Ten years ago I was twenty-four years old.
I was working in my first full time lay ministry job at a parish and toying with the idea of going to graduate school. I was navigating dating as an emotionally insecure young woman.
Ten years later, I am a much more healthy and whole version of myself at any other time in my life.
However, it has not come without personal suffering and transformation I never imagined.
At the ripe age of twenty-six, I got married, when in many ways I was nowhere ready.
Shortly after I married, I quickly learned that man was not who he said he was. Life was forever altered.
Four years later I went through a divorce and annulment and found myself navigating new chapters I never dreamed that would be a part of my story.
Why share all that with you?
Because ten years ago, before I got married, I believed a lot of faulty (even unhealthy!) things about dating and relationships.
Certain perspectives I latched onto were the ideas that formed my understanding of marriage, which now I realize were not properly formed.
I have spent a lot of time reflecting and writing on my personal blog on these ideas, but there are several points I find I keep coming back to.
Marriage is not the ultimate end goal
Sometimes in Catholic culture I feel there is this hidden message that the sacrament of marriage is the ultimate end goal in life. A prize at the finish line, the way you will know you have arrived in terms of relationships. The piece de resistance!
That is not true, but somehow we can treat it like such.
You are not worth less if you are not married, or if your marriage ended.
The sacrament of marriage is made up of two imperfect, flawed human beings. Marriage is not a right, or necessarily our destiny. It is a vocation you are called into.
My end goal in this earthly life is not a happily-ever-after marriage with the “perfect” Catholic guy (that doesn’t exist for men or women!).
My end goal is Heaven.
Sure, I desire to get married again someday. But in the depths of my spirit, I know and believe a truth I certainly did not know ten years ago: Marriage is not the end goal of my life. Being married will not help me love myself better or fix what is hurting on the inside of me.
Let’s stop talking and acting like being married is the most important thing this side of Heaven.
The most important thing is to become more like Jesus and someday spend eternity in Heaven with him.
Go on LOTS of dates
There is absolutely nothing wrong with going on lots of dates with different types of people!
Going on lots of dates with different types of people will help you figure out what you are looking for in a serious relationship.
What are the most important things you are looking for?
How about the things you cannot stand in a partner?
What are red flags to notice?
How do you want to feel in a serious relationship?
Dating gives you practice. Practice helps you sort through your wants and needs. It also helps you grow in listening skills. You’ll learn to trust yourself.
As a woman who is navigating online dating and relationships in my mid thirties, I practiced a lot of new concepts I did not know ten years ago. Being open and going on lots of dates for me was an important and healthy way to “unlearn” things about dating and relationships from my early twenties.
Live your best life right now
Last winter, my spiritual director shared with me some advice a Jesuit priest gave her years ago when she was working on her doctorate: “You already have everything you need to live a beautiful, meaningful life.”
Those words were such a comfort as I nursed a broken heart from a recent heartbreak, trying to not feel hopeless about life going differently than I imagined.
Even if your season of life feels less than ideal, you can still live your best life right now.
Do not fall for the lie that life will be worth living when you have a man or woman to share it with. God wants us to live in abundance, right now, regardless of our relationship status. The quality of our life should not be determined by having a significant other or not.
I have had to remind myself of this a lot this past year. Some days, it is easy and fun. Other days, I feel hopeless and just want to pull the covers up around my head.
Yet even on the rough days, I remind myself and know I am living my life to the fullest right now.
The older we get, the more we have to let go of ideas or messages that were not helpful or healthy to us in our younger years.
Are there specific pieces of advice you wish had as a Catholic single ten years ago?
What would you hold onto right now and what would you need to get rid of?