We’re a group of around 60 Catholic mums spread out all over Sydney (with a few interstate and overseas). The two things we all have in common are our Faith and our motherhood. And, apparently, the fact that we’re bursting with advice! Whether it’s good advice we’ll leave you to decide.
Discussion on the topic of Anna and Camillus’ heartfelt and thought-provoking articles was as diverse as our group itself. We range in age from our 20s to our 50s. Some married young, others in their mid to late 30s. Some of us dated many and various men while others experienced the ‘man-drought’ until they met their spouse. A few found their fellas (or rather were found by their fellas) on internet dating sites. One is even part of an arranged marriage.
Whether we’re now happily married or struggling and separated (or anything in between), we all once faced the world of dating as young single women, and we all now see it through the lens of its main goal – marriage and family life. And boy, does that change your views sometimes!
After a thorough brainstorming, here are some things we hope to pass on to our kids about courtship, and a few things we wish we could say to our younger selves.
If there is any truth and goodness in our words it all comes from God’s grace and Our Blessed Mother’s gentle guidance. Any flaws or wrong-headedness are entirely our own.
- Marriage can be hard because we have to live not just with our own faults but also with the faults of our spouse. Find a spouse whose faults you can live with and accept. Some faults are much harder to live with in a marriage. Social awkwardness, bad dress sense, weird habits, even an “inability” to do housework are all preferable to a spouse who won’t uphold purity in married life, who won’t welcome children as blessings, who isn’t willing to raise children in the Catholic faith and doesn’t understand the value of sacrifice and self denial.
2. Be open to giving guys a chance. Don’t base everything on looks. I had a list and had no idea the guy who liked me and who I would literally hide from, and deliberately avoid, ticked all the boxes. Even with all the boxes ticked, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing, and really, what man can compete with Jesus?
3. My advice about dating is to have fun! And be fun to hang out with. Sometimes young Catholic men and women can be too earnest. Maybe as a reaction to the secular world they feel that they must take their faith more seriously or something (which is admirable) but don’t let that take your sense of fun and adventure away too. People who smile and can laugh at themselves are eminently more attractive.
4. My advice for young married women would be just to follow the Instruction before Marriage in the Latin Mass. In my view it tells you everything you need to know! https://www3.nd.edu/~afreddos/marriageinstruction.htm
5. My thoughts and advice to my children are to think of marriage as a three legged race. Start with a strategy. You will either fly through life, perfectly in sync, happy to the end as some couples seem to do or you struggle and fall awkwardly, trip each other up, boss each other about but get back up, work it out and try again until you get to the finish, even if you’re crawling. Flying or falling, try to be a good sport and choose your partner carefully!
6. Pray for your future spouse. You don’t need a name or face, you are trusting in God to watch over them and guard their faith. Pray for yourself, that you can be adept at apologies and prepared for change! Be good friends with lots of people – you never know if a good friend could become a good date, or introduce you to one. Most of all, look for someone who shares your love for God, your belief in the sacrament of marriage and the rest of your life!
7. After 15 years of marriage my advice to single young women is …well, at the end of the day you’re marrying a man. They do annoying man stuff. My husband and I don’t have a great deal of shared interests but we have 6 awesome children and loads of fun. He has an awesome sense of humour but he does loads of loads of annoying man stuff.
8. To my sons as they approach adulthood I will say, just ask a girl out on a date. It doesn’t mean you have to marry her. Just be brave and take a chance. Most girls will say yes to a date. And don’t do the ‘fake date’. Let her know you like her and want to get to know her better. And to the girls, give the blokes who do this a chance, even if you think they’re dorks or geeks or socially awkward. Plenty of us have married geeks or dorks who turned out to be perfectly wonderful men. Give ’em a chance!
9. This may be superficial but also may be helpful… Men more often get better looking as they get older. It’s very annoying, as we’re losing our looks, they seem to gain them. They also get better socially and often it is their wives who help them in that regard. Those young socially-able single men in my opinion are often far too experienced and those experiences don’t necessarily help in a marriage.
10. We are all wounded. We are all broken. We all need to stop looking for perfection at the beginning and realise that is actually the end goal after a life of stubbing our spiritual toes and powering down an eternal hallway of Lego in bare feet. What few seem to remember is that our vocation, whether to married life, priesthood or religious life is a cross. We are to take a lifetime conforming ourselves to it. All vocations are work. All vocations can look really rosy and idyllic. What we need is to pray and prepare for the work. The work is love. That alone transforms the annoying habits, that alone stays the heated tongue, that alone draws us out of love of self and into the service of the other. That alone will drive us to work harder for our salvation and, please God, allow us both to stand before Him in the end where He alone will say to us both, “Welcome home, good and faithful servants. You have run the good race. You have fought the good fight. Come and rest in Me. ”
11. Something that really helped me was hanging out with married friends and families when we were dating. It helped to throw the rose coloured ‘I want a hero to rescue me’ out the window and gave me an awesome grounding for marriage (as well as child rearing!). Make wise friends widely throughout each stage because otherwise you just hear what you want to hear echoing back at you, and you go astray without knowing it.
12. I would say date, but don’t continue to date someone just because it makes you feel good about yourself or you are lonely. Only continue with someone that you are genuinely interested in, don’t lead them on. Women – make yourself available to meet many new people. You can’t meet more men if you never socialise outside your group, or move, or change jobs. So get around (socially). Ask your friends/family who they could see you with and then ask them to set you up together and try it out. Men – need to pursue who they think is the right fit for them and not give up after the first rejection.
