If you’re a Catholic and you’re dating, there’s no shortage of advice on what you should do. People advice you to pray for your future spouse. You’re told to join a singles group at your Church. Others encourage you to create an online profile with the most trustworthy dating sites.
But what about the things you shouldn’t do? It’s helpful to take a close look at our faith life and identify what can lead us astray. By putting a finger on the things that can sabotage our spiritual life, we are able to focus more on what brings us closer to God and His Will in our lives.
If you want to navigate the waters of dating successfully, you need to know how to steer the boat. But you also should now how to keep from ending up shipwrecked on a deserted island! Here are the seven deadly sins of Catholic dating to avoid.
1. Having a list of requirements that your future spouse must meet
It’s great to know what you want when it comes to a dating relationship. But sticking to a list when it comes to finding what you’re looking for in a partner can sabotage your relationship before it even begins. I had a friend who, after college dated for years the “types” of men that she knew she wanted to marry eventually. None of them worked out.
Years after college, she finally took a chance on a man who met less than half the criteria on her list. They are happily married and new parents. She’s the happiest I have ever seen her. Once she stopped refusing to budget about her list, it gave her the opportunity to really get to know and appreciate people for who they are.
2. Refusing to get emotionally close
There are many Catholics who believe that getting too emotionally close while dating is an intimacy faux pas. But the truth is quite the opposite. Putting too many restrictions on how much you reveal to each other and how close you allow yourselves to get can negatively impact a budding relationship.
Do you need to pour out the entirety of your relationship history or family struggles? No. But don’t be afraid to open up about your thoughts and fears in life and the things from your past that have helped shape the person you are today. Part of really getting to know a person is being able to understand what makes them tick. What you’ve experienced in life has a huge impact on that.
3. Blaming your feelings on God
“God wouldn’t want me to date someone who has been married before,” or any statement that begins that way need to be discarded. As much as we may think we know what God wants for us, the truth is, we don’t.
God’s will for our lives is something that unfolds one day at a time, minute by minute. If it weren’t, we’d all be given a vocational manual of sorts at birth and be on our way. Part of understanding what God wants for you comes from actually following listening to your heart and following your desires.
If it’s not something that’s leading you to sin or away from holiness, don’t discount someone or something just because you have a hunch that it may not be perfect. Often when we’re nervous, anxious or confused, it’s easy to blame God for what we don’t understand.
4. Playing hard to get
This isn’t the elementary school playground or the high school cafeteria. This is your one life. Don’t waste time by trying to play games. If you sense that you’re seeing someone who is doing just that, it may be time to move on.
This mentality is an unfortunate state that some Catholics find themselves in when venturing out into the dating world. If you come across as someone who plays hard to get, you will very likely come across as someone who is unable to commit to a true, reciprocal relationship.
This isn’t to say that you should drop everything the minute you’re asked out on a date. Instead, be open and honest about who you are and where you stand in the relationship.
5. Refusing to take chances
If you want to start dating, you have got to step out of your comfort zone. Setting severe limits on what you will and won’t do when dating can handicap your chance at meeting and getting to know someone.
A few years ago when celebrating a friend’s birthday, my friends decided to head into the city to go dancing after dinner. A close friend declared that she didn’t stay out past 10:00 pm. Several people piped in to tell her that she needed to live a little. She finally gave in and begrudgingly went, but not without muttering about the fact that a bar isn’t the kind of place she would meet her future spouse.
Not only did she go into the city that night, but she met her now husband. Now they have a set of twins on the way. God works in mysterious ways. Don’t be closed off to new experiences and be willing to say “yes” in situations that are sometimes easier to say “no” in.
6. Not addressing chastity head on
If pride is the the biggest of the theological deadly sins, this one is the biggest of the dating sins. As uncomfortable or awkward as it may seem, chastity is a subject that must be discussed early on in the relationship. It doesn’t matter if you are a man or woman, even the most faithful, steadfast Catholic can come into a relationship expecting different things in regards to sexuality.
Whether you have a hard and fast rule of no kissing until the altar or are fine with an extended goodbye at the end of the night (and I don’t mean waving), let the person you’re dating know this early on. If you have a certain expectation that they don’t know about, it can be painfully awkward when it comes up in something other than conversation.
Read more: 5 Things that Chastity Is Not
Maybe you’re not exactly sure where you stand on what constitutes perfect chastity when dating. If this is the case, once you begin getting to know someone, discuss and prayerfully consider it with them. Talk with a spiritual director or someone you trust.
7. Putting a timeline on your dating life
There are some people who believe that you should know if the person you’re dating is the person you will marry by the third date. But, like all good things, dating takes time. Think of all the friendships that you’ve spent years cultivating. Your relationships didn’t take root and settle in over night.
In the same way that you wouldn’t call someone you just started hanging out with your best friend, neither should you expect to be able to mark your future spouse within a small window of time. Dating should be an investment of your time, but a good, fun and sometimes light hearted one. Living our vocation should mean experiencing joy in the day to day, even if we feel we are on a journey to achieving a new one.
When dating, sometimes you have to let go and let God. Forget about the future for a minute and focus on the here and now. His grace is sufficient and as long as what you are doing is good and pleasing to Him, He will guide you to where (and with whom) you need to be.