What’s Wrong With Dating Secretly?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Jessica* was caught in a dilemma. It all started when a classmate named Jeremy began showing interest in her. “He was very cute,” she says, “and my friends said he was the most decent boy I’d ever meet. Several girls had tried to start a relationship with him, but he wasn’t interested in them. He liked only me.”

Before long, Jeremy asked Jessica out. Jessica says: “I explained to him that as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I wouldn’t be allowed to date someone who wasn’t of my faith. But then Jeremy had an idea. He asked, ‘Why can’t we just date behind your parents’ backs?’”

Related topics:

* What if I'm Invited to “Hook Up”?
* Why Am I Drawn to the Wrong People?

IF SOMEONE you were attracted to made such a suggestion, how would you respond? You might be surprised to learn that, at first, Jessica went along with Jeremy’s plan. “I was convinced that if I dated him, I could make him learn to love Jehovah,” she says. How did things turn out? We’ll find out later. First, let’s see how even an otherwise exemplary Christian youth like Jessica could unwittingly get caught in the snare of secret dating.
Why They Do It

Some youths pair off at an early age. “I have seen children with boyfriends and girlfriends at 10 or 11!” says Susan, in Britain. Why are they so eager? The natural attraction of the opposite sex and a dose of peer pressure—often that’s all it takes. “Your hormones are rushing and everyone else at school is going out with someone,” says Lois, in Australia.

But why do some date secretly? “Probably they’re scared of what their parents will say,” says Jeffrey, in Britain. David, in South Africa, feels similarly. “They know their parents would not approve,” he says, “so they don’t tell them.” A girl in Australia named Jane points out another possibility. “Secret dating is a rebellion thing,” she says. “If you feel that you’re not being treated like the young adult you think you are, you decide that you’re going to do what you want and just not tell your parents. Keeping it a secret is easy.”

Of course, the Bible commands you to obey your parents. (Ephesians 6:1) And if your parents object to your dating, they must surely have good reasons. For example, if they are Jehovah’s Witnesses, your parents would want you to date only a fellow believer—and then only when both of you are in a position to consider marriage.# Don’t be surprised, though, if you find yourself thinking:

* I feel left out because everyone is dating except me.
* I’m attracted to someone who doesn’t share my faith.
* I would like to go out with a fellow Christian, even though I’m too young to marry.

You probably know what your parents would say about these statements. And deep down, you know that your parents are right. Still, you may feel like Manami, in Japan, who says: “The pressure to date is so strong that I sometimes doubt my stand. For kids today it’s unthinkable not to be dating.” Some in that situation have begun to date and have hidden the matter from their parents. How?
“We Were Told to Keep It a Secret”

The very term “secret dating” suggests a measure of deception. Some keep their dating secret by communicating primarily over the phone or the Internet. In public they are just friends, while their e-mails, text messages, and phone calls tell a completely different story.

Caleb, in Nigeria, reveals another sly tactic. “Some youths who secretly date use code words and nicknames when they are talking among their peers so that others will not grasp what they’re talking about,” he says. Another method is to arrange for a group activity, only to pair off later. James, in Britain, says: “Once, a group of us were invited to meet at a location, only to discover that the whole thing had been set up so that two in the group could be together. We were told to keep it a secret.”

Frequently, as James points out, secret dating is carried out with the cooperation of friends. “At least one friend knows about the situation but chooses not to say anything because of a ‘don’t-tell’ mentality,” says Carol, in Scotland.

Often, blatant dishonesty is involved. “Many keep their dating secret by lying to their parents about where they go,” says Beth, in Canada. Misaki, in Japan, admits that she did just that. “I had to make up stories carefully,” she says. “I was cautious not to tell any lies other than those related to my dating so that I would not lose my parents’ trust.”
The Pitfalls of Secret Dating

If you are tempted to date secretly—or if you are already doing so—you need to consider the following.

