NOTE: I have shut down our old RoL website that we started in 2002. I am moving the most popular posts over to the blog so they will still be available online. This week I will be moving the posts about Dating.
During my dating years when I was in my 20’s, I went through a number of “phases.” At first I was not practicing my faith and dating any guy that I found interesting. This lead to a number of dysfunctional relationships, with a few being more damaging to my soul than others.
After my conversion and returning to God, I moved up in my standards and only considered guys who were practicing Christians. (I didn’t know any really practicing Catholics at the time.) This led to my meeting some nice guys, but when it came down to getting more serious our differing faiths always stopped us from continuing the relationship.
In my mid 20’s, I considered a religious vocation and struggled with the idea of never marrying. However, it was at this point that I learned the true meaning of a vocation (whether married to Christ or a man) and my relationship with Jesus grew and deepened. After some time I was eager to love Our Lord in whatever my chosen vocation.
Needless to say, religious life was not the route God chose for me so I was back to praying for a holy spouse, except that this time I was a faithful Catholic only interested in dating another faithful Catholic. Frankly, this greatly narrowed the amount of datable prospects. Where was I to find a guy who was a faithful Catholic, believed and lived all the teachings of the Catholic faith, was someone that I was interested in and, to top it off, was interested in me? Let’s just say, there were times when I was more than just a little frustrated.
In Love with Love
I distinctly recall times when I started to become a little lax in how I judged a man. As a result I had to ask myself if I was truly in love with John Smith or was I in love with Love? I wanted to be married and to raise a family so acutely, that as time went by I became more willing to look the other way when I saw “red flags” in the relationship or when my gut told me that things were not right.
Sometimes I was too wrapped up to see it myself. Sometimes it was a family member or a friend that was concerned about my choices, but I didn’t want to listen to them. I told them that I knew John Smith better than they did. I told them that I had prayed about it and saw countless “signs” telling me that he was Mr. Right. Looking back now, what were my signs? Were they circumstances that I twisted around to appear in my favor? Or were God’s “signs” actually the voices of my loved ones cautioning me? God was answering my fervent prayers all right, but the answer was “No” and I didn’t want to hear it.
Thankfully, I never did marry one of those John Smiths, but what if I had? I am sure God would not have abandoned me. I am sure He would have helped me to make the best of my marriage and grow in my love for my spouse. But it would not have been God’s first choice for me. My road in life would have been more difficult, leaving me feeling restless and discontent. It would not have given me the same peace that comes from doing God’s will first and foremost.
When In Doubt, Check It Out
So why bring all this up? Because too often I have seen friends in the same situation that I was in – where everyone saw the red flags but the person involved. Perhaps you are in a relationship and your loved ones are telling you that there is a problem. Or perhaps you have inner doubts, but are scared of what the consequences may be if you listen to them. That doesn’t mean you should dump your significant other right away, but you should definitely take all the time you need to work through these things. Marriage is far too important and too sacred not to. Besides, if you truly love your boy friend/fiance then you should want the best for them. If you believe that God truly loves you as His own child, then you should know He only wants the best for you. Now is the time to be certain that you are both following the path God has chosen for you.
Topics to Discuss
If you are not sure what kind of things you should be considering, allow me to end this article with a sampling of questions that you and your boy friend/fiance should both consider and discuss.
- Am I in a state of grace? Am I working to grow closer to Christ by taking time to pray each day and going to Mass and Confession regularly? Am I working to be a woman of God now or am I waiting until I am married to be holier? Is my fiance?
- Is this relationship bringing me closer to God? Have I been more lax in my faith because it makes him uncomfortable? Is God the center of our lives and all the decisions we make?
- Do we both believe that marriage is our path to heaven? Have we been preparing practically and spiritually for marriage? Do we believe and follow all the teachings of the church? Are we sleeping together? If not, do we plan to use contraception once we are married?
- Am I playing the role of the “savior” in our relationship? Are there serious problems or emotional issues that I am trying to save him from? Do I think that after marriage everything will change for the better?
- Do I realize that love is not just an emotion or feeling but a choice? Do I realize that love is self-sacrifice and dying to self for the sake of another? Does my fiance feel this way? Have we discussed it?
- Have I studied the meaning of the bible passage, “Wives be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church…” (Eph. 5:21-33) Is my boy friend/ fiance the kind of man that I want to be the head of the household? Do I respect and trust him to listen to my opinions and make the sacrifices needed to be a godly husband and father? Does he see religion as more “my job”? Have I discussed this with him?
- How does my boy friend/ fiance get along with his family? How do I? Did he have a troubled childhood? Did I? Have we discussed these things and how it will affect our own roles as future spouses and parents?
- How do we communicate with each other? Do we spend a lot of time talking with each other, including serious things? (our ideas about kids, finances, life style, etc) Do we know each other as best friends or are there certain things I am not comfortable discussing? Does each discussion get cut short by physical contact?
- Are there behavior patterns in my boy friend/ fiance that should trouble me, such as: always criticizing, constantly jealous, too “clingy”, flirtatious with the opposite sex, has a bad temper, a foul mouth, reads/watches inappropriate material, drinks too much, is physically or verbally abuse, etc.?
- Are either of us in debt? Are we able to afford to get married now? Will one of us be able to quit our job once a baby arrives? Do we both agree on what is a “want” and what is a “necessity”?
- Are my loved ones and/or friends seeing problems in the relationship that I am just not seeing? Why are we disagreeing about this? Have I honestly dealt with these things with a holy confessor/spiritual director?
Be Not Afraid
If after reviewing these, you are troubled by some of your answers don’t be afraid to face and deal with them. Pour your heart out to God. Turn to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary. Seek the guidance of a holy priest, spiritual director, or mentor who is a strong, practicing Catholic to help you see the matter more clearly. It’s a tough business but don’t forget that you want more than just a happy wedding day, you want a lifetime of love that will bring many years of happiness as you, your spouse, and your children work together to build the Kingdom and bring glory to God.