Author Jessie Minassian offers advice for parents seeking to help their teen daughters overcome an unhealthy obsession with romance and to find their identity in Jesus Christ rather than in relationships with boys. (Part 2 of 2)
Jessie Minassian: It’s crazy to even think about now and embarrassing to share that I did this, because now that I’m not thirsty, it sounds ridiculous that I would ever consider eating dirty grapes off of a trail, but in that moment, my desperation caused me to do the irrational.
When we let God make us, then we’re free to refuse even a good relationship. But when we’re desperate for love and for attention, even destructive relationships look tempting and that’s why I encourage girls to allow God to make them, because when He’s made us, we’re not tempted to chase after all these cravings for love and attention and relationships.
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: That’s Jessie Minassian, as she describes that inner drive, that heartfelt search for relationships that will mean something, and so many teenage girls are struggling in this area. We’re back with Jessie again on Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller and Jim, romance and boy stuff and crushes, it’s all part of the normal teen experience. It just seems it’s so much more intense these days.
Jim Daly: John, we talked last time about the saturation in the culture with this and it’s everywhere. And I think as Christian parents, we need to do all we can to help equip our young people to manage this and that’s what I so appreciated about the discussion last time. If you missed it, get the download or get the CD. Do what you gotta do - call us - because I thought there was some great content in there.
You know, I don’t have daughters, John, but even as a father with sons listening to the discussion last time, there were so many good points that I can apply to my boys, ‘cause I’ve gotta raise those boys to treat young ladies correctly. And you know, that’s not easy either, because the culture tends to educate our children more profoundly in ways than we do and we’ve gotta be at the top of our game to do that. So that’s why I’m grateful to have our guest back and to talk about today about how we equip our young people to do a better job and how we can speak to our young people with this program and I think it’ll be very, very thought provoking.
John: Well, I’d agree, Jim and Jessie is the host of lifeloveandgod.com. That’s a website where she helps teens and now college girls, as well, navigate these kinds of issues. And she’s written a book that you’ll hear more about today called.
Jim: Jessie, welcome back to the program.
Jessie: Thank you. It’s good to be back.
Jim: I really enjoyed our discussion last time. I want to pick up kind of from where we left off, but let’s do a little bit of recap for those that may have missed it. You do speak through lifeloveandgod.com, your website. You speak to a lot of young people, too, directly. I’ve talked about talkin’ to parents, but a lot of teen girls, I think, would love to sit and listen to this program, I hope. Speak to the void again. Last time, we talked a bit about that, what a young lady is trying to find in the relationship with a guy. Just touch on the high points, the four lies, for example.
Jessie: Okay. I think, as girls, our tendency, because God created us with a desire to be desired by a member of the opposite sex, we have this tendency to do whatever we can to fill that void and we tend to make relationships into an idol in our lives. And an idol is anything that takes God’s rightful place in our hearts, and we’re hoping that that idol’s gonna do something for us that only the true God can do. So we’re hoping that that guy is going to prove that we’re beautiful and that we’re worth it. And we’re hoping that he’s gonna end our relationship status for good because sometimes singleness can feel like a fate worse than death when you’re a teenager or a college-age girl. And we’re hoping he’s gonna end our loneliness, and we’re hoping that he’s gonna make us perfectly happy, but those are things that only God can do and when we go chasing after those things, we set ourselves up to be broken by a relationship with a broken sinful person. We’re all sinners.
Jessie: And he can’t take God’s place.
Jim: And I, again, that was so profound last time when we talked about that. That was a takeaway that I had. You also talked in your book and I think you love to coin new terminology, which I really...
Jessie: That I do.
Jim: ...appreciate as a fellow Californian, but you talk about the wise and foolish builders from Matthew 7 for teen girls. What are you talking about with that Scripture?
