What your date is not
At daily Mass this week, the homily reminded me of one of my deepest regrets in my past dating.
My then-boyfriend had revealed multiple serious issues and I convinced him to talk to a priest. That part was good. But he briefly followed the priest’s instruction, then stopped and would not talk to him again. My stress over our relationship was at a breaking point, I was emotionally exhausted, and angry with these evils for keeping him away from God. I started crying and pushing and wound up manipulating him into obeying the priest. Afterward I apologized and said I wanted us to back up because it should be a priest telling him these things. I should have walked away sooner, because I wanted to help him, but that instance could only have hindered his openness to God. When he ignored the help he needed, I felt trapped with roles that did not belong to me and I could not fill.
The person you are dating is not your savior, your confessor, your therapist, or your accountability. When someone has continuing sexual sin, or past sin that has not been healed, these roles often get dumped on the other person. In a romantic relationship, you desire to share your heart with each other—to be seen, known and understood. You start confiding in each other, even about your sins and wounds.
Now you should. Someone you are seriously dating has the right to know where you are spiritually, especially regarding sexuality. This is so serious in fact, that if you look at porn and don’t tell the person you’re marrying, that alone can nullify the marriage because you married them under gravely false pretenses. So over time you should be open and share freely and fully. The problem is, if you aren’t getting salvation and healing elsewhere, you will—even unintentionally—turn to the person you are dating with those needs.
Your date is not God. Your date cannot save you. Your romantic interest cannot be the reason you stop sexual sin. They can inspire you and encourage you, but your reason has to be God. Clinging to another person to pull yourself out of the mire is unhealthy for both of you. For you, you’re cheating yourself. No finite person can ever satisfy your infinite desires or give you the strength and courage you need to live a chaste life long-term. You’re building your house on sand and you will fall.
If you’re the other person, you feel trapped. Often you start dating with a very false image of how the other person is living. When you learn otherwise you also hear “I’m changing for you,” “God is using you to change me,” “I only managed to break this addiction because of you,” “I need you…” Then comes the awful pressure that if you ever want out, this poor person will spiral back down into sin and perversion. You’re not free, you’re manipulated. And while you would do anything to help this person, staying in this situation won’t. You can never give them what they need, and you might even be a delay in their finally realizing how much they need God.
Exactly how and when to break up can be discerned with worthy mentors (ones who truly desire the good of each of you, and who understand what a healthy relationship looks like). But it should not drag on for weeks on end. Mentors bring up the next point.
Your date is not your confessor. The seal of confession belongs in the Sacrament of Confession. If some variation of “don’t tell anybody” comes up, that is a sure sign the relationship is getting unhealthy. Yet, it is very common because your boyfriend/girlfriend should respect your confidence. The Catechism (#2477-2479) makes it plain that gossiping and detraction are gravely wrong.
However, to give someone information that is painful and difficult to process, then say “you can’t talk to anyone about this” is putting an intolerable burden on them. The pain doesn’t heal, it gets bottled up, festering and causing anxiety and depression. When discussing hard topics, you need multiple trusted mentors you both agree you can talk to freely to process and heal.
Also, for good discernment, you both need mentors who are not emotionally involved. Romantic emotions can easily become frightened that someone is still not ready for a healthy relationship, or on the flip side, hope that things might get better and really aren’t that bad, until months of misery prove otherwise.
One reason being, your date will be miserable as your therapist. After perversion, you have a lot of poison inside that you need to get out. You are objectively good, and were not created to have evil dumped into your heart, mind, and soul. Only Confession can heal your soul, and often talking it out is needed for mental and emotional healing. Once you finally start it’s like a dam burst. Your boyfriend/girlfriend can see how desperately you need relief and will listen, but often have no clue how to handle it or help you. In their attachment to you, they start absorbing your misery into their own heart and mind.
In marriage, that is how it works. You share everything, including each others burdens. But if the things you need to work through include despair, self-hatred, hatred of your body/sexuality, hatred/disdain for the opposite sex, or details of perversions you’ve experienced, you need healing before you’re ready for dating and marriage.
Finally, your date is not your accountability. Accountability partners should always be the same sex and farther along than you are. Making your boyfriend/girlfriend one causes all of the same problems as making them your savior. Plus, someone holding you accountable for your behavior is far more like a mother/father figure than a romantic one. You will resent the very role you put them in!
So why do it? Why does this happen? Because actually, we ARE created for a love relationship where the other person literally is and can do and be everything for us. More than we were made for beautiful human relationships, we were made for God.
He is the greatest accountability you can ever have for He is always there. He created the perfect accountability to help us break the patterns of mortal sin by telling us we have to confess before we receive Him. He is the One with whom you can never be too needy. You can never give Him more than He knows how to handle. He is longing for you to dump on Him, hours and hours and daily in Adoration if you need. He is the One in whom you can always confide anything and everything, however degraded and lustful. He alone can heal you from the inside out by literally joining your body, heart, and mind, with His Body, Heart, and Mind. He alone can give you the love you need to be healthy, whole, and free.
Perhaps God is calling you to someday marry. But before that, and far more precious than that, is the love relationship you can have with Him. So stop going to your finite boyfriend/girlfriend, be still, and listen to your greatest Lover call you:
“Child, do not run away from your Father; be willing to talk openly with your God who wants to speak words of pardon and lavish His grace upon you. How dear your soul is to Me!… Do not argue with Me about your wretchedness. You will give Me pleasure if you hand over to Me all your troubles and griefs. I will heap you with the treasures of My grace…(1485)… O soul steeped in darkness do not despair… You have a special claim on My mercy… Tell Me all, My child, hide nothing from Me, because My loving Heart, the Heart of Your Best Friend, is listening to you…(1486)… in the Tribunal of Mercy [Sacrament of Reconciliation] There the greatest miracles take place [and] are incessantly repeated… Were a soul like a decaying corpse so that from a human standpoint, there would be no [hope of] restoration and everything would already be lost, it is not so with God. The miracle of Divine Mercy restores that soul in full…(1448)… I am mercy itself; therefore I ask you to offer Me your misery and this very helplessness of yours and, in this way, you will delight My Heart.”(1775) — Jesus, as revealed to St. Faustina
Sarah Larue is a 28-year-old author of nine books, who loves her Faith and loves writing, and is happiest when putting them together. Her latest series That They Might Have Love is for all Catholic young women who want to seek God first in their love lives and find greater love and joy when they are single, dating, and married.