There is a strange phenomenon that has happened in our culture, where the elderly, weathered and wise have been labeled as “old” and “obsolete”. We are one of the few cultures in the history of civilization that does not value the elderly for their wisdom. You would think that people would want advice from someone who has been through all of the struggles and trials of this life.
The same can be said for dating and relationships. I once heard a young man challenge an article that I had written on relationships saying that he knew more about women than I did because he had dated 15 different women in the past year. Being in a lot of failed relationships is more of an indictment than it is a badge of honor. Consider this, who would you rather receive marriage advice from? A person that has been divorced 5 times or a person that has been married for 50 years?
I can’t say that I am an expert in dating and relationships, but I have figured a few things out over the course of my life. I married my high school sweet-heart, we were best friends before we dated and were both virgins when we married. I dated her for four and a half years (all the way through college – 2 years long distance). We have been married for over 7 years and have 3 beautiful children. Here are a few things I figured out along the way that aided my relationship. These messages are not your typical dating advice.
1. Every relationship ends in one of two ways.
A dating relationship either ends in marriage or break-up. Rare is it that you meet a person that has been dating the same person for 30 years. If you know that the person that you are dating is not a person that you want to marry, you need to end the relationship. The conclusion is inevitable, and delaying it for any other reason simply creates a climate for a bad relationship. Keeping this principle in mind will instantly raise your standards for the kind of person that you are willing to date and give your relationship purpose (discerning marriage).
2. Your dating relationship is not the most important relationship you will ever have.
Every marriage relationship ends when “death parts you.” At the moment of death, you will meet the person that you were created for and will spend the rest of eternity with – Jesus Christ. A dating relationship should build up your relationship with Jesus, not pull you away from it. Prayer in your relationship is one of the most important things you will ever do as a couple.
3. Never make decisions in a state of spiritual desolation.
This is a principle of St. Ignatius Loyola. It means that important decisions in your life (like who you date) should not be made without prayer. If you don’t know what God is trying to lead you to because you cannot hear Him, then you shouldn’t be making important life decisions.
4. It’s okay to be single.
Seriously, it is. Love finds us in God’s time. When you date with purpose, you tend to date fewer people, but for longer periods of time.
5. Chastity is necessary for love.
When a person has not learned to master their sexual desires – but are instead mastered by their desires – their desires are inherently selfish. Selfishness and love are two things that do not go together. Chastity dictates that you love a person so much that you will the good for them. Sex only makes sense in the context of marriage, because it is in marriage that you give your entire life and self to the other person. Doing that in body – through sex – without first doing it in sacrament, speaks a lie to the other person. I can honestly say that there is no way that my wife and I would have ever married if we didn’t constantly pursue and practice purity in our dating relationship.
Dating is not a complicated practice – it’s a discernment process for marriage. What complicates the practice of dating is the brokenness, impurity or unreasonable expectations that a person brings into a relationship. If you struggle with dating the right person or finding the right person, find someone who lives a happy and healthy marriage, and follow their lead.
Everett Fritz works in Catholic Youth Ministry and enjoys speaking on the topics of chastity, discipleship, and youth evangelization. He is the Content Development Coordinator for YDisciple at the Augustine Institute and holds an MA in Pastoral Theology with concentrations in Catechesis and Evangelization from the Augustine Institute. He also holds a BA in Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville. Everett resides in Denver with his wife Katrina and their three children.