Rules of the dating game for young players
Reading time: 8 minutes
A trio of public service announcements for my young Catholic sisters:
- Don’t live in your twenties like it’s an altar race.
- Date a lot of men (and a lot of different types of men).
- Dating is best (and more fun) in your 30s.
Now I will be the first to recognize that this is not “typical” Catholic dating advice.
But, I’ll also be the first to admit that most of the Catholic dating advice comes from people who aren’t really dating. Who, in many cases, got married very young. And who hasn’t really met a lot.
I am not advocating “serious serial relationships”. In fact, just the opposite.
I encourage girls / young women (and guys too) to relax when it comes to dating and take a lighter approach to the whole dating game.
An approach similar to that of our American brothers and sisters, who generally see in “dating” an opportunity to get to know a person of the opposite sex, but not necessarily to engage in a serious and long-term relationship .
Ladies, lower the pressure. Lower the wait. Go out, have fun, enjoy spending time with the opposite sex… and see what the Holy Spirit does.
If he’s a committed, kind Catholic, and there’s chemistry… go for it.
If not, no worries. Let it fall nicely and clearly (or receive its descent with grace), and move on.
Keep your faith
I say all this under the assumption of a good and solid Catholic life.
Purity, modesty, wisdom, and a godly life in general are essential elements for a successful and healthy dating season.
There are obvious prohibitions: no sex, no physical intimacy reserved for marriage, etc.
(If you need more explanation on the above, may I refer you to The Theology of the Body of Pope Saint John Paul II).
I know the mindset of most Catholic women in their twenties. “Because I was just a few years ago. And in many cases, it can be far too serious, suffocating, and a thief of joy.
First of all: Seek God first and foremost. He deserves the first place in our lives (single or married, now and always). Pray and seek his will for your vocation of life.
Once you have discerned in prayer that yes marriage is for me, relax and rejoice, and let the twinning army of heaven do its thing. I believe angels love to help God orchestrate divine setups.
Girls, God loves us and desires our joy and our fulfillment even more than we do.
The best thing we can do for our love life is to take our hands away and say, “Lord Fiat, be it done to me according to your Word. Holy Spirit, guide me to know when to go out and take action, and when to sit down and wait for you ”. You can trust the Holy Spirit to guide you.
So for the above PSAs:
1. Don’t live in your twenties like it’s an altar race
Oh, the number of girls I’ve witnessed oozing desperation to get married before the big THREE-OH.
And the number of girls I’ve witnessed made poor dating / male / marriage choices in order to get married before the big THREE-OH.
God has a unique and beautiful plan for each of us, and that is exactly it: unique.
It will be different from what God had / planned for your mother, sisters and friends.
God can call you to get married at the age of 20…. and if so, great. GO FOR IT! Get married, have babies and have a beautiful Catholic family.
But God can also call you to go to college, do a doctorate, travel the world, live abroad, volunteer in Africa, start a business, invest in real estate, writing a book, climbing the ladder to CEO of a company, spending a lot investing one-on-one in your relationship with the Lord, etc.
And maybe dating 50 different men in the process.
And then, after you’ve done all that, meet Mr. Right and get married.
Girls, we are outrageously blessed to be alive in this generation, in this time and in this season. There are opportunities available to us today that our mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers could only dream of.
Let me be clear: there is a lot of time. There is no rush in the Kingdom of God. You can do all of the amazing things listed above (if that’s God’s plan for you), and still have time to get married and have children.
My mother had her last child at 44. My cousin had her first child at 42 years old. The great Sarah from Genesis had her first child at 90! (After being sterile for nine decades). God does not work to the rhythm of your “body clock”.
Now, in my mid-thirties, with a call from God to marriage, words cannot fully explain how HORRIDLY GRANTED I am that I was able to do everything I have before I got married and had sex. children.
I graduated from college twice, spent a year in church service as a missionary, worked in indigenous communities in Australia, bought real estate, ran marathons, I have traveled a lot all over the world, I have been to the Vatican for historic canonizations (Pope Saint (making a childhood dream come true).
