Are you single? Frustrated with the Catholic dating scene? Does it seem like everyone is getting married? It sure does to me, and I’m one of those obnoxious people who invited you to their wedding. Thanks for the Target gift card by the way. And to all the women, I’m sorry we made you dance to Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies”. But guys, come on! All the single women were right there! What were you doing in the corner acting like it was a middle school dance!
I don’t know about you, but it seems like dating is more difficult than ever before.
Before he passed away, my grandfather would tell the story of how he started dating my grandmother. To paraphrase… He came home from World War II, asked his family if that woman down the street was still single, and then he went down the street and asked my grandmother to go on a date. That was it!
Maybe you think that’s a beautiful story. But maybe you also find yourself discouraged when stories like that make dating seem so easy. I mean, my grandmother got a date with her future husband without leaving the house. No ‘Facebook’, no ‘Match.com’, and no, God forbid, ‘Tinder’.
Don’t let this story; anyone else’s story or even your own experiences cause you to get discouraged.
I’m a happily married man with three kids. I discerned both marriage and entering the seminary. I was sometimes good at dating and sometimes bad at dating. And despite all the things that I have going for me, I still spent years feeling like I might never find someone to marry. And I have witnessed many friends discern into successful marriages, I have come up with what I believe are five good tips for dating as a young adult.
1. Acknowledge the Weight of Your Cross
Dating is challenging. And with all the brokenness in the world caused by pornography, divorce, and the contraceptive mentality, the journey to find a spouse may feel like you’re trying to scale Mount Everest with the enronment actively trying to stop you.
Some people may suggest that dating is more challenging than ever. I don’t know if that’s true. But we definitely live in a culture where marriage and the family are under attack. And while we have more dating apps and websites than ever, the pool of potential spouses doesn’t appear to be getting any bigger.
I’ve spoken with many men and women who feel called to marriage, but marriage a person worthy of them hasn’t come along. This is an incredibly heavy cross to carry. So be honest with yourself. You may not be doing anything wrong. In fact, you’re probably a wonderful person who would make a fantastic husband or wife! Many potential candidates for marriage have removed themselves as an option. They didn’t do so because of you. They did so because of hurt from their past or a misunderstanding of healthy relationships. They are not available for marriage because they don’t know how to give themselves in marriage. So, pray that these people find healing.
2. Shed Your Preconceived Notions
First off, Stop ranking yourself and others. A so-called “Five” can date a “Nine.” Labeling and ranking people (including yourself) reduces sacrificial love to something mechanical or quantifiable. And such labels may prevent you from considering someone amazing.
Perhaps you have this fantasy ideal of the person you’ll marry and the family you’ll create together. Whether these preconceived notions revolve around money, type of job, house size, formal education, personal appearance, family structure or even dating history, no one is going to fit perfectly into the fantasy mold that you have created for them.
I’ll use myself as an example. I never thought that I’d marry a woman who grew up in another state, let alone on a farm in the middle of rural Nebraska. And while at first mention that might not seem like a big deal, it was. Family is very important to me (and to my wife as well). This means that we must make an extra special effort to stay in touch with and visit our family out of state. I love to travel, but it can be costly and time consuming.
So stop waiting for the absolute perfect, idealized (fictional) person to appear and date already. You’d be surprised how many amazing people are out there once you’ve opened yourself up. And you might have to go on a terrible date. But in the years that follow, terrible dates make great stories.
3.Date for Marriage
You may have heard this before, but I think it’s worth repeating. Share your hopes and dreams, talk about your day, and pray together. Let me say it again, PRAY TOGETHER. Dating is discerning. If you keep God on the sidelines of the discerning conversation, it’s like a football team going out on the field without a quarterback. Or a modern analogy… It’s like getting in your car to drive somewhere new and immediately disabling the GPS on your phone. You have plenty of data left! What are you doing!
And while it may be a cliche, don’t date until you’re ready to date. Too many people date to fill a hole in their heart. I did that. Dating loses its meaning and purpose and you end up using someone else. Don’t waste your time and don’t waste someone else’s time. If you’re not ready to discern marriage, don’t date. There is plenty to do with your time.
Now let me be clear, discerning marriage doesn’t mean that you’re ready to sprint down the aisle. But marriage is a sacrament. And like all sacraments, matrimony is designed by God to point you to God. While dating I would think of it like this; the primary purpose of a sacramental marriage is to get your spouse to Heaven. So do you trust the person you’re dating (or interested in dating) with your eternal soul? If not, move on.
4. Learn to Date a Person (Not the Idea of a Person)
It’s really easy to elevate someone in your head. “Love at first sight” makes it easy to get caught up in the idea of who a person is. He or she is “perfect” and “wonderful” and “amazing” and blah blah blah.
But your crush, your new girlfriend or boyfriend, none of them are perfect. You are attracted to a flawed human being with wounds just like you. When I was single I’d see a pretty girl who was into her faith and I’d think, “Is she going to be my wife? I should ask her out. But first I should find out her name.” I was focused on the idea of the person, not the person.
When you’re discerning whether or not to date someone, strive to see a person as God sees them. Not through the eyes of infatuation, but through the eyes of love.
5. Set Your Standards High (And Keep them There!)
Now this is VERY different from #2 (Shed Your Preconceived Notions). I had to shed plenty of preconceived notions when I began dating the woman I would marry. My amazing wife challenges me to grow in my faith everyday, has a great sense of humor, and calls me out when I’m not being virtuous. Not everyone I dated did this.
Date someone who works to uphold your dignity (and their own). Date someone who is essentially the same person in private and in public. Date someone who loves God more than they love you. Don’t date them hoping they will become the person who you want to date. And it’s not easy to hear, but it’s healthier to not date than to date someone who isn’t going to bring out the best in you.
And I’m only going to say it once. Gentlemen! Step up! And ask a woman out on a date!
Ok. So maybe those tips and stories didn’t solve all your dating woes, but hopefully they help you have a better outlook on the dating life. And just maybe these tips will get you in the right place for God to do something amazing in your life. And, if not, I’m sure the D.J. at the next wedding reception will play “Single Ladies”.