Jessie: I think that Scripture is sort of a bedrock for how we keep guys from making or breaking us. Jesus talked about that the wise man built his house on the rock, but the foolish man built his house on the sand. And paraphrasing that and making it applicable for teen girls, the wise girl is the girl who builds her life on the Rock, who turns to God and who makes Him her identity and finds her worth in Him. And so, when the storm comes, when she is in a relationship for five years and her boyfriend breaks up with her in a text message, her house isn’t gonna come crashing down like the foolish girl who surrounds herself, who wraps her identity up in that relationship.
Jim: That is so well-said, the difficulty is how to, if you’re that young teen girl, “How do I do better next time?” And if you’re the parent of that young teen girl, “How do I help her equip herself better to do better next time?” Those are tough questions and we covered a bit of that last time, but you know, if I am that dad, what’s one thing I could do when I see my crushed daughter’s spirit, what can I do right now to help lift her up? That’s a fix-it question.
Jessie: It’s a fix-it question, and I’m gonna give you a very non-fix-it answer. You need to wrap your arms around her and hold her. You need to let her know that she is loved and that she is valuable. She doesn’t need a lecture. She doesn’t need to know that she needs to avoid that guy next time. She knows. Like she feels it.
Jim: In fact, you mentioned in the book and this one, I kinda winced at because you said a breakup for a teen girl is like divorce.
Jim: And I guess in some ways I get that at one level, but hopefully, you know, if she’s minding her physical relationship, that can’t be quite accurate, but talk to me about that.
Jessie: Yeah, I...
Jim: Maybe emotionally it is.
Jessie: ...I think the trouble is and this is what happened to me growing up as a teenager and into my college years, I was dating like I was married and when you date like you’re married, when you give all of your emotions, all of your body, all of your spiritual, like everything just wrapped up in this relationship, when you break up, it does feel like a divorce.
Jim: In that case, it is a...
Jim: ...divorce, isn’t it?
Jessie: Let no one separate what God has joined together, right? Like there’s a spiritual connection that happens I feel in physical intimacy especially, which you touched on. When a girl does have strong boundaries, she is less likely, much less likely to feel the ultimate devastation that many of these girls feel when they come to “Life, Love and God.” But it does not mean that she will not feel very intense heartache. And the emotional side, for a girl especially, the emotional investment in that relationship is very deep. And when that relationship ends, it can feel like pulling cement apart.
Jim: Yeah and you know what? Let’s not pull any punches here. I think even in the Christian community, teen boys and early 20-something boys typically, you know, their hormones are raging, as well. And so often, they can manipulate so easily that, “If you really want my love, then you’ve gotta give me your physical body.” And they don’t say it that way, but that is what is going on so often. How do you equip both boys and girls, especially those who have a faith in Christ, to be more mindful about that, to not be tempted in that direction too far?
Jessie: Oh, man, so many - so many things I want to speak to in what you just said. I think first, I would say, I mean, I work primarily with believers. The kids who come to “Life, Love and God” and who I speak to are primarily in the church. And so, as parents, I need you to be aware that this is going on in the church. You may not think it is. Your daughters may seem very pure and innocent. I know I came across that way to my parents, but I was in a very serious relationship for a lot of years. And when two people are in a serious relationship for a lot of years, it’s a natural draw to have physical intimacy. It’s very hard and I don’t think...
Jim: It’s hard to hold the line.
Jessie: ...it’s very hard to hold the line the longer you’re in relationship.
Jessie: And I would give young men the benefit of the doubt and say that they’re not manipulating intentionally. They are drawn into the natural progression that God created for relationship. It’s like three points to a triangle. There’s the physical and the emotional and the spiritual, and they’re meant to all coincide together and so, as you’re drawing closer physically and spiritually, the physical, it’s so hard to keep that at bay.
And I think as parents, we can help equip our teens and our young people by helping them understand the nature of physical intimacy, that it’s a lot like relationship cement, that a kiss, something as simple as a kiss, which Hollywood has glorified as just a rite of passage into young adulthood, is the very first layer of relationship cement that you’re laying with another person. We have to help them understand that it’s not just no big deal, you know, that we need to be intentional about who we are cemented to.
