Some unfortunately common dating experiences…

Bad dating experiences are all too common these days, and the Church is no exception.

When I wrote my article, it drew a lot of negative comments from some who dismissed many of the concerns I raised. In response to this, a young woman in her late 20s called Sophie reached out to me to tell me about some of her negative dating experiences. Sadly, nothing she wrote surprised me.

I think Sophie’s experiences give a very accurate insight into what the typical Christian woman experiences in today’s dating climate:

Here are some of my experiences with Catholic men:

1. I was contacted on Catholic Match by a guy in his 30s who freaked out at me because I didn’t respond to his bizarre and intense messages and very odd profile page

2. I was asked on a date by a 28-year-old only to have him change the meeting place at the last minute to a place I didn’t know because it was more convenient for him. When I arrived, I realised that he’d brought four other guys along without telling me

3. A man who all but proposed marriage to me sent me a text message at 5am saying that he couldn’t get my sister out of his head

4. I’ve been subjected frequently to male acquaintances’ unsolicited opinions on various women’s appearances (“I was looking at her breasts”, “I liked seeing her in a swimsuit” etc)

5. A local parish men’s group has been using social media to trash the women’s group for no reason

6. I’ve been subjected frequently to male acquaintances’ thoughts on female ageing and fertility, including one man proffering the opinion that a certain woman’s baby was ill because the mother was aged 35 (when in actual fact the baby’s condition was unrelated to the mother’s age)

7. I’ve heard frequent disparaging comments from men about single women (“A woman is single at 40 because she’s ignoring a religious vocation”, “If a woman is still single by 30, there’s something wrong with her”, “Why would a single 40-year-old man date a 37-year-old woman?”, etc.)

8. Having guys I’ve been on only one date with practically tell the world that we’re “in a relationship”

These are problems related to human formation. They are not problems that Catholic women should be expected to tolerate or fix.

I can relate to many of Sophie’s experiences.

Since publishing my article, I’ve seen lots of advice along similar lines being offered: lower your expectations or standards, try online dating, try looking outside the church for men.

Whether these suggestions are good or bad is actually beside the point for two reasons:

1. Most women I know (myself included) are open to, or have already tried, all these ideas. They’re not new. When you’re feeling as desperate as we do, you’re open to almost anything – within reason. (I should point out that I flat out disagree with “lowering your standards” if it is synonymous with “settling”. If it’s about having realistic expectations, that’s another matter.)

2. They implicitly dismiss the very issue I’m raising – either implying it doesn’t exist or isn’t as bad as I’ve stated – in favour of simple solutions.

The whole problem is that there are no simple solutions, and the struggle we face is all too real. There are things that could help, but for many women there is little else we can actually do. I think this is what so many people have trouble accepting.

Yes, some women have unrealistic standards for men and relationships; yes, some women should give some guys a chance and go on a date. But this isn’t actually the case for most women (the ones I know), including me.

I haven’t passed up a single opportunity with any of the men I’ve met who I felt there was potential with, inside the Church or out of it (in spite of salary, job – or lack thereof – height, looks or any other attributes some claim I’m looking for). I think it’s also important to point out that many women often just don’t get asked out (this appears to be more of an Aussie problem. American men seem a lot more relaxed about asking girls on dates).

I’ve been very proactive about meeting men I thought I might share a connection with, I’ve also made myself available for set ups, for blind dates, and I’ve gone on dates with men I’m not attracted to. Like most, I’ve been in relationships that just haven’t worked out.

We all know that attraction cannot be forced. It’s either there or it’s not. It’s true that attraction can develop over time, but it’s equally true that there are people who will never be attracted to you, and vice-versa. As the adage goes, the heart wants what the heart wants. I recently told a friend: I blame my heart. My heart is too picky. My head is far more easily pleased.

Obviously I’m being a bit facetious here but my point is simply this: nobody can force a connection with another person. You can (and should) put yourself in the company of others, try to meet new people and be open to relationships, if that’s what you’re searching for. But there’s only so much a person can do, particularly in this social climate. I think it’s important for people to acknowledge this, rather than say women like me just aren’t trying hard enough.

My misfortune is that I meet men I’m attracted to very seldom, and the lack of young adults in the Church – or just young adults with similar values in general – does not help matters at all. This is not a cry for sympathy, it’s simply a statement of fact, to help illustrate why there is so much desperation amongst Christian singles today. And why much of the “why not just try this or that?” advice is not really helpful. I think the discussion around this issue needs to dig deeper than offering simple, if heartfelt, solutions.

