If you did not grow up being taught from pre-puberty about the goal of emotional purity--saving all affectionate thoughts for your future spouse, once identified--I'm not sure there is any way to communicate how this concept can dominate adolescent life. Every thought of interest in the opposite sex is a sin tantamount to adultery. All friendships with the opposite sex are constantly suspect. And if you are a girl raised in these circles you are in a double-bind, since you can't have a real career either, which means you really are not allowed to think about the future in any way whatsoever. Just keep your head down and get good at doing laundry.
Fortunately my parents were much more lax in their application and more balanced in our private conversations, and I grew up without the more extreme problems that often resulted. But I saw and felt the double-bind keenly.
And I still can't figure out where this idea comes from. Some people argue that it is inappropriate for two single people to act towards each other in a way that would be wrong for two people already married to others. But plainly if that were true, no one could ever get married under any scheme. I would find it highly inappropriate for DOB to be prayerfully considering whether he should take another wife.
Anyway, at some point you proceed beyond adolescence and are ready to get married. Here the courtship schemes have to somehow allow for a marriage to occur without violating their notions of emotional purity. This is hard.
Followed strictly, emotional purity would require Fiddler-on-the-Roof arranged marriages where you meet at the wedding and finally discover you love each other after twenty-five years. This seems so extreme that usually it is considered OK (for reasons not at all clear) to have feelings at some earlier point. When, exactly, is not clear.
After all, you have two points to coordinate: the point at which the couple is emotionally attached to each other, and the point at which they have made a binding commitment to be together. If you allow feelings to come first, then you provide the possibility that people might break up. If you’ve gone around equating emotional purity with physical purity (and physical purity with salvation), this is unacceptable. On the other hand, if you expect the commitment to come before the feelings, you are back to arranged marriages and it’s not clear how, exactly, the decision to marry should be made. (Direct revelation? Compatibility charts? Casting lots?)
This tension creates a lot of confusion in courtship circles, as there simply is no way to reconcile it, unless you can magically have everybody feeling and promising exactly the same thing at exactly the right moment which, of course, never happens because human beings are not robots.
This is not to say that endless brief and fragmentary relationships are a good way to spend one's youth. But those are, perhaps, not the only two alternatives. This is where the claim of some courtship advocates that what they are advocating is just what everybody did before dating was invented in the 1920s proves absurd. Have they never read a novel written before 1920? Broken hearts have always been a risk of love.
When DOB and I became close friends, we were stepping over the bounds of proper courtship. We didn't have parental approval to become close friends. We had made no agreement yet. By the "emotional purity" rules this was "emotional fornication." Getting to, you know, like someone. Making a point of talking to them. Caring about what they thought. This is sinful. Because . . . because why? Because it might not turn into marriage? Because breaking up will make you sad? Risk of sorrow does not equate to sin. All love is risky.