Jim: Jessie, physical intimacy is such a delicate subject and even the fact that we’re bringing it up, some listening are uneasy with it, but we’ve given so much territory over to the enemy, and we decided not to talk about it in the church ‘cause it makes us uneasy. We should! God has given us this as a gift, but it needs to be in the proper context and we fail so often as parents to teach the proper context, ‘cause we’re uneasy with it. But that physical intimacy aspect, especially for teenagers who are claiming a faith in Christ, how far is too far?
Jessie: That is the Number One question that I get from girls who love God and want to honor Him and want to maintain their purity and they want to know, “How far is too far? How far can I go before I’m compromising that?” It’s the question that I had growing up and I don’t know if I just didn’t hear it from my youth pastor or if I wasn’t listening. Either one could be possible.
Jim: Or you didn’t want to hear it!
Jessie: I don’t know if I wanted to hear it, but I remember looking, like, “Where is that line?” And I was looking so hard, looking for that line that I tripped right over it!
Jim: So you don’t think it’s even the right question?
Jessie: I don’t think it’s the right question to be asking. I think the question we should be asking is, like I see physical intimacy like standing at the top of a high vista, like looking at the edge of a cliff, looking at the view. It would be foolish for us to keep inching our way forward to that cliff when so easily one of those rocks can slip and we tumble to our death below. Instead our question should be, “How far back can I stand and still enjoy the view?” That’s the question that we need to be asking as far as intimacy for our young people. There’s so much of a relationship that can be enjoyed without even having to get into that danger zone.
Jim: Jessie, I have so appreciated many things that you’ve expressed both last time and this time. But it gives me a better picture of the condition of a teen girl’s heart and what she is feeling and I think that’s so important to start there. Why romantic crushes cut so deeply when they end poorly, and how that most likely is not gonna be the guy she’s gonna marry...
Jim: ...and how she needs to protect herself in that way. Talk about for a minute the parent of teenagers and I’ve got the teen boys. What is a good way to approach those friendships and those relationships with the opposite sex? I mean, I can - we haven’t had that situation yet, I know that Jean and I...
John: You will soon.
Jim: ...the pillow talk’s gonna start. We’re gonna go, “Okay, what did you think of her?” And “Boy, he seems to be too infatuated with her and what are we gonna do?” Help us prepare for that moment. What do we need to be thinking about and what are some of those healthy boundaries we should say to the Christian family, you know, “This is probably good; this would be not good?”
Jessie: I think there is definite freedom for parents to wrestle with that together and for single parents, my heart goes out to you, as well, because this is not an easy topic to navigate solo. It’s hard when you’re a single mom and you don’t have a dad to come alongside your daughter or vice versa.
Jim: Great point.
Jessie: And I totally get that, but we have freedom as parents to think through what the best dating model might be in our families, you know. I’m not one that says you need to court or you need to date, or you need to move to a monastery in Spain!
Jessie: Like there is...
Jim: Those are kind of the extremes.
Jessie: ...there is free - that is...
John: Yeah, “We said you can’t date until 35.”
Jessie: That last one. Exactly.
Jim: See if that works.
Jessie: I’m a huge advocate for parents in our roles to protect our daughter’s purity and to be involved in both our son’s and daughter’s relationship. But I think it’s important for us to understand what God’s guidelines for relationships are in the Scriptures so that they can come up naturally in conversation like you had with your daughter, where you’re just having normal life and it just kinda comes up naturally. And some of those guidelines I think are specifically helpful for parents to remember and then help instill in our children is, “You’re family until you’re married.” It’s a hard one for kids to understand that, but until there’s a ring on your finger, that is your brother in Christ or that is your sister in Christ. How would you treat your brother and your sister?
Another one, you know, talking about teaming up with a believer, those are I think pretty common understandings as parents, but our kids, it’s not automatic that they’re gonna understand that. Why is it important that I get into a romantic relationship only with someone who shares my faith? Is that important at all? Those are things that we need to be talking about with our kids. And then just talking about - there’s lots of opportunities to talk about this because of the media, considering that normal isn’t always best.
