. Guys need to learn that girls are not just “drama queens.” We are wired by God to respond differently to situations. This is actually a wonderful part of God’s design! He made us in such a way to where we are wonderful compliments to each other. We balance each other out. However, the problem is that our teens rarely are taught about this.
This is just one illustration of how we must teach students how to relate to each other. Believe it or not, our students need an education on flirting. I know, I know. If you have ever been to an event where there are combined sexes, you have seen that students are quite the pro’s at flirting. However, you might be surprised to learn how clueless students are to the “how” and “why” the opposite sex flirts. This leads to constant misreading, hypersensitivity, misleading, and confusion. At the end of this blog post there is a link to a PDF that I created that illustrates some of these differences.
Overall, we need to teach students how to be comfortable with opposite-sex friendships. We need to teach them to value platonic friendships instead of always hoping for “more.” We need to teach students how to relate to the opposite sex without falling back on their flirting prowess.
Another huge truth we need to teach girls is that adolescent guys are physically incapable of reading non-verbal cues as adeptly as girls can. Again, this is how God designed us. It is a trait that can be learned over time, but during early and even middle adolescents (junior high and high school), this is a pretty new and foreign concept to guys. So, girls need to understand that guys are not just ignoring them or their needs. They are simply not picking up on all the hidden signals (i.e. reading between the lines). We need to teach girls to be more direct and honest. Here’s an example:
A high school girl sits down with her guy friend at lunch. Her shoulders slump a little and her hair is partially shielding her eyes. She sighs slightly. The guy notices something might be a bit amiss. He asks her how her day is going. She answers, “fine” with another barely perceptible sigh and flick of her hair. The guy fails to read her body language, hears “fine”, accepts it as truth and goes back to eating his sandwich. The girl is now thinking, “Man, he doesn’t pay attention to me. Can’t he see I am hurting?”. The guy is thinking, “Man, this is a good sandwich”.
Though this illustration may be a bit over-the-top, I think it is an accurate description of a lot of the “misreads” that can happen with opposite sex relationships. Recently, when talking with students about this issue, my wife and I shared our little method of overcoming the misreading of the multi-layered definitions of the word “fine” to a girl. We decided that anytime my wife uses the word “fine” I can know that it is a code word for “let’s talk about this more.” Just that little bit of communication has done wonders for our marriage. Students crave this kind of practical advice.
I could go on forever on this topic. Instead, I am attaching a PDF that has a bit more info. We will continue with this topic tomorrow when we look more directly at adolescent dating.
Questions? Comments? What are some other ways that guys and girls are different? How can we better help our students relate to the opposite sex in a way that helps them develop more healthy friendships?
previous posts in this series: