Dating in the secular world is interesting, to put it mildly. It also happens to be confusing, messy, disordered and sometimes scary. I say this because I’ve done it. Because I’ve done it, I have had all too much practice having awkward conversations about why I go to mass as much as possible, why I go to confession, and my favorite, the “reasons why I won’t live with you/sleep with you/be unchaste with you before marriage”. There’s nothing quite as fun as watching a date come to a grinding halt when you explain that not only are you Catholic, you’re really Catholic. And while you may not actually wear a chastity belt, you might as well because, by golly, you are waiting until marriage! Ah, yes. Nothing puts the breaks on burgeoning new romance quite like those conversations will.
Which brings me to the point of this blog: there are many pro’s (and one pseudo-con) to dating Catholic men. While dating Catholic men is still confusing and sometimes scary, there are several upsides:
- You can go to mass, adoration, stations of the cross, and other awesome Catholic services together.
- You can talk about your shared love of Mary and the saints.
- You can talk about chastity without them running away.
- They can talk with you about theology and Church teachings without it resulting in either a painfully silent look of apathy or an all-out argument.
- They can correct you if you use terms like “immaculate conception” incorrectly or mispronounce words like “consubstantiation” (happens to me all the time).
In sum, dating a Catholic man can be all kinds of wonderful. But there is one downside to dating a Catholic man, a downside that is actually a positive, but in my experience can be frustrating and downright painful. This con contains lots of “opportunities” to die to self, and to rely on God. I don’t know about you, but for this girl, that’s tough stuff.
So, what’s the con? It is this: Catholic men take discernment seriously. They discern if and how to pursue you, how to be in relationship with you, and if they feel called to marry you. Not only do they discern whether they want to marry you, but they discern whether they want to be married at all! Many girls just worry if their boyfriend wants to marry them, but girls dating the discerning Catholic man worry that he may want to dedicate his life to priesthood or religious life. Now don’t get me wrong – vocations to priesthood and religious life are beautiful and blessed. But when you have your heart set on a great guy, and he discerns a calling that doesn’t involve you in a white dress, it still hurts.
I once dated a man who was very open to all vocations, and was up front about it from the beginning. Each time he talked about discerning priesthood, my heart would jump into my throat as I thought of him ending our relationship for that calling. My emotional brain would freak out and say, “Hey, don’t leave me! Don’t send me back out into the dating world!” Luckily, even in those moments of anxiety, I had enough logical brain left to keep my mouth shut until I could sort my feelings. Eventually what I realized was that if I truly wanted peace, I would want God’s will to be done. Period. And if God’s will did not include this man, then I would have to get over myself and let go. Not only that, but if I truly loved this man as the brother in Christ he was, I would want God’s will for him, too. Easy to say, much more difficult to embrace and put into practice.
That relationship eventually ended because my ex-boyfriend discerned so excellently. He was so good at discernment, in fact, that he broke up with me, something I didn’t really appreciate at the time. I ranted and argued with him about it, actually. I suddenly wished that he was not as hardcore-Catholic as he was. The selfish part of me wanted him to stay because I didn’t want to be alone, and also because it really just wasn’t the best time for my heart to break into pieces. It kind of puts a damper on the day-to-day, you know?
So even though I knew it was for the best, I rebelled against the idea at first. After a couple of weeks of hashing it out, I accepted the truth behind it and watched in awe as he walked away because he felt God was calling him to. While grieving the loss him was painful, confusing and not exactly how I wanted to spend my free time, at least I knew that it was a decision rooted in God. Eventually, the pain of losing that relationship subsided, I grew from the good and bad parts, and I met someone new. It’s like God had a plan all along or something… Weird.
Moral of this blog? Dating good Catholic men is the way to go, even if it doesn’t turn out the way you want it to at the time. If you truly have faith in God’s love, then you believe He knows the best plans for you, “plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11). So what may look and feel like heartache at the loss of one relationship, is really another step towards your true vocation.
Now that’s something to take heart in.