13. About having fun with dating… I agree but kinda put restraints on that. Kissing randoms is not a good thing! Also, what you think you want when you’re young/single/oh-so-free, and what you get are not always the same, but that’s not bad. I thought I’d get a loud Greek guy and live a really tasty, mediterranean life. Hello, lambs on spits! But, turns out Chinese cuisine is damn good too, ladies, so I am glad I didn’t knock it till I tried it! Finally, I asked him out so I guess the rest is all my fault. But yeah, tell other ladies to do that. I just invited him to my friends 21st.
14. I’d recommend write a list of your non-negotiables, but think long and hard about them. I wrote a list of what I wanted, I got it! Plenty of my friends did the same. I think it’s good to reject a date when you know they are definitely not for you, eg, if I knew the guy did drugs, there is no way I would want to date them. If you are unsure, say yes to the date.
15. I think it’s time to do away with ‘lists’. Some young men may be shy, not to the extreme of being socially awkward. Sometimes, a little encouragement can be a good thing. There a plenty of well balanced young men out there. Stop searching and let them find you. That’s what I had to do. I did go out with lots of young Catholic men, but probably I was the one chasing them and that’s not how it works. They just weren’t the right one. Believe me, my husband is one of a kind and yours is out there too.
16. I realise now that marriage is much less about romance, as about reliability and lots of other unromantic things (to over simplify things, don’t analyse that too hard). I guess young women don’t really want to hear about that though, do they? I don’t think I did.
17. Since being married, pregnant and rearing children, what I would look for in a spouse would be different to when I was looking as a single person. Now I would look for more sober and practical things … Can you communicate easily with the person even when you disagree? Is the person responsible and good at doing without for the sake of your children? Do we work well as a team? Can we discuss and problem solve without too much conflict, etc. Sometimes it’s hard to know these things about someone when you’re only dating . But I agree that what’s important when you’re looking for Mr Right sometimes isn’t that important in marriage.
18. I thought the moment I found LOVE Disney soundtracks would be booming all around me and we’d burst into singing a love song! Turns out love isn’t quite like that. It’s not a musical!
19. Burn the list!!! I had a list of at least 20 things. It took me a long time to learn that for me, it should boil down to 3 – A) Is his faith real and does he live it. B) Can you really communicate well (ie, will you be able to nut out the tough disagreements life brings) and C) Does he desire to be the head of a family? ie, does he have and desire and the vocation of husband and, God willing, father. I found a beautiful prayer for a husband and prayed it every day. It talks about shoulders big enough to bear the burden of a whole family, legs long enough to be grounded in the depth of God’s love, lips strong enough to smile, firm enough to say no and tender enough to kiss. That’s just part of it but it was poetic to pray and God answered my prayers in a way that I wouldn’t have expected.
20. Pray the St Raphael Novena and whatever other beautiful prayers you can find and rely on the Holy Spirit to help you to open your eyes to see. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your path.” Proverbs 3:5-6.
21. I know this sounds clichéd, but it wasn’t until I stopped looking for a spouse, that things started happening. By God’s grace, I realised God knows exactly what’s best for me and started working on how I could change my life in order to grow in conformity with God’s will. Many hours spent on my knees in front of the Blessed Sacrament brought me to a place where I had finally let go the reigns and allowed God to pick them up and do with me as He willed and not as I willed. And he certainly didn’t disappoint! God chose better for me than I would have for myself! And I think it’s never too early to start praying for good spouses for our children, too.
22. Pretty sure I’m an exception to the rule but it takes all sorts right?! I only dated my now hubby and was quite young by today’s standards (heaven help my kids if they want to marry at 20!). Having said that I still went in with three main non-negotiables: 1. Had to be a practising Catholic (I need that security that if I give it to God he gets it and is happy to give it to God too – seems to be plenty of that now we have teenagers!). 2. Had to be able to communicate well (being so young and learning to negotiate and apologise and all things relationships, was a journey but one we could navigate together). 3. Had to have the potential to be the head of the family (He probably had ideas of the role he needed to fulfil too though I’m sure he didn’t go into it knowing he was going to lead a wife and 9 kids!).
23. One thing I would say is that even though my husband is not Catholic we both have a very strong belief in marriage itself. Divorce for us is never an option. We have been married for 18 years. Even though he isn’t Catholic he supports my faith and the children’s and this is what is important. I believe that good virtues in men are very important. I believe my husband was completely hand-picked by God for me.
24. I agree that having a practising Catholic hubby would make a number of things easier, but God knows me better than I know myself. I’ve had to step up big time in raising my kids Catholic and handing on the faith. I can’t be complacent because the buck stops with me. My husband is supportive and helpful getting kids to Mass and making the sacrifices to pay for the schools and go to catechism, etc. I think more than just “being Catholic” we should look for the guy who isn’t selfish and who lives out the values we seek. Someone who is dependable, loving and understands service to others.
25. I had an arranged marriage. We met 5 days before our wedding. I totally believe that my husband was completely hand-picked by God for me. While the first years were rocky – we didn’t know each other and found the family pressures suffocating – love eventuated, and we discovered the importance of having one another. It’s 10 years and I’m very happy in my marriage. I believe I couldn’t have married a better person, and we love and respect each other unconditionally.
26. The only thing I’d add would be something along the lines of “don’t write off the guys you already know” because just like you (hopefully!) people grow, life experience teaches, grace is received.
The Catholic Weekly sends a special Thank You to this very creative bunch of mums for putting their heads together and offering this advice based on their own experience. Well done, ladies!