Where will my deceitful course lead? Do you intend to marry the person reasonably soon? “Dating without the intention of marriage is like advertising something you’re not selling,” says Evan, in the United States. Proverbs 13:12 says: “Expectation postponed is making the heart sick.” Do you really want to make someone you care about sick at heart?

How does Jehovah God feel about what I am doing? The Bible says that “all things are naked and openly exposed to the eyes of him with whom we have an accounting.” (Hebrews 4:13) So if you’re covering up your own dating—or that of a friend—Jehovah already knows about it. And if deception is involved, you have good reason to be concerned. Jehovah God feels strongly about lying. Indeed, “a false tongue” is listed prominently in the Bible among the things that he detests.—Proverbs 6:16-19.

Really, if you date secretly, you rob yourself of the protection that you can have when your relationship is aboveboard, out in the open. Not surprisingly, some who secretly date fall into sexual misconduct. Jane, in Australia, tells of a friend who secretly dated a boy from school and led a double life. “By the time her dad found out she had a boyfriend, she was pregnant,” Jane says.

Certainly, you would do well to talk to your parents or a mature Christian adult about any secret relationship that you may be involved in. And if you have a friend who is dating secretly, do not share in his or her course by helping to cover it up. (1 Timothy 5:22) After all, how would you feel if the relationship had harmful consequences? Would you not be at least partly responsible? Suppose a friend who is diabetic is secretly eating sweets. What if you found out about it, but your friend begged you not to tell anyone? What would be your most important concern—covering up for your friend or taking action that could possibly save his or her life?

The same is true if you know someone who is dating secretly. Don’t worry about permanently ruining your friendship! In time, a true friend will realize that you were acting in his or her best interests.—Proverbs 27:6.
Secrecy or Privacy?

Not all secrecy surrounding dating involves deception. Suppose that a young man and woman who are of an age to get married would like to become better acquainted but that for a time they wish to maintain a measure of privacy. Perhaps, as a young man named Thomas said, “they don’t want to be teased with questions like, ‘So when are you getting married?’”

Undue pressure from others can indeed be harmful. (Song of Solomon 2:7) Therefore, at the initial stage of a relationship, some couples may well choose to be discreet—while being careful not to isolate themselves. (Proverbs 10:19) “This gives two people time to decide if they’re serious about each other,” says 20-year-old Anna. “If they are, then they can go public.”

At the same time, it would be wrong to hide your relationship from those who have a right to know about it, such as your parents or the parents of the person you are dating. If you cannot be open about your dating, you should ask yourself why. Is your case similar to Jessica’s that was mentioned at the outset of this article? Do you know in your heart that your parents would have valid reasons to object?
“I Knew What I Had to Do”

Jessica, mentioned at the outset, changed her mind about dating secretly when she heard the experience of another Christian who was in the same situation. “After hearing how she broke off the relationship,” Jessica says, “I knew what I had to do.” Was breaking up easy? No! “This was the only boy I had ever really liked,” Jessica says. “I cried every day for several weeks.”

Yet, Jessica knew something else—that she loved Jehovah and that although she had got sidetracked, she truly wanted to do what was right. In time, the pain of breaking up subsided. “Now,” Jessica says, “my relationship with Jehovah is better than ever. I’m so grateful that he gives us the direction we need at just the right time!”

* Some names in this article have been changed.

# See the article “Young People Ask . . . When Can I Start Dating?” appearing in our issue of January 2007.

* Look back at the three situations highlighted in bold [above]. Which, if any, of these describes how you feel at times?
* How can you address the matter without dating secretly?

More articles from the “Young People Ask . . .” series can be found at www.watchtower.org/ype

After reading the preceding article, you may wonder, ‘Would my son or daughter date behind my back?’ Note what a number of youths told Awake! about why some may be tempted to date secretly, and then think about the accompanying questions.

“Some kids aren’t finding comfort at home, so they decide to lean on a boyfriend or girlfriend.”—Wendy.

