This past month I received an increase of emails and comments from teenagers, looking for relationship advice. Fourteen and fifteen-year-olds, struggling with “unimaginable heartbreak” and “going too far physically and emotionally”.

As I’m reading their heart-felt emails, I find my own heart breaking for them. Young men and women, caught up in the burden that comes with relationships that have happened prematurely.

While I’m all for teenagers becoming independent and growing into adulthood, I really believe that developing healthy teens also means protecting them from needless heartbreak along the way.

Anyone that knows me knows that I’m a huge advocate of dating, and healthy interactions with the opposite sex when the time is right. But for any teenager who is under the age of 18, here are some reasons why I think you should wait to date:

1. Because your teen years are for getting to know yourself. If I could tell every single teenager one thing, it would be this: YOU are the most important person you will ever date. It’s so easy to get caught up in finding someone to date, all the while forgetting to take the time to really get to know yourself. But if you don’t know who you are, you’ll never recognize the kind of person who fits into your life (or worse yet, the kind of person who DOESN’T). Take this time to learn about yourself, to understand your identity, and to catch a vision for your future. You’ll never regret the time you invest in yourself.

2. Because you open yourself up to major heartbreak, temptation, and pain. Dating and relationships are hard enough as it is, but they’re even harder to deal with when you’re not emotionally and physically ready to handle them. We could argue that some teens are more mature than others, but research proves that the teen years are the time when a teen’s brain is going through the MOST growth and change it will ever go through in your life (aka it’s not quite ready!) With all the changes happening in a teen’s body, paired with the social pressures that come from a relationship, it’s no wonder so many times teenage relationships lead to major heartbreak, pain, and “going too far physically and emotionally”.

3. Because most relationships that are actually going somewhere don’t develop until after high school. Want to know the cold, hard truth? Less than 2% of people marry their highschool sweetheart. I know that’s hard to believe, because high school relationships are so romanticized in our culture. You may even know someone who met in high school, like your parents or grandparents, and see, “it worked for them”. But the truth is, times are changing and current statistics reflect that. Not only are there less and less people meeting in high school, but many of those who do end up less satisfied in their marriages years later. That’s something to talk about. We look at high school relationships as “cute” and “harmless”, but what we’re not realizing is that they are they aren’t harmless – because gone wrong, they have the power to devastate a young person’s life and future.

4. Because a confident teenager doesn’t need someone to complete them. I’ve heard it said of teenagers that a dating relationship “will help him/her boost their confidence”. But the truth is, through a relationship might make someone feel better about themselves, it’s only temporary. People of true confidence understand that their value and worth is not tied up in their relationship status. They don’t need someone to “complete them” because they are working on feeling complete standing alone. It makes sense that the average teenager has a strong desire to be in a relationship – because we’re relational beings made by God for relationships! So instead of getting exclusive with someone of the opposite sex, open your heart and life to friendships, group activities, and learn to develop your confidence based on who you are and what you have to offer the world around you.

5. Because this time in your life is meant to be enjoyed! I hate to be so blunt about this but this is a time in your life in which you were meant to be single. I know, I know, that sounds so old-fashioned. But here’s the thing, what’s actually “old-fashioned” is being in a committed relationship while in your teens! My grandmother was engaged to be married at 14, and then married with her first child on the way at 15. It’s “old fashioned” to seek out relationships at this young age because it forces you to believe that your main purpose in life is to find someone to love you, when really, this stage of life should be all about learning to love yourself.

Don’t wish this time away, but use it to focus on the things that really matter and maybe even begin to catch a glimpse of the things that God is calling you to. Develop your strengths and know your weaknesses, but most importantly- have a lot of fun. Relationships will always be a part of your life, but friends and family won’t. Use this time to enjoy the people around you- not for what they have to offer you, but for what you have to offer them.

Embracing singleness during your teenage years doesn’t mean that you give up the desire to find true love, but that you simply learn to enjoy the ride right here, and right now.

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