A trifecta of Public Service Announcements for my younger Catholic sisters:
- Do not live your 20’s as though it’s a race to the altar.
- Date lots of men (and lots of different types of men).
- Dating is better (and more fun) in your 30’s.
Now, I’ll be the first to acknowledge that this is not ‘typical’ Catholic dating advice.
But, I’ll also be the first to acknowledge that most Catholic dating advice comes from people who are not actually dating. Who, in many cases, married very young. And who didn’t actually do much dating.
I’m not advocating ‘serial serious relationships’. In fact, just the opposite.
I’m encouraging girls/young women (and the blokes too) to chill-out when it comes to dating, and take a more light-hearted approach to the whole dating game.
An approach similar to our US brothers and sisters, who generally see ‘dating’ as an opportunity to get to know someone of the opposite sex, but not necessarily signing up for a serious, long-term relationship.
Ladies, turn down the pressure. Turn down the expectation. Go out, have fun, enjoy spending time with the opposite sex … and see what the Holy Spirit does.
If he’s a committed Catholic, kind, and there’s chemistry … go for it.
If not, no worries. Let him down kindly and clearly (or receive his let down with grace), and move on.
Keep your faith
I say all of this under the assumption of good, solid Catholic living.
Purity, modesty, wisdom and general Godly living, are essential elements to a successful, healthy dating season.
There are some obvious no-gos: No sex, no marriage-only physical intimacy etc.
(If you need further explanation on the above, may I refer you to Pope Saint John Paul II’s Theology of the Body).
I know the dating mindset of most Catholic women in their 20’s. ‘Cuz I was one a few short years ago. And in many cases, it can be way-too-serious, suffocating and joy-stealing.
First things first: Seek God first and foremost. He deserves first place in our lives (single or married, now and always). Pray and seek His will for your life vocation.
Once you’ve prayerfully discerned that yes, marriage is for me, relax and rejoice, and let heaven’s match-making army do it’s thing. I believe the angels enjoy helping God orchestrate divine setups.
Girls, God loves us and desires our joy and life-fulfilment even more than we do.
The best thing we can do for our love lives is to take our hands off, and say, “Fiat Lord, let it be done to me according to your Word. Holy Spirit, lead me as to when to step out and take action, and when to sit back and wait on you”. You can trust the Holy Spirit to guide you.
So, to the above PSA’s:
1. Do not live your 20’s as though it’s a race to the altar
Oh, the number of girls I have witnessed who ooze desperation to get married before the big THREE-OH.
And the number of girls I have witnessed make poor choices in dating/men/marriage, in order to be married before the big THREE-OH.
God has a unique and beautiful plan for each of us, and it is exactly that: unique.
It will look different to what God had/has planned for your mum, sisters and friends.
God may be calling you to marry at the age of 20 …. and if so, great. GO FOR IT! Get married, have babies and build a beautiful Catholic family.
But God may equally be calling you to go to university, do a PhD, travel the world, live overseas, volunteer in Africa, start a business, invest in property, write a book, work your way up to company CEO, spend lots of one-on-one time investing in your relationship with the Lord, etc.
And perhaps date 50 different men in the process.
And then, after doing all that, meet Mr Right, and get married.
Girls, we are outrageously blessed to be alive in this generation, time and season. There are opportunities available to us today that our mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers could only have dreamed of.
Let me make it clear: There is plenty of time. There is no haste in God’s Kingdom. You can do all the amazing things listed above (if that’s God’s plan for you), and still have time to get married and have children.
My mum had her last child at 44. My cousin had her first child at 42. The great Sarah of Genesis had her first child at 90! (After being infertile for nine decades). God is not working to, or limited by, the beat of your ‘biological clock’.
Now in my mid-30’s, with a God-call to marriage, words cannot fully explain how OUTRAGEOUSLY GRATEFUL I am that I’ve been able to do all the things I have, before getting married and having children.
I’ve completed two university degrees, spent a year serving the church as a missionary, worked in Australia’s indigenous communities, purchased real estate, run marathons, travelled extensively all around the world, been at the Vatican for history-making canonisations (Pope Saint John Paul II + Pope Saint John XXIII), performed a career flip from Speech Pathology to journalism, worked as a newsreader for Australia’s #1 rating radio network, and for the past five years, have been working as a TV reporter for Seven News (fulfilling a childhood dream).