Jim: And the media rarely lifts up normal. It always lifts up the paranormal.
Jessie: Right. Exactly, which then our sons and daughters think is normal and so, to consider that the dating-go-round, this cycle of crush and date and break up and then do it all again and kinda spinning around on this merry-go-round that that is not necessarily God’s best for you as a young person made in the image of God. And so, having those conversations with our kids is so key.
Jim: Jessie, with that in mind, I mean you talk also about Prince Charming and how that should happen. Talk to us about that when you have that 17-, 18-, maybe 20-, 21-year-old daughter, who is really looking for Prince Charming, the one that’s gonna sweep her off her feet...
Jim: ...and love her forever after.
Jessie: I think we’re experiencing somewhat of a backlash. There’s been a lot of Christian books written on the subject in the past 10, 15 years, encouraging girls to wait for a godly guy, which is so on point. However, I think that we’ve inadvertently set the bar a little bit above realistic and this is...
Jim: And they keep saying no.
Jessie: ...right, they keep saying no, ‘cause they’re waiting for this guy who’s gonna rise before dawn to lead family devotions and sell everything to move to Africa, like this is the standard I had in my mind as I was...
Jim: Only John does that.
John: Come on, now!
Jessie: ...as I was reading these books as a teen girl and young adult girl, I was thinking, “Wow, like I have got to wait until this guy is gonna come and just treat me like a princess every day, is never gonna lose his temper, is gonna always have the right godly thing to say.” And so my encouragement to girls is to, yes, wait for a guy who loves Jesus more than he loves you. That is an absolute. But there are other things on the list that we’re gonna have to maybe give some grace on because we’re all sinners! We are all still being sanctified by the Spirit. And so, I think that it’s possible to find Mr. Imperfect for us and we have some guidelines in Scripture for what to look for as girls. If we want a guy who can lead us in life and lead our children someday, why not look for a guy who’s qualified to lead the church? He may or may not lead a church, but to look for a man who has those qualities laid out, that...
Jim: Yeah. As the basic qualification. That’s a good...
Jim: ...that’s a good thing to think about, look for character...
Jim: ...not just the...
Jim: ...other things.
John: Well, we’re talking with Jessie Minassian on today’s Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller. Your host is Jim Daly andis the book that Jessie has written. Obviously, the topic broader than just feeling like, “Oh, we broke up and now the world is ending.” Lots of good practical information here in the conversation and in the book and you can get a CD or a download of our discussion and the book, when you’re at www.focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
And okay, Jessie, you’ve been giving Jim some advice. Give me some advice please. So one of my daughters said, “All of my friends are in relationships. They’re all dating, but I’m not and nobody’s even asked me.” I want her to have high standards and to maintain those, but it’s really difficult to know how to coach her through that. What...
John: ...what do - what insight do you have?
Jessie: On one hand, I do think that we have at times set the bar somewhere above realistic, but I also on the flip side of that, I’m all about encouraging girls to keep waiting until God brings the right guy along, because it is so much better to be single and happy than to be in a relationship and unhappy, to be unequally yoked or with someone who doesn’t share your same faith values. So I would encourage her to keep on waiting, that God’s timing is perfect. He has a different path and a different curriculum for each one of us. It’s not the same and it doesn’t mean that something is wrong with you if you haven’t been in a relationship when you’re 18, 25 or 35. It just means that it’s not God’s best for you in that moment.
Jim: In fact, Jessie, along with biblical qualifications, I think you coined that “be on the lookout.” It doesn’t mean you don’t keep looking, but you know, just be aware, but don’t take any bait.
Jessie: Right, that...
Jim: Is that fair?
Jessie: ...be on the lookout. I - I think a group setting, friendship setting, is a perfect place for you to keep your eyes wide open. You’re looking for qualities that you would like to have someday in a spouse. It doesn’t mean that that’s necessarily gonna be the guy that you’re with, but you can kinda glean, “What is it about him that I’m drawn to? What is it about him that draws others to him?” And kinda keep those in the back of our mind or even make a list of qualities that you’re looking for in a future husband.
