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I was sitting at my middle school son’s football game. Some parents around me were discussing who was dating who in the school. I kept quiet during the conversation, but was anxiously waiting for them to mention my son. They did. I was astonished and a little embarrassed because I was totally unaware my son was “dating.” I knew for a fact he didn’t go anywhere with anyone. That’s what I consider “dating.” All he did was talk on his phone. 

How does that constitute dating? 

As soon as we left the game, I must confess I blindsided him with the question, “How is your girlfriend?” [Mom Smirk.] He gave me one of those looks only a teenager could give. “Mom, I don’t have a girlfriend.” [Teen Eye Roll.] “That’s not what I heard.” The more we went back and forth, the more frustrated he became, and the angrier I became. He was ADAMANT  he didn’t have a girlfriend. Truth be told, I was confused. I soon recognized that not believing him was damaging our relationship

How could I have prevented this from happening? 

Could I have better engaged my son in a conversation about his “romantic relationship?”

How can my misstep help you?

⇨ Related: 6 Tips for Teaching Your Teen Healthy Dating Habits

Learn The Language

This is a time when the teacher becomes the student. Be humble and allow your teen to teach you the new relationship lingo. Your willingness to learn and listen shows you respect your teen’s perspective and you care about what’s going on in their world. 

Recognize and Accept Things Have Changed

When your teen says things have changed, believe them. The words and labels they use—DIFFERENT. The modes of communication they use—DIFFERENT. The definition of relationships—DIFFERENT. Trying to impose the “old way” on them will be met with rolled eyes, resistance, or worse. 

Be An Askable Parent When You Talk to Your Teen About Romantic Relationships

Take time to listen. Be open and genuine. You might hear some “stuff” that shocks or surprises you. You have to use your poker face. You’ll be tempted to turn a conversation into an interrogation. If your teen perceives a negative reaction from you or gets bombarded with a billion questions or a long lecture, it can cause them to stop talking and create distance.

⇨ Related: How Do I Get My Teen To Talk To Me?

Build Up Your Relationship

Cultivating and maintaining your relationship with your teen provides space for this conversation. As your teen grows, your relationship with them should grow from more directive to coaching them through life and relationships. The more you try to control or force a relationship with your teen, the more they can pull away from you. 

If your teen says they are in a romantic relationship, here are some conversation starters to ask your teen:

  1. Are you able to be yourself in the relationship?
  2. Do you show respect and feel respected in your relationship?
  3. Do you have realistic expectations about the relationship?
  4. Are you feeling pressured in your relationship?
  5. Do you feel you have the time to devote to the relationship?

The key to guiding your teen through romantic relationships is to stop being a talkative parent and become a parent your teen wants to talk to. Keeping the lines of communication open between you and your teen builds and supports the relationship

Sure, “dating” might look different now, but there is still no substitute for a close, healthy relationship with your teen.

Check out some other blogs on healthy dating habits here:

Is marriage on your mind for your future? If it is, it doesn’t make a difference whether you’re a single searching for that special someone, in an “endgame” relationship, or perhaps already engaged when it comes to preparing yourself for marriage. If you know in your heart of hearts that you want marriage to be a part of your future, you don’t have to wait to prepare yourself for it. In fact, taking the time to prepare yourself for marriage now will save you from yourself later. (Take it from someone who’s married now and was grateful for getting this advice sooner than later.)

How to Prepare Yourself for Marriage

Make sure you’re meeting the expectations you desire for your future spouse.

If you want your spouse to have a stable job, work on getting one for yourself. If you want them to be good at listening and to understand when conflict arises, be that also. People can’t meet expectations they don’t know are there and in that vein, you shouldn’t expect something from someone else that you don’t expect from yourself. If you can decide what your standards are and choose to meet them first, you won’t have any reservations for wanting those in someone else.

Love yourself and improve yourself.

You cannot give what you don’t have. If you don’t love yourself, loving someone else wholeheartedly will be a challenge. If you second guess how much they love you because of an insecurity you’re facing, you risk projecting a problem onto your significant other that isn’t really there. Those feelings can hurt both people. Of course, someone can help you feel more loved, but ultimately, your expectation for a relationship shouldn’t be to solve your struggles. Having someone join the journey you’ve already started means you’re at a place to explain what you’ve been working through and giving them an opportunity to understand. 

When you love yourself, you’ll find productive ways to challenge yourself and promote growth and healing. You want the best version of someone else to partner up with so offer up the same! Now listen closely to this part: It doesn’t mean being the best; it means giving your best effort. That looks like choosing to put time, energy and effort into what’s important to you in your life and learning to be happy on your own so you can share that happiness with someone else. You and your partner will fall short and are incapable of being each other’s only source of happiness. Imagine the pressure you’d feel from that! You two will undoubtedly make each other happy if you’re in a healthy relationship, but you will rest easy in the fact you don’t have to be the only source.

Work through your past and move toward healing.

This one is an ongoing process. There’s a multitude of emotions and circumstances that come with healing. If you’ve been through something traumatic, it could affect your day-to-day experiences and interpretations of what other people do and their motivations, including a significant other. 

Starting the process now rather than when you have another person to consider can be so liberating. As you work through your challenges or baggage, you can discover tendencies you have that may be a side effect of what you’ve been through. Naming your hurt reclaims power over it. I’m not saying you have to have it all figured out and all of the mess you may bring to a relationship perfectly tidied. However, acknowledging the hurt you may have been through now and doing something about it is great for your mental health and in turn, your well-being. A counselor or therapist is most qualified and depending on your experiences, maybe your best option. But, if you know there is just some baggage you need to talk about to process it, call up a trusted friend and let them know what you need.

Be adaptable.

Marriage is a beautiful gift, but sometimes the price is compromise or sacrifice. When you’re committed to loving someone and doing life with them for the rest of both of your lives, your dreams, goals and future plans have to go through a WE instead of ME filter. You two will be a team—win together and lose together. Find a communication style that works best for you both and go out of your way to make them feel loved. (You may have different love languages, so sometimes it doesn’t feel as natural to do what your future partner needs). 

The compromises and sacrifices can be as small as sacrificing plans with an old friend when it’s the only night available for date night, waking up early to help each other in the mornings, sharing the spotlight at family gatherings, and the list could go on. Or as big as moving for their job, paying off debt before a down payment on a house, waiting to have kids, etc. In circumstances big and small, being married dictates being flexible or at least being willing to try.

