Dating as a young Catholic can feel like walking a tightrope.
In the modern culture of ‘Netflix and Chill’, you want to be intentional about actually getting to know the person you’re dating. But in a church culture where people start freaking out about finding their soulmate from age 22 onwards, you also want to keep things low pressure.
So, how do you find the balance? How do you date in a way that is both intentional and low-pressure.
Well, here’s how you could do it on your first 4 dates:
DATE 1: GRAB COFFEE TOGETHER
The goal on your first date should be to create a low-pressure opportunity to get to know each other better. Trial and error (and error and error and error) have revealed to me that the ideal setting for accomplishing this aim is getting coffee together.
Why coffee? Well, going out for a 7-course degustation menu at the fanciest restaurant in town isn’t my definition of relaxed and low-pressure. Meeting up at the local café, on the other hand, is perfect.
Besides, you’ve successfully navigated grabbing coffee in everyday life many times before. You can definitely pull this off while in the presence of your potential future soulmate (woah, woah, woah—think low-pressure thoughts!).
DATE 2: SHARE A MEAL
Congrats on making it to Date No.2! You’ve survived the inevitable awkwardness of working out how to greet your date for the first time and things obviously went well enough to merit a second date.
Your goal for this date should still be getting to know each other. Chances are, unless you were good friends prior to dating, you still know very little about the other person.
Even if you were good friends, there can be a lot of value in giving yourselves the chance to get to know each other in this new context. My girlfriend and I had known each other for nine years prior to dating, but on our first few dates, everything felt very new and very different.
At this point, I’m all in favor of taking things up a notch and going out for a meal together. Yes, it’s a more formal setting, but by this point, the two of you should know that you can carry a conversation for more than 30 minutes.
If things continue to go well, you’ll get a chance this evening to answer one of the truly soulmate defining questions: is he or she the type of person willing to share their dessert?
DATE 3: DO AN ACTIVITY
Time to stop staring into the other person’s eyes across a table and actually go do something. You want to find out what this person is like in different situations. Are they adventurous? Competitive? Artistic? A nature-lover? Unequivocally opposed to any form of physical activity?
The best way to find out is to embark on an activity together. Steer clear of going to the movies and instead do something that is going to encourage conversation—visit a museum, go on a hike, or play a round of mini-golf.
DATE 4: DO SOMETHING IMPORTANT TO YOU
As you start to think more about the prospects of a romantic relationship with the other person, Date 5 can be an opportunity to introduce something that is important to one/both of you.
For me, one way I’ve done this date is to meet up one morning and go to Mass together. Not only does this incorporate something important to me (my faith), you can follow it up with the most important meal of the day: brunch.
This is just one example. Others might be volunteering a day together at a local charity because helpings others is important to you, or organizing a group activity where your date can meet some of the important people in your life: your friends.
By the end of Date 4, you’ve hopefully got a pretty good idea of whether you can see yourself in a romantic relationship with the other person or not. You’re on your own from here.
For Date 5 and beyond, the best advice I can give is to keep being intentional. Be creative when planning dates, do things you haven’t done before and look to create opportunities where the two of you can get to know each other better.
Finally, don’t stop dating. I’ve been with my girlfriend for over a year and we still look forward to date nights every week. I know couples who have been married for 20 years and dating is still an important part of their relationship.
Your first four dates are hopefully just the beginning.
Samuel Brebner is a Catholic speaker and writer from the sunny shores of New Zealand. He works for Real Talk, a Catholic organization that speaks in high schools across Australia and New Zealand on the topics of love, sex and relationships. He writes to encourage young people to be all that God created them to be. For more of Sam’s writing, visit his blog https://parttimeprophet.com.