I know deep down in my being that I would have been deeply dissatisfied and unhappy if I had not seen these divine dreams come true. And many of these events just couldn’t have happened if I had been married with children.
But the transformation of the “inner life” in this pre-wedding season is what I’m most grateful for: spending so much precious time with the Lord and in his Word, developing an intimate relationship with Him and getting to know Him. as lover, healer, comforter and source of all things.
Grow in the Lord’s will for you
With the help of some very wise spiritual directors, I had the time (read: I took the time) to invest in my inner life and allow God to do the “hard inner work” of pruning. , size and more size. Inner work which is essential in all our lives, if we want to live in freedom. Yeah, ouch. But it is worth it, for the fruits of spiritual health, peace, joy and freedom.
I recently said to a friend, “My 23 year old self wouldn’t recognize who I am today. But she would say about that person: ‘that’s exactly what I want to be when I grow up’ ”.
As a wise woman who witnessed the “inner pruning process” recently told me, “What a gift you will give to your future husband. You took the time to allow God to “plow your soil, prepare a healthy garden for a successful marriage to flourish.”
So girls, DON’T FOLLOW THE CROWD. This is the quickest path to discontent. God’s one plan for your life is the path to ultimate peace, joy, purpose, fulfillment, and pleasure.
2. Date a lot of men (and a lot of different types of men – different ages, different personalities, etc.)
I have had a long dating season and have dated a lot of men.
Dozens, in fact. But of these, only three have been “serious relationships”.
I encourage you to date, date, date. You learn a lot about yourself by dating different types of men.
You learn the personality types that you get along with, the types that you don’t get along with. Age gaps that work well for you, age gaps that don’t. You learn to spot red flags and identify flashing neon signs that read: run and run fast.
On so many levels – spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically – it is a great formative experience.
But, I’ll stress it again, only when it aligns with a pure and godly life.
Date of engagement, practicing Catholic / Christian men (“do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers” – 2 Corinthians 6:14), and keep things classified G.
3. Dating is best (and more fun) in your 30s.
Comparing people between the ages of 20 and 30 is like comparing chalk and cheese.
I have the impression that the meetings of the 1930s are “meeting-in-all-it’s-glory”:
You know who you are and what you are worth. A strong and unwavering trust in who you are in Christ means that you are not desperate for a man to validate you. There is incredible freedom to be shamelessly “you” during dating season. “I’m just as happy whether I’m in a relationship or not. A relationship neither defines me nor validates me. This is the best basis for attracting the right kind of man and building the right kind of marriage.
The older you get, the older your potential suitors are. My experience is that older men are more intentional (and often, deliciously “old-fashioned”) in their approach to dating. And, oh, chivalry, glorious chivalry.
Additionally, older men are more established in their careers and generally have more money to spend on pursuing a woman. Beautiful restaurants, magnificent bouquets of flowers, lovely gifts…. a lady likes to be courted.
Not that dates have to be expensive to be special. I am also satisfied with a romantic walk in the bush.
It is intentionality that counts.
Be intentional, be patient with God
Example: One recent Christmas, a potential suitor sent me on an “Advent treasure hunt”.
Handwritten calligraphy “cards” led me on a romantic trail through Brisbane’s CBD: a book by St Thérèse of Lisieux at the Catholic bookstore, then a “Laudate themed” tea set in a tea shop (after finding out I did my masters thesis on tea etiquette), and finally a beautiful bouquet of flowers at the ‘Little Flower Shop’ (you see the Catholic / Advent theme running through it all ?!).
It was so thoughtful, intentional and generous. It certainly wooed this girl.
The experience of life makes meetings more interesting. In your 30s, you have had a lot of life experiences and (hopefully) gained a lot of wisdom in life. Ditto for your potential suitors. It makes dating conversations deep, rich and stimulating. Yes please.
If you are called to the altar, you will eventually get to it. In the delightfully unique way that God has designed especially for you.