Formal and informal dating can end up confusing many issues that we should not lose sight of. One of the purposes of dating is to develop skills necessary to establish a successful marriage. These skills are not wholly learned exclusively in dating. Many of them can be learned in less formal group interactions that take place on a daily basis.
Successful marriages stem from unselfishness, maturity, good communication skills, etc. These can be learned in many settings. Young people sometimes feel like they are not progressing towards marriage unless they are doing a lot of formal dating. This is simply not the case. Those who do not date extensively can still increase their social, emotional and interpersonal skills. In fact, they may be ready for marriage with only limited formal dating experience.
Quantity of dating has little or nothing to do with one's readiness for marriage. As in life, it is not experience, per se, but in how it is utilized for growth that matters. It is not a compliment to date extensively but find no one that wants to marry you. It is a compliment to date rarely and have everyone you date want to marry you.
In slavishly applying the edict, "You can't date until you're 16" another unfortunate situation results. Young people are only prepared for the pleasure associated with dating and not the pain. Dating is over-glamourized as a wonderful experience akin to ecstasy. Anyone that has experienced it know this is not the case. Dating can be extraordinarily painful. And this is another reason to postpone it until one is sufficiently mature.
Being able to love another human being is not something we develop with chronological age. We all have this capacity. What we do not have until we have matured is the ability to handle the extraordinarily complex emotions and situations that accompany romantic love. Experiencing romantic love at a very young age without skills to handle the emotions can be a devastating experience. The experience should not be rushed.
Church leaders have given us sound advice on which to conduct our lives. We should endeavor to keep the priniciples they teach us in mind and apply them to our personal circumstances with wisdom, reflection and prayerful consideration.
Choosing an eternal companion is the most important decision in our lives. It should be made at the right time and in the right way.