Preparing yourself for marriage is really a journey of self-awareness—understanding the motivations behind your actions, the words you say, how you carry yourself, and how you treat others. It is monumental and can make the world of difference in a relationship and ultimately one day, your marriage.

Image from Unsplash.com

Weddings are time consuming, expensive, and stressful.

We totally get it. There’s hardly any time to breathe, let alone enjoy this season with your soon-to-be spouse! But that’s why we created Preparing for Marriage Online. This online class will guide you both through the answers to these questions and MORE! And the best part is, you can watch each video in the comfort of your own home and on your OWN TIME – and right now, it’s all for FREE!

During this class, you’ll cover topics like…

  • Clear & effective communication skills,
  • How to handle the in-laws,
  • Conflict management,
  • The importance of dating your spouse,
  • Planning, budgeting, and finances,
  • What to expect your first year,
  • And more!

When my wife and I thought our daughter was ready to date, our daughter was in panic mode before the first boy came to pick her up. She wasn’t worried about the boy; she was worried about me

Dad, are you going to grill him and ask him a million questions?

No Sweetie. I’m just going to ask him one question.

Really Dad? Just one question? Wow!

Yup. “Where are WE going?”

Not funny, Dad.

The reality is that WE aren’t going anywhere. THEY are. How do you know if your teen has a healthy understanding of dating, how to get to know someone, and will exercise healthy dating habits? Here’s a little quiz for your teen to pass before they start dating that will also provide you as a parent with some great talking points.

ARE YOU READY TO START DATING?

1. What is the purpose of dating?

  1. To have fun.
  2. To find someone to marry.
  3. There is no purpose. It’s just what teens do.
  4. To learn how to get to know someone.

Answer Key: Although you want your teen to have fun while dating (a lot of fun), the best answer here is, “To learn how to get to know someone.” Make sure your teen knows that there is a level of “fakeness” built into dating, especially at the beginning. This doesn’t mean people are being deceptive or dishonest, BUT both parties are trying to put the best version of themselves forward while possibly (probably) hiding parts of their real self and any of their flaws. Everyone is trying to sell an image of themselves. Getting to know someone takes time. It means seeing them in a variety of situations and paying attention to how they treat a variety of people—besides you. Oh, and marriage is like 15 years away.

2.  How long does it take to really get to know someone?

  1. First impressions are everything. 
  2. Their social media accounts show who they really are.
  3. Five or so dates.
  4. It really depends.

Answer Key: First impressions are important but can be totally misleading. So can social media. Some people post about their friends, family, hobbies, and little snapshots of their life. Some people create and curate a digital self-image that is far from reality. The bottom line is that it really depends. Assuming they treat your teen great because they are interested in them, your teen wants to watch for the following in who they date.

Watch for how they…

  • Treat their parents.
  • Act when they’re told, “No.”
  • Treat their siblings.
  • Treat their friends.
  • Respond to criticism.
  • Treat authority figures.
  • Treat people who wrong them.
  • Handle when things go wrong.
  • Treat people in need.
  • Respond to disagreements.

3. Your main goal in a dating relationship should be:

  1. Developing social skills
  2. Taking your time
  3. Growing emotionally
  4. Staying true to yourself

Answer Key: Trick question! Your teen’s goal in a dating relationship should be all of the above! If any of those things are NOT happening, it’s a bad sign. They should be growing into their best self. They shouldn’t feel rushed or pressured into anything, and their social skills should be developing as they learn how to interact with people. 

4. If there isn’t anybody in your life you’re truly interested in dating…

  1. Settle for the best you can get
  2. Explore online dating sites
  3. Lower your standards
  4. Hang out with your friends and pursue other interests

Answer Key: Your teen never wants to settle or lower their standards just so they can be dating someone. And they have no business being on some online dating site.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with not dating. Lots of people aren’t doing it. Your teen is probably avoiding a ton of drama while they have more time to hang out with their friends and pursue their interests, hobbies, and passions. And let’s not forget school. And more family time. It’s better to not be dating at all than to be dating the wrong person. Don’t settle!

5.  The best qualities or traits that you bring into dating are your…

  1. Hotness and popularity
  2. Personality and sense of humor
  3. Character and values
  4. Maturity and intelligence

Answer Key: Anything except (A.) is a great answer! Any fisherman will tell you that the bait you use will determine what you catch. Before your teen is ready to get to know someone else, they need to know who they are. They need to value and respect themselves, understand their strengths and growth areas, and have a strong sense of identity. Ask them follow-up questions about their personality, character, values, and maturity. Make them be as specific as possible and cultivate their self-awareness.

6.  “Red Flags” in a dating relationship would include…

The person…

  1. Constantly wants to know where you are and who you’re with.
  2. Tries to keep you away from your family and friends.
  3. Pressures you to go beyond your personal boundaries.
  4. Tells you how to dress.
  5. Tells you who you can be friends with or talk to.
  6. Puts you down a lot, even in a “joking” way.
  7. Blames you for every relationship problem or issue.
  8. Is not dependable, trustworthy, or honest.
  9. Makes you feel like you can’t be yourself with them.
  10. Makes you nervous that you’re going to do something to upset them or make them mad all the time.
  11. Wants to check your phone to see who you are talking to.

Answer Key: There are more “red flags” but those are all some important ones. What you want is for your teen to have healthy dating habits and be able to recognize a healthy relationship, an unhealthy relationship, and an abusive relationship. You want to know that your teen has a strong sense of their boundaries—both emotionally and physically—and can stick to them. The two of you might want to agree on a code word or phrase that if they say it in a call or text while on a date, you know they need to get out of a situation immediately.

You can’t get your teen ready for dating with a quiz. What you want is an ongoing conversation that continues throughout their dating life and sets them up for healthy dating habits. You know your teen better than anybody. You can help them get the fundamentals of dating so that dating is a healthy part of their teenage years that helps prepare them for adulthood. Trust me, you’ve got this!

Check out some other blogs on healthy dating habits here:

When Should I Let My Child Date?

