Feb 5, 2008

Going Steady

When I was young, I would have greatly resisted the idea of my parents telling me who to date or who should be my husband. They only told me not to date until I was 16 years old and not to date steadily until I was serious about marriage. I followed their rules and am very glad I did.

This post deals with "going steady" and the grave sins it frequently causes, perhaps including murder. My other posts on courtship and marriage have included:
The murder of the young mother and her baby girl in Kansas City, Kansas is a tragic ending to a failed marriage that began with the meeting of young Andrew Guerrero and Nicolette Lyons while attending a local Catholic high school. A newspaper reported that the "2002 yearbook described the two as 'star-crossed lovers.'" I take the report to mean that the teenagers dated steadily while in high school.

The couple married in 2003 after the young man had joined the Army Reserve, and the young wife filed for divorce three years later. Now the young husband and father has been accused of murdering his wife and a child she had by another military man. What a sad story and what could have been done about it?

I suspect that young people today are never counseled about the dangers of going steady. Yet the Church's combat against steady dating in high school continued at least until 1963 when TIME magazine reported that Fr. James A. Carey mandated that any student "dating one person to the exclusion of all others shall be expelled." By 1964, it was reported in the social literature that "going steady is becoming increasingly common....There seems to be a growing tendency of daters to 'pair off' very early and for extended periods."

My generation was taught that going steady was reserved for persons who were able and ready for marriage. We were told that if we weren't mature, couldn't provide for a spouse, or had no intention of marrying in the near future, then we shouldn't go steady.

So what did I do? In high school and college, I dated guys for only two or three times, at max! At the time it was called "playing the field!" That extended the number of guys I dated before settling on my husband, and reduced the opportunities for intimacy that would have developed had I steadily dated a single guy. In other words, spiritual and physical problems were avoided.

Dating twenty, thirty, and even up to 100+ guys (a sister!) for short durations from age 16 to the time when marriage is possible can be quite helpful in choosing a spouse. You learn about the different characteristics (good and bad) of potential spouses. You learn what you like and what you don't. Most importantly, you don't make commitments or promises because you are not ready to make them. [Although there may be the problem of someone waiting forever for the "perfect spouse!"]

Catholic schools must again discourage "going steady" while students are in grade and high school. Social research proves that having a steady boyfriend or girlfriend as a young teenager significantly increases the odds of having sex. [Fr. Carey already knew this back in 1963--a good priest always hears a lot of sorrowful confessions.]

Right now, the Bishops are mostly concerned about those "living together outside the bond of marriage." Frankly, that sin--fornication-- is a primary effect of "going steady" when one is not ready or able to contract a good marriage.

Catholics must explain the disadvantages of steady dating and explain why the alternative of short-duration dates with different persons (group dating, too) is much more interesting and has better results.

Here are reasons not to have an exclusive relationship with the opposite sex while in pre-teen and even teenage years:
  1. You are much more likely to commit the sin of fornication (and possibly become pregnant with a baby)
  2. Steady dating is a proven high-risk behavior for catching sexually-transmitted diseases
  3. You will commit yourself to always explaining who you are with, why you didn't answer the phone, where you are going, how much money you have, etc.
  4. You will not improve your social abilities in new situations with others
  5. You will be obligated to spend most of your free time with the other party
  6. The two of you will likely withdraw to your own world and you will miss out on important times with friends
  7. Steady dating restricts you from responding to new social opportunities and developing an improved self-esteem
  8. Steady dating, without the ability to commit to marry within a short time period, leaves the girlfriend or the boyfriend fearful that the other will eventually leave them for another
  9. There are lots of repercussions when a romance is over that are similar to those of a marital break-up.

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