As a parent, how can you make sure that the emotional needs of your children are adequately cared for? Are there improvements you can make in this regard? If so, what are they?

“When I was 14, an exchange student asked me to be his girlfriend. I agreed. I thought it would be nice to have a guy put his arms around me.”—Diane.

If Diane were your daughter, how would you address this issue?

“Mobile phones make secret dating easy. Parents have no idea what is going on!”—Annette.

What precautions can you take when it comes to your children’s use of cell phones?

“Secret dating is much easier when parents don’t keep a close enough eye on what their children are doing and with whom.”—Thomas.

Are there ways you can be more a part of your teenager’s life and still allow him or her appropriate freedoms?

“Often parents aren’t home when their children are. Or they are too trusting about letting their children go places with other people.”—Nicholas.

Think of your child’s closest associate. Do you really know what their activities involve when they are together?

“Secret dating can happen when parents are overly strict.”—Paul.

Without compromising Bible laws and principles, how can you “let your reasonableness become known”?—Philippians 4:5.

“In my early teens, I had low self-esteem and I craved attention. I began e-mailing a boy in a neighboring congregation and fell in love. He made me feel special.”—Linda.

Can you think of some healthier ways that Linda’s needs could have been fulfilled at home?

Why not use this article as a basis for discussion with your son or daughter? The best countermeasure to secrecy is heartfelt and forthright communication. It takes time and patience to discern the needs of a young person, but the rewards make the effort worthwhile.—Proverbs 20:5.