What to Do When You Don’t Like Who Your Teen is Dating

10 Signs of Teen Dating Violence

Tips for Setting Dating Standards With Your Teens

10 Steps for a Low-Risk Teen Dating Strategy

People have sometimes said to me, “Chris, you have two daughters. Aren’t you scared to death of when they start dating?

I like to reply with an answer that really throws them for a spin: “Actually, I can’t WAIT for when my child dates!” (I usually either get a look like I have three heads or just a headshake-of-pity as they slowly turn and walk away with a “tsk-tsk…”). 

“Why can’t you wait?” you may ask. I know when my daughters begin to date, they’ll be entering a new phase in their social and emotional development, a period in their lives that will have life-transforming experiences. What they do in their early dating lives is going to shape who they marry, if they choose that route. And that’s exciting to me. (Not to mention, I’m chomping at the bit for that first you-can’t-go-on-a-date-with-my-daughter-until-I-interrogate-you meeting. I like to call it the “First Date Inquisition.”) 

Now, despite my gusto for dating, even I know there’s a healthy point for this phase to happen. Typically, when children and teens go through different stages of development, what happens in one stage plays a major role in how well they’ll get through the next. So, I want my daughters to enter into the dating stage of their lives as fully equipped and prepared as possible. 

So when should I let my child date?

That’s a hard question to answer. But, given all that I just shared, I can tell you when I won’t let my kids date.

When they can’t yet articulate to me a good purpose for dating.

Let’s be honest—when my daughter walks out of the house to meet someone for a date, the first thing on her mind probably isn’t, okay, I’m doing this because… She just wants to have fun, talk to someone who is as interested in her as she is in them. However, before that day comes, I do want her to have in her head why, overall, she wants to date. Because at the end of the day, there are good reasons and bad reasons to date. I don’t know that there’s a single right answer for all families to the question, “What’s the purpose for dating?” Parents and teens need to talk together to determine some positive purposes, with parents being the voices of wisdom. 

In our house, we talk about how dating:

  1. Prepares you to know better the kind of person you want to marry (if that’s something in the cards). 
  2. Is something that helps a young person grow into the person they are.
  3. Develops healthy social skills that are beyond friendship relationships. 

When they cannot yet grasp that their value doesn’t come from whether or who they date.

I want my girls to know that a romantic partner does not make them more of a person. They aren’t somehow “not enough” without a boyfriend. And that, despite what other people their age might be doing or saying, dating isn’t something you need to do because it helps you feel more accepted in your friend group. In other words, I want them to develop self-confidence and the beginnings of a firm identity beyond their dating life. 

When a teen knows this, it can protect them from adolescent dating risks. Research tells us that teens who have a healthy amount of self-efficacy, or self-assurance, are less likely to experience dating violence, use drugs or alcohol on dates, or cave into sexual pressures. 

If they don’t feel like they can communicate with me or their mom if something is wrong.

I’m just going to lay it out there for you: as much as it may pain you, when your kids begin dating, they will experience heartbreak, pressures, and temptation. They are going through the mental and emotional gymnastics of development. And they are going to come to points, many times, when they are stuck and need a voice of wisdom. That’s you. I want my daughters to know they can call me if they are at a place they don’t want to be and I’ll be there to get them. And I want them to feel comfortable to open up about what they are feeling or experiencing in a dating relationship. Despite popular belief, this is very possible

If they are dealing with depression or anxiety.

The bad news is that, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, 30% of adolescents experience some kind of anxiety, and Pew research tells us that 13% of adolescents in 2017 experienced at least one major depressive episode. The good news is, the vast majority of these issues in teens are very treatable. If my daughters experience any kind of depression or anxiety, I’m confident we can work through it over time. However, I don’t want a boyfriend or an active dating life to be the coping mechanism they use to deal with these things. Bad things happen when the “other person” is made the emotional crutch. 

When they can’t separate their dating life from their compassion for others.

What I mean here is sort of the reverse of the previous bullet point. Both of my daughters are very compassionate people; they’d gladly give everything they have to help someone who’s down and out. However, we’ve all seen relationships where one person stays because they feel the need to help the other deal with some issue. And this brings the fear that if you were to break it off, the other person might go off the deep end somehow.  This is “martyr dating,” and it’s not healthy. I want my daughters to understand that dating is not the avenue to walk people through their problems. 

A couple of caveats need to be made with the above points: 

  • Now, if I were to wait until my kids had all these things down in their development to let them date, well, they may be living in my house a verrrrrrry long time. Obviously, they won’t have it all together in their teen years. But the idea is to know my kids well enough to know that they are well on the road toward these developmental traits.
  • These developmental lessons begin well before teens are anywhere close to dating age. As a matter of fact, they begin with a close, connected relationship between parent and child. Parents need to be in the pocket, having ongoing conversations on these ideas with their kids. This is how children build self-confidence and trust to go to their parents with problems, even when they are older. Ongoing conversations help teens cope with anxiety and other emotional issues. And it helps them come to a good understanding as to the purpose of dating. 

There is no magic age a child should be allowed to date. It really depends on the child and where they are in their thinking and development. But one thing is for certain: parents need to become a student of their kids, continually learning more and more about how they’re thinking, what they’re feeling, and getting a sense of the direction of their development. This is the best way that we as parents can prepare our kids for a healthy dating life.

Image from Pexels.com

How long should a couple be engaged before getting married? Great question! There isn’t a “magic number” and it doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing. What matters is how well you both really know each other and if you are both ready—individually and relationally—for that big “forever” next step.

To help guide you through this thought process, let’s see what some experts have to say and what conclusions they’ve gathered from research. 

The average engagement length for U.S. couples was 15 months. The study represents feedback from more than 25,000 couples married in 2019. 

Different factors can play into having a longer or shorter engagement. It boils down to what is best for you two. It’s important to know the difference between having a reason for a long engagement or one of you not wanting to commit and pick a wedding date.

Reasons for having longer engagement:

  • Are you still in school?
  • Are you long-distance or living abroad?
  • Do you have commitments that are presently keeping you busy and you need time to plan?
  • Are you saving money for the wedding to pay for it upfront?
  • Most importantly, are you still getting to know each other?

John Van Epp, author and relationship expert, believes that within “three to six months you can begin to know someone, but like looking through a microscope at its lowest power, you can only see certain things in that amount of time.

