A Muslim friend and follower of mine posted an amazing and humorous article of the problems and awkwardness associated with teen dating (find here). In addition, the author speaks of the benefits of following Muslim tradition with regard to marriage. She emphasizes the need for consent, community involvement, and familial support in choosing a life partner. While giving me a good laugh (the lady has a wonderful sense of humor), the article also made me think about my own views on dating and marriage. As a Catholic, I found myself agreeing with most of the article.
You see, my faith teaches that marriage is to be for life. When you get married in the Catholic Church, you are assenting to always practicing fidelity, to staying together till death, and to raising a family, as God sees fit to bless you (whether through birth, adoption or any other means). As a result, the Church is very strict on its marital teachings. Sex is meant for your spouse only, for bonding and the creation of children. Engaged couples must prepare for marriage extensively and take classes and counseling before a priest will consent to a wedding. While couples are free to choose their form of dating or courtship and there is no specific Church teaching regarding the subject of teen dating, many priests will emphasize the need for discernment and traditional Catholics tend to see dating as a means to an end, not merely a fun activity for young people.
Because I do agree with all of these, I find myself shying away from mainstream dating. Many people say it's a way of getting to know people and figuring out what you like. The thing is, I could do that just as easily while being friends with someone, without feelings getting in the way. At other points, I'm trying to find someone who shares my values. Unfortunately, sex has become an expectation and traditional values are often looked down upon. I also have my future to consider. I know I'm not ready to marry at this point in my life....I don't want to start considering it before I have some basic factors in order.
I am not judging anyone who chooses to date or follow mainstream society. However, I am proposing another model. I don't need to go to the movies with ten different guys to see who'd make the best husband and father. I also don't need to put myself at risk for things like pregnancy or STI's for the sake of being young. Instead, I'm preparing myself for an enduring, unconditional, lifelong journey. Until I find the one who will take it with me, I can at least start becoming the person I want to be, the person who is ready for any adventure. I find that type of love all the more thrilling.