Father Knows Best for Dating Daughter

On finding a mate at college — and on mating for life

Now that she’s in college, it seems appropriate to give my daughter advice on dating. Before now, she got advice about boys — mostly warnings. Since she was home-schooled, her interactions with boys were limited in comparison to other girls who attend high school.

Now that she’s entered adulthood, drives a car, and goes more places without her parents tagging along — the opportunities for dating are rapidly multiplying.

Related: How to Thrive in College

For now, my daughter’s attending a community college. In time, she may decide to attend a university. In either case, as she meets young men, new opportunities that represent a different world from what she’s been used to will open up to her.

I want her to take with her a bit of fatherly wisdom to guide her and help her to avoid some of the perils and pitfalls that could derail her dreams.

Here it is:

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1.) Prioritize your professional pursuits.
Dating can become a distraction that lowers your grades, and may even keep you from graduating and entering a profession.

College is an opportunity to equip yourself with skills that will give you more choices and greater security in life. Devote the years you’re enrolled in college first to your education and pursuit of a profession. Of course, that’s second to keeping alive your relationships with God, your family, and friends. For now, put dating and finding a mate in the column of secondary pursuits.

Don’t focus on cornering a mate too soon. Romance and sexual attraction can fade when life gets hard, and it will.

According to a recent survey by Pew Research Center entitled “The Rising Cost of Not Going to College,” millennials who complete college have lower poverty rates, lower unemployment, are less likely to live with their parents — and are more likely to get married.

Unless you’re equipped to be an entrepreneur, don’t skip out on college. Women who complete higher education and marry are more likely to be less dependent on their husband’s job and income for financial security. Women who earn a college degree also increase the chances their children will graduate from college and have successful careers.

2.) Focus on dating, not mating.
It’s now common for young women to start a sexual relationship knowing very little about the man she’s inviting to touch her in the most intimate ways possible.

Use dating as an opportunity to meet young men and to assess the strength of their character. Don’t focus on cornering a mate too soon. Romance and sexual attraction can fade when life gets hard — and it will. Character matters in the long run. Strong character is the glue that will keep a marriage alive and allow it to thrive over the long haul.

Related: Why Daughters Need Their Dad So Much

Build friendships on shared values, mutual respect, and trust. When the time and the guy are right, these traits will provide a strong foundation for a secure relationship and a happy marriage.

3.) Be clear about your sexual expectations.
Many college men have one goal when it comes to dating women — they want to score as fast as they can. Many men would skip the date if they could, and move directly from hello to sex.

For her safety, a woman needs to be clear about her expectations when dating. Women have a lot more at risk than men to their well-being and reputation.

The prevailing assumption is that college co-eds will consent to sex. Romantic relationships aren’t required. Casual sex between friends and acquaintances, called “hook-ups,” are common. A study by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy concluded that nearly nine in 10 young adults age 18 to 29 are having pre-marital sex. The result was 8 in 10 among young adults who claimed to be Christian.

You must know your boundaries and communicate them firmly.

Save sexual intimacy for your marriage. It’s honorable, and God and I still believe it’s the best choice to make. At least one in 10 young people still achieves that goal. But to do that, you must know your boundaries and communicate them firmly.

4.) Be pursued, not the pursuer.
The feminist movement has made it acceptable for a woman to take the initiative in asking a man for a date, and even to ask a man to marry her. What’s “acceptable” isn’t always best.

Movies about women who try to hook a disinterested man don’t sell well.

The pursuit of a woman by a man, and the thrill that accompanies it for both sexes, is a core theme in human history. It begins with God curing Adam’s longing for a companion by creating Eve. This theme is also found in the Bible’s stories of God’s courtship of humanity as a man would court a potential bride.

Few things, if any, cause more excitement for a woman than being pursued by the man of her dreams.

Related: The Sex Talk You Can’t Skip

If you want a relationship with a man who’s confident in himself, who will openly express his desire for you, and who will respect you, your odds are better if you aren’t pursuing men.

I’m not suggesting you should be passive. Express your interest. Smile. Put your hand on his arm. Laugh at his humor. But when it comes to asking for a date, planning the date, picking you up for the date, and paying the bill — let him do that. He’ll appreciate it, and you’ll likely be happier when your dates develop into a friendship that leads to marriage.

Jon Beaty, life coach and father of two, lives near Portland, Oregon. He’s the author of the book “If You’re Not Growing, You’re Dying: 7 Habits for Thriving in Your Faith, Relationships and Work.”

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