Jim: Now that’s the guy side. Let’s hit the woman’s side and actually you point to Proverbs 31, which most women cringe...
Jim: ...when you say, “I gotta live up to that?”
John: Before you turn the dial...
Jim: Yeah, oh, my goodness.
John: ...let’s go on to something else.
Jim: I mean, but basically, you’re highlighting the dignity, the modesty and what I found interesting, the mystery, which is so beautiful. Jean does a fantastic job of that and always has. She always kinda keeps...
John: Being mysterious?
Jim: ...just that little bit of mystery, you know. I felt in our dating relationship, we were really good toward each other that way and we didn’t cross the line and I just always felt that she’s got a natural ability to keep the mystery alive and it is a good thing.
Jessie: It is; it’s intriguing to a guy...
Jessie: ...isn’t it? There’s something that we’ve lost in our culture and I think young women especially, we struggle not to lose this in our culture of vulnerability and openness, which is good on so many levels, but in this sense, it’s not. On our first date when a girl is spilling all of her hopes and dreams and ever after with this guy that she’s only just begun to date, there’s nothing left to get to know. Like there is something...
Jessie: ...to be said for savoring in little pieces as we go along, like a bar of dark chocolate, like just getting little bits at a time that increases our curiosity to get to know that person over time.
Jim: Well, and the interesting thing about it is I think guys are wired to hunt. I mean, that’s what many people will talk about. And so, you know, a lot of people, once the wedding bells happen, it seems like, “Wow, he stopped pursuing me.” But there’s something in that mystery. It doesn’t have to be all physical. You’re not saying that. It’s in that emotional and spiritual realm, as well...
Jim: ...to maintain that mystery. You know, it’s funny with Jean, because she also is the kind of person that would never open a Christmas present early. She’ll wait. If she could, she’d wait till the end of the day after dinner on Christmas. I’m like...
John: Very different from you.
Jim: ...”Nobody does that! What are you thinking?” But and she never wants to get an early birthday present. She always wants to keep...
Jessie: I’m the same way!
Jim: Yeah, okay, so just keep - but there’s something. You recognize that, but I don’t know that a lot of women do recognize that.
Jessie: No, I agree; there is something to be said for - for not baring all at the beginning and just allowing that slow recognition over time as you get to know each other. And I want to make a distinction. I’m not talking about playing hard to get. I’m not talking about being overly coy or you know, purposefully trying to keep information or that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m just talking about allowing it to be a process or getting to know each other, rather than just, “Here I am; here’s everything about me,” and...
Jim: For the immediately gratification woman and what I mean by that is shopping or whatever it might be that a woman is seeking that’s more immediate, that might sound like a lot of work. “Man, to keep that mystery going, what does that mean? I want to open the Christmas present right now and it’s only you know, November.” But speak to her about how she can develop the ability to keep mystery in that relationship.
Jessie: I think it does take determination and it takes forethought I think to intentionally say, “Even if this is against my grain, I’m going to wait and allow this relationship to develop slowly.” And I would say, it’s worth the wait. I learned the hard way one Christmas the downside of getting everything at once that you want. We - at the Jewett household, we got really excited about Christmas, and Christmas Eve we had the tradition that a lot of people have, which is opening one present on Christmas Eve. After we had our traditional Slovenian dinner, we got to open one present. And so, my sister and I both chose the gifts that we’d been eying for weeks and we...
Jim: The biggest?
Jessie: ...picked them out. Of course, of course, the biggest! And we opened them and you know, you have that excitement of this thing and then like we did every year, we looked at daddy and we said, “Hey, Dad, can we open just one more please.” And we knew he was gonna say no, except he didn’t. He said, “Okay, one more” and we were shocked. It was like the world had come undone. We...
Jim: And he...
Jessie: ...were no longer spinning on the right axis.
Jim: And you didn’t know what to do?