CAN you relate to the way Jordon and Kelly feel? After all, traditional customs and values that once discouraged premarital sex are all but gone. (Hebrews 13:4) A survey in one Asian country revealed that the majority of 15- to 24-year-old males felt that premarital intercourse was not only accepted but expected of them. Little wonder that throughout the world most young people have had sex before they reach 19 years of age. Then there are youths who refrain from intercourse but who engage in so-called sexual alternatives, such as fondling one another’s sexual organs (sometimes called mutual masturbation). A disturbing report in The New York Times reveals that “oral sex has become a commonplace initiation into sexual activity, widely perceived by many young people as less intimate, and less risky, than intercourse . . . [and] as a means of avoiding pregnancy and of preserving their virginity.” Just how should a Christian view premarital sex? And what about so-called alternatives to intercourse? Are they acceptable to God? Are they safe? And do they really preserve one’s virginity? If a youth engaged in any form of fornication, could he or she be considered a virgin in God’s eyes? What Fornication Includes An authoritative answer to these questions can come only from our Creator—Jehovah God. And in his Word he tells us to “flee from fornication.” (1 Corinthians 6:18) Just what does that mean? The Greek word translated “fornication” is not restricted to sexual intercourse but includes a variety of lewd acts. So if two unmarried people engage in oral sex or in fondling each others’ reproductive organs, they are guilty of fornication. But could they still be considered virgins—that is, in God’s eyes? In the Bible the word “virgin” is used as a symbol of moral purity. (2 Corinthians 11:2-6) But it is also used in a physical sense. The Bible tells of a young woman named Rebekah. It says that she was “a virgin, and no man had had sexual intercourse with her.” (Genesis 24:16) Interestingly, in the original Hebrew, the word for “intercourse” evidently included other acts besides normal man/woman intercourse. (Genesis 19:5) So, according to the Bible, if a youth engaged in any form of fornication, he or she could hardly be considered a virgin. The Bible exhorts Christians to flee not only from fornication itself but also from all forms of unclean conduct that could lead to it.# (Colossians 3:5) Others may ridicule you for taking such a stand. “‘You don’t know what you’re missing!’ is what I heard all through high school,” says a Christian youth named Kelly. However, premarital sex is nothing more than the “temporary enjoyment of sin.” (Hebrews 11:25) It can cause lasting physical, emotional, and spiritual harm. Serious Threats The Bible tells us that King Solomon once observed a young man being seduced into premarital sex. Solomon compared the young man to “a bull that comes even to the slaughter.” A bull that is to be butchered seems to have no idea what is about to happen to it. Young ones who engage in premarital sex often behave similarly—they seem to show little or no awareness that there are serious consequences to their actions! Solomon said of that young man: “He has not known that it involves his very soul.” (Proverbs 7:22, 23) Yes, your “soul”—your life—is at stake. For example, each year millions of youths contract a sexually transmitted disease (STD). “When I found out I had herpes, I wanted to run away,” says Lydia. She laments, “It is a painful disease that will never go away.” Over half of all new HIV infections worldwide (6,000 a day) occur among those who are between 15 and 24 years of age. A doctor informing a young man that he has a sexually transmitted disease Those engaging in premarital sex risk contracting a sexually transmitted disease Females are particularly vulnerable to a host of problems related to premarital sex. In fact, the threat of STDs (as well as HIV) is higher for females than for males. If a young girl becomes pregnant, she places herself and her unborn child at further risk. Why? Because a young girl’s body may not have developed to the point of being able to handle childbirth safely. Even if a teen mother escapes severe health consequences, she must still face the serious responsibilities that parenthood brings. Many girls find that fending for themselves and for a newborn infant is far more difficult than they had imagined. Then there are the spiritual and emotional aftereffects. King David’s sexual sin endangered his friendship with God and nearly led to his spiritual ruin. (Psalm 51) And while David recovered spiritually, he suffered the consequences of his sin for the rest of his life. Young ones today can suffer similarly. For example, when she was only 17 years old, Cherie became physically intimate with a boy. She thought he loved her. Years later, she still regrets her actions. She laments: “I took Bible truths for granted and suffered the consequences. I lost Jehovah’s favor, and that was devastating.” A youth named Trish similarly admits: “Premarital sex was the biggest mistake of my life. I would do anything just to be a virgin again.” Yes, emotional wounds can linger for years, causing stress and heartache. Premarital sex can wound the conscience of a God-fearing youth Learning Self-Control Young Shanda raises an important question, “Why would God give young people sexual desires, knowing that they should not use them until after marriage?” It is true that sexual desires can be particularly strong during “the bloom of youth.” (1 Corinthians 7:36) In fact, teenagers may experience sudden sexual arousal for no seeming reason. But this is not something wicked. It is a normal part of the development of the reproductive system.% It is also true that Jehovah designed sexual relations to be pleasurable. This was in harmony with his original purpose for humans to populate the earth. (Genesis 1:28) Nevertheless, God never intended for us to misuse our procreative powers. “Each one of you should know how to get possession of his own vessel in sanctification and honor,” says the Bible. (1 Thessalonians 4:4) To act upon every sexual desire would be, in a sense, as foolish as hitting someone each time you felt anger. Sexual relations are a gift from God, a gift that is to be enjoyed at the appropriate time—when one is married. How does God feel when we try to enjoy sex outside of marriage? Well, imagine that you have purchased a gift for a friend. Before you can give it to that friend, he or she steals it! Wouldn’t you be upset? Imagine, then, how God feels when a person engages in premarital sex, abusing the gift that God has provided. What should you do about your sexual feelings? Put simply, learn to control them. Remind yourself that “Jehovah himself will not hold back anything good from those walking in faultlessness.” (Psalm 84:11) “When I find myself thinking that premarital sex would not be so bad,” says a youth named Gordon, “I reflect on the bad spiritual consequences and realize that no sin is worth the loss of my relationship with Jehovah.” Exercising self-control may not be easy. But as young Adrian reminds us, “it leaves you with a clean conscience and a good relationship with Jehovah, free to focus on the more important things, with no guilt or remorse for past actions.”—Psalm 16:11. There are many good reasons for you to “abstain from fornication” in all its various forms. (1 Thessalonians 4:3) Admittedly, this is not always easy. A future article will address practical ways in which you can “preserve yourself chaste.”—1 Timothy 5:22.

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