Dating in today’s world is way different than it was just 100 years ago.
There are the obvious differences, such as online dating apps, online dating (like CatholicSingles), and speed dating lunch gatherings. So while the how of how we meet others has changed, this isn’t the only thing that’s changed: how we think about dating, its very purpose, and how we should act in a dating relationship have changed.
And it hasn’t necessarily changed for the better.
In today’s society, we are more single than ever, and this trend doesn’t appear to be reversing.
Even among Catholics, singles represent one of the fastest growing demographics with only 52% of Catholics married, down from 63% in 1987.
This doesn’t mean, however, that Catholics don’t want to be married. For many, their life is one of unchosen singleness. The dating world is just…harder.
Finding Love is Not As Easy As Hollywood Makes It Seem
We all know the basic Hollywood romance plot: a man or woman is down on their luck for love, yet finds it in the place they least suspect and, through a series of incredibly fateful events, end up living happily ever after.
And they manage to do all of this in 120 minutes or less.
Finding love in the “real world” isn’t so easy, of course. You don’t have the benefits of a script written by someone who gets paid to tell a story with a happy ending.
In Hollywood, we are always left with the “happy ever after”. We assume that, upon it’s conclusion, love will suddenly take over and the rest of the couple’s lives will be spent in a loving bliss.
In real life, however, we need to be discerning about finding love. That’s because, at its core, love requires a choice.
Sure, at the beginning of a relationship this choice is easy. There’s excitement, electricity, and natural attraction. But for any couple that’s been married, they’ll tell you that this initial electricity dies off and it needs to be replaced with something deeper, more lasting, and more meaningful.
In order to get there, however, you need to choose to love.
Our Grandparents Have a Lot to Teach Us About Finding Lasting Love
Every year, we celebrate National Grandparents Day on September 9th. For most people, this day will pass without much of a thought or a celebration.
But as our grandparents generation fades and new generations spring up, it’s important for us to look back on our grandparents generation and gleam whatever wisdom we can from them.
Sure, they didn’t get everything right (which generation did?). But if we let their wisdom fade and replace it with our own…well, you know about those who refuse to pay attention to history and how they are doomed to repeat it.
It might seem a bit odd to take relationship and advice from years prior and try to apply this wisdom to our current age of online dating and online dating apps. Fortunately, while we might change, and while we might change how we meet people, human nature doesn’t change and love doesn’t change.
The advice in this post tries to pull on that age-tested advice that we could all use in today’s technology enabled world.
8 Bits of Advice from Your Grandma’s Time
Find Someone Who Has Common Interests
We recently released a new feature for CatholicSingles called “Polls”. These polls are pretty simple: do you like Pepsi or Coke? Do you watch RomComs or are you more of a Classic film buff? Are you traveler, and if so, what are some of your favorite destinations?
The reason for these polls is to help you find someone who shares your common interests since this is a great way to meet people, start a conversation, and use as a building block for a much deeper relationship.
When we say that you should find someone who shares common interests with you, this doesn’t mean that they have to share all of the exact same hobbies or be fans of the exact same music. There are plenty of happy couples who do not share these types of interests.
In fact, putting too much weight on finding the exact same interests can actually be damaging to your long term success.
Focus, instead, on the big things. How do they like to spend their downtime? Is the idea of a great weekend being physically active, or is it sitting back and binge-watching seasons of Arrested Development?
Are they an academic who loves to discuss the fine points of traditional liturgy in the Tridentine mass? Or are they focused on spending time serving at a homeless shelter or nursing home?
If you find someone who shares the big interests, the differences within those big interests can make a relationship even more interesting.
Look for Someone Who Shares Your Faith
While interfaith dating can lead to marriage, any couple that has been through an interfaith relationship (or is in one now) knows that there are challenges you simply won’t face if you share a common faith.
Of course, being Catholic isn’t enough to guarantee that someone shares your faith. Within the Catholic world there are traditionalists and there are more liberal or modern Catholics. There are the daily mass attendees and those who attend irregularly.
