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.