For better or for worse? Really? With so many mixed messages in our culture that speak to the contrary, how many young adults understand that dating should be for the purpose of finding a spouse? Do they grasp the definition of a commitment for life? We might wonder if anyone does today, for that matter. We seem to live in throwaway culture, as Pope Francis has had. If it doesn’t work (even without applying much effort) we “throw it away,” we move on. If we get distracted, we lose interest quickly.
It’s very tough these days for the youth to stay focused on things that matter, when they are forced to deal constantly with so much coming at them that is diametrically opposed to their Christian values yet totally acceptable to our society. The world’s values can become the norm rather than the exception.
Many happily married folks I know have remarked that they would not want to trade places with young adults and set foot into the dating scene again, especially today. It’s not that they didn’t enjoy their own courtships. It’s that they are keenly aware that the culture has changed dramatically. In such a fast-paced environment, young adults are bombarded with a myriad of mixed messages through the media. They are also presented with demanding choices to make on a regular basis. Many lack the maturity to choose wisely in some instances.
Robyn Lee, managing editor of the CatholicMatch Institute, recently took time from her busy schedule to speak with Catholic World Report. She explained, “One of the difficulties in dating is that there are fewer people committed to the faith and fewer people committed to dating and marriage…. Too many choices can leave some people struggling with making a decision or commitment. They fail to commit because they always think there is someone better out there. While there is certainly a decline in commitment especially when it is related to marriage, a faith-focused dating service like CatholicMatch is part of the solution.”
Ms. Lee believes that dating should be a spiritual matter—a “faith-filled journey.” She said, “Choosing your future spouse is more than just picking someone you’re compatible with. It’s a faith-filled journey of both joy and pain, but it’s through that journey that God reveals the very person that was created for each of us to fulfill his ultimate purpose for our lives.”
We might consider what we can do to help young adults to discover and understand the real purpose of dating. Brian Barcaro, co-founder of CatholicMatch.com and the founder of the CatholicMatch Institute, said, “Being formed by a strong family life and having a healthy example set by their parents” would be ideal.
Mr. Barcaro hopes that the Church can also help. “The Church has to have a better understanding and plan for incorporating purposeful dating long before a couple calls the parish office to schedule a wedding or sign up for a marriage prep class,” he explained. “It has to be woven better into the fabric of parish life.”
By being open to God’s will in all aspects of dating, one can grow in virtue as God helps to shape the relationship. Ms. Lee points out, “When searching for a spouse, it is essential to be open to God’s will and center one’s life around Christ. When you date with marriage in mind, you are, from the start, shaping a relationship that is built on character—a relationship that helps you to build your virtues and overcome your vices.” Ms. Lee believes we need to be “purposeful” about our dating.
In fact, she says, “Purposeful dating is built on our ability to become the persons that God has created us to be. After all, it’s got to be much deeper, because we’re talking about ‘for better and for worse, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.’”
Looking for love
In recent times more Christians seem to be turning to Christian dating services and seeking solid Christian encouragement, education, and advice so that their search for a mate will ultimately end up with success rather than lifelong disappointments. Many young adults are beginning to recognize the purpose of dating as not merely a pastime for fooling around and having fun, but as a serious endeavor meant for the greater purpose of life-long marriage.
A television network decided to create a dating game show that would encourage churches to get involved with matching available singles with potential mates. It is called It Takes a Church, and it is a dating reality game show with the motto, “If you want to find love, you’ve got to have faith.” It premiered on the Game Show Network on June 5. The host of the show, Grammy-nominated singer Natalie Grant, follows several Christian churches from across the country as they rally together to find mates for members of their communities.
“If you’re dating just to date,” Ms. Grant told Catholic World Report in a recent phone interview, “that’s just a waste of time. If you’re dating with the intent to try to find a life partner, that has everything to do with spiritual matters because marriage was God’s idea and making sure that you find somebody that shares your same faith, same values, has everything to do with our spiritual life.”
When Ms. Grant was invited by the Game Show Network to host the new dating show, at first she wasn’t quite sure if she should accept. But, after prayer and talking it over with her husband, she decided to accept the position and is very glad that she did.
Ms. Grant had never hosted a television show before and she said, “I was very nervous at first, but at the same time I am a local church girl. I grew up in the local church so it’s an environment I am very comfortable with.”
She explained, “I became so into the show because you know for some reason there are certain topics that we think are kind of taboo to talk about in church—one of them being your love life. And, I think the very place we should be talking about our love life is the church.” She continued, “Whether you are Catholic or Protestant, when you choose a certain fellowship to belong to, these are the people you trust. You are allowing your priest to speak into your life, you’re following their advice, you’re asking for accountability. And to me, these are the very people who should be speaking into this aspect of your life—the people that you trust, the people that you made fellowship and community relationship with.”
Where is Mr. or Mrs. “Right”?
It turns out that some folks are not only looking for love in all the wrong places—they are looking for the wrong Mr. or Mrs. “Right.” The mate that you are searching for might not even exist. Or if they do, they might not be good for you. This is certainly an interesting notion to consider.
Ms. Lee advises, “Throughout the process of first meetings, first dates, exciting new relationships, maturing feelings, and the heartache of break-ups, remember that you are looking for the person you need for a happy marriage, not necessarily the person you think you want.”
It’s essential to proceed with caution when dating, Ms. Lee advises. “Whether you meet your potential date online or at church, safety precautions are important in any dating situation,” she says. “First, don’t move too quickly. Even if the other person seems to be ‘the one’ take your time and enjoy the dating process. Allow for the real person to reveal himself or herself through the dating period.”
If conversations with your date are not respectful or to your liking, red flags should be obvious. “Respect should permeate communication and conversation early and throughout any relationship,” Ms. Lee reminded. Also, take precautions. “Make sure your first date is in a public place and drive yourself to the location. If anything seems peculiar at any time, ask a friend for guidance or advice before responding. Sometimes being so close to the situation clouds reasoning.”
“There are so many broken relationships,” Ms. Grant lamented. “I think the statistic is that the divorce rate is as high inside the church as it is outside the church. Maybe if we allowed those people who are going through our spiritual journey with to speak to this side of our life we wouldn’t have as many broken relationships.”
As challenging as it is to meet a compatible mate, there is help available through places like CatholicMatch. Ms. Lee said, “Single Catholics are drawn to CatholicMatch.com because they are looking for a spouse who shares the same faith and similar values. CatholicMatch provides tools like the temperament test that help users to know more about themselves and what they are looking for in a potential spouse. Members are able to realize the importance of God’s gifts and be open to sacramental grace when seeking their future spouse.”
What can parishes do to help the singles? They can start a ministry for young adults. In many places it is a demographic that seems sadly forgotten. Ms. Grant hopes that the show It Takes a Church “will encourage local churches to embrace the singles and their fellowship because singles can feel very lonely at church—like outsiders.” She said she hopes the show will “inspire churches to create a place for singles to be heard.”
When it comes to being single and wanting to date and find your future spouse, Ms. Lee recommends, “Especially when you feel overwhelmed or impatient with being single, place your trust in God’s perfect timing. If you feel confident that your vocation in life is marriage, then forge ahead with joyful anticipation of what he has waiting for you!”