Jessie: We didn’t know what to do. We looked at each other with big eyes and we like tiptoed over to the Christmas tree and like grabbed one before he could change his mind and we tore into ‘em. And we were like, “Wow! That was awesome.” “Hey dad, could we open just one more?” And we - and of course, he’s gonna say no, except he said yes. And this happened again and again. He kept saying yes until we had opened every single Christmas present under that tree and we were giddy with excitement. I was kinda like we had done something wrong. And we were just kind of excited that we had just opened all of our Christmas presents on Christmas Eve. But the next morning when we got up on Christmas morning, no one was gettin’ up early runnin’ to mom and dad’s room to get ‘em up for Christmas. We all slept in.
Jessie: And it was the most depressing Christmas I’ve ever had in my life, because there was nothing to look forward to. There was no mystery waiting under the Christmas tree and I think that’s such a great illustration of what happens, whether it’s the physical side of a relationship or just the emotional mystery side that we were just talking about, that when we open all our presents on Christmas Eve, there’s nothing to look forward to on Christmas. And all the best gifts that our Daddy gives us, that God gives us have a gift tag on them and say, “Wait to open. Trust Me; it’s gonna be great.”
Jessie: Right, isn’t that true?
Jim: That’s a terrific analogy.
Jessie: Like in every - in every area of life, He knows that the best gifts are even better for the anticipation.
Jim: That is such a good illustration. I really like that one, because I can feel that. I’m - that is wise of your father to do that actually. I mean, he was teaching you in that moment.
Jessie: But theoretically, yes. I asked him about it last fall. I’m like, “Dad, do you remember that?” He’s like, “No, I did that?”
John: “What was I thinking?” Yes, exactly.
Jessie: So that’s encouraging as parents, so we know sometimes we’re teaching, we don’t even know we’re teaching!
Jim: Well, Jessie Minassian, author of, you have brought so much illumination to this topic. I just love it and I’ve got two boys, not girls, but I’m sure for you, John, and all our listeners who are raising teen girls and early 20-something girls, this has been a great discussion. And we’re gonna have a lot more from this on our download or CD version, so I urge you to contact us about getting those. To recap, your job as a parent is to really love your daughter through her ups and downs and from what I hear from the daughters, I mean, that can be a real roller-coaster and help her through those traumatic events. Let her know you’re in her corner. That’s most important. Don’t be shy talking about boundaries, because it’s your job to protect her and keep her safe and remind her about finding her identity in Jesus Christ. That’s job one, because no earthly relationship, no boy or man is gonna give her the love and solid foundation that she really needs. That will ultimately give her the courage and strength to keep movin’ forward and gives her hope that God has something better for her future. This has been wonderful. Thanks so much for bein’ with us.
Jessie: Thank you. It’s been my pleasure.
John: Well you can learn more about Jessie Minassian and her great book,, you can see the “Me Quiz” we mentioned earlier, and other resources at www.focusonthefamily.com/broadcast, or call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY; 800-232-6459.
And let me take a moment to thank our listeners who team up with us regularly. They support Focus on the Family through regular, monthly donations. Your support, in that way, enables us to reach out to more parents. In fact, in just the past year or so, we’ve been able to help about 700,000 moms and dads have stronger, more God-honoring families. So let me invite you to join that monthly support team and put your passion for godly parenting into action. Consider a monthly financial gift to Focus or even just a one-time gift if you can. Either way, we’ll send a copy of Jessie’s book as our way of saying thank you for joining the support team. And it’d be a privilege to send that out to you right away. You can donate and find out more about this ministry at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Next time, we’ll have Clint and Penny Bragg sharing a dramatic story of how God worked in their divorce.
Penny Bragg: I took my wedding ring off and I threw it across the room at him. That’s how much volatility and anger and all of that was - was inside me. That anger was toward me.
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Jessie MinassianView Bio
Jessie Minassian is a public speaker and the author of several books for teen girls including Unashamed, Crushed and Respect. She is the "resident big sis" at a Q&A website for teen girls called Life, Love and God. Jessie and her husband reside in California and have two daughters.