How to redeem the college dating scene
Today Aleteia is proud to introduce our newest, and youngest, regular contributor, Lilia Draime. Lilia is a junior at a Catholic university in the United States, and her column, Living Christ on Campus, will appear every other Thursday. Aleteia has decided to keep Lilia’s institution anonymous so as to keep the focus on what she has to say about issues that impact all young students struggling to live their faith on college and university campuses, whether those institutions be Catholic or not. Welcome, Lilia!
Dating to discern marriage is among the most significant — and toughest — undertakings of our lives, especially in the college environment. Even when we find ourselves in happy, committed relationships, a certain pressure persists. The secular media’s push for college to be a time of sexual liberation and experimentation can put unnecessary strain on otherwise strong, faith-based relationships.
It is no secret that secular society generally believes that premarital sex is not only inconsequential, but preferable. Nancy Pelosi’s 2012 claim that 98 percent of Catholic women contracept further reveals the ways in which the Church’s sexual teachings are presented as antiquated and irrelevant.
Even at a Catholic university where a majority of students disapprove of fornication, media coverage including Kate Taylor’s New York Times article detailing the sexual exploits of some high-achieving college students and Georgetown University’s seeming embrace of sexual promiscuity certainly influence the way students conceive of their peers.
Surely I am not alone in saying that this mode of thought has affected my own relationship. It feels like the general assumption of my less orthodox friends and family is that whenever I am alone with my boyfriend, we are likely engaging in some kind of sexual activity. Staying chaste, friends have said, is “great if that’s what [I] want to do, but definitely not how [they] do it.”
This puts us in a tight place: We cannot develop romantic relationships without spending time one-on-one, but we risk the sin of scandal when we do.
With the recent celebrations of the Holy Family and Mary, the Mother of God, we may look to Mary and Joseph for support in the face of potential scandal.
First, we must orient relationships towards virtue. We are called to emulate the modesty, chastity, humility, and obedience of Mary and Joseph. Through limited public displays of affection and modest dress, young couples may demonstrate their understanding of dignity and self-worth.
Likewise, participating in campus groups like Love and Fidelity Network, Right to Life, or Children of Mary, will link up like-minded students interested in their moral formation. Exposure to positive examples of relationships will ultimately help students to look more charitably at their peers and spark dialogue about the nature of Catholic relationships.
Finally, pray with your significant other. Go to daily Mass together if you can, pray regularly, discuss saints, read scripture, go to confession, seek spiritual guidance, and study the Church’s teachings on marriage and sexuality. Maintain an open dialogue about matters of sexuality — chastity is a lifelong process that extends into marriage and thus requires a strong foundation. The more we know and understand about what our faith teaches, the more effectively we can live and defend those teachings.
While we cannot easily change secular culture, we can make dating in the college climate easier for each other. Navigating dating life with the Holy Family as our compass will ultimately strengthen our own dating relationships and in turn shift society’s perception of young, faithful couples.