Dating someone for an extended period allows you to see certain things that may not become evident right away. Having history together provides understanding into who each person really is. It allows you to see how each person handles different kinds of situations. So, you may not need a long engagement if you’ve already put in the relationship work to get to know each other well. The important thing is that you are ready for marriage.

A relationship needs time for things to normalize. Many people are very flexible in the infancy of a relationship, but as time goes by they become less flexible. By taking things slow and easy you give your relationship time to grow up and you get to see how the person will really treat you,” says relationship expert, Julie Baumgardner.

One study found that couples who dated for more than two years consistently scored higher on marital satisfaction than those who dated less than two years.

According to research by John Birtchnell and John Kennard, at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, “Couples which are better acquainted before marriage have significantly higher rates of marital quality.” Couples who are less acquainted experience greater problems when they face the inevitable difficulties of marriage.

Long engagements are helpful when individuals are at significantly different places in their lives,” says Scott Haltzman, author and relationship expert. So, if you or your partner are in the midst of some of those things listed above, it might be better to take some time on the front end to sort it out before the wedding. It also allows time for premarital education

Haltzman also says that a prolonged engagement gives couples an opportunity to engage in premarital education to learn skills to help them navigate the marriage journey. Premarital education is incredibly importantno matter how long youre engaged.

In addition, Scott Stanley, a marriage guru and research professor at the University of Denver Center for Marital and Family Studies, argues that one of the primary reasons premarital education has value is because it slows couples down and fosters greater deliberation. In Making a Case for Premarital Education, Stanley says the lack of time in a premarital relationship correlates with higher rates of divorce in the subsequent marriage.

However, there is a growing love for shorter engagements.

Remember, it doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing. Maybe you’ve dated a really long time and gone through premarital education. Perhaps you’ve seen each other respond to problems, differences, and stressors over time. If so, you might not need a long engagement. 

Being engaged feels separate from dating because of the mutual desire for commitment for the future. But there is some overlap in this limbo. You aren’t married yet and you’re more than a girlfriend/boyfriend. Nonetheless, you’re still dating and your goal is to continue getting to know each other so there aren’t any big surprises after you marry.

It boils down to figuring out what is best for you both based on where your relationship is right now. Have you laid a strong foundation? Are you rushing things? Are you listening to other people’s opinions versus making a decision that is right for the two of you? 

It’s a case by case basis, so don’t feel like you have to find a perfect equation. Figure out what works for you.

Consider these blogs for some additional resources:

Image from Unsplash.com

Weddings are time consuming, expensive, and stressful.

We totally get it. There’s hardly any time to breathe, let alone enjoy this season with your soon-to-be spouse! But that’s why we created Preparing for Marriage Online. This online class will guide you both through the answers to these questions and MORE! And the best part is, you can watch each video in the comfort of your own home and on your OWN TIME – and right now, it’s all for FREE!

During this class, you’ll cover topics like…

  • Clear & effective communication skills,
  • How to handle the in-laws,
  • Conflict management,
  • The importance of dating your spouse,
  • Planning, budgeting, and finances,
  • What to expect your first year,
  • And more!

When everything else in the world is having to adapt because of a pandemic, why not throw romance into the mix! Thus “quarandating” is born.

Quarandating: Dating while in quarantine.

It’s an interesting concept I’m not sure anyone would have predicted-—though let’s be honest, 2020 has been an enigmatic year. Nonetheless, as you consider the involuntary long-distance relationship (even while living near each other), or finding yourself somewhere 6 ft in between, you should have an idea of what to think about and do.

Here are 5 Things to Know About Quarandating:

1. Take baby steps.

For your first date, start with the cameras off and just talk on the phone. Keep the conversation light and take the pressure off. Find out what you have in common, try and learn a little about their personality and see what your connection is like with just conversations.

Questions for 1st date:

  1. What do you love to do?
  2. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
  3. When was the last time you went out of state and where?
  4. What’s your favorite movie? (No questions asked.)

If the phone call went well, consider a video call for your next date over FaceTime or Zoom. You both enjoyed talking, so make it more interesting, change up the conversation topics and see if you have some chemistry.

Questions for 2nd date:

  • What does your ideal weekend look like?
  • If you could travel anywhere, where would you travel and what would you do while there?
  • Do you read spoilers? Explain why/why not.
  • Give each other a tour of your refrigerators (I’m positive there will be some follow-up questions that come naturally!)
  • What makes you laugh?
  • Who is the most important person/people in your life?

If you feel a little something between you and want to see where else it can go, consider FaceTiming a few more times or a socially-distant date.

Some questions to ask once you two feel more comfortable:

  • Someone who really knows me would know this…
  • When have you felt the most capable?
  • If there is an event that has really shaped your life, what was it and how?
  • What tells you that you’re valuable?
  • Where do you feel most at peace?

You have an opportunity to have some quality and fun conversations and learn about each other with some of the normal distractions and time-suckers out of the way. 

If you’re tired of all of the dating apps and swiping, but you’d really like to get out there still, you have options. There’s a dating website that was created during the pandemic called Quarandate. Essentially, it’s a safe blind date with a twist… 

Quarandate is an online dating service that pairs singles with a potential match, but there’s a twist. The two can then go on a date that’s live-streamed with a host who asks questions to see if you’re compatible. The virtual date can last up to 30 minutes and people watching at home get to chime in and rate the pair’s connection. According to the site, it’s a fun way to safely find a match during the coronavirus crisis.

Sounds pretty cool to me—it gives off virtual Bachelor/Bachelorette vibes.

2. Get creative while staying safe!

Dating doesn’t have to be boring while the world feels at a standstill with COVID-19 still being an issue.

Virtual Date Ideas:

  • Do a virtual show and tell (the funnier the story, the better). 
  • You can watch a movie together while apart with NetflixParty streaming.
  • Play games together on different apps like HouseParty, Jackbox games, etc.
  • Perhaps you two can keep each other company while you clean up around the house and just practice “being” together. 
  • Try a new recipe together. Pick out something you want to try, each of you pick up your own ingredients and FaceTime while cooking!

