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Friday, July 12, 2013

A Letter to Single Catholic Guys

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!

Warmly,

Tess (and Frank)

28 comments:

  1. This is such sweet, helpful, grounded advice. I know a few really good ND men who found their wives-to-be (one couple is engaged, another soon to be engaged we think) on CatholicMatch.com. And they're not at all ashamed/embarrassed by it, and I think there's less and less of a stigma these days associated with online dating. They are serious men who are serious about being husbands and they were having trouble finding women who shared their values, and within just a year or two they're both head over heels in love and planning weddings/proposals.

    Just another tip :)

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  2. This is good. Not only for young men, but for young women as well. The idea of two people being OPEN and being willing to grow and learn together is often rejected in Catholic circles. So many young men and women dream of someone who is either their thought/interest/lifestyle twin (which means no adventure or expanding, which is boring), or who has already nailed the holiness thing. Approaching dating with an open heart is such a to-be-encouraged thing.

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    1. Well Claire, you do need to have some interests that are the same....

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  3. This melds well with a Biblical understanding of the Body of Christ and writings by Church Doctors, particularly St. Francis de Sales' "Intro to the Devout Life" on friendship, including mixed gender relations. This is nicely written.

    "75% of relationships begin because mutual friends introduce the couple" is an interesting statistic even if not based on any particular teaching, unless you attempt to count all the instances in the Bible and/or declared saints. :)

    Thank you.
    http://catholic-lifetime-reading-plan.blogspot.com/2010/11/mixed-gender-friendships.html

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  4. This is great, Tess (and Frank!) I don't follow Seraphic, but she had some great points too. I completely agree that there are a lot of excellent guys out there, but they just don't know that they are!

    PS: Who are all these gentlemen who contact you? ;)

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    1. Thanks, Mary! They are mostly friends of friends, or acquaintances I haven't seen in a while—great guys though!

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  5. Although I am a few years ahead of you in life (married for 11 years with 4 kids - (Yikes - that is kind of wild to see written there!)- I second this advice. I met so many folks through my Catholic college alumni association. We had a great time together. I met a lot of nice people - and developed a fabulous social life - filled with people who shared my values for the most part. I even got involved and started organizing events including not only our college alumni but those of other Catholic colleges. My now husband didn't go to my college - but one run by the same religious order in the city we worked in. One of my college girlfriends was telling one of his friends(who was along for the social event and had no affiliation to any of the schools) about where we went to school. My now husband overheard - and immediately started talking to me about those priests - we knew several in common. Needless to say - the priests completely enjoy how they brought us together inadvertently! We joke that while we technically met in a bar - it was Church sanctioned!

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    1. What a great story! I love it! That's a perfect example of going out to meet people and eventually meeting that one person who's right for you :)

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  6. Glad all those guys are getting their advice from you and not somewhere else!

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  7. Golly Tess-5-6 events a week?! If I can handle 1-2 that's often more than plenty, and then I just feel like reading a book and going for solitary runs for a few days :) I don't necessarily think it is meeting people that's difficult, but getting into a setting where you can actually get to know them tends to be moreso (e.g., dinner with a group of 4-5 friends). So I second the part about befriending groups of people-but not necessarily just gaggles of girls...there are a lot of us who don't always (or even often) travel with an entourage :)

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    1. Haha, remember I'm an extreme extrovert. I would even describe myself as hyper-social. :P

      This advice is clearly coming from an extrovert, and would need to be modified for different personality types and preferences... I would never recommend going out more than you want to or feel comfortable! Solitary runs and staying into read are necessities just as much as going out is. :)

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  8. I also end up at 5-6 event a week...but it's just because I have a hard time saying no to any of my groups of friends. I want to spend time with them all!