While we are all at different places in our journey, relationships work best if we can find someone who is in a similar space. While this is easiest if you can find someone who shares a similar set of beliefs to you, couples who also share core values can make a relationship work.
At the end of the day, you want to be with someone who will continue to light the fire of your faith, not suppress it.
Pay Attention to the Way They Treat Their Own Family
It’s a pretty well known axiom to say that a woman can learn a lot about a man by the way he treats his mother. But why stop there? You can learn a lot about a person by how they treat their own family!
Families are fascinating to watch. No one gets to choose their family, but these are the people with which you most likely will have spent the most formative years of your life.
Families are the building blocks of a society. They are where we learn our first manners. They are where we learn how to handle our responsibilities.
They are, in a word, our training grounds for life.
The values we learn in our family life, good or bad, leave a mark on who we are, how we view the world, how we view relationships, and how we treat people that we share our lives with.
These are pretty important things to know as you get into a relationship.
Get to Know Them Inside and Out
We’ve been told since we are kids to “not judge a book by it’s cover!”
We know that we should really look at what’s inside a person, and sometimes we can think that we are being superficial if we judge someone just on the way that they look.
But this isn’t being fair to ourselves. The fact is, you should strive to get to know someone inside and out because what is on the inside is often reflected on what comes on the outside.
In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus commented on this to the pharisees:
“After He called the crowd to Him again, He began saying to them, “Listen to Me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear” (Mark 7:14-15).
And again Jesus explained this to His disciples:
“That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornication, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man” (Mark 7:20-23).
On a dating website like Catholic Singles, while we want to be mindful of these big issues, such as “evil thoughts, fornication, thefts, murders” (let’s hope it doesn’t come to that!), we also want to be mindful of the smaller things.
Is this person well organized? Do they have healthy habits? Do they live a balanced life? Are they kind? Do they love Christ?
Be the Kind of Person You Are Looking For In Someone Else
Why do relationships fail?
If you talk to recently broken up couples about what happened to cause their relationship to fall apart, you’ll often hear conflicting tales of what the other person did wrong.
But, as we all know, it takes two people in a relationship to make it work. Take the time to look at yourself through the lens of what you would like to see in someone else.
Take some time to look at what you would love to see in a future spouse, then ask yourself if you have any of those traits.
Is relationship honesty something that you really need in a relationship? How honest have you been in past relationships? Not only romantic relationships, but relationships with your family or friends?
Do you want someone who is exceedingly kind? Pray for and practice this virtue daily in your life.
Don’t wait for someone else to bring these qualities to you.
Expand Your Network
With online dating, it has become easy to becomes ‘passive’ about finding lasting love.
We log onto Catholic Singles, look at whose on the site right now, and maybe reach out to a few members. But if there isn’t someone who is of interest, we’ll just wait until someone else comes along that matches our criteria.
One lesson we can learn from our grandparents is to expand our network and let go of our (often) strict requirements and criteria for a spouse.
You can start easily on Catholic Singles. Try searching for members that don’t fit your ‘regular’ criteria. Or, try searching in an entirely different city!
Reach out to a member and strike up a conversation and just see where it leads. Not every conversation needs to be for love, and by being open to exploring different conversations, God will use that to bring different people into your life that can lead to great relationships!
Love is Not As Much About Finding As It Is About Making It Work
Too many people are looking for love rather than committing to love.
If there is one lesson we can learn from our grandparents generation, it might be this: love and relationships require that we make a choice, and that choice requires that we put in the work.
That’t not to say that love doesn’t come with feelings. We know from our church tradition that feelings of attraction, the desire to spend time with the other person, and the desire for closeness are a key part of love.
But when we want to look at love perfected, we look towards the cross. We look to Jesus who chose to love us in a way that certainly didn’t feel good, but was actually for our good.
In the end, Christian marriage is about imitating the cross and making ourselves sacrifices for the good of our spouse. Marriage isn’t something we “find”, necessarily. Rather, it’s a journey that we choose to embark on with another person, flaws and all.