Greetings Earthlings! Sorry as usual that it’s taken so long to update. I can’t believe that I used to post every two days – where on earth did I get the time from?!
This is a VERY IMPORTANT MESSAGE so please take note. This blog has been re-vamped! Thanks to a very kind friend, it now has its own website (that’s probably the wrong way to say it, but whatever). This can be found at http://yesimcatholic.co.uk/ and I’ll be updating from there in future. This site will be live for a while yet, but please comment and read over at the new one. I’ve not yet figured out how to post automatically on Facebook and Twitter from there, but I’ll get there at some point! It looks all shiny and new and I’m very excited. Yaay!
Right, onto business as usual! A friend of mine e-mailed me a list of questions about dating. She’s about the age of one of my younger sisters and I thought I’d not only reply thoroughly, but post the answers on here because I think they’re relevant to a lot of people – specifically, teenagers beginning to think about dating. There are nine questions and my replies are turning out to be very very long, so I’ll be answering two or three per post.
First of all I’d like to make it clear that while I do have certain qualifications to answer the questions (having got through three and a half years of a Catholic relationship being the main one!), I don’t know everything (I know, shocking) and this is purely my opinion, based mainly on experience. If you have more questions or want more comprehensive answers, I’d direct you to several books, the most important of which is Real Love, by Mary Beth Bonacci. It’s simply a compilation of similar questions on dating, sex and chastity and it’s a very direct and easy read.
1) If I don’t think I’m going to marry him, should I still date him?
This reminds me of a time back in sixth form when a few of my yeargroup were asking me questions about my boyfriend. When they discovered that yes, we had discussed marriage and yes, we were planning on getting there some day if that was God’s will, their reactions were identical. SHOCK HORROR!! What on earth was I thinking? I, being naïve, asked them if they couldn’t see themselves married to the boys they were currently going out with – and was met with laughter. None of them could even imagine it. Not only that, but they clarified that if they were looking for someone to marry, they’d look for far more different people.
That seemed really sad to me. Partly because it assumed a fairly immature attitude to dating and marriage. The thing is, life doesn’t work like a chick flick. You don’t date a series of douchebags, then decide that you’re grown up and magically discover a perfect husband. For one thing, it’s hard to break habits. For another, even if you were young and silly, your past will always affect your future. Of course you can start again, but the fact is that to assume that you can mess around now and have the perfect relationship later is just unrealistic. Like it or not, mistakes cannot always be completely erased.
I’m not saying that you should go out and make sure to find a husband at the age of sixteen. No no. (Though if I end up married to my boyfriend, I’m so telling everyone that that’s what I did.) I wholeheartedly agree that being in your teens is generally just too young to be thinking seriously of marriage. But let me ask you a question: if you don’t see yourself marrying him one day, why are you with him?
And I don’t mean one-day-in-the-hazy-future-that-will-never-materialise. I mean one day fairly soon. Maybe after university. Can you really see yourself marrying him? Even staying with him that long?
If the answer is no, what on earth are you doing?
Your answers could be that you just want to have fun. Or that everyone has a boyfriend and you like having one too. Or that you feel lonely and he treats you well. Or that you just want to know him better. Well, fair enough. But do you have to do all those things as boyfriend and girlfriend?
The purpose of dating, courting as it used to be known (much nicer way of putting it in my opinion…), is to discover whether the two of you are right for each other and for a married life together. End of story. So if you’re at the stage where you think that maybe he might be right for you one day, then fair enough, go out for a few dates, get to know each other. But if you know that he’s not right for you – why are you wasting your time? Can’t you just have a good friendship with him instead of implicating yourself in a relationship that will probably hurt both of you in the end?
I know it’s really hard to not have a boyfriend, particularly when everyone around you has one. There’s nothing worse than being told ‘Don’t worry, you’ll find someone one day’ in a patronising kind of way, as if you’ve never had a chance offered you before. Or of watching a couple cuddle up to each other sickeningly and whisper nauseatingly sweet nothings into each other’s ears (what? Bitter? I’m not bitter, I LOVE being in a long-distance relationship… ). But honestly – it’s okay to stand out. It’s okay to tell someone that you like them too but that you’re saving yourself for your future husband and unless they think it might be them, you’d rather not waste their time. They might run away screaming, convinced you belong in a mental hospital, but the important thing is that you’ll be being true to yourself and to your future spouse.