Social Distance Friendly Dates:

  • Take a hike together.
  • Have a potluck picnic—both of you bring your own meal and blanket.
  • Go to the zoo! This could bring up great stories from when you were a kid.
  • Go on a bike ride.
  • Get outside and exercise together

Find new hobbies, talk about what you want to do when the world opens back up and embrace the uniqueness of the time you have now while acknowledging it will be different in the future.

3. FaceTiming each other is a different experience than having real “face time” together.

The natural chemistry (or lack thereof) can sometimes be harder to read with only a screen to clue you in. However, during COVID-19 in particular, there’s a comfort with virtually dating. You have less to worry about, so less nerves. You have someone to talk to and the commitment feels less risky. (Not to mention you know you have other options truly at your fingertips.) 

Virtual dating in general has become much more common. You don’t have to worry about it being a taboo place to meet someone. In fact, 30% of US adults have used online dating; 12% found a “committed relationship from it” according to Pew Research.

However, there are things to be wary of, like people being dishonest. “Roughly 7 in 10 online daters believe it is very common for those who use these platforms to lie to try to appear more desirable.” Remember the potential for being “catfished.” The last thing you want to happen is find out the person you have been talking to isn’t who you think they are. “Talking on the phone and messaging back and forth only provides a one-dimensional perspective of your relationship. It is impossible to be in love with someone without seeing how they interact with others, how they handle anger and conflict, or how they treat you. You may be in love with who you think they are, but you have no proof that what you have heard or seen is real.” says relationship expert, Julie Baumgardner.

Know how much information is too much to share, remember that even though they seem nice, they’re a stranger you haven’t met and keeping your personal information personal for the first little bit will keep you safe. 

*Here’s a great blog on safety tips for online dating

4. Consider dating in person for a while before taking the next step.

You may have hit it off with someone and are considering taking it to the next step. With quarandating, the steps may look a little different. You may have been dating for the last 3-5 months, but what does your relationship look like under different circumstances? During this uncertain and definitely unprecedented time, it’s important to give your relationship space to materialize into its own thing without the stressful circumstances. 🔎 People act differently under stress and you need to see what they’re like without it.

A relationship needs time for things to normalize. Many people are very flexible in the infancy of a relationship, but as time goes by they become less flexible. By taking things slow and easy you give your relationship time to grow up and you get to see how the person will really treat you.” Baumgardner says.

John Van Epp, author and relationship expert, believes that within “three to six months you can begin to know someone, but like looking through a microscope at its lowest power, you can only see certain things in that amount of time.”

Dating someone for an extended period allows you to see certain things that may not become evident right away. Having history together gives understanding to who you really are because you have seen how each other handles different kinds of situations.

5. Decide what you want and DON’T settle.

There are challenges with dating online and even more so with this pandemic. It’s easy to feel anxious and lonely because of COVID and believe that you may as well take what you’ve got so you have someone. 

There will be a light at the end of this tunnel and being with someone who is good for you and makes you better is more valuable to your life than someone who is just there so you’re not alone. Figuring out if you’re in a heart-healthy relationship or if there are some red flags that are being avoided out of convenience will help prevent you from compromising what you want and need.

Times are difficult and you may have never wanted to online date, but with the limited options, you have the choice to make the most of this opportunity to spend a little more time getting to know someone before you are up close and personal. You get to decide what’s best for you and how to go about it. 

Now that you know what to think about, hope you meet someone special!

Weddings are time consuming, expensive, and stressful.

We totally get it. There’s hardly any time to breathe, let alone enjoy this season with your soon-to-be spouse! But that’s why we created Preparing for Marriage Online. This online class will guide you both through the answers to these questions and MORE! And the best part is, you can watch each video in the comfort of your own home and on your OWN TIME – and right now, it’s all for FREE!

During this class, you’ll cover topics like…

  • Clear & effective communication skills,
  • How to handle the in-laws,
  • Conflict management,
  • The importance of dating your spouse,
  • Planning, budgeting, and finances,
  • What to expect your first year,
  • And more!

Image from Pexels.com

I just want to do it right, I want to know what I’m supposed to do.” I kept saying this to myself while I was getting ready to be married. Plus, I wanted to prepare myself for anything that could come our way. I wanted a rock solid marriage with a foundation no earthquake could tear down. But when everyone started giving us advice, it was overwhelming.

My parents divorced and my amazing mom raised my sisters and me by herself. She taught me unconditional love with her selfless giving and consistent encouragement, but I wasn’t around a marriage relationship

Luckily, the tantalizing lie that I would mess up or something would go wrong was put to bed once Tyler, my husband, and I took inventory of the relationships we admire

His parents’ marriage was stronger than ever, a close family friend had been married for almost 50 years, a couple who were our small group leaders, and the list went on. Tyler and I were surrounded by people who loved us and would jump at the opportunity to support us.

☆ There are people in your life with good intentions who will give you lots of marriage advice before and right after you say “I do.” However, there are some people who might not necessarily be the right ones to speak into your marriage. Or it might be better to say that they may not be qualified to give you that kind of advice

How can you decipher what marriage advice is solid, who to listen to, and who’s a friend of your marriage?

Checklist:

  • Do you or your fiancé have a good relationship with the person giving advice?
  • Is this someone who you trust?
  • Did this person/couple know you and/or your fiancé before the engagement?
  • Is this a person who is where you want to be at in life?
  • Do you like how they handle conflict?
  • Have they already been through what you’re going through?
  • Are they supportive of your marriage?
  • Will the relationship with them continue in your marriage and not just before it?

There’s no better place to seek marriage advice than from someone who is in the place you want to be. Most people will give advice from the baggage they have had to carry and what they’ve already been through. There is wisdom in asking questions, and pure gold from listening to those who have done marriage well who know you well enough to be open and honest about their experience. Talk to couples who did not let trials cripple their relationship but used the challenge as an opportunity to grow from it. 

Ask them questions like…

  • What is the most challenging and most rewarding part of marriage?
  • What did you all do that has helped you get to the place you are now?
  • How do you solve problems that seem irreconcilable?
  • What would you have done differently with the experiences you have been through?
  • What grace do you wish you had given each other in the beginning of your marriage?

☆ There’s always room to grow-—more in love, closer together, and into stronger versions of yourself. Lean into the support system you have and keep the door open for conversations throughout your marriage.

In addition to talking with your trusted people, here are some resources…

☆ If you want to take it a step further, check out our free online premarital program!