There is no reason to give up hope. I’ve met five incredible men in the last several years I would happily marry, were they available. I get why they’re not, but knowing that men like these are out there gives me hope – and should give you hope, too!

This is without doubt a multifaceted problem. I’ve barely scratched the surface here, and I’m aware of the many, many factors affecting the current state of things which I haven’t touched on in this post. However, if we’re going to have a worthwhile discussion about this, there are certain facts we need to state baldly, including the abysmal dating environment in the Church – demonstrated by Sophie’s experiences. These don’t just affect women, but men, too. Pretending there are simple solutions to this whole problem, or that things aren’t as bad as we’ve observed is just not helpful.

If we’re to find any way forward, we need to be honest about what we’re dealing with.

11 thoughts on “Some unfortunately common dating experiences…

  1. There are no bad dates! Only good brunch stories! 😀

    I was touched by what you said about having met wonderful men who were not available. You didn’t say ‘already married’, but I’m assuming it’s a combination of already married and ordained/professed.

    A priest friend and I were just chatting about this recently – he said he knew more practising Catholic men seeking the priesthood than he knew marrying ones. I agreed, but it set off a train of thought (and inevitably speech) for me:

    The Church absolutely cannot survive without priests. People are always going to get married, no matter what, but priests take a lot of work to form, and their role is absolutely indispensable. I think it’s a sign of the times that the same, reasonable, intelligent, pious, heterosexual, Church-loving men among us would be being called in increasing numbers to the priesthood.

    And this is actually the BEST POSSIBLE USE of these men. Believe me. The selfish heart cries ‘why?’, but the bigger picture here is the salvation of humanity. Priests today are going out into an unfathered world and spiritually (and emotionally and psychologically) fathering millions of souls. They’re pouring wine and oil into grave wounds. They’re feeding us and espousing us to the Body of Christ. All on a daily basis. We absolutely starve and die without the Sacraments, or at least become very weak and ill.

    That’s way better use of a good man in the current crisis than him sitting at the other end of your dining table, worrying about the mortgage and the orthodontist.

    This is like war – we ARE at war, especially in Australia right now – and these men are being mobilised. Yes, they’re sacrificing sex and romance and family life – and yes, it hurts because sometimes they forget that a lot of women have had to make the same sacrifice because of the times we live in.

    But because of these men and their spiritual fatherhood, the next generation may be in better shape than ours. Again, we rejoice about this in our better moments, but that also gnaws at the darkest places and hours of the heart. That’s when you have to show those hurting patches to God, otherwise he can’t heal them.

    (Having said that, I’ve also met plenty of priests and also married men who I would definitely NOT want to be married to, and it’s helpful to remember them as well 😀)

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  2. Plenty of Catholic men have the same problem, there simply are not many serious Catholic women and simply meeting one does not mean there will be mutual attraction.
    It is the result of tiny dating pools. This is what demographic collapse looks like; it affects both sexes equally.

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    1. I couldn’t agree with you more! As a middle aged man who never married I had this same experience. After growing up in the horrible 1970’s and 80’s and finally finding my way into (the relatively small) orthodox Catholic circles I found that, basically, everyone within even ten years of my age was already married. (That was when I was in my 30’s.)
      I tried the various Catholic dating sites and dated quite a few women, many of whom were nice and good Catholics, but it was hard to develop an attraction in the context of what were essentially “blind dates.” That is, getting thrown into a one-on-one quasi romantic situation with someone I didn’t know at all. Even though many of them did have “orthodox Catholic credentials” listed on their web profiles, the whole thing was so artificial. These dates went nowhere. You couldn’t form a connection with them as a person. You would go out a few times, “break up” (if you could even call it that), and then you would never see the woman again.
      It was wrenching and dysfunctional.
      I find that the normal way that most people meet is in the context of large, ordinary groups of people at school, at work, etc. You get to know these people in casual, friendly, low-pressure situations. You see them interact with others and learn an awful lot about them before you spend any time alone with them. Then, attractions develop and these can be further explored through dating. The problem is that most of these large, ordinary groups of people are not Catholic or not good Catholics.
      Orthodox Catholics still tend to be a small group – and a small group that emphasizes early marriage. So, good luck to those who go into a profession that requires a lot of schooling because, by the time you’re finally ready to date seriously, everyone is paired off already. It was like arriving late to a game of musical chairs!
      The only advice I can give to younger Catholics who are in this situation is to treasure friendship. That is the one thing I cannot live without. Do your work, pursue your interests, live your life and treasure the friends that you make as a result (male and female). I have many female friends (all married) but I treasure them very much. Like happiness, some things you achieve by not aiming directly at them.
      I will keep you all in my prayers.

