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Teenagers Should Love Their Spouse

December 20, 2013

The title of this article actually applies not only to teenagers, but to young people up to (and of course, beyond) the point when they get married. Yes, you read that right – I’m talking about loving a spouse even prior to marriage. Loving a spouse even probably before one has ever met that person.

Purity is a Beautiful Way to Love Your Spouse, Before You Even Know Who They Are

Purity means many things in this context. It does not mean perfect before God or without sin – those things are impossible. It does not mean avoiding all interactions with the opposite sex, or avoiding any notice of their attractiveness. A certain amount of attraction is natural and unavoidable given how God has created us!

Purity does mean being purposeful about parameters, though. It is achieved by deciding ahead of time not to be drawn into a romantic relationship – holding hands or puppy-love kissing, or even just opening up your intimate dreams and thoughts with someone of the opposite sex – UNTIL, that is, you enter such a relationship with a purpose to explore marriage (see courtship below).

What does physical intimacy bring prior to marriage? Many teenagers and young adults in our society have adopted a “hook-up” mentality which cheapens physical pleasure to an animal/intoxicated act entered into for the moment, with no ongoing connection once the moment passes. This “divorce practice” brings a sledge-hammer to emotions and desires which are intended by God to be delicate and special – only enjoyed with someone who has committed to love you for the rest of their life. It makes young women, in particular, feel that their sole purpose is to attract and please young men sexually. This is tragic! And our society is only now coming to realize the emotional toll that this revolution has wrought. The increasing rates of depression and suicide are only the tip of the iceberg which lurks below the water: the soul-emptied sadness of so many young people who have traded in their purity for a temporary mirage. They realize later that the pond they dove into was really poisoned, and just as sad, that it was only a short walk from a pure fountain.

As has been wisely stated by many others, the Biblical way to think about your friends of the opposite sex is to see them as someone else’s future spouse.

Being “pure” on your wedding day certainly avoids some of the most dangerous landmines for your own life, but it is also a “gift” to your spouse, and a demonstration of the love you chose to show them even before you knew who they were. It means that your spouse will never have to worry about romantic thoughts of someone else running through your mind, nor about being compared to anyone else. It means that the romantic intimacy you enjoy as husband and wife, the way you know each other and what you know about each other, will only ever be yours to share. It means that you are following God’s plan for marriage and can count on good fruit from that, something that is even more true if the principles in God’s Word are followed when the time does come for exploring a possible marriage.

Courtship enables Exploration of a Possible Marriage, Minimizing Risk to Purity

“Courtship” is a generic term which can mean many different things in different situations. Although it is often defined by what it is not – it is definitely NOT dating solely for fun without any intent to marry – a clearer definition should include these concepts with plenty of flexibility for how they will be achieved:

Readiness to start a family: courtship should not be discussed until the young people are both ready to start a family. For the young man this means he is ready to lead his wife spiritually and to support her financially – solely and sufficiently, from day 1, at least at a reasonable standard of living (trajectory in mind that initial needs here will be nowhere near what they will later grow to be). For the young lady, it means she has learned all the skills of homemaking that will be needed for her to keep house for her and her husband (trajectory similarly in mind here) and to follow his leadership of their family.

Protection of purity: throughout the process both young people should have their purity protected, for two reasons – it is possible that the courtship will be halted, in which case both will want to preserve their purity for an eventual spouse. Also even if it successfully leads to marriage, saving all of their intimacy makes their wedding kiss all the more special AND turns it into an increasingly rare testimony for the inspiration of those in attendance. Previous generations’ commitment to this principle was so strong, they allocated a significant portion of their houses to a “sitting room” with sight lines to other parts of the house; this arrangement enabled courtship conversations without a temptation of physical intimacy. (Think about the level of commitment one must have to design house plans with such a room only for infrequent social uses as the kids are young and growing up, just to ensure it would be available when they began to court?)

Involvement of parents: in some form or other the parents are usually involved in a courtship. Toward the goal of protecting purity, the father of the young lady may want to evaluate his daughter’s suitor (fairly and reasonably) even before letting her know that the young man has asked to be a suiter, saving their friendship and her heart the turmoil of a failed courtship. For both young ladies and young men, parents know their child well and have already given a lot of thought (and prayer) to what sort of mate would be best for them; having these insights only improves everyone’s discernment in the process.

Values alignment before emotional attachment: a key component of courtship is that the couple’s views on religion, gender roles in the family, views on children, etc. can be compared before any emotional attachment builds. This is an approach militantly opposed to the world’s views on dating (which builds emotional/physical attachment before any of these topics are likely ever discussed, and bends the whole process on the whim of physical attraction). Only if the views on these key topics are compatible would a marriage be workable, and therefore only once they are confirmed would the couple “get to know each other” further. Sufficient maturity for courtship should insure that both young people are considering the other’s suitability as a spouse, and not just their looks. Parental involvement comes in here too, as the more they know about the other’s family life, the clearer picture they will have of their expectations of married life.

Not arranged marriage!: some accuse supporters of courtship of advocating arranged marriages given the combination of these last two distinctives (parental involvement + value alignment). I believe strongly that the decision belongs to the young people; the parents’ role is limited to giving input as outlined above, and possibly to keep a courtship from ever starting if a young man is truly unsuited to marry their daughter (again, this role of protection should only be based on fair and reasonable expectations) – parents should never demand that their children court or marry any particular person! This is the most important decision in their lives – young people must be allowed to make it!

These seem to me to be the key points at the core of the concept of courtship. To this list I would add one logistical point:

Live at home while you’re single: it saddens me when I hear parents impatient for their children to leave home. What rush is there for this – from the perspective of either a young man or woman (and what other than selfishness from the perspective of the parents)? I am not advocating a “failure to launch” extended adolescence, but I do not see a reason for the isolation (just so they can host parties any time they want or waste their time with no one to notice?) and significant extra cost (just so they can spend the money that would reduce their debt in early marriage?) of singles moving to their own apartment as soon as they can afford to make the monthly payments. I know that many singles find their spouse in these communities, but proximity via random chance doesn’t seem much of a valid way to expand search horizons for a good match.

…in all of this the vision of teenagers and young adults in loving their future spouse – even before they know them – will provide blessings in their own life via right priorities and avoided heartache – or even worse mistakes. I believe the Bible supports this approach in its principles. The world is increasingly ignoring those principles, but for young people with the courage, wisdom and self-discipline to follow them, a beautiful promise awaits.


From → Courtship, Parenting

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