Tuesday, August 07, 2012

God, Girls, and Guys, by Robin Marsh and Lauren Nelson

Yup, even though I am already married, I still like perusing books on dating/courtship. Every once in awhile it's good to see what's being said. (After all, I have daughters and sons and things to teach them both from my own experience as well as that of others!)

I was offered a copy of God, Girls, and Guys: Answers to Questions on Dating and Relationships for review in exchange for my honest thoughts and so you find me here to give them. (Bwhaahahaa!)

For starters, you should know that this book is written to teen girls in order to help them navigate romantic relationships and so I automatically have a problem with it as I think the audience is too young to be thinking of such things. (Rather, perhaps not too young to be thinking about such things, but too young to be pursuing them.) All of the advice that authors Robin Marsh ("award-winning news anchor") and Lauren Nelson ("Miss America 2007") give are directed towards girls at the tail end of middle school and in high school and try as I may, I just cannot take such relationships very seriously. The advice offered in this book isn't even that you might wait to jump into a relationship - (although they acknowledge some girls do choose to wait and they think that's great) - but that it is assumed you will have one and so they want to give you good advice on the following subjects:

  • Choosing a boyfriend as disguised from a boy friend.
  • Cutting down the drama in your life.
  • Establishing good physical boundaries.
  • Understanding that what you see on tv and in the movies doesn't accurately reflect real life.
  • Understanding that Jesus is the only One who can ever love you perfectly.

I wholeheartedly agree with that last one.

Per usual, I had various passages to quote from that I had marked with my i-Clips while reading through this book. Then I came downstairs and found my baby girl holding the book, minus the i-Clips. Hastily I asked the question, "What's in your mouth!?!" whereupon I was handed a bunch of soggy i-clips. Joy of joys! (I hope she doesn't do that with Bleak House, that's all I have to say!) So, instead of being able to be very specific about this book, I'll just give you my general impression.

First off, if you haven't gathered my opinion yet, I shall expressly state that I am not a huge fan of the book. As I say, I think teenagers entering into relationships is not just unwise but also risks foolishness. I am a big fan of being in relationships, to be sure! I just think that you ought to remain friends with the opposite sex, getting to know them as best you can in group situations, until both parties are at an age and maturity level where they are able to enter into marriage with one another. Yes, that is contrary to, oh, say the majority of the population's opinion, but it is what I think is best. (I'm also a fan of marrying earlier instead of later on in life. Here's a really interesting, albeit long, article making The Case for Early Marriage which is a curious read through!) Waiting to enter into romantic relationships until you know yourself better and are old enough to legally marry is, I think, a wiser idea. When you are approaching a relationship in a manner which demands serious consideration, you are less likely to waste time sticking around with a person who you know to be a bad match.

The authors do devote some good words to discerning how to distinguish between attributes of a guy who makes a good friends verses the attributes necessary to make a good boyfriend. I would just cut out the idea of the boyfriend and go straight to the idea of what attributes and character qualities would make a good husband. You can figure out if a guy is good husband material by watching him interact with his friends and his family. Does he care about other people? Does he notice when others are hurt or are going through a rough time? Does he like to be around children, or does he find them a bother? Is he inclined to tell the truth no matter what the cost? Does he have a lot of friends or is he hermit-like? Is he wrapped up in his appearance and lookin' good verses displaying signs of humility and a desire to know others? Is he given to anger much? All of these questions and many more can truly be sorted out just by watching and hanging out with someone in a variety of situations and scenarios over time. (Don't bother to tell me that's impossible. I was once a teen and I have observed them both as my peers and in retrospect. You can too get to know someone by just watching.) One does not have to date another (between the ages of 12 and 18) in order to have these questions answered. If I had to date a guy at 42 in order to find the answers to these questions, I would personally be extremely suspicious of him. A good guy is not so very hard to spot. It just takes more time and more patience than we'd like to give it sometimes.

Since the basic message of this book is written to teens, I am not very excited about it. (I'd recommend Girls Uncovered - for parents to read - before they give God, Girls, and Guys over to their daughters! Or, if you do like the sound of this newer title, I'd say read it before or alongside your daughters and discuss it. Like I know y'all do.)

Now, I do recognize that girls these days are being raised in various environments. What is ok for one family might not be ok for another and as there is nothing inherently sinful in dating at the age of 15 or 16, then I can't say that this book is useless. Rather, God, Girls, and Guys could prove quite useful to some people out there. For our part, just as Jonathan and I waited to explore relationships with people of the opposite sex until we were in a position to be married, we would encourage the same in our kids. The term dating isn't what scares me about this book title. Dating is fine and good, in it's place and at the right time. My chief objection to this book (and to the culture at large) is that they assume and promote the idea of dating when you are still a far cry out from being in a position to make a lifetime commitment to that girl or guy of your dreams.

Life is short and life is long. It is wonderful to want to be in a romantic relationship. It is a blessing to be in one. There is also joy to be found in those teenage years when you really do not have any serious responsibilities (despite what you think!) and therefore have the opportunity to explore the world and your giftings. Make the most of those few years to be exciting and obtain some life experience.

I guess what I'm saying is that Marsh and Nelson have some decent-to-good advice to give. I would just suggest it to an older audience. For the younger audience I would point them to books which encourage them to explore, learn theology, learn anything, be interesting and take chances that you won't always have the opportunity to take. Then, when you are in a position to marry, be serious about that and dive on in! Meet people. Compare personalities. Get to know others, individually and in groups. Yes, you may make some mistakes along the way but the older and more serious you are about being commuted to one person for life, the fewer mistakes you will be inclined to make. Surround yourselves with good counselors and press into life and see what God has for you! Live today. And celebrate the day when you know it's totally safe and good to combine your life of adventure to another. It's fun stuff! Just wait for it. It'll be good.

