Anyone who has studied Catholic social teaching before may have heard the term “non-negotiables.” Usually, this term is used in reference to voting with an informed conscience and ensuring that you’re not disregarding any of the important moral issues that a faithful Catholic simply must acknowledge as wrong. But this term can be applied to other areas of life as well, including your online dating experience!
Are there certain qualities or things relating to morality that a Catholic absolutely must avoid in a date?
Is there anything that makes a person completely unacceptable as a potential spouse for a Catholic?
You might worry that thinking along these lines will weed out the available options too quickly. You don’t want to be left with no options because of impossible standards, after all.
This can be a legitimate problem. To remedy it, we should be careful to examine whether we are looking for an unrealistic level of perfection and whether we fail to make allowances for others’ ability to change.
There are actually very few things that could be classified as a “non-negotiable” quality in a Catholic relationship. But there are three important areas that could qualify as reasons a marriage-seeking Catholic should avoid dating a certain person.
Does the person lack respect for you?
It’s definitely not reasonable to expect that every potential spouse will love you with the type of extravagant romance found in fairy tales. But it is reasonable to expect someone who knows how to respect you.
It might seem like an obvious quality to look for, but many times people miss signs that the person they’re dating isn’t interested in treating them with respect.
Pay attention to how much they care about offending you. Are they considerate? Do they have manipulative tendencies? Are they are good listener?
You don’t need to find someone who is perfect. But if you date a man or woman who has no interest in treating you with respect, the relationship can be unfulfilling and possibly even harmful.
Respect is an important thing to look for in any relationship. But the issue has even more weight in Catholic dating.
A Catholic marriage requires self-sacrifice. You may run into trials while practicing Natural Family Planning that require selflessness to navigate. Then there’s all the other trials of everyday life living with another person.
If someone isn’t able to respect you now, they may struggle in the self-sacrifice that Catholic marriage requires.
Is the person free to marry?
If you’re dating someone who was married before, this is an important question to ask as a Catholic. This is especially true since we live in a culture that considers divorce and remarriage to be typical.
The Catholic Church teaches that someone who has been divorced and has not had their first marriage annulled is still married to their first spouse. This can be a hard pill to swallow if you’re interested in dating someone who is divorced.
It’s possible that the man or woman you’re interested in could still have their first marriage annulled in the future. But it isn’t a guarantee that the church will grant their annulment.
A previous marriage isn’t an automatic non-negotiable for Catholic men or women. But it is a reason to ask whether they are seeking an annulment, if they have tried to seek one in the past, or if they might have grounds for one.
Read more: Is An Annulment Just A Catholic Divorce?
If the person has been denied an annulment, though, that is a good reason to avoid dating the person. As hard as it might be to stomach, they simply are not free to marry you in the eyes of the Catholic Church.
Do they agree with Catholic Church teaching?
Dating a non-Catholic might be something you never want to do. Others may feel comfortable dating someone who doesn’t share their faith.
A relationship with a non-Catholic can result in a holy and happy marriage. But you will experience conflict if the person you’re dating has no interest in following any Church teachings, or even allowing you to follow them.
There are definitely non-Catholics out there who have respect for the Catholic Church. They can see that these teachings are important to you. This respect for you and openness to the Catholic Church could even lead to a place of conversion.
But there are also some non-Catholics who are completely opposed (and downright hostile!) to all Catholic Church teachings. If you’re dating someone who doesn’t agree with any of your core beliefs as a Catholic, imagine how difficult it could be to raise a Catholic family with this man or woman in the future.
As you get to know someone, consider asking them how they feel about the Catholic faith. Then observe how they respond. You’ll begin to get a feel for their attitude when you tell them your stance on premarital chastity.
Dating and marriage are difficult. But you can definitely make things simpler in the long-run by avoiding these “non-negotiables” like these!
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