Yesterday one of my guy friends sent me this post with the message, "You should blog a response to this." Here's my best shot.
First, I can't stand websites that list a bunch of rules for what you can and can't do, or should and shouldn't do, to qualify as a "good Catholic couple." I mean, who comes up with this stuff? As Frank said, "It sounds like someone who never dated wrote this."
In general it's silly and naive to lay out a list of immutable commandments for how dating or courtship should go (as some of you know, I'm a fan of dating), because no relationship fits perfectly into some checkbox. There's no such thing as the perfect Catholic couple—or the perfect couple, period. There's no such thing as the perfect love story. Real love is messy. There are wonderful couples out there who lived together before marriage and had children out of wedlock before converting to the Catholic faith—and now they have a beautiful family and a solid faith life. On the other hand, there are couples who did everything "right" in their courtship, and now their marriages are a mess. So I question the usefulness of these dos and don'ts, which apply to very few people and often come across sounding judgmental.
That post does make some good points—namely, that a good man will treat a woman with respect and courtesy, and that prayer is a good foundation for marriage. True and true, and God bless them for saying it. But a lot of it was just creepy. A few of the more ridiculous bits:
1. "As a woman, she is a member of the fairer sex, and therefore better than you." Umm... Neither sex is better than the other—they are complementary and equal. Insert Theology of the Body here.
2. "She deserves to be complimented for her virtue." Huh??? Last time I checked, compliments are not "deserved" or earned but freely given, and complimenting a girl on a first date for dressing modestly sounds both creepy (this is a first date and all he's noticing is the temptation level of your outfit?) and judgmental (assuming that since you're dressed modestly, you must be holier than that floozy over there in shorts). Mind you, this is coming from someone who makes an effort to dress modestly every day—but I do not think a woman's worth, much less whether she "deserves" compliments, is tied to how she looks or the way she dresses.
3. Then there is the whole paragraph on lust. Obviously lust is wrong, and impurity has no place in a relationship. But there is a time in a relationship where sexual attraction is not only appropriate but necessary. By the time a couple's been dating long enough to get engaged, I certainly hope they've felt sexual attraction for each other—God help their marriage if they haven't! So there, too, I think this post is lacking.
Most of all, when I read that post I thought of this stunning, simple, and brilliant piece by Elizabeth Foss. I read this piece around the time I met Frank, when I had a strict rule against dating non-Catholics. But his human virtue and personal character impressed me, and Elizabeth's piece convinced me to date him. You can imagine how glad I am that I did.
The guys who wrote that piece obviously had good intentions, and I'd give them an A for effort. But I don't think their post has much usefulness or relevance in the real world. Even putting aside the weird views of women, I don't think there's a couple in this world whose love story follows that idealistic and oh-so-innocent rubric. And you know what, there shouldn't be.
Relationships are complicated, confusing, and very imperfect. Love in the real world—outside of books and movies and theoretical blog posts—is really darn messy. It's just about the messiest thing there is. But it's what sanctifies us. It's what makes us holy. It gets us to Heaven, precisely in our sinfulness and silliness and imperfection.
I know many, many married couples and the stories of how they fell in love. All of them are beautiful. But out of all the couples I know, none of them has a love story like the tidy, sanitized little tale in that blog post. Love stories come in all different kinds, and there isn't one right way to start a relationship. What matters is what that relationship becomes.