Last week, a very nice male acquaintance emailed me asking if I could give him dating advice, or better yet, introduce him to some nice Catholic girls. He got out of a long-term relationship several months ago, hadn't dated in years, and had no clue where to start. He seemed a bit bashful about emailing me out of the blue, but the truth is, he was not the first guy friend to email me asking for dating advice. In fact, he wasn't even the first one that week. I have no idea why guys ask me for dating advice, except that I'm ready to talk their ears off at a moment's notice, but after a few such emails I've decided to compile all my dating advice for guys in one place. That way, the next time someone emails me, I'll be ready.
Frank helped me write this (which is why I use "we" a lot), and I think most of this could apply to girls too. Do you have anything you'd like to add? Please let me know in the comments!
Dear Twenty-something Catholic Guy,
A lot of people may be telling you, "There's no rush to meet a girl! You're young. You have plenty of time." We would never say that. In fact, 24 or 25 is well old enough to be married, especially if you have a stable job with health insurance, and most of our parents and grandparents were married with children by our age. We're both 23 ourselves, and we're big proponents of getting married young (young meaning early twenties, in most cases, not teens). It's only natural to feel a strong desire to meet your future wife. That's a good and healthy thing, and will help motivate you through the dating process—which can be a difficult and confusing ride, so it's helpful to have that extra bit of motivation to keep you going.
You may have noticed that a lot of dating advice seems to contradict itself. That's actually a crucial insight into the dating process. Probably the biggest lesson I've learned from dating numerous people and finally getting married is that, in an important sense, there are no real rules when it comes to relationships. Beyond the obvious importance of purity, honesty, etc., there is no right or wrong for how to date or approach dating. That's why dating advice will contradict itself; people base their advice on their own relationships, when in truth, every relationship has its own rules and follows its own unique trajectory. You may meet one girl who wants to go out on a lot of dates to museums and concerts, while another girl prefers to stay in and cook or watch a movie together; one girl may prefer that you call her on the phone, while another will prefer that you just text her. There is no hard-and-fast rule that "All girls love ____." The key thing is to meet each girl with an open mind and concentrate on trying to learn who she is as a person, rather than assuming she will like certain things or think a certain way just because she's a girl. This may be one of the hardest lessons early in the dating process: learning to see the opposite sex as individual persons, with unique preferences, rather than as generic "male" or "female." Does that make sense? Focus on trying to see the girls you meet through the eyes of Christ, giving them kindness and sympathy and respect whether you end up dating them or not. That way you'll be on friendly terms with lots of girls, which is not only fun but also will be a big help in your quest to meet your future wife—I'll explain why in the next paragraph.
The #1 thing I tell single friends asking for advice on meeting spouses is this statistic from a study I read a while ago: some 75% of relationships begin because mutual friends introduce the couple. Even without this statistic, it's pretty obvious simply from observation that most people meet their spouses through a friend or family member who knows them both. So if you think about it, the odds are very high that your future wife is already currently friends with one of your friends. Isn't that a cool thought? It may be a very unexpected friend—for example, I met my husband through a random acquaintance I barely knew, and never expected to see again (and who ended up being a groomsman at my wedding!)—but the key thing to keep in mind is that you almost certainly already know someone who knows your future wife. So every new person you meet, and every social event you go to, is bringing you one step closer to meeting your wife. To that end, I would recommend developing an active social calendar—trying to go to parties, lectures or happy hours at least 3 nights per week [NB: Around the time I started dating Frank, I was going to 5 or 6 social events per week]. It's better if you can go with a friend or two to boost your confidence, but ideally at least half the people at an event will be strangers to you, since that allows you to expand your social network. Through these events, you'll not only have fun, but you'll also develop ease around eligible girls, and possibly meet a few to ask out on dates. More importantly, if you make friends with girls, they will introduce you to their friends—and again, each new friend is bringing you one step closer.
An important and helpful thing to keep in mind is that girls in happy relationships tend to love matchmaking their friends. This can be a huge boon for you if you take advantage of it. I'll quote here something I said in an earlier email to another guy friend asking for advice on meeting girls: "I would suggest making friends with a group of Catholic girls (through young adult events, or alumni of your college or whatever—basically anyone you feel comfortable with, like, and trust) and try to become good friends with the group without dating any of them. They will probably take you under their wing and start setting you up with their friends. Most girls LOVE looking out for their guy friends and introducing them to girls, especially if the girl herself is already in a relationship—so actually, a good place to start would be asking your guy friends' girlfriends or wives if they know anyone they could introduce you to... Many girls love playing matchmaker, so try to make friends with a good Catholic girl whose judgment you trust and get her on the case of introducing you around. Find a female friend to do the work of finding girls for you. If she is fond of you, and is anything like me and my female friends, she will enjoy it and be happy to help."
Finally, I'd like to recommend a very practical and helpful little article for men looking for tips on dating. There is a wonderful Catholic woman, nicknamed Auntie Seraphic, who blogs for single Catholic women with tips for dating and trying to enjoy the single life. I would not recommend reading most of her blog, as it is very specifically geared towards women, but this one post is written for men and may be of use to you: http://seraphicsinglescummings.blogspot.com/2012/04/what-i-would-tell-men-if-they-asked.html. Hopefully that gives you some idea of where to start. Personally I think it's a very wise and perceptive post.
That's about all I can think of right now. Please let me know if you have any questions. I will keep trying to think of girls who might be a good fit for you, and in the mean time, these tips should give you a good place to start. You'll be in our prayers, and we wish you all the best as you re-enter the dating pool!
Tess (and Frank)