Teen Romance: Reality Check! (2)
When a 5-year-old announces he wants to marry the little girl next door, you might say (sweetly), “Well, maybe one day, Sport, but you’ve got to grow up and get a job first.” Ditto for your pre-teen.
But when Sport is 17 and he can smell legal adulthood just a few calendar pages away, a romantic interest has to be taken a lot more seriously by parents who love him.
One of the expectations he’ll need to meet, if he’s serious about pursuing a young lady, is the matter of supporting a family. The Bible says that the man who doesn’t provide for his household “is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). That’s not to say a wife should never work or contribute to the family’s finances, but the burden here seems to rest on the husband as the primary provider.
Life on the Plains
A mate in a happy marriage can readily testify that most of married life is mundane – the day-to-day process of making a home, sharing the table as well as the bed, paying the bills, and so forth. The romantic side is fun and exciting, but it’s not a 24/7 lifestyle. If we take our sons’ romantic notions seriously, we should expect them to think seriously about the rest of the picture – even if it’s not all hearts-and-flowers. The financial aspect is easy to quantify, and it leads to some useful conclusions!
If he is expected to support a wife and family, does he have a real understanding of what that requires? Many young men are quite innocent when it comes to real expenses. At some point, sit him down and walk through a basic budget. Craigslist is a great reference for local pricing information.
Consider things like:
- 1- or 2-bedroom apartment in your area
- Estimated utility cost
- Renter’s insurance policy
- Cellphone, Internet, and cable TV plans (as needed or desired)
- Health insurance for two
- Auto insurance
- Gas for the car
- Realistic grocery budget for two
… for starters. Optional things like “new clothing” or “entertainment” aren’t included yet!
And make sure he understands the really big bite which taxes can take. Even a smart young guy may be amazed at how many dollars Social Security, unemployment, and income tax siphon out of an entry-level paycheck. And don’t forget tithing or other support for the Lord’s work!
What are his realistic prospects to earn that money? There’s an Irish folk song that begins, “When a man’s in love, he feels no cold …” A young man under the influence of lots of hormones may not be thinking clearly. Suggest to him that “good money” he might earn as a teenager or new high school grad will look very small once he’s responsible for a growing family. Spending a couple of years to get an associate degree, technical certificate, or apprenticeship in a trade will open many more doors. Spending a couple of more to earn a bachelors may do even more.
Recognize that your son may truly be able to provide a Biblical level of support sooner than you think. The fact is, the Bible doesn’t define what standard of living would fulfill the expectation of “providing.” Don’t make the mistake of expecting a young couple to start life together only when they have a paid-for house and $20,000 in the bank. Many happy marriages begin in tiny apartments or rented mobile homes—maybe yours did! And there could be a situation where a young couple married and living on three jobs and a shoestring might be the right choice.
Just be sure that he’s had a chance to really consider the probable outcome of several of these choices. Finances are a major source of stress in any marriage, and impatient decisions to make a poorly-prepared life change puts you on a rocky road to travel!
Money isn’t everything. It’s important but it’s not the bottom line. The more critical thing qualifying a young man to seek a wife is a matter of character. Does he have it? (to be continued … )
Hal and Melanie
Part of what makes boys so challenging to raise is their desire
to take charge, to manage, to command, to compete, to conquer, to win!
And really, we want our sons to have all of those qualities when they’re grown …
it’s just a little hard to handle when they’re young!
God created them to become protectors and providers one day. Here’s some help preparing them – and supporting their parents, too
Surviving, Teaching and Appreciating Boys