Dating for Marriage

Everybody wants to be wanted. Today’s dating culture makes that the utmost important thing to your existence. The height of “making it” is being in a healthy, committed relationship with the person of your dreams. If you lack that at all, then you’re unwanted or unlovable. There are so many rules to dating as well. You can’t show someone you’re interested too much because then you’re desperate, but you don’t want to come off as not interested at all otherwise you’ll never find “the one.” So with all of these pressures and anxieties, what even is dating? Is there such thing as “dating for marriage?” Or do people just say that to get a self-satisfying relationship? Let’s turn to the Church to find out!

Dating is Discernment

First and foremost, dating is a form of discernment. It’s a tool to find that life partner to give yourself to wholly and freely. Just because you’re in one relationship or you go on one date doesn’t mean that person is the one you’re going to marry, so STOP STRESSING! Dating is an experience to grow together and prayerfully figure out if this is your spouse. The Catholic Church doesn’t believe in soulmates, and frankly neither do I. I don’t think there is one clear person for everyone, however I DO believe in the power of Vocation. If you are following your true Vocation, God will make everything possible for that Vocation to come true. He’s not going to call you to marriage but never allow you to meet the person you marry. Finding that person is exactly what discernment and dating for marriage means! Men, that means discerning a woman before asking her out. Ladies, that means discerning if the relationship you’re invited into is the right one for you. We all have a part to play, and it’s all just consideration and prayer. Today, there are SO many forms of dating, so how do you know if you’re doing it right?

Lawful and Unlawful Dating

The Catholic Church has this concept of “lawful” versus “unlawful” dating. It all has to do with whether there is a possibility of marriage. Obvious unlawful dating examples include dating someone who’s already married or in a committed relationship, cheating on your partner with someone else, and engaging in a relationship with a minor. But the other part of unlawful dating includes the actual courtship process. Spending time with someone of the opposite gender outside of a date for extended periods of time, with frequent meetups, is considered unlawful dating. You’ve already decided that this person is just a friend, so marriage clearly isn’t an end goal. Setting circumstances that are date-esc aren’t fair to you or the other person. By pursuing someone in this way, you’re PURSUING them! Even if you never said it was a date, there is still a natural part of ourselves that sense continued company-keeping as a date. So your best friend can’t hang out with you anymore? The Church’s hard and fast answer would be no. In my experience and opinion, I’d say it depends on the circumstances. If your best friend is like a brother to you, then I would argue it’s ok to spend time with them as long as the line has been made clear that you are NOT. DATING. This means being emotionally chaste in your relationships! Emotional chastity is a buzz word thrown around young adult circles, but it’s basically a discipline of the mind. You don’t over exaggerate your encounters and conversations to yourself and you don’t let yourself fantasize about the person. All this to say, that you want to guard your heart regardless of if you’re keeping the company of a potential partner. So what is considered “lawful” dating? The Church holds that any form of continued company-keeping where both people are open to marriage is lawful. With emotional chastity in mind, there is a purpose to grow closer together while discerning the Vocation of marriage. So is there a timeline for lawful dating?

Too Soon or Too Late?

Simple answer: yes and no! The Church does believe that dating too young can be unlawful dating. In my childhood, people started dating as early as 10 years old. I’m willing to bet people who dated at this age didn’t fully understand why they wanted a boyfriend or girlfriend. This type of dating can be seen as puppy love, but is it really a good thing to promote? Remember, lawful dating is when both people are open to marriage and discerning the Vocation of marriage. At 10 years old, I’m not sure if our minds were focused on marriage. This type of dating is unlawful simply because kids aren’t ready to discern their Vocation yet. There is also an unlawful type of dating that seems “waiting too long.” The Church determines that a couple who are living together and/or starting a family outside of wedlock is unlawful dating. Marriage has to be an available option for the relationship to be lawful. So, if there is a couple who don’t want to get married for whatever societal opinions they have, they’re technically prolonging their marriage, which is unlawful. The Church fully supports making steps towards your Vocation by proposing, and wants you and your partner to receive the Sacrament of Matrimony. Prolonging marriage in a committed relationship is seen as wasting time when you could be pursuing marriage.

Prayer and Reflection

We’ve talked a lot about discerning and thinking and considering a person or a relationship. None of that is possible without prayer and reflection. Pray for the person of interest, or for Vocation in general. If you’re in a committed relationship, pray for and WITH each other! Talk about the faith with each other and about your relationship. Share your hopes and fears for marriage and dating. It’s also super crucial to reflect on past experiences. Your gut is a great compass! Trust your instincts if you meet someone who you become wary of. Maybe you need to proceed with caution or open your mind more. Talk with your friends and family and unpack your relationship. Externally processing is a very helpful tool to thinking through discernment. Vocation is nothing without God, so turn to Him above all else! He is here for YOU and all of your worries! Spending time with Him in the Sacrament is so important and life giving and gives Him the opportunity to meet you in the midst of your discernment.

Call to Action

Dating for marriage is nothing without ACTION! Again, dating is a trial period, so TRY! Men, ask that girl out! She’s bee on your mind and heart for a while now, and you can’t quite let her go. GO PERSUE HER! Ladies, SAY YES! If a man asks you out, it probably took a LOT of nerve for him to actually get the words out. He’s (hopefully) put a great deal of prayer and consideration into asking you out. He’s putting his heart on the line here asking you to let him spend time (and probably money) on you! So go get your free meal or movie or coffee! You many just end up with a boyfriend after a while! BUT SAY YES TO THE DATE! It’s just one date. If it doesn’t pan out, then be honest with yourself and him, and let it go. That’s ok! It’s all part of the trial period! It’s all part of discernment!


