Five Honest Tips for Modern Catholic Dating

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.

While we have more dating apps and websites than ever, the pool of potential spouses doesn’t appear to be getting any bigger.

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. 

A person’s rightful due is to be treated as an object of love, not an object of use.

St. John paul the great (love and RESPONSIBILITY)

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”. 

Ten Awesome Tips for a Healthy Sex Life

Most sources that offer advice on sex, simply offer advice on the mechanics of sex. But a Christian discussion must consider the very nature of sexuality. Any animal can figure out how to have sex. But when a married couple deepens their understanding of sexuality, they strengthen their union and achieve new heights of sexual bonding. Having a healthy sex life isn’t just about how frequently a couple enters into the marital embrace. Although, for many people, bonding with their spouse more often can help them better navigate the challenging vocation of marriage.

Here are ten simple tips for how to have a healthy sex life.

Assess your mental health and possibly have it assessed by a professional. With chemical causes, seasonal affective disorder, stress from work, stress from kids, and more, struggling with depression, anxiety, or any other issues of mental health is becoming increasingly common. Sometimes people are completely unaware of the impact a mental health issue is having on them. To assess your mental health, look at your entire day to see what might be wearing you down. It’s difficult to be in the mood if you’re mentally exhausted. As you work through and honest assessment, consider cutting back on things like social media. You are more than just a body, so be sure to take care of your mind as well.

Assess your physical health. Like mental health, there is no quick fix for poor physical health. And many people find themselves facing a state of deconditioning in their late twenties or early thirties. But diet and exercise can make a difference. Ask any doctor, nurse, or dietitian and they’ll tell you clearly that improving one’s diet and increasing exercise can increase energy. I say “can” because many people have underlying medical conditions that cause a person to continue to feel drained. If you don’t have enough energy, entering into the marital embrace will be more difficult. It’s also important to know that many medications can reduce libido, can cause vaginal dryness, and can cause erectile dysfunction. Having regular, open communication with your doctors can increase the likelihood of removing these obstacles.

Read scripture together. The entire Bible is essentially a love-letter. After all, Christ’s covenantal relationship with humanity is essentially a marital covenant. Even the simple act of receiving Holy Communion reveals this. We (the bride of Christ) receive His body into our body, and then we have new life within us. God’s written word is filled with truths like this one. If you need a starting place, check out Genesis (before the fall), Tobit, and Song of Songs. 

Now, Lord, you know I take this wife of mine not because of lust, but for a noble purpose. Call down your mercy on me and her, and allow us to live together to a happy old age.

BOOK OF TOBIT 8:7

Figure out your love languages. Even if you’ve done that in the past, love languages can change. Mine have changed noticeably since I first got married. Between changing careers and having kids, I’m in a very different place. As a result, how I desire to be loved is noticeably different.

Connect in a variety of ways. The Creighton Model of Natural Family Planning emphasizes SPICE (bonding spiritually, physically, intellectual, emotionally, and creative/communicatively). And regardless of which method a couple uses or if they even use natural family planning, connecting with one another Spiritually, Physically, Intellectually, through Communication, and Emotionally can help the couple grow deeper in their bond. 

Ask for the intercession of the Saints. It can be awkward asking someone else to pray for your sex life. But sex within marriage is a Holy and Sacred thing. And the Saints are in Heaven experiencing the fullness of God’s Holy presence. Sex, in it’s proper place, gives more glory to God than we can even comprehend. We spend so much time asking Saint Anthony to help us find our missing keys, but we don’t need to stop there when we can ask St. Raphael (patron of marriages) or St. Joseph (the Most Chaste Spouse). 

Find a way to relax before having sex. This can be very difficult. A glass of wine, a funny TV show, going for a run, giving each other massages, or whatever works for you. It’s difficult to be fully present to your husband or wife when the sound of a child screaming for mac and cheese, the thought of the bills, or the critical words of your boss still echoing in your head.

Find ways to invite God to be a part of your union. Pray before having sex. It doesn’t have to be a long prayer, nor does it have to be immediately before having sex. Just make it enough to invite God to be present. Keep holy water in or near your bedroom and get into a habit of blessing yourself as a reminder that God is present in your bedroom. And make sure there is a crucifix in your bedroom (preferably one that’s been blessed). In a Non-Christian marriage, people may view the presence of a crucified man above a marriage bed as being distasteful or barbaric. But in a Christian marriage, we understand how the cross is the most beautiful, powerful act of sacrificial love there could ever be. And a marriage should mirror that sacrificial love.    

If you haven’t have some real conversations about sex, have them soon. Some people get years into marriage before they talk about comfort levels in their sex life. If either husband or wife desire to be touched in a certain place or in a certain way, it would be good to share that. If one or both spouses shared sexual experiences prior to meeting, insecurities or problematic comparisons may be simmering under the surface. If these things haven’t been discussed, they may need to be discussed.

Love is primarily in the will, not in the emotions or the glands. The will is like the voice; the emotions are the echo.

VEN. FULTON SHEEN (THREE TO GET MARRIED)

READ The Good News About Sex and Marriage by Christopher West, Three to Get Married by Fulton Sheen and Love and Responsibility by Karol Wojtyła aka Pope John Paul II. That last one is a little heavy on philosophy, but if you can work through it, you will understand a great deal more about love, sex, and sexuality. Or for something quicker, read the section of the Catechism on the Sixth Commandment. It’s more interesting than most people think. Make good use of the great thinkers who have been able to discern and write a lot about the beauty and epic truth of the nature of sex.

The marital act is an image of the divine trinity. Both the trinity and the sexual embrace are a union of persons, known by their relationship to one another. Within the sexual act is a glorious and complex realty. Remember, you are not just a body. Scripture tells us that we are each a body, a mind, a heart, and a soul. And if a husband and a wife work to strengthen and unite every aspect of their being, they will more clearly see the depth of beauty revealed through their sexual embrace.