    Great advice. I would just say that not all girls are matchmakers--I love having guy friends (and have some great ones!), but they would be disappointed if they thought I was going to set them up with someone. That being said I love to plan events, go to events, and invite people along, so I guess in that sense my social-ness (re: my inability to say no) might be helpful. :)

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    1. I totally agree, not everyone wants to matchmake... I think it's more girls (and guys!) who are in relationships, and have single friends who they think would get along. And a lot of the time it happens by accident, like you said, just in the natural process of introducing people, planning parties, and making friends. :)

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  9. What a fantastic piece you wrote! I'm a social worker and writer and have always been naturally inclined to be a matchmaker. I've introduced a couple of friends who actually got married,and nothing brings me more joy. A couple of friends asked me to edit their dating profiles to bring out their unique qualities.
    I ended up meeting my true love on OKCupid, but the road along the way was truly challenging. We decided we wanted to share our experiences, both positive and negative, so we started a blog just for fun last year, and found that by reviewing different sites and sharing our perspectives, that we could really help others.

    I wrote a review on CatholicMatch.com (was really surprised how much i like it~didn't expect to) and would love to get your feedback. It seems like the founder's have kept their original principles. Would you tell me what you think?
    http://www.thedatinggurus.com/father-we-confess-catholicmatch-review/

    Keep up the great work~ we love your heart!

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    1. Hi Sharon! Thanks for sharing this! Sounds like Catholic Match could be a great option for people looking to meet someone. Best of luck with your dating site!

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  12. There is some real wisdom in the statement "most people meet their spouses through a friend or family member who knows them both." How I wish I had realized that in my twenties.

    But when you devote your twenties to education and to getting established in your career... and you move far away from family and friends that know you... and do not make any Catholic friends in your new home town, because church attendance has dropped off so much, I think most of my generation simply quit the church decades ago...

    If you live your life according to the Church rules, and desire to date Catholic women, you MUST realize that you really have your work cut out for you. You MUST make it a priority to find and meet single Catholic women, and/or the people who know them. You MUST do this work yourself... since parishes do not want to acknowledge that single adults exist or need help finding each other.

    Take advantage of the "young adult ministry" groups while you qualify for them (I never did, I was always a bit too old) ... even if the people and the activities give you the heebie-jeebies. When you age out, you will find yourself very, very alone.

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    1. Hi Fester, thanks for your comment. Your last line really struck me with what a difficult and painful situation that must be for you. I can't imagine it, but my heart goes out to you. In my opinion, the Church could and should do more to provide resources for older, single Catholics. This may be old news to you, but have you considered looking online for a relationship? I know several people in their 50s and 60s who have found spouses online. Best of luck to you.

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    2. Tess, don't misunderstand. I've always had plenty of friends. But, none Catholic, or knew any other Catholics. I attend the same few parishes in my area, week after week and year after year, and no one ever notices me coming and going, alone. There are many of us Invisible Singles. Or so I'm told.

      I have never spoken with a woman that I knew to be a single and available Catholic. Maybe men are not supposed to say that - we're supposed to let the women whine that "there are no men". Well maybe, since have just crossed into my fifties, I just don't care anymore.

      I was well past 30 before I had time to think about dating and possibly marriage, and I guess that was a mistake. I should have put a focus on it before the few Catholic single women in my generation got paired off. I really do believe most of my generation left the Church during the 1980's.

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    3. I agree that a lot of Catholics left the Church in the 1980s, but I also know a lot who didn't—including my parents and their friends. How can it be that I know so many devout Catholics in their 50s and 60s yet you seem to know none? Honestly, from what you are saying, the problem is your location. I personally know at least three devout Catholic women in their 50s or 60s who are either annulled or widowed and open to dating and marriage. Have you considered moving to a big city and connecting to the local communities there? Then you can see a woman "in action" (as you commendably seek to do) and have a much larger dating pool to draw from.

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    4. (Tess, this article came up in a Google search for articles about being single and Catholic. It's over 2 years old. I mistakenly assumed your blog was devoted to that topic; I didn't realize that you are a happy young mommy. So if this discussion is not relevant to your blog, feel free to shut it down.)