P.S. There are a few other organizations we have found helpful, like The Gottman Institute, LoveThinks, and the work by Michele Weiner-Davis to name a few. Hope this helps. <3

Weddings are time consuming, expensive, and stressful.

We totally get it. There’s hardly any time to breathe, let alone enjoy this season with your soon-to-be spouse! But that’s why we created Preparing for Marriage Online. This online class will guide you both through the answers to these questions and MORE! And the best part is, you can watch each video in the comfort of your own home and on your OWN TIME – and right now, it’s all for FREE!

During this class, you’ll cover topics like…

  • Clear & effective communication skills,
  • How to handle the in-laws,
  • Conflict management,
  • The importance of dating your spouse,
  • Planning, budgeting, and finances,
  • What to expect your first year,
  • And more!

Image from Unsplash.com

We are gonna look at your question about teen dating in reverse order—hang in there, but I want you to do something first: empathize.

How do you think your teen feels knowing that their parent(s) don’t like this person who they obviously think is special? That’s hard. If you have a healthy relationship with them, it’s even harder. Your teen doesn’t want static with you while they believe they are just following their heart. Oh, you haven’t expressed your dislike of this person they are dating? Trust me, they know. Which means their significant other probably knows too. Put yourself in their shoes a minute. To them, all they’ve done wrong is to be attracted to the wonderful teen you raised. This is hard all the way around. But it doesn’t have to get any harder.

Question 1: Is your teen actually “dating” this person?

I just have to ask because things have changed so much from when we were teens. It’s a lot more common to hang out with someone. Your teen (at least) might not even have any romantic interest in them. You might not even know about the person they are interested in romantically because your teen spends hours in their room hanging out with them on FaceTime or some other app on their phone. So, let’s define some terms here.

Just to be sure, ask (don’t interrogate) your teen these questions to make sure they are actually dating:

  • Do you have romantic feelings for this person?
  • Are you and the person you’re interested in both looking for an exclusive relationship? 
  • Do you hang out or go on dates without a group of friends?
  • Is the status of your relationship something you’ve shared with others in person or online, like on social?
  • Do both people in the relationship agree that it’s exclusive?

Question 2: Your teen is your top priority—are they ready for dating?

I wouldn’t give my kids an age when they could start dating. It depended on whether my wife and I thought they were mature enough to handle the responsibilities and the dangers—both emotionally and physically—of being in a dating relationship. (Just because the state will give you a driver’s license on a certain date doesn’t mean you’re ready to drive. I’ve told a couple of my kids that the state may think you’re ready—I don’t though…)

Does your teen respect your boundaries in other areas of their life? Have they shown you they are trustworthy? Has your teen shown that they can set up and enforce their own personal boundaries? Have you talked to your teen about the significance and consequences of sex? Have you talked to your teen about the warning signs of an unhealthy or abusive relationship? Does their significant other or your teen ever do any of the following bright red flags of abuse:

  • Checking your cell phone or email without permission
  • Constantly putting you down
  • Extreme jealousy or insecurity
  • Explosive temper
  • Isolating you from family or friends
  • Making false accusations
  • Mood swings
  • Physically hurting you in any way
  • Possessiveness
  • Telling you what to do
  • Pressuring or forcing you to have sex or go further physically 

Have you set up a “code word or phrase” with your teen, so that if they are on a date and feel uncomfortable for any reason they can call or text you to “check-in” and mention “shopping next week” so you know to get them out of that situation?

Question 3: Who is this person and why don’t you like them?

We have to be careful here and we need to be honest. Does this person just not fit the idealized boyfriend or girlfriend you’ve had in mind for years? Have you idealized your teen and this person just isn’t “good enough” for them, or you think “They could do better?” Have you not just “set the bar” high, but set it impossibly high? No teenager is perfect, and honestly, the teen that seems perfect is probably the one you really want to keep your eye on. Imperfect doesn’t mean dangerous. This might be a “you” thing.

Have you seen changes in your teen that concern you since this person has become a significant part of their life? Are you worried that your teen is “building their world” around this individual and now your teen’s priorities have shifted? Grades slipping? Personality changing? Doesn’t want to be around the family anymore? Doesn’t want to bring their significant other around to hang out with the family? That is concerning behavior! But it could be signaling that your teen just isn’t ready for a dating relationship with anyone right now.

Question 4: What do you do now?

I know you wanted to get here right out of the gate, but we had to do some processing before we took a course of action. We needed to make sure we understood the problem so we could find the right solution.

In general, I always communicated to my children that realistically, marriage is nowhere in your future and you need to be focusing on your educational and career goals, family, friends, and discovering your interests, skills, and passions in life—so now is not the time for a relationship that is a mini-marriage. Those only lead to a mini-divorce and leave scars and baggage you have to carry around the rest of your life. 

I always encouraged my kids to do things in groups or have people over to our house. If they were seriously interested in someone, bringing them around the house was not an option, it was a necessity. If their “special interest” wasn’t comfortable coming into my house, then I wasn’t comfortable with my child outside of my house with them. Period. Full stop. 

So, here’s where we are:

  1. Is your teen not ready to date?
  2. Are you not ready for your teen to date?
  3. Is the person your teen wants to date dangerous or a bad influence? Emotionally or physically?
  4. Is the person your teen wants to date just a normal, flawed teenager, like your teen?

✭ Bonus Question: What do you believe (and what have you taught your teen) is the purpose of dating at their age?

In his book, The 6 Most Important Decisions You’ll Ever Make: A Guide for Teens, Sean Covey defines the difference between intelligent dating and brainless dating.

Intelligent dating is dating successfully, being selective about who you date, hanging out and having fun, remaining steady through the natural highs and lows of romance, and keeping your own standards,” says Covey. “Brainless dating is dating ineffectively, dating anyone who has a pulse, becoming centered on your girlfriend or boyfriend, having your heart broken repeatedly, and doing what everyone else seems to be doing.”

