... and what can be done to fix the problem.
On one hand, secular dating is all about feeling good in the moment, and long-term commitment is not part of the picture, at least in the beginning. The single people of faith that I know, especially Catholics, want someone who will be in it for the long run — marriage for life — with all the sacrifice it entails. And they want this to be on the table from the very start.
On the other hand, in the Catholic dating world, if you’re lucky enough to be around many single Catholics (maybe you live in a city with a big Catholic single community, or you have at any point attended a Catholic college) you might run into commitment phobia of a different kind.
I have found that in big single Catholic circles people are so aware of commitment that asking someone on a date is sometimes perceived as akin to a marriage proposal. The prevailing thought seems to be “Leading someone on is a terrible sin, so you’d better be quite sure you could marry her before asking her out for coffee.”
The only explanation I can think of for this scenario is that Catholic culture has tried to swing so far away from the secular world of hook-ups and serial one night stands that it has found itself in a weird commitment-heavy wasteland, where single Catholics are stuck forever chatting in group settings (with nary a chance of a one-on-one date until both are assured the other is very interested).
And then there’s a third thing I see happening, which is that if you do happen to go on a date with another single Catholic — like, maybe after Mass you both magically stand in line for donuts and strike up a conversation, or maybe you discover someone online — you still run into some strange situations. You go on a date and leave more confused about the whole thing than before. Or you text and text and text, but never actually meet up in person again. Or it just starts off so awkwardly that you can’t imagine it continuing.
Why is this?
Honestly, as I see it, the problem with all three scenarios above is the same: people just don’t know how to date. Non-Catholics don’t know how to date. “Normal” Catholics don’t know how to date. And Extra-Catholic Catholics don’t know how to date.
Plus, add to this the fact that dating is not an end in itself — marriage is. Dating is a means to an end. But you have to use that means well and stay right in the middle between two extremes: dating just to fill the loneliness versus hardly ever dating because you think you need to get engaged after the first two dates.
Dating is a skill and more people need to learn it. The following is a list of questions to ask yourself about how you date. Think of it like an examination of your dating conscience …
- You need to be ready to date. You are the only thing you can control in the dating process, so you’d better be sure you’re ready! Check yourself. Do you have a healthy sense of self-esteem? Are you confident in who you are? (Your spouse will fall in love with you! Are you comfortable with that? Are you ready to share yourself with someone else?) What baggage are you carrying that might get in the way of healthy relationships? Are your expectations in a good place?
- What best practices are there for going on dates? How do your dates measure up? Is the way you text hurting your dating life? Are you going on first dates in places that are conducive to conversation and are not too expensive/formal?
- For the guys: Are you letting your fear of rejection paralyze you? If so, why? Are you sitting at home flirting over text but unwilling to man up and ask someone out?
- For the girls: Are you expecting guys to read your mind AND demanding that they make the first move instead of showing interest and maybe even initiating something yourself? Or are you too involved in organizing your first dates yourself. and then wondering why no guys ever ask for a second date?
- Are you dating someone just to avoid being alone? (Hint: that’s called settling.) Are there any red flags in your relationship? Are you compatible for a lifetime, and not just compatible on enjoyable dates? Are you putting too much pressure on discerning marriage with someone from the first date? Or are you waiting too long before you discern marriage with someone in a relationship and thus dragging a bad relationship out too long?
I hope these help get the wheels turning for you. There are ways to improve your dating experience, and it all starts with you. If you’re interested in more practical dating tips, this course is helpful. I was part of the team who created it so, yes, I am a little biased, but a lot of people have told me how much it’s helped them.
Let’s start a revolution: Catholics Dating Better. I want to go to a ton of Catholic weddings in the next decade. C’mon, let’s make it happen!