Dating/My Relationships/Teen Relationships The 5 Cardinal Sins of Catholic Dating by Rachel Leininger Raise your hand if you enjoy the dating world? …Really? Lying is a sin, you know. Dating is an awesome, terrible, challenging, great, heartbreaking institution. It can be a ton of fun and a lot of hard work. It can leave you floating on air or crashing back to earth. It can be all of those things in the same week, even. It’s exhausting. And because we’re here to help you, we want to briefly address five of the most challenging aspects of the Catholic dating world. Team Leininger will be weighing in on this one together, because, well, we’re Catholic and we like dating each other. 1. Blame it on Jesus The Situation: Things seem to be going pretty well – and then all of a sudden it ends with one line: “It’s not you, it’s God.” Sometimes, well-intentioned Catholics will use God to get out of a relationship they don’t want to be in anymore. Break-ups are always tough, but they’re even harder when the person you’ve been dating tells you that they’re ending things because God told them to. He Says: God told you that you needed to break up? He told me to go to Chik-Fil-A. Those are both decisions that we made for ourselves, but they sound way better if God told us to do it. Someone once ended things with me by saying, “It’s what God wants” – and I can 100% say I’m glad that didn’t work out, but I wish she wouldn’t have played the God card. I would have preferred that she just tell me how she was feeling. She Says: I’ve had so many girlfriends burned by this one… A guy will say that he’s prayerfully discerned out the relationship because he needs more time to pursue Christ on his own – and then BAM! Three months later, he’s got a new girlfriend. If you’re really feeling called like it’s time to be single, be single. Just don’t name-drop God because you think that will hurt the other person less… it will actually hurt more. The Solution: It is important to be a person of prayer and do your best to follow God’s will in all your relationships. But ALWAYS be up front with the person that you’re dating: if you don’t want to date them anymore, don’t date them anymore. Be clear and kind in the break-up process, but for the love of God, don’t put all the blame on Him. God is not some sort of cushion you can use to soften the blow of a break-up. He’s the Creator of the Universe, so don’t take His name in vain. 2. Date #1 as the Official Pre-Marriage Interview The Situation: The point of dating is to find a spouse, right? It’s all supposed to be preparation for marriage. So why would I go on a date with just anyone? Shouldn’t I only date people who I could see myself marrying? He Says: It doesn’t take a cover letter and résumé to ask a girl out. Asking a girl out and going on a date should be fun and exciting. Want to know a secret that will make all dates and future relationships better? Go on dates. Plan them and get to know the girl. You’re not co-signing on a mortgage, you’re just getting dinner. She Says: How can you know if someone is marriage material without spending any time with him? I’m not saying date people just to date them, but if your standards are so incredibly high that you’re not going on any dates at all, you might be doing it wrong. You’re going to need at least five more dates before you’ve got enough of his background info to start doodling his name on your notebooks… The Solution: Take it one step at a time. It’s just a date. And if it goes well, it will lead to another date, not a sacrament – that comes a lot later, after a lot more dates. And if it doesn’t go well, then it’s not the end of the world… it was just the end of a date. 3. Emotional Chastity: So Trendy RN The Situation: Speaking of names doodled on notebooks… how about that emotional chastity, friends? Even though it’s a great Catholic buzzword (here’s a throwback blog on it), many of us still don’t quite know what it means. If I tell a joke to a girl and she laughs, does that mean I’ve messed with her emotional chastity by inadvertently flirting? Oh no, he sneezed and I said ‘God bless you’ – I hope he doesn’t think I have a crush on him! We’ve all been told to guard our hearts – so does that mean we can’t even interact with the opposite sex? He Says: Wrong! If you like someone, let her know. Be friends with your friends and pursue the women you want to date (one at a time, of course). If you make it to the elusive dating phase, be aware of your emotions and planning for the future. Making her laugh and being there for her when she cries is good, but don’t think for a second you’re the only one for that job. Also, as a high school student, you should only be picking out tuxes for prom – not your wedding. She Says: Listen, friends: our emotions, thoughts, feelings, hopes, and dreams are all normal parts of what it means to be human. Sometimes we can let them carry us off into the sunset, on the beach, alongside a handsome stranger, both of us atop gleaming white horses, our hair blowing in the wind… And just as often they carry us into a crazy over-analysis of every text ever exchanged ever. Neither of those situations are good for our sanity. If a guy shows an interest in you, it’s okay to let him know you like him, too. Just don’t place unfair expectations on the guys you date – they don’t have a Hollywood imagination (let alone budget) working on your third date. The Solution: There are rom-coms and there’s real life, so just try to stay rooted in reality: when a man wants to ask a woman out on a date, he will. And if he doesn’t, he won’t. If you’re not dating someone, you’re just friends. And if you are dating someone, you’re just dating, you are not engaged or married. One step at a time… 4. All Other Kinds of Chastity The Situation: Guys and girls are attracted to one another. We live in a world that treats sex (and other sexual acts) like no big deal, where “as long as you’re in love, it’s okay,” and where you don’t have to go looking for porn, because porn comes looking for you. Chastity is difficult to live…period. He Says: We tend, especially as men, to think chastity is just saying no, but it’s so much more than that. Chastity is a huge YES. It is saying I will respect myself, my family, my girlfriend, my future wife, and my future children. If you’re not having sex with your girlfriend but you are watching porn, that isn’t chastity. Virtue demands more from us. She Says: We’re not just bodies – we’re bodies, hearts, minds, and souls. So it’s important to remember that what we do with our bodies (the way we dress, talk, joke around, date, kiss, etc.) impacts our souls. The guilt, jealousy, and sexual ghosts from unchaste sexual encounters can seriously impact the way we see ourselves, the opposite sex, and sex itself. There are plenty of regrets that come from not living chastity – but I’ve never met anyone who has regretted choosing virtue. The Solution: Chastity is not primarily a no to sex, but a yes to God’s plan for sex and our sexuality. His will is that sex would be about life and love in the commitment of marriage – not that we would use another person for temporary pleasure. Anything less than chastity is settling – and you were made for more, so please don’t settle for less. 5. Quit Playing Games The Situation: It starts in kindergarten, with playground shoves and pulling hair (that means he likes you? Seriously?). We’re not good at this whole being-upfront-about-feelings things, because we’ve grown up in a world where whoever cares the least wins. So how on earth are we actually supposed to get it together? He Says: Women will be absolutely shocked if you ask them out on a date – to their face – and use the word ‘date.’ Women like men who are confident in person, not behind a keyboard. If you’re nervous, that’s okay (she’ll think it’s cute). This all doesn’t mean that you’re going to get the date or girlfriend – but you’re a heck of a lot more likely to than the guy who DOESN’T ask, am I right? She Says: The winner is not the person who cares the least – the winner is the person with the healthiest and happiest relationships. Real-life, face-to-face, honest communication is not an easy thing, but any thing worth having never came easy. And to add just one more cliché to the mix: practice makes perfect. Practice honesty and kindness in all of your relationships, and it will make it a lot easier to live that way in your dating relationships. The Solution: Don’t hate the players – hate the game. Part of our call as Catholics is to be in the world, not of it. If we date, and date well, then we can change our culture and make the dating world a much better place. Do you have a question about dating and relationships you’d like to ask David and Rachel Leininger? Email them at Itscomplicated@lifeteen.com and your question could be the next blog post!