A booklet I have which I also recommend as great reading, A Way of Life for Young Catholics by the excellent Fr Stephen Wang, suggests ‘group dating’ – getting to know one another in the context of other people. If you’re too young to decide to get married, you’re too young to have a boyfriend or girlfriend. Just enjoy being in the company of other like-minded people! Why do you need to get serious about relationships yet? That can keep for later. Just chill out!
If, on the other hand, you can see yourself marrying that person (and I don’t mean you have to set a date or anything, I just mean that it could reasonably be a possibility), then maybe you are onto something. But take it slow and be careful. Relationships are delicate, and they’re more important than you think.
2) Should I set boundaries, or is that weird?
My first reaction to this question is nothing is weird, but since that covers rather a wide spectrum of weirdness, I’ll narrow it down a bit. Here’s the deal: if you feel that you can’t say something to him, then I don’t think you should be dating him.
Okay, fair enough, you might be a tiny bit embarrassed about a few things, like mentioning *whispers* the Time of the Month, but the bottom line is that if there are parts of yourself that you cannot be open about, then you’re going to be very handicapped in your relationship.
Like I said, relationships are important. They form the building blocks of your life. And I’m sure you’ve heard the cliché ‘communication is the key’. Like many clichés, it’s overused, but it’s true. If you can’t tell him you go to Mass every Sunday and enjoy it, how are you going to explain the fact that you’d rather do that than go to the cinema? If you can’t explain that you don’t like the way he tells you that you shouldn’t listen to your parents, how are you planning to tell him that the reason you can’t see him on Friday at that party is because they said no? And most importantly – if you can’t tell him that you believe sex is a sacred and very special thing and should be saved for marriage, how exactly are you planning on having a chaste relationship?
Trust me, letting him get so far and then pushing him away because “I don’t think we should do that” isn’t going to get you anywhere.
You owe it to the both of you to say simply and clearly that there are certain things you do and do not want in your relationship. You owe it to yourself, out of self-respect, and you owe it to him because even if he’s a good Catholic boy, he may not know or realise the importance of sexual purity, and it’s not exactly fair to spring it on him just when he thinks things are going his way.
When I first started going out with my boyfriend… ahh, back in the day… I’m pretty sure I literally gave him a verbal list of dos and don’ts. Mostly they were about general stuff, like If I’m crying, I don’t want you to tell me that there’s no good reason to cry or to try and fix it for me, I just want you to pat me on the back and tell me everything will be okay and listen to everything I have to say and nod every now and then. And it worked, because it meant that he didn’t have to try and guess how to act around me, and I didn’t get upset because he wasn’t reading my mind and figuring it out. Not saying that it avoided all difficulties, not at all, but it gave us a good headstart.
The thing about boys, as any of my friends will have heard me say a million times, is that they are not very clever sometimes. Sorry guys, it’s a fact. To be fair, neither are us girls – a lot of the time, we just expect you to figure out all our complicated and insane emotions and then act accordingly. But boys can’t do that because not only do they need to be told what to do, but they need to be told several times. You need to send the message loud and clear: I DO NOT WANT TO HAVE SEX.
I DO NOT WANT TO DO EVERYTHING BUT HAVE SEX.
I WANT A LOVING, CHASTE RELATIONSHIP WITH YOU.
People will say the word boundaries to you because they’re a good way to prevent heat-of-the-moment slipping. If you’ve agreed boundaries previously and decided to abide by them, you’re less likely to try and push them, it’s that simple. No, it’s not weird – it’s sensible and it’s respectful on both your parts. If he thinks it’s weird, then he doesn’t understand your reasoning and you need to explain things more clearly.
I think that’s enough for today! The next two questions I’ll answer in my next post, which hopefully won’t be too far away but might be postponed because of university and social commitments (by which I mean – it’s Twinkle-Toes’ birthday party this weekend!! Woop!!!). If anyone has any more questions they’d like me to answer, comments, or love/hate-mail, please either comment over on my new page or email me at email@example.com. God bless!