  • Don’t date too young. Dating too young can lead to various problems, including getting taken advantage of, getting physical too soon, or not knowing how to end a relationship.
  • Date people your own age. Dating someone who is several years older than you isn’t healthy.
  • Get to know lots of people. Getting too serious too soon can cut you off from other relationships. Don’t be too eager to have a girlfriend or boyfriend. Date a lot of different people and have fun.
  • Date in groups. Group activities are often more fun, and there is safety in numbers.
  • Set boundaries. Choose what kind of people you will date BEFORE you start dating. Decide what is off-limits and don’t change your mind for anyone.
  • Have a plan. Before going on a date, prepare for the unexpected.

Dating “intelligently” is a great way for a teen to learn about how relationships work, learn their likes and dislikes, socialize with their peers, improve interpersonal communication skills, and hopefully have fun with their friends.

If your teen is dating someone that falls in that “They Aren’t Dangerous, But I Don’t Like ‘Em” category, remember no rings have been exchanged. See if your teen figures it out. That’s what this time is for.

Other Blogs Might Interest You:

Is Being in a Toxic Relationship Better Than Being Alone?

10 Steps for a Low-Risk Teen Dating Strategy

Love Shouldn’t Hurt

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Marriage is the best! But it’s not perfect. If you’re engaged, I think it’s only fair someone breaks the news to you. There are some definite misconceptions about marriage you should know before you say, “I do.”

Having recently been in your shoes (about a year ago now), I’m glad to have figured this out! My hope is that you have an amazing first year of marriage and many years to follow. A great place to start is with clearing up a few misconceptions about marriage. Whether you are finding out about or being reminded of these 5 things, I encourage you to seriously consider them. 

Misconception #1. Marriage will solve whatever problems you currently have.

As amazing as that would be, a title and official seal of foreverness does not equal problem-free reality. If you know something is creating friction for you now while you’re engaged… work on it before “I do.” The hardest conversations are always worth having and though they may not feel great in the moment, they are more than likely the most important to have. (Besides, you may have the luxury of going back to your own place if you need some space. Once you’re living together you only have a few rooms to work with, and that may only be the bathroom if you’re in a one-bedroom like me!) You want to start this new chapter fresh. Lessen your baggage by bringing in more solutions than problems. You have to put in some legwork, but it’s so worth it!

Misconception #2. Your spouse will be the only emotional support system you’ll need.

Wooowee on this one. Let me tell you, you will be very disappointed if you fall into the trap of thinking that because you’re marrying someone to be their one and only, they’ll be the only one you need. To hold an expectation for your spouse that they are the only key to your happiness, comforting you when you’re sad, or even magically want to pick up and join you in all of your hobbies is to be disappointed. Just like you, your fiancé is human and when they become your spouse, they will be human then, too. 

My dad died unexpectedly this year, one month into our marriage. I am 24, so it feels young. Though my husband was absolutely there to hold me, I needed someone to talk with to verbally process what just happened.

My husband is an internal processor and doesn’t want to say anything until he feels like he has the right words to say. Instead of putting pressure on him to try and talk to me in depth about what was going on and potentially being upset by how he handled it, I called my best girlfriend. She processes things like I do. That’s what I needed. This didn’t make my husband any less loving or capable (because goodness he is the most loving)it just gave us both the space to do what we needed. He supported me by not leaving my side and holding me while my best friend talked me through my emotions. 

It’s healthy to have people you can depend on outside of your own home. Having an opportunity to navigate this so early in our marriage really got us on the right track. Even though it was a painful and tragic thing to happen, it was so good for our marriage because it reminded us that we don’t have to carry the weight of being the only source of stability for each other. It takes a village!

Misconception #3. You’ll hang out all the time because you live together.

Would be nice, but isn’t exactly as it seems. I hope I’m not breaking any hearts here—I’m just wanting to be honest with you. Though you do spend a lot of time together, it looks different than while dating. Your love life and work life are a little more separate when you aren’t married. I love the perks of coming home to my handsome man. We share bills, chores, meals over candlelight, and a bed! 

Despite coming home to each other, if you both work a full-time job, that’s 40 hours a week apart (let’s set COVID-19 aside as the exception here for a moment) you aren’t together. Then you come home, if you work out after your job, have to make dinner, clean up, shower or prepare for the next day of work, you begin to notice how coming home at 5 and getting enough sleep leaves only a few hours to get everything done. 

Just breathing the same air or sitting on the same couch doesn’t mean you’re really connecting. We are so guilty of being on our phones while next to each other and look up at the time and just ask where it went. We’ve gone to bed saying “I missed you today” or “I feel like we didn’t even see each other!” while being in the same house. (Let’s bring COVID-19 back for a moment because this was recent while working from home!) 

Quantity of time together doesn’t equal quality. Quality time takes being intentional and showing an effort. If you are blessed enough to have the same schedule, use it to your advantage and enjoy each other and enjoy meaningful time together. There are many couples who don’t have the luxury of sharing meals together with one person working the night shift and the other the morning shift. I’m not trying to guilt trip you into hanging out… ok, maybe I am just a little, but you’ll thank me. Have a family meeting and talk about your schedule. Pencil in quality time together.

Misconception #4. The first year is the hardest year.

I’m going to be honest. Hearing people say this frustrates me. Your first year does not have to be your hardest! Take it from someone who has dealt with: losing and starting a new job, losing their father, my husband being crashed into while driving my car (that we just had fixed), my mom getting in a wreck, my husband’s trip to the ER (an expensive date for four stitches lemme tell ya), my husband getting more responsibility at work which meant more work at home, unexpected bills, family members in the hospital, COVID-19 and quarantine… I could go on. That all sounds like a recipe for conflict and stress—but it wasn’t. Each situation that went wrong was an opportunity to grow closer together.

Was it hard? Some parts, but it was also so sweet. In the midst of all of those things: we fell more in love, rescued two of the sweetest kitties, got to travel, went  camping, played tons of games, experienced new things, danced in the kitchen (many times) while making dinner, laughed at each other and ourselves, came home to our best friend, spend more uninterrupted quality time with each other than ever before (thank you, quarantine), learned new things about each other, shared stories, made a lot of memories, and the list could go on. 

We consciously made an effort to continue pursuing each other, assume the best of one another, have a good attitude, resolve conflict, and be romantic. 

We have been together almost 8 years and this year topped them all. If you put in the work and continue to pursue each other, I bet your first year can be wonderful despite whatever life may throw at you.

Misconception #5. Your spouse will know everything you want.