I know to the core of my being that I would have been deeply dissatisfied and discontent if I hadn’t seen these God-dreams fulfilled. And many of these simply couldn’t have happened if I’d been married with children.
But the ‘inner life’ transformation, in this pre-marriage season, is what I’m most grateful for: spending lots of precious time with the Lord and in His Word, developing an intimate relationship with Him, and coming to know Him as lover, healer, comforter, and source of all things.
Grow in the Lord’s will for you
With the help of some very wise spiritual directors, I’ve had the time (read: have carved out the time) to invest in my inner life, and allow God do the ‘tough inner work’ of pruning, pruning and more pruning. Inner work that is essential in all our lives, if we want to live in freedom. Yes, ouch. But so worth it, for the fruits of spiritual health, peace, joy and liberty.
I said to a friend recently, “My 23 year old self would not recognise the person I am today. But she would say about this person: ‘that’s exactly who I want to be when I grow up’”.
As one wise woman, who’s witnessed by ‘inner pruning process’ recently said to me: “What a gift you’ll give to your future husband. You’ve taken the time to allow God to ’til your soil, to prepare a healthy garden for a successful marriage to flourish”.
So girls, DO NOT FOLLOW THE CROWD. That is the quickest way to discontentment. God’s unique plan for your life is the path to ultimate peace, joy, purpose, fulfilment and delight.
2. Date lots of men (and lots of different types of men – different ages, different personalities etc.)
I’ve had a long dating season, and have dated a lot of men.
Dozens, in fact. But of those, only three have been ‘serious relationships’.
I encourage you to date, date, date. You learn so much about yourself by going on dates with different types of men.
You learn the personality types you get along well with, the types you don’t. The age gaps that work well for you, the age gaps that don’t. You learn how to spot red flags and identify flashing neon-signs that read: run, and run fast.
On so many levels – spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically – it’s a great formative experience.
But, I will stress again, only when it aligns with pure, godly living.
Date committed, practicing Catholic/Christian men (“do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers” – 2 Corinthians 6:14), and keep things G-rated.
3. Dating is better (and more fun) in your 30’s.
Comparing dating in my 20’s and 30’s is like comparing chalk and cheese.
I feel like 30’s dating is “dating-in-all-it’s-glory”:
You know who you are and what you’re worth. A solid, unshakeable confidence in who you are in Christ, means you’re not desperate for a man to validate you. There is an incredible freedom in being unapologetically ‘you’ in the dating season. “I’m equally happy if I’m in a relationship or not in a relationship. A relationship does not define me or validate me.” This is the best foundation for attracting the right sort of man, and building the right sort of marriage.
The older you get, the older your potential suitors are. My experience is that older men are more intentional (and often, delightfully ‘old-fashioned’) in their approach to dating. And, oh, the chivalry, glorious chivalry.
Plus, older men are more established in their careers and generally have more money to spend in pursuing a lady. Beautiful restaurants, gorgeous bouquets of flowers, lovely gifts …. a lady likes to be wooed.
Not that dates need be expensive to be special. I’m equally content with a romantic bushwalk.
Intentionality is what counts.
Be intentional, be patient with God
Example: One recent Christmas, a potential suitor sent me on an ‘Advent treasure hunt’.
Hand-written calligraphy ‘clue cards’ led me on a romantic trail through Brisbane’s CBD: A St Thérèse of Lisieux book at the Catholic bookshop, then a ‘Laudate-themed’ tea set at a boutique tea store (after he found out that I did my Masters thesis on tea etiquette), and finally a gorgeous bouquet of flowers at the ‘Little Flower Shop’ (you see the catholic/advent theme running through this?!).
It was so thoughtful, intentional and generous. It certainly wooed this girl.
Life experience makes dating more interesting. By your 30’s, you’ve had many life experiences, and have (hopefully) gained much life wisdom. Ditto for your potential suitors. This makes dating conversations deep, rich, and stimulating. Yes, please.
If you’re called to the altar, you’ll get to the altar eventually. In the delightfully unique way God’s designed especially for you.