There seems to be a strange dichotomy among young Catholics. One group is falling in love and getting married. The other half is frequently using the hashtag #ForeverAlone in their tweets and Instagram posts. The first group apparently had no trouble find romance, and with there being so many in the second group, it leads one to wonder why aren’t the people in the #ForeverAlone group pairing up? Well, I maintain there are some serious flaws in the prevailing philosophies and practices in the Catholic Dating scene.
People Behave Irrationally
I am including myself in this statement. I overthink things and wait too long to ask a girl out which ends up making things worse when the relationship eventually fails to materialize. Others do the same things.
Furthermore, People make strange decisions when it comes to choosing a significant other. Girls date guys who look like they got hit by a truck. Guys date girls with looks but poisonous personalities. Jay Z cheated on Beyoncé. In 2014, a girl in her twenties agreed to marry serial killer Charles Manson. People. Are. Idiots.
Lack of Clarity and Misleading Statements
Sometimes girls, in an attempt to let a guy down easy, will be too vague when turning down an offer of a date or will sound reluctant when agreeing to a date. It is like the words “Yes” and “No” have disappeared from their vocabulary. It’s like a Justin Bieber song. “It won’t work right now” implies it might work later and leaves the guy on the hook. A half-hearted “Sure” or “Maybe, if it works for my busy schedule” makes it seem like going on a date with the guy would be a burden. “I don’t know” has the same end result as a no, but does not provide the same clarity. A simple “Yes” or “No” is the best route, but there are times where girls do not say those clarifying words. Clarity is the best way to respect a guy. It does no good to let him down easy if it misleads him. Honesty is your friend, ladies. If you’re not interested, say so. It does not make you an awful person to not be interested in a guy.
I should also point out that guys, too, can be misleading. We lead girls on when we are not interested in them romantically and chicken out when we are interested, and that is not okay for the reasons above.
The Friends First Philosophy
Many Catholics advise others that one must become friends with someone of the opposite gender before dating them. In fact, I have given this advice to others, but I no longer do so because I realized it is bad advice and could do more harm than good.
When one applies this rule to one’s life, one does not actually befriend the other person. The entire time you are becoming friends with this person you are thinking, “Are we friends enough to date yet?”. If your intention is to become friends with someone and then date them, your real intention is to date them. Befriending them for the purposes of dating them is disingenuous, and you do not actually become friends with them. You have a quasi-friendship that easily falls apart and will almost certainly fall apart if the romantic relationship does not materialize. If I had not applied this philosophy to my life, I might have three more friends than I have now. But, I did, so I don’t.
Some bloggers are starting to figure this one out, but a lot of speakers, especially Catholic ones, are sticking with this idea. Courting will only cause more heartache.
This is a more formal dating process. In this setting, the first date is expected to be the first of many. Both parties are expecting this to be the start of a long-term relationship, so if one party decides it is not right early in the relationship, the other is left with a broken heart because they became too emotionally invested too quickly.
In a more casusal setting, two parties are less invested in the relationship early on and can call it quits more easily. When this happens, there are no hard feelings, and the two individuals can still be friends.
This is another highly recommended idea that is just plain stupid. Dating fasts are the idea that one will refrain from dating for a set period of time, no matter who comes along. And, no, seminarians are not on a dating fast. They are not allowed to date, period. The argument that dating fasts are a good thing because they work for seminarians is a hollow argument because are not on dating fasts. They are forbidden to date. Dating fasts imply that one will eventually start dating again. This is not a certainty for seminarians.
Dating fasts are potentially dangerous. When someone goes on a dating fast, neither the heart nor the genitals are turned off. That person is still going to notice people of the opposite gender and begin to wonder about the potential for romance. Waiting to ask someone out or to go on a date with someone only causes more problems down the line. A friend of mine once asked a girl out, and she told him she was interested but on a dating fast. Months later, after her dating fast ended, they went out on a date. It went horribly, and there was no second date. If they had gone out right away, he could have moved on right away instead of being on the hook for months.
