It’s not hard to look around and notice that there’s a problem with today’s dating scene.
Our culture seems to operate on two extremes. On the one hand, we have the hookup culture. Hooking up is wrong because it’s totally selfish: we use another person for our own pleasure.
The other extreme is found in our own backyard. Catholics tend to take this approach — taking dating far too seriously.
Ultimately, the purpose of dating is to eventually get married; so in that sense, we can’t date willy-nilly and play with people’s hearts. We have to be bold and clear with the other person of our intentions. Still, we have a tendency to take dating so seriously that we never even make it on a date! Or, we throw casual dating out the window and expect to marry the first person we date right off the bat.
What we’re going for here is the mean. Aristotle said that virtue is the mean between two extremes. Casual dating offers this mean: men and women go on lots of dates with different people for the purpose of getting to know each other. After a certain amount of dates, they let each other know if they’re interested in dating exclusively or not, and if they are, begin a relationship.
As Catholics, our strength lies in reclaiming. We meet culture where it’s at and make it holy. We reclaim Halloween, which celebrates death, by celebrating the vigil of All Saints Day, or “All Hallows Eve.” Popes have exhorted us to use the media for the glory of God. We find profound truths in secular music, such as songs by Mumford and Sons. (Awake My Soul, anyone?)
We need to reclaim the dating culture and pursue healthy relationships in a healthy way.
How can we date in a healthy way?
First, we need to bring back casual dating. Here’s why.
Thomas Umstattd wrote a great article in defense of casual dating; he argued that courtship (which made a comeback in Christian culture with the book I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris) puts too much pressure on people to marry the first person they court because it’s taken so seriously. With casual dating, there’s less temptation, more interaction, more self-awareness and honestly, more fun. (If dating isn’t fun, you’re doing it wrong.) Thomas writes:
With Traditional Dating, asking a girl out on a date is no big deal. All the guy is asking to do is to get to know the girl better. Maybe this leads to a deeper relationship, maybe it doesn’t. Either way, the interaction is easier and more fun when it is not so intense.
You get to know more people this way and your chances of finding someone you’re actually well matched with is far better.
I’m not saying dating shouldn’t go anywhere — at some point, guys and gals should be clear about where they’re at, state their intentions, and let the other know if they’re interested in taking a step toward a relationship. Or not. But our attitude from the beginning should be, “Let’s just get to know each other and have fun; if it goes somewhere, great, if not, oh well!”
A date is just a date
Ladies, here are some tips for you in regards to casual dating:
- Make yourself available. Don’t expect to get asked out if you sit in your room every weekend. Get out, meet people and have fun.
- Show him you’re interested. Guys need encouragement. If you’re interested in a guy and you’d like him to ask you out, don’t be afraid to subtly show it. Stand near him. Ask him questions that go beyond small talk that show you care about getting to know him. Personally invite him to some upcoming event you’re going to. If he has an inkling that you’ll say yes, he’s more likely to have the courage to ask.
- Say “yes” when a guy asks you on a date. It’s just a date. You don’t have to be in love with him to say yes.
- Be open. Don’t share too much on your date. At the same time, be open to getting to know him and letting him get to know you. Keep the conversation relatively light. (Topics could be: family, friends, hobbies, passions, music, movies, etc.)
- If you aren’t interested, be clear and gentle. If you’ve gone on a date or two and you aren’t interested, find a nice, gentle way to tell the guy and be very clear about it. You’d want the same!
Some tips for the gents:
- Ask the girl out. I know it’s hard. Really hard. But even if she says no, you honored her as a woman by simply asking and you’ve grown in the virtue of courage! But generally, most girls will be very flattered you asked.
- It’s just a date. You’re not proposing for marriage by asking her out, you’re just wanting to get to know her better. However, after going on a few dates with a girl, you have to commit one way or the other. Have a conversation about where you’re both at and decide to become exclusive, or to stop dating each other.
- If you’re both interested, try it out. You don’t have to have life figured out before you pursue a relationship. If you’re both interested, give the relationship a go, and if it works, great! If it doesn’t, it’s going to be okay. You never know if it’ll work until you try it.
- Pay for the date. It makes a great impression.
For both ladies and gents:
Have fun, and be more casual with your dating. Dating shouldn’t be a big deal. If we take the casual approach, date with clear intentions and pursue relationships in a healthy way, our chances of finding a great spouse are much better.
Most importantly, pursue a relationship with God first. But don’t be afraid to have fun getting to know people in the process!