So remember how I said your fiancé, once you marry them, will still be human when they become your spouse? Yeah. This remains true a few paragraphs later. Unfortunately, when you reach husband or wife status, you don’t become a mind reader! (Mind-blowing, I’m sure.) I am SO guilty of this, and I definitely have a natural ability to pick up on feelings other people don’t. (For you Enneagram people out there, I am a 2!).

I can’t tell you how many times my husband and I have had the conversation about needing to tell each other what we need and what we want. Sometimes, when we assume, we get it wrong. You know how the saying goes. Even though you two know each other better than anyone else, it’s dangerous to presume that they know what you mean without saying or explaining it. You’re going to have to keep working at communication.

This goes back to the expectations thing I mentioned before. You have to play your part in informing the other person what it is that is really on your mind and heart. Communication is king. If there’s one thing to become a pro at in marriage, it’s communicating (I’m sure you could think of a few more areas to be well-versed in). 

Communicate often and clearly. Never put yourself in the position of thinking you know everything there is to know about your spouse. You’ll get bored! Being married isn’t a finish line—it’s the beginning of an ongoing process.

*Helpful hint for the ladies: they still don’t pick up on hints. Just save yourself the trouble and ask very direct questions, *wink wink.*

With these common misconceptions about marriage out in the open, I hope you have a better understanding of what not to expect. Truly, perspective and expectations are everything. You and your fiancé will navigate all of it together—you aren’t alone! As some of these things try and sneak their way into your marriage, I hope you feel equipped to kick them out! Oh, and smooch along the way… it’s good for you.

Image from Pexels.com

Weddings are time consuming, expensive, and stressful.

We totally get it. There’s hardly any time to breathe, let alone enjoy this season with your soon-to-be spouse! But that’s why we created Preparing for Marriage Online. This online class will guide you both through the answers to these questions and MORE! And the best part is, you can watch each video in the comfort of your own home and on your OWN TIME – and right now, it’s all for FREE!

During this class, you’ll cover topics like…

  • Clear & effective communication skills,
  • How to handle the in-laws,
  • Conflict management,
  • The importance of dating your spouse,
  • Planning, budgeting, and finances,
  • What to expect your first year,
  • And more!

One-bedroom apartment.

Two newlyweds working from home now.

Multiple video conference calls (sometimes simultaneously).

Only two options for “getting space”: Bathroom or the balcony.

Lots of uncertainty and anxiety in the air amidst a pandemic.

Time to work on those healthy communication skills.

I’m sitting on the couch with my husband when the phone rings. We pause our movie, he answers and all I hear is “Mhmm, yeah…okay, yeah.”

His family friend has a nice car and is offering it to us before anyone else and for a good price. Hmm…

Mind you, we have been saving for about 10 months now to replace my husband’s car. It’s been on our to-do list before all of these COVID-19 precautions. We both were antsy to check it off.

Now normally, I love a good deal, but I had to ask myself (and him), “Is this good timing?”

To be honest, a lot feels unknown. We don’t know the ramifications COVID-19 will have on the economy and making a big purchase scares me a little bit…a detour from our original plan feels necessary. To him, we’ve had a goal in mind, we’ve worked hard and this is a great opportunity. 

This could be a difficult conversation.

During this pandemic, I’m sure you can relate to having your fair share of challenging conversations, too. There are lots of new, important things to talk about. Money is a touchy subject as it is, and during a time when no one wants to handle money and is quarantined, the irony felt all too coincidental. For us, this was a potential relationship landmine. 

The last thing we need to take up space in our little apartment is tension. There’s not enough room for the distance created by the lack of good communication.

If you create distance because one of you or both of you are pushing away your feelings, rather than pushing through them, then you create an opportunity to have that gap filled by things that only make matters worse. Disappointment, resentment or misunderstandings start filling the gap and then you two have enough tension to fill a guest room that you don’t have. 

You can’t fix a problem you don’t know is there and neither can your spouse. Neither of you is a mind reader. Conflict isn’t comfortable—I won’t sell it to you like it is. But I will be honest—it’s often a chance for growth and a better understanding of each other.

You aren’t doing life on your own anymore. Important decisions are made together. I mean, as the saying goes, “Two heads are better than one.” 

And we had to put our heads together on whether this is a good time to buy a car or not. Who knows how this conversation will go? We often have to work to not get defensive of our own opinions. We agreed that at the end of this difficult conversation, both of us need to feel heard and cared for.

Before we tried to come to a conclusion, we set ourselves up for success.

We made each other feel safe to share opposing opinions and we listened with the intention to hear each other and respond—not just make a rebuttal (as tempting as that can be.)

  1. We made sure we had time to start and hopefully, finish the conversation. 
  2. Both us of put our phones aside, made sure our schedules were clear and we made resolving our conflict a priority.
  3. We chose a spot where we felt comfortable talking. 
  4. We reminded each other before we started making our points that this is our decision to make, no one else’s, and that we are on the same team. Win together and lose together. We replaced the “me” in mentality with “we.” What is best for us?
  5. We actively listened. (Meaning, we “listened” between the lines of each other’s answers and made sure to ask each other clarifying questions. Call us compassionate detectives.) “Are you scared of spending the money we saved for the car because of what’s unknown in the economy or are you really worried about your job?” “Are you not worried about using our savings just because we’ve been saying we would get a car, or because you feel secure in the foundation we laid for ourselves?
  6. We found a solution and made a plan where we both compromised a little while still reaching our goal. We are going to try and sell Tyler’s car before we make the purchase of the new-to-us car. That way we won’t drain our savings during an uncertain time and we are still marking off something we’ve put a lot of time and effort into making happen.

Maybe it’s been a stressful, exhausting week already and you don’t want to add to it. It’s possible you fear what the other person may say or worry they won’t see your point of view.  Maybe it’s as simple as you don’t know where to start.

Make good communication a priority, now more than ever.

Remind yourself to push through and have those difficult conversations rather than push away the emotions. Remember that good communication will help both of you grow and find better ways to love each other.

In marriage, you should be able to rest confidently in the fact that your partner chose you, chooses you and will continue to as you do all the same things for them. If you both put the effort into making your marriage a safe place where you two can fully express and be yourselves, then the rest, even a difficult conversation, becomes easier.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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