When one goes on a dating fast, one stops discerning God’s will. On a dating fast, one refuses to consider dating someone. If God places someone in your life with whom He wishes you to begin a romantic relationship, you will not follow God’s will because you are not open to what God has planned for you. Is it sometimes appropriate to take a step back from dating? Yes, but that should be a matter of continual discernment rather than to choose some arbitrary period of time where you are going to refuse to consider the possibility that God wants you in a relationship. We should be teaching people to discern God’s will with respect to dating rather than promoting a system that shuts down the discernment process.
There are a number of different Catholic chastity and/or dating speakers will often promote a system for dating, a set of rules to follow that is surefire way to avoid heartbreak and find the person of your dreams. Following their system, however, has all the certainty of that fortune cookie that says a large some of money is coming your way.
Usually, “the system” includes things like the friends first philosophy, courting, dating fasts, making a list of the characteristics you want in your future spouse, and bunch of other hokey/stupid ideas and practices. These ideas are often in talks or books with titles that guarantee that following that person’s personal opinions are a surefire way to not be miserable with respect to dating.
Everyone is different. Every situation is different. There are two unique individuals involved in every relationship or potential relationship. They will each bring something unique to the situation. Furthermore, the circumstances in which they interact will also be unique. “The system” might not apply or be the best course of action, and if they try to implement “the system” in that situation, it will screw everything up.
For each unique situation, you only need one guiding principle: Honor the crap out of her/him. No system will always apply, and no system can guarantee an avoidance of heartbreak. However, if you ask yourself how you can honor the other person in each romantic situation in which you find yourself and then follow through with that, you can better handle any situation. Will this guiding principle help you find that special someone? No. Will it avoid pain and sadness? No, that stuff is inevitable. Will it help you make the best of whatever situation in which you find yourself? Probably. Will it help you avoid sin? It should. Is “Honor the crap out of her/him” a guarantee? No.
Lastly, if you are listening to a speaker who either claims they have everything figured out or act like they have everything figured out, immediately distrust everything they are saying about dating. They do not have everything figured out. In fact, generally speaking, nothing they say is original. Every talk that speaker gives is essentially the same. One of the most popular Catholic chastity/dating speakers is especially guilty of this, yet everyone thinks he is amazing. It blows my mind that no one else notices how unoriginal he is. Also, don’t think your personal favorite speaker/blogger has a different system that is unique and better than anything else out there. No, it is the same and still ineffective. As Charlie Munger once said, “When you mix raisins with turds, they are still turds.”
Catholic Match Has Admitted Their Product Won’t Help You
Recently, CatholicMatch brought in Fr. Leo Patalinghug to teach you how to cook for one. Yup, that’s right: Cooking for One. That is like saying, “You know how you use our website to stop being alone? Well, you’re going to be alone forever, so here’s this thing to help you avoid starving while you are alone.” What’s next? Advice on how to find an apartment that will take you and your twenty cats?
CatholicMatch or AveMaria Singles Are Simply Awful Websites
CatholicMatch (CM) will let you sign up for free, but if you actually want to send a message to someone (you know, like, use their website for its intended purpose), you have to pay an expensive fee to do so. AveMaria Singles (AMS) makes you pay before being allowed to search their site. You have no idea if there is anyone in your preferred age range and your general area on their site. At least, Catholic Match (CM) allows you to look and see who is on their website before deciding whether or not to pay. However, with this setup, CM can lead to some confusion and frustration. If one sends someone a message on CM and does not get a response, one never knows if they are not a paying member or if they are just not interested. Furthermore, neither AMS nor CM have an app. People are rarely without their phones these days. An app is the way to go, but AMS and CM are afraid to embrace technology which is strange behavior for a website.
All of the above mentioned problems are non-existent with Tinder. It is free to signup AND communicate with others. There is no ambiguity; you know whether or not the other person is interested because you can only communicate if you both swiped right. Tinder is also an app-only dating service. So, yes, this Catholic would rather be on Tinder than Catholic Match.
Unless there is a collective shift in the way young Catholics think about dating (or maybe we start thinking less), there will be unnecessary heartache.