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      1. It seems like with Catholic dating sites if you don’t meet someone serious in three months it ain’t happening.
        I’ve noticed that even in groups of single Catholics there is a reluctance to pair off. The men eventually settle on a woman to ask out, work up the courage, only to be discreetly shot down. These are not unattractive people, I’m not sure what the dynamic is. Maybe the group is so small that they all feel mismatched, or perhaps they prefer the tranquility of the group to any drama. Maybe they are all looking for “the one” and are blind to “the real”.
        Also a man who is serious about marriage and trying to be chaste is going to be a little clumsy and unsexy from inexperience: he just has not been playing the game and is used to being overcautious, so of course he gets shot down, he doesn’t trigger the right emotional buttons. Then he hears his female friends moaning about not finding a good man, figures there is no reward for his risk, and becomes even more reluctant. Why keep playing a game you always lose?
        I’m sure there are similar dynamics for the women, maybe they are so used to being burnt that they are overcautious about men they date.
        Anyway, I’m sure Satan is quite happy with the situation of modern Catholic coupling. I suspect there is something demonic about this too. May St Raphael bind Asmodeus all over again.

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      2. I thought that I would elaborate a bit on my points.

        I went to grad school well into my 30’s, not seriously thinking about marriage because I didn’t have the time or money. Not that there were any serious opportunities, either. Understand that the vast majority of my fellow grad students were single, it was just that they weren’t Catholics or very good Catholics. I ended up getting a job at a great Catholic apostolate, naively thinking that I might meet someone, if not my age then perhaps 5-10 years younger. I thought that my life – professional and personal – was finally coming together. When I arrived, I found that there were no single women and (incidentally), with only one exception, no single men either.

        I felt like there was this tendency to hire based partly upon the extent to which one conformed to a model of the “ideal Catholic” – part of which was being married by 25 and with multiple children. Now, I had an unusual skill set which they needed but, had it not been so unusual, I sometimes wonder if they might have passed me over for someone who fit the model better. I even had someone question me that first year about my personal life and background. When he found out that I came from a family of (only!) three children, he said in a rather aggrieved voice, “What! Are you even Catholic!!?” Admittedly, most people there considered him a nut and he was gone by the end of the year. However, I sometimes wonder if he was saying bluntly what at least some of the others were thinking, but too polite to say.

        (For the record, I and my parents, fully accept Humanae Vitae.)

        My concern is that some of these Catholic apostolates have a tendency to circle the wagons into tighter and tighter circles of conformity. I understand the impulse, the desire to protect oneself in a hostile secular environment. The problem is that, otherwise good Catholics who don’t quite fit the mold due to various reasons, get unfairly frozen out. And this is not good for single Catholics looking to meet someone – the workplace being a prime opportunity for such encounters.

        Now as to the Catholic dating websites, the main problem I found with them is that they give you the illusion that you actually know the person whose profile you read and like. What you have are facts, statistics, answers to important questions, pictures – all important to be sure – but that is not enough. It is like seeing the blueprints to a building, but not the actual building yet. My common experience, upon meeting the woman on our first date, was the realization that she was a total stranger. Obvious, but always surprising given the strange nature of the crazy on-line world and its “virtual” knowledge. I did not really begin to “know” these women until I met them and actually interacted with them in person. To give one example, I briefly dated a woman whom I met online who was a good Catholic and quite physically gorgeous. What was the problem? (most men are thinking – wink, wink, nudge, nudge). The problem was that she was the most taciturn woman I had ever met. I was lucky if I could get 30-40 words out of her in the course of an evening. It just didn’t work for me – and I suspect for many other men – but there was no way I could have discovered this from her profile.

        The other women, almost all serious Catholics, struck me as wanting to find someone who fit a whole bill of particulars or expecting to “hear bells” immediately. One woman, rather perturbed with me after a few dates, said “Are we dating, or are we just friends?” What I realized is that, by “dating,” she meant lots of physical affection and for us to be hanging out constantly like two teenagers “in love” who can’t get enough of each other. What I ultimately said to her was that we didn’t know each other well enough to even be friends, yet. What I didn’t say was that I couldn’t provide her with the “puppy love” that she wanted – something that’s a lot harder to do when you are in your 40’s and for good reason.