Thanks to Harvest House who sent me a copy of this book to read in exchange for sharing my honest opinions about it.


If I may, I would further recommend that you pop over to Shonya's blog, Learning How Much I Don't Know, and read her discussion of Passion and Purity by Elizabeth Elliot. In other words: GO NOW and read her post!


Taia said...

I think people differ in how they define "dating" depending on their age. My parents might call "dating" walking across the street from my dorm to the free Friday movie in the math building with a guy, watching with a bunch of people from the dorm, and then never seeing him again. I like how you bring out that different people have different norms/terms.

And I have to say that one advantage of majoring in engineering/com sic was getting to spend hundreds of hours working with men, sometimes one on one, in a setting where they showed their real selves.

Barbara H. said...

I think we're very much of the same mind on this issue. Even back in my childhood, we were asked, "Do you have a boyfriend?" as early as elementary school. The culture as a whole seems to push this on kids when they should be encouraging them to so many other things during these years.

Queen of Carrots said...

I totally agree with you here. I think the teen years are a great time to get to know people as friends, to get to BE an interesting person with lots of interests, but that deliberate romance is best saved for full-fledged grownups.

Annette Whipple said...

I did date at a young age...and hope my kids will value the waiting instead. Some families say it's fine, and for those, this book does sound valuable.

Your i-clip story made me laugh. A certain three year old I know likes to remove them. He may also be why I can only find two of them. Urr. Last year I bought the tiny sticky notes. (They are not gone, despite me reusing them.) I really like those for non-fiction books. But so does my son...but not as much as he likes the i-clips.

Diary of an Autodidact said...

First of all, good review and analysis. And I love the evil laugh!

I think you are right on with several of your points.
I found the Mark Regnerus article interesting back when it came out in 2009, and also several articles he wrote for other publications such as the center-left secular e-zine
Personally, I think it is odd that we consider celibacy for 15-20 years after puberty to be the norm to which we should aspire. Is it really realistic for everyone to spend their sexual and reproductive peak years this way?
(Side note: I can remember a dozen sermons preached to me as a teen on the importance of sexual purity - but not one on how to function in marriage. That was left to the married adults. Shouldn't the teens be the right time to learn about how to be a good spouse?)

I agree with you that the high school years are better spent in friendships and groups. It was a huge relief for me to not have the pressure of dating during those years. I was able to focus on study and music and activities while having casual friendships with both sexes. And yes, Barbara, our culture does tend to push relationships on young kids, which isn't helpful at all.

I like your emphasis on learning how to recognize a good potential husband (or wife.) I would add another focus that is too often neglected in books like this: learning how to be a good spouse. No sense in finding a good wife if all you will do is make her miserable. I wish churches would focus more on this facet - particularly since an ever increasing number of young people have never experienced a healthy marriage in action.

Carrots: Someday, I hope to be able to say things with your clarity and economy of words.

Carrie said...

I think I just jumped in the air and clicked my heels.

In one blog post I reached general agreement with both Taia AND Tim AND Karen!?!?!

This is all so overwhelming . . .

Shonya said...

Grinning as I contrast this review with my most recent post reviewing Passion and Purity (wink).

I'm thinking I agree with you completely, I'm looking forward to reading the article you linked, and I sure hope your daughter didn't swallow any of your iclips (for her health, of course, not because of my fetish for iclips, giggle).

bekahcubed said...

Lest I add myself to the general chorus of "uh-huhs" and "amens', I'll mention the one thing you said that gave me some pause:

"One does not have to date another (between the ages of 12 and 18) in order to have these questions answered. If I had to date a guy at 42 in order to find the answers to these questions, I would personally be extremely suspicious of him."

Comment 1: I'd say that, if you're attending college (like the majority of today's young people are), you don't have to be dating someone to know those answers at least until you're 22. (Not that I'm saying that you shouldn't date prior to 22, just that there's no reason you shouldn't know a fellow would make a good husband prior to dating him at that point.)

Comment 2: As a no-longer-in-college single woman who now lives in a town with a decidedly small pool of eligible Christian men, I wonder if the get-to-know-each-other-in-a-group-context, be-sure-of-his-character-before-you-date model doesn't always work. I belong to the largest evangelical church in our town-800 to 1000 people--and we have maybe two single men in their twenties. Furthermore, I work in a female-dominated profession which means I don't regularly spend time with men outside of church. Chances are, if I'm going to get married, it's probably not going to be to someone outside of my current context--and I'm going to have to get to know that person somehow.

Short of moving elsewhere and/or switching churches, I don't really see a way of getting around it. I'm going to have to date guys I don't already know well.

Comment 3: All that said, I really do agree with what you've said here. In fact, I'd be pretty wary of a guy if there was no group context in which I could get to know him, were I in physical proximity to him. That is, if I were in the same city and he didn't have family or a group of friends or a church in which I could get to know him, I'd have serious doubts about his eligibility.

bekahcubed said...

Grr... Hate when I read my own comments and realize they don't make sense. In that second comment, it was supposed to be "Chances are, if I'm going to get married, it's probably (strike the "not") going to be to someone outside of my current context."

There, that makes better sense.

Unknown said...

Very interesting review! Fortunately, Amanda has avoided those jr. high tweenie "relationships." I did too, but I did have 2 "serious" boyfriends in high school that, in hindsight, I wish I hadn't.

With Amanda entering high school, we actually had a chat about dating on our shopping trip last month. It was interesting.

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