Finding love as a practising Catholic these days is a road full of obstacles and potholes, and it seems like the odds are really stacked against us when it comes to finding anyone. I mean, first you have to (ideally) find someone that’s at least Catholic, then you have to like them, and THEN they have to also like you back. Is that even possible?! Well turns out it is, but it does require a lot of patience, prayer, and time. Recently I’ve been on a bit of a personal journey trying to discern and (re-)explore dating and marriage in a Catholic context, particularly amidst the abundance of secular distortions of human love and sexuality. I’ve had the pleasure of attending some talks by Luke and Montana Bogoni who gave their tips on finding the right person, have spent some time listening to talks by Jason Evert on dating and marriage, and have also read through other resources addressing the sanctity of marriage. The following are Luke and Montana’s tips on finding your future spouse which have been supplemented with insightful points from Jason Evert and other resources.
There is no “perfect” list or person
You can have a huge checklist of the desirable qualities of your ideal partner, and they can be as trivial as having hair or as deep as being able to guide you through your faith. And there’s nothing wrong with having this perfect list or person in mind but if this checklist becomes the absolute criteria for your future spouse, you’re gonna have a hard time. In reality this perfect person doesn’t exist (and if they do then chain them down and never let them go) and in the end you will have to focus on the deeper, more important qualities that really matter. A successful marriage isn’t based on finding the perfect person, but about choosing to love the imperfect person you’ve chosen to marry. It’s not about being perfectly compatible, but how you deal with your inevitable incompatibility.
Does the person complement you
Find yourself someone that brings out the best in yourself, and someone that you feel compelled to bring out the best in. This includes both of your religious and non-religious aspects of life; encourage each other to strengthen your relationship with God and encourage each other to be the best people you can. However, always know your standards before going into a relationship, and don’t settle for anything less. No ‘missionary dating’ in the hopes of converting or changing someone. You need to pursue someone who shares your core beliefs and values, especially those rooted in Catholic teaching. A relationship, and therefore a lasting marriage, simply cannot work if you have conflicting beliefs, and one or both of you will end up having to compromise. You must date with the purpose of finding a future spouse, so remember that if someone is not worth marrying, they’re not worth dating in the first place.
Experience all the “seasons”
The strength of a relationship is really measured when it’s put to the test. Of course, it feels nice to be in a relationship with no complications or hardship, but firstly that’s almost unheard of and secondly if that’s all you know then you won’t be well enough equipped and prepared for marriage. To really know if your partner is the one, you need to weather all the ups and downs that a relationship presents. If you can get through all the possible challenges and hardship before marriage, you’ll be able to work through all the complications that you will inevitably face in marriage. That’s pretty important when you’re going to be spending the rest of your life together.
Don’t be afraid of giving yourself time to be single
Don’t think that being single makes you a loser, and don’t forget that there is an option to be single. Take it as God’s way of giving you much needed time to focus on yourself. Maybe you’ve just come out of a long-term relationship, or maybe you’ve been single your whole life. Either way, take it as a chance for self-improvement. Form yourself and your intellect, immerse yourself in texts like St John Paul II’s ‘Love and Responsibility’ and ‘Theology of the Body’. Enjoy your single years giving your service to Christ and His church. For non-religious life, pick up or develop a skill or hobby, catch up with your friends, do whatever makes you happy. Jason Evert quotes Curtis Martin saying, “Don’t spend your single years chasing your future husband or wife, chase after God. And after a while of running, then look and see who’s running beside you.”
Set boundaries to temptations
Intimacy between a couple is necessary and sex is a beautiful thing that expresses married love and is 100% part of God’s plan, but only when it’s performed within the boundaries of marriage. Sex is everywhere and this makes it very easy to fall into temptation as a couple, especially when chastity is so rarely practiced these days. Regarding this, the church’s teaching isn’t that you’re going too far with your partner, but that you’re not going nearly far enough. Chastity is such a powerful practice this is so undervalued in the current age. In Love and Responsibility, St John Paul II says, “Chastity can only be thought of in association with the virtue of love. Its function is to free love from the utilitarian attitude.” In other words, chastity isn’t about waiting to love your boyfriend/girlfriend for when you get married, it’s about loving them perfectly right now through the sacrifice of purity. St John Paul II continues, saying, “Only the chaste man and chaste woman are capable of true love. Chastity is a sure way to happiness.” True love and happiness are only possible through the total sacrifice and offering of oneself for their spouse, and it all begins with chastity.
Jason Evert talks about the following from the Song of Songs, “Catch us the little foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom.” He explains that the vineyards represent the love of a couple, and the foxes represent their impatience. Impatience of the man to want to see too much of the woman too soon, and the impatience of the woman to reveal too much of herself too soon. Therefore, we must be patient so that we can reap the benefits of a fruitful harvest in marriage. Resisting the undoubtedly strong desires for sexual intimacy teaches you important virtues such as sacrifice, patience, and fidelity. These virtues you learn are what then enable you to work through complications and hardship with your spouse in married life.
Pray for your future spouse
You may be dating your future spouse right now, or maybe you haven’t even met them yet. Maybe you have met them but your time as a couple hasn’t yet come. Whatever the case, that person is already out there, so pray for their safety and strength to continue their own journey so that you two will eventually make it to each other. When the time is right your journeys will eventually intertwine and end together.
Prayer, penance & perseverance
Whether you’re currently in a relationship or single, these three things are super important. As said before, praying for your future spouse is important but don’t forget to pray and reflect on yourself and God’s plan for you as well. I recommend pray a novena or novenas to saints that resonate with you and ask for strength and guidance in whatever challenge you may be facing. Jason Evert recommends going to reconciliation at least once a month and make sure you have a great confession! Recognise your shortcomings and weaknesses and reflect so that you can improve yourself. Lastly, you may go through heartbreak, rejection and/or despair but keep your head up and don’t lose hope. Trust in God to lead you the right way.
It’s definitely not easy dating as a Catholic, it’s like we’re playing a game at the highest difficulty. But the best thing about playing a game at the highest difficulty is that it’s so rewarding and satisfying when you succeed. God wants us to find the one person that we will spend the rest of our life with, and with His guidance and a whole lot of patience and prayer we can 100% find them. So, go out and be prepared to face a long journey with many obstacles and potholes along the way, and do so keeping in mind that your future spouse will be doing the same for you.
Peace and God Bless,
The Quest Youth Leadership Team
(A personal reflection by David)