      But the tone of your reply is very interesting to me. Because I've seen it before. It leads me to believe that married people believe that older singles must have had some terrible circumstance that made dating and marriage impossible. Or that they have some "problem" that needs "fixing". That is a perception that simply needs to change, since statistics now say that up to 40% of Catholics are now unmarried in one way or another.

      I didn't say anything about where I live. I live smack in the middle of one of America's larger dioceses. In the fifth largest city in the US. I have a good education, a great career, I'm established in the community. I don't have a lazy eye or a limp, and I don't live with my parents. And I go to mass every Sunday. Get the idea?

      Your assumption that I live under a rock, is just like the interaction I had with a local blogger, who wrote: "trust me, if you are a good Catholic man with good hygiene and social skills, and a job helps, you will find a woman! I cannot tell you how many middle aged women are desiring a Catholic husband!"

      She doesn't get it either. I told her there was no point in trying to dialogue; that we would simply talk past each other. I don't believe her and she doesn't believe me. It's like we aren't even members of the same Church !

      Unmarried women wail "boo hoo, there are no good Catholic men". Countless articles say this, and men are expected to remain silent or nod in agreement. But I suggest you ask your friends (personally, I'd be more interested in women in their late 30's and 40's, who haven't been married before, but let's not quibble about that) whether their parishes provide ANY opportunities for singles to identify each other. And not the Seniors groups nor the Widows/Widowers groups. Just ordinary parish activities where singles would feel welcome. And not for matchmaking, just for general involvement. I guarantee, you will not find any.

      This is why I wrote in my original comment that I see now that the twenties are the true "golden hour" for finding a Catholic spouse. Use that "young adult ministry" to find someone, because it's really the last chance you will have.

      If you are interested in reading more, may I suggest these articles:

      https://thehiddenfaithful.wordpress.com/2015/03/08/catholic-mythology-how-false-ideas-allow-singles-to-be-forgotten

      https://thehiddenfaithful.wordpress.com/2015/05/16/catholic-mythology-part-2

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    5. Tess, I beg your pardon, move to a different city? Excuse me but that's not a very good piece of advice...I just moved btw...

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  13. Oh, and about online dating. Yes I've tried it. After all, everyone knows of someone that was successful with it, right? It's the first thing that marrieds suggest, if only because they don't know what else to say.

    But I believe it works for practically no one, for only a tiny tiny portion of everyone who tries. You find scammers, you find people that are still married or otherwise lying about themselves, and on and on. In my case, I believe I found many women who really did not want to meet men in person at all. Just wanted pen pals to show to their grandma and say "see, I'm looking! now leave me alone". I had several dates where I acted as "training wheels", as the first dates after divorces. Oh, was that awful.

    I also learned that if I'm going to ask a woman out, I have to see her in action first. I need to know what her voice sounds like, know something about how she treats others. That's where the meeting through a family member can be so helpful. Online dating turns that natural method of meeting someone, inside out and upside down. The dating site doesn't care if the date was nothing at all like she claimed to be.

    I am also unwilling to imagine trying a long-distance dating relationship. The sites plead with you to "take a chance" on cross-country or cross-continent romance. Sorry, no. Some people can suspend rational thought in that way, but I won't.

    No, I didn't like online dating and it didn't work for me.

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  14. Hi Tess,
    Thanks for the helpful article! I'm a bit younger than Fester, but pretty much agree. Grab the chance of young adult groups while you can, cos after that there is nothing! (or in my case, there was nothing in the first place - thanks Marist order!).

    It would be nice if parishes & dioceses even thought about the issue of where future catholics come from. Most seem to be from people who had kids and want them enrolled in the parish school, so start comig to Mass, then get married when the priest realises they aren't and puts the hard word on. I know only 2 catholics who married catholics.

    All my friends are seriously lapsed catholics or atheists; can count on fingers of one hand single catholics 18-48 in my parish. This is an issue in all western nations that catholics need to start talking about.

    Thank you for making an effort to help :)
    God bless, SB.

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