        In either case, she wanted to “break up.”

        Anyway, my point is that there needs to be more ordinary forums in which single Catholics can meet and get to know each other in a regular, ordinary, non-threatening fashion. There also need to be more orthodox Catholics. I think about the secular women I have met in the course of various other employments, activities, etc. who actually liked me. They took delight in certain real things about me (and I in them at times), but incorrectly assumed that I shared their same basic outlook on life. (Why not, they are in the majority?) Some of them would have been open to romantic relationships which I didn’t pursue for obvious reasons. The good Catholic girls were either already taken, extremely fussy, or unrealistic about the way these things work – or just nervous and uptight.

        I am sure that the men are just as guilty, btw.

        Until lots of single Catholic men and women feel comfortable assuming that lots of others share their values and beliefs and can take simple delight in each – the way men and women always have – I am afraid that we will continue to have problems for quite a while.

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  3. Unfortunately, the negative treatment of women by men is a global phenomenon, not a non-Christian one. It’s some combination of porn culture and patriarchal society, which very much feed into each other; legitimising predatory, rude, or violent behaviour towards women. It’s not okay, and it makes things very hard for both Christian women trying to find a good Christian man and for good Christian men who are trying not to fall prey to the traps and temptations of the world. It’s an absolute minefield.
    Great post again. Keep up the fantastic writing. I’m amused that I had the opposite issue – my heart was easily pleased, but my head was more picky! Had its own problems.

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  4. Miss Hitchings-
    I see the dating and marriage situation as being even worse than you describe. This is troubling for many reasons, but primarily because any civilization that cannot help the majority of young people marry and have families will not be a civilization for long. Something has gone horribly wrong. Not only between men and women trying to find each other but in pretty much every aspect of our lives.
    If you hadn’t been already, you are now better aware of the various strands of sociological theories as to why this situation is so dismal. I find many of them to hold a good measure of truth. What we don’t seem to have yet is a Grand Unified Theory of what is driving this change. I think we are all still caught up in describing the symptoms of this chaos rather than the core disease itself. We see many of the tentacles but not the beast itself.
    The West is fundamentally disordered. How do we repair what has been damaged?
    Dostoevsky saw all this clearly some 150 years ago. Can we?
    NB: Those that take the “women good, men bad” approach will find it to be radically inadequate to get to the root of the problem. Yes, there is no doubt many men have chosen a destructive path, but this applies to many women as well. Why have shows like “Sex in the City” been so popular with women? Or “50 Shades of Grey”? I have seen the degenerate choices of both sexes with my very eyes. What is even more unfortunate is that it is poisonous even for those who don’t make these bad decisions.

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    1. Because people of the West turned away from God and towards materialism & narcissism.?That is the common root of all these corrosive isms( feminism, nihilism, communism, atheism )

      Patriarchy was a good, strong stable system that benefits all family members. It was tossed in the trashed and a vacuum left in its place. We now reside in that dark empty space.

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    2. As I wrote in another post, I see the secularization of the old Protestant mainline churches as an important cause of all this. Wherever the power centers go, the rest of the culture follows. In countries where the state church dominates the religious landscape, things are particularly grim. Consider the existence of openly atheist priests in the Church of Denmark.

      Our own Catholic Church attempted to follow in the footsteps of the mainline churches at Vatican II and quickly fell apart. My view is that as the West loses its leadership of the world, things will change. We already saw this in the vote on LGBT issues in the United Methodist Church, where Africans pushed the vote against acceptance of LGBT behavior.

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  5. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I invite you to listen to this excellent sermon by a Catholic priest from the U.S. It might help you make sense of the bad experiences you’ve so well described: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TxhFRIz54SQ

    And, above all, pray to God for the strength to withstand the torments of all these painful (dating and other) experiences – to carry the cross of the bleak situation you’re in, without losing hope and to avert straying away from the right path, keeping the virtues of purity and chastity in the face of advesity. Seek solace from the Holy Spirit, surrender your bitterness to Our Lord Jesus Christ, run to Our Heavenly Father, offer all your sorrow to Him. Pray, pray and pray.

    Also, keep in mind, that Catholic marriage and family are a cross in their own right, yet a sweet yoke and a light burden, if accepted and lived in accordance with the Will of God and as taught by the Catholic Church. In fact, what you’re seeking is a cross, which corresponds to your vocation, in this case to marriage.

    God Bless you all and may peace fill your souls.

    Liked by 1 person

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