What standards should I have in dating?

“What standards should I have in dating?” New Era, Oct. 1971, 43

“What standards should I have in dating? Some friends say that when going on a date, I am expected to take a girl’s hand, walk her to the car, help her in, and then to put my arm around her to show her some affection. I have known the girl I’m taking out for quite a while, but I think that putting my arm around her, or any girl, on the first date is going kind of far. What do you suggest?”

Answer/Joe J. Christensen

Before sitting down to write this answer, I took occasion to ask several attractive young girls how they would respond to this question. Without exception, each indicated in her own way that a fellow should feel no responsibility to put his arm around a girl to show her some affection. One of the girls said, “Boys who try to do that really lose points with me.”

Afterwards, each took some time to respond to other aspects of this rather complex question. One young lady said that she greatly admired young men who knew how to be courteous, doing such things as being on time, walking on the outside down the street, being responsive to parents’ requests about when they would like their daughter to be home, knowing when the girl or the fellow should go first, opening car doors, and being genuine in conversation.

Perhaps one of the most important points mentioned was that the question seemed to imply that a person should have one set of standards for ordinary living and another for dating. The girls’ point of view is that we should have one consistent set of high standards in our lives; and, thus, we would avoid the problem of trying to decide which set of standards we should be applying at any given time.

Almost everyone desires to find, at the appropriate time, a companion who is warm, considerate, and affectionate. In life, at appropriate times and in appropriate ways, we all need to experience a feeling of being loved. Holding someone’s hand and putting one’s arm around another can be meaningful experiences if the setting, timing, and relationship are right.

But there are times when some young people treat the sharing of physical affection in dating much like a game, which they attempt to play on every date. They fail to understand that although the sharing of physical affection is an important part of a wholesome married relationship, it is not the most important. In some ways, physical affection is to marriage as seasoning is to a meal. Food would be much less palatable without good seasoning; however, you wouldn’t want to make a meal of salt and pepper alone. There are so many elements of a relationship between two people that are more basic—such things as respect, friendship, and common ideals and goals. Dating should be one of the enjoyable means of discovering the kind of person who would be best suited for you in all these vital areas. As you ultimately become more serious in your courtship, you will naturally discover if the one in whom you’re interested is warm and considerate.

Also, as you know, there are many times when “showing a little affection” really gets out of hand. Many reputations, as well as lives, are seriously affected when proper restraints are not maintained. All you have to do is look around you in your own school for proof of this.

Maintaining high moral standards is not only important for you but also for society—in spite of what appears to the contrary in some of the trashy books, magazines, and movies that are so prevalent today.

After surveying centuries of mankind’s history, the eminent scholars Will and Ariel Durrant wrote: “Sex is a river of fire that must be banked and cooled by a hundred restraints if it is not to consume in chaos both the individual and the group.”

Unfortunately, some young people whose initial intent is “just to show a little affection” get caught in some of those serious problems that consume and almost destroy them.

It seems to me that it would be most helpful if every young man would recognize his need to become a gentleman, help his date have an exceptionally good time in his company, and help her feel very safe in his presence.