Like this blog post? Stay up to date for more content like this by subscribing to my email list!


Married ASAP!

Anyone have their MRS degree yet? How about a sparkly golden band on their ring finger? Engagement and marriage is a beautiful, exciting time in the lives of people called to a natural Vocation! On the other hand, it can seem like a race to the finish line. I personally feel like I’m “behind” in the whole dating game. I love seeing my friends getting engaged or married, but it just reminds me that I’m nowhere near that altar and white dress. Here’s the thing, IT’S OK! Is it important to get married ASAP? Is there a right timeline to get married?

The Pressure is Real

Part of the problem of rushing to the altar comes from pressure from our peers and family. Mothers are anxiously waiting to grandmothers, and our society puts value in whether or not you’re single. For some reason, we have this notion that being single makes you a loser or failing at life. Maybe it’s because the long-established notion of the “dream life” includes a large house with a fenced in lawn for you and your spouse to raise your perfect son and daughter with a golden retriever running around. Maybe your family has told you that life is about going to school so you can get a good job, become successful, meet your spouse, get married, have children, and that’s it. Or maybe the pressure comes from your peers and friends. It’s easy to compare yourself to your friends, especially when they have something you want. We put our worth in whether or not other people find us attractive and compare our “score” of interested partners with other people’s. I’ll be the first to say that I’ve compared people I know to myself and ask myself why I’M single and they’re engaged or in a long term relationship or whatever the case may be. Relationships are very coveted in our society. So when we finally DO have one, we don’t want to let it go because that’s our ticket to the finish line. Many people think that once you get married, then you’re done, you’ve made it. But really it’s just the beginning!

Start or End?

In the Catholic Church, the Sacrament of Matrimony is sacred and extremely important. Matrimony is the Vocation that feeds creation and faith development for future generations. During the sacrament, the two people die to each other and are united as one body rooted in Christ. With something so fantastic, it makes sense why it’s so coveted. Especially in Christian circles, there’s a huge amount of pressure to be married with kids by age 25, but is that hard and fast? Marriage means that you and your spouse are committed to growing toward God together. I’ve wondered how marriage can be the right Vocation because you’re not serving the Lord in the same way people in religious life are, but it’s JUST AS VALID! Being married is the physical example of God’s love for us on earth. By getting married, a couple honors and demonstrates the very love that led to our salvation, the love Christ demonstrated when He died for us. Getting married also demonstrates to other couples how to fulfill your Vocation of marriage. You are choosing to enter into this spousal relationship just as Christ and the Church did. It’s super important that you take the time you need to figure out how to prepare yourself for this commitment and with whom.

Mr/Mrs. Right

Our dating culture has two extremes. One the one hand, people fully embrace hook-up culture and are single well into adulthood. On the other hand, people get married right after college and have kids before they’re 30. I’m not judging either extreme, but one is slow and one is fast. So for people dating for marriage, where’s the timeline?? Here’s the thing, IT DEPENDS ON YOU! I’ve heard people say things like “dating for two years is too long!” or “they’ve only been together for 6 months, that’s too quick!” Discernment doesn’t come with a road map or a checklist. It’s extremely subjective to you and your life. This is why I think it’s so important to TAKE THE TIME YOU NEED! I could sit here and tell you that in one year, you and your partner need to be engaged if not already married, but I’d be lying. Nobody knows how long you and your partner need to grow and be able to say “I do.” Once you get to the altar, that is a HUGE commitment. You are not only agreeing to be examples of God’s love among the world, you are agreeing to be someone’s partner FOREVER in the journey to get to heaven. That’s why it is so crucial to take time to actively discern your relationship. Work and grow together before the altar and prepare yourself for the commitment to come. There is no hard and fast timeline, really there isn’t. You and your partner are unique to everyone else around you. It’s super easier said than done, but do what you can to be present in YOUR relationship. Don’t listen to other people’s pressure about when you’re going to get married and have kids. Not staying present in your own relationship can lead to comparisons and unnecessary stress which isn’t fait to you or your spouse. If you need a year to fully know that this is the person you are going to die to yourself for, then take that year! If you’ve been dating for 8 months and don’t have a doubt in your mind, then that’s ok too. I can’t make that judgement for you, and neither should anyone else, except maybe a spiritual director or mentor.

Quantity vs. Quality

Instead of focusing on how long to date for, focus more on what you’re doing during that season of dating. Are you calling each other higher in the faith? Are you guarding each other’s hearts by practicing chastity and restraint? Are you having the tough conversations needed to become stronger and fall deeper in love? Are you giving each other the support needed to be the best person you can be? Are you praying together? These are all super important things to consider when you’re in the season of dating. These “areas” we’ll call them help prepare you and your relationship for the evolution into engagement and marriage that comes with a natural Vocation. And no one knows how long it’s going to take until you’re in it, going through the season yourself. So all that to be said, I see you in the stress of finding a partner, of getting married, and know that you are SO valid for having that stress. But in a way, that stress is good because it shows how much you value your relationship or your Vocation! That care and passion will be/is greatly appreciated by your partner! You’re already starting on the road to the altar, and it’s ok to take whatever time you need. I’m not saying too stretch things out more than you need to, but give yourselves the grace to do your relationship your way! After all, it’s the two of you and God in the relationship, so do what YOU need! The rest of the world can catch up or wait.


Like this blog post? Stay up to date for more content like this by subscribing to my email list!