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At what age should someone start dating?

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At what age should someone start dating?—Dating Age


Asa Answers:

Dear Dating Age,

There are two answers to this question. The first is scientific and therefore fairly simple. The past decade of neuroscience has shown us that the human brain is amazingly complex and diverse. The brain begins developing in utero around three weeks. It continues to develop throughout childhood and adolescence all the way into a person’s mid-20s. The brain has different parts used to do different things, such as hear, feel love, and so on.

The part of the brain that helps you make good decisions is the frontal lobe. This part of the brain can take the longest to develop, but it’s also the most important. Without your decision-making abilities you are running on instinct or command. Having good judgment is impossible without this part of your brain. Getting into a relationship before this part of your brain is fully developed means making a decision without being at your sharpest. Society recognizes this and puts age limits on things such as driving and military service so young people do not receive responsibility before their brains are capable of handling it.

Because of this, you also should not get into romantic relationships, which are intricate by nature, before you are responsible enough to make the best decisions; usually that won’t be until about age 25 for guys and a little younger for women. Making a bad decision can have consequences that last a lifetime. Avoid serious romantic relationships until your brain can handle them.

The second answer has less to do with science and more to do with priorities. Dating should occur when marriage is a possibility. When a young person of 17 or 18 asks me for dating advice, the first question I have is: “Are you planning to marry the person you are dating?” Ninety-nine percent of the time the answer is: “I don’t know; I haven’t thought about that.” This is a clear indicator they are not ready for a committed relationship.

The prophet Ellen White explains: “The ideas of courtship have their foundation in erroneous [mistaken] ideas concerning marriage. They follow impulse and blind passion. The courtship is carried on in a spirit of flirtation. The parties frequently violate the rules of modesty and reserve and are guilty of indiscretion, if they do not break the law of God. The high, noble, lofty design of God in the institution of marriage is not discerned; therefore the purest affections of the heart, the noblest traits of character are not developed.”1
The priority for teens should be God, their education, and family relationships. Their energy should be put into graduation and the development of their character. As they mature, marriage will become an option they will be able to consider with a fully developed mind and spirit. If a person makes dating a priority before they are ready, it will cause them to suffer in other areas. Ellen White goes on to write: “There are persons who have for some time made a profession of religion who are, to all intents and purposes, without God and without a sensitive conscience. They are vain and trifling; their conversation is of a low order. Courtship and marriage occupy the mind, to the exclusion of higher and nobler thoughts”2 Romantic relationships should never be pursued at the cost of character.

In short, the right age to start dating is the same as the right age to marry. Some may have started dating in their early 20s and some start in their 30s, but for most the mid-20s is when they can support a job and the responsibilities of a family. The most important piece is that you put God first and follow His timing. If you do this, it will be easy to identify the right time in your life to make this decision.  

1 Ellen G. White, The Adventist Home (Nashville: Southern Pub. Assn., 1952), p. 55.
2 Ibid., p. 51.

Asa Solomon McCullum works as a vice principal for an urban school in Erie, Pennsylvania. In his spare time he’s a student, writer, and athlete
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