When to Start Dating


Our oldest daughter is 14. We haven't let her go out with boys yet, but she wants to. What kind of guidance should we give her? Should she be allowed to have a boyfriend?

— K.R.

Massillon, Ohio


George: Being of Latin descent, for me the answer is simple: She can't date until she's at least 30. Of course I'm kidding — but I do want to make a point. Dating is serious business, and starting too early can mean trouble.

I had a close personal friend who entered into a serious, exclusive relationship with a girl when he was 16 years old. Dating in high school was, and still is, in vogue; so to those around them it was very normal. But they were always together — studying, eating, going to parties and so on. Their lives basically revolved around each other.

A few years later, the girl broke up with him, and he was devastated. He had invested so much time and energy in the relationship, and in a flash it was over. Two years later he was still struggling and the breakup was interfering with his studies in college.

After seeing what happened to him, I now tell kids that young daters have a high risk of “heart disease,” because a broken heart, early in life, is hard to heal.

High school and college is a time to learn and to grow as an individual, not to develop as a couple.

And in the end, dating's primary purpose is to find a future spouse. So anyone who's not in the market for one isn't ready to date exclusively.

Lisette: I remember one of my students who used to talk to me after class, asking for advice about her boyfriend. She wanted to get involved in school activities, but her time was limited because she spent it with him. Every time she wanted to get interested in something, it would be clouded over by her concern: “What will my boyfriend think?”

It was a classic case of what we used to call “couple-itis”: a high school couple whose life is dominated by their relationship with each other. She ended up breaking up with this guy after three years. Now she's in college. But what happened to those three years when she dated him? Could she have been the president of student council? In the school play? We'll never know — that time is now gone.

I suggest you give your daughter similar examples.

Maybe you could sit down with her and make a list of her priorities and ask what should take most of her time. Then have a discussion about how a serious boyfriend would infringe on that list. Encourage her to go out in groups of friends. She can get to know guys that way without all the hazards of dating.

May God help you guide her in this exciting and trying time of teen years!

George and Lisette de los Reyes host “The Two Shall Be One” on EWTN.