*Originally started on 8/12, finished/published on 8/27*
If there's one thing I've been feeling pressure to do, it's date and/or find someone to marry. It's been worse since my father passed away last month. It's mentioned so often, about how I "need" to find someone, right now (!), or else it's going to get more difficult as I get older, that I've resorted to poking fun at it. Um, hello, I just turned 24 years old a couple of months ago! Why all the pressure? Why all the comments? Unfortunately, I think it's because our society has been conditioned to think that we're not complete unless we have a significant other. Being the youngest of my siblings, I get all this advice, and my brothers threatening to hunt down any guy that hurts me (heehee), but I've come to the conclusion that I would be better off not listening to that advice and relying on prayers for the intercession of Our Blessed Mother (to make me a woman worthy of entering the married vocation), St. Maria Goretti (for purity of mind and speech), and St. Therese of Lisieux (over all patron in both my single and married vocations) to guide me through this time in my life.
To be completely honest, I haven't "dated" or had a "boyfriend" since I was in my late teens. I've never been on a proper date, which I'm actually proud of. lol. :D I do go out with my guy friends, but it's never in a romantic setting. Every thing I've done with my guy friends has been something I could easily do with a girlfriend. Well, the only exception was a football (soccer) match I went to with my friend Andrew of Per Fidem, but that's because my girlfriends aren't big on the sport and I am. (P.S. I still say we brought the L.A. Galaxy luck and that they owe us season passes, lol). Other than that, I tend to avoid doing things with my guy friends that I wouldn't with my girlfriends. I've avoided dating because a) I have horrible "luck" with guys (seriously, just ask any of my close friends) and b) in my experience, most guys have been after only one thing, yes THAT, -- even if they swear they aren't and hide behind the fact that they're Catholic to see if I fall for it. Too bad for them, I like to think of myself as being just a little smarter than the average nerdy bear.
Recently, with this new path that I feel the Lord is guide me on, I've re-evaluated the reasons why I've avoided dating... and this time, the reasons are better, more practical (which I'm trying to be), and I believe are more in line with what God wants from me. After reading two (completely different) books on dating, I've finally come up with how I will handle my future relationships. Let me say, before I go further, that this isn't what I hope everyone does. This is something I've figured out for myself, with the help of the Lord, and will do because I feel, in my heart, this is what will be best for me.
The two books I've read, Jane Austen's Guide to Dating by Lauren Henderson and I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris, couldn't be more unlike each other. In one book (J. Austen's Guide) we have your typical dating advice with a twist. This book tells you not to play games with the person you're interested in and also has good advice about not holding a person up on a pedestal. It's good, sound advice and the twist is that she uses things that have happened with characters in Jane Austen's novels to make her points. Very cute concept, a couple of good tips (such as not dating someone based on their income/career)... but it sadly fails with all the mention of pre-marital sex. Every single chapter has so many of these examples. "So and so waited a month and now they're happy." "Him and her had a baby and are now content." "A and B moved in together and are now happily engaged." I don't recall one example that didn't have the more "traditional" process of waiting until marriage to enjoy that intimacy. Not one. It romanticized the idea of sex outside of marriage which is very dangerous for a young girl/lady who thinks this book, which will use example of Austen's novels, will be something completely different. After reading this book, I had to tell my younger adopted "sisters" (friends who I see as my sisters) not to bother with this book. It's not that I think they'll fall for the ideas presented, I just think it's a waste for modest young women. It made me sad to think that, as a young adult in today's society, what was written in the book is what is expected of me. And, sadly, it is. Thankfully, I have no problem "rebelling" against what society expects of me. The second book I read helped give confidence to my "Me? Date? No, thank you!" attitude and definitely countered the disillusionment I experienced from the first book. The second book, appropriately called I Kissed Dating Goodbye (by Joshua Harris), once again gave me hope for the future. Not only that, it actually helped solidify some ideas that I already had.
While some of the ideas in the books were more Protestant than Catholic, I was able to look past that and see what Josh's point was in each chapter. In fact, his constant reminder that we should pray about our vocation (though he never mentions religious life) kept reminding me that we should focus on knowing what our vocation is before pursuing any relationship. This is just one example, of many, in which I agreed with Josh. When he says that "dating is a product of our entertainment-driven, disposible-everything American culture" (pg 29), I think he totally hit the nail on the head. How many of you had an idea of what dating was supposed to be like due to what was given to us through movies and shows? The Notebook, anyone? The reality of it is that we're not going to live a romance like we see on tv or at the movie theater. I'm not saying it's horrible to like these kinds of movies. I'm very much a chick flick person who likes those happy endings... but it's also important to realize that it's all make-believe and that our reality isn't a fairy tale. (I hope I'm not bumming anyone out.) This is all coming from a self-described hopeless romantic, too.
As Josh wrote, many of the dating relationships we see are because they're attract to each other and want to have a good time. Most, sadly, don't want commitment; they just want to have fun then and there with that particular person. Trust me, I've had more than my fair share of guys trying to do this. One former guy "friend" was very blunt about how he just wanted to get to know me "in the biblical sense"; just have a little fun. Yes, he was attracted to me, but he just wanted that one time thing and not a relationship. Apparently, he didn't know me as well as he thought because those responses usually get either a kick in the shins or a sock in the nose (usually only metaphorically). Unfortunately, I've gotten this type of thing quite often, which was the initial reason why I decided to quit dating.
As I've said before, I do go out with my guy friends but never in a romantic setting. I don't treat any of them differently than I do my girlfriends. I enjoy getting to know the guys just as I do the girls. For me, I've found that getting to know members of the opposite sex as just friends will help you a lot. It's helping me learn how to deal with certain things (because we girls tend to be more emotional than guys) and also how to talk to them properly. I've also had the blessing of giving some of them advice, which I've always tried to give as honestly as I can. I call many of them my brothers because they've become like part of my family. Lately I've realized that I should keep doing this... and if someday I begin to develop feelings for one of them, then I'll already know him well enough to know whether to pursue something more than friendship. This way I'll know what I'll be getting into without getting my heart broken the way I would in a dating relationship that will go nowhere. As the book says, we tend to skip the friendship stage in relationships. We're in such a hurry to date with that initial attraction that we don't think twice about whether we know who we're attracted to. It's not completely easy once you have a crush, especially with having this "if you like someone, go out with them!" message constantly thrown at me, but not impossible either and I've been able to do it.
One of the most important things that IKDG did for me was make me very excited and happy about being single. Do you realized that once we get married (if it's also your vocation), we'll never have this freedom again? And I'm not saying that getting married is taking away your freedom. Not all! The freedom I'm talking about is getting to know yourself, and learning about yourself, so well that when it is time for you to share your life with someone, you can go into that relationship with confidence. When again will I get a chance to go to sporting events or even to the movies, with my guy friends? It's not appropriate to do this when I'm married. When again will I be able to travel without having to take anyone else's schedule into consideration? I'm able to make my own plans at the moment. Sounding selfish of me? Well... here's the one thing about the book that really stuck out to me: when again will I have a chance to completely devote myself solely to God and doing what God wants me to do without worrying about how it'll affect my (future) husband? Being single and being married are completely different vocations. I will be able to serve the Lord in both states, but each will ask different things of me.
As I've said in the last couple of posts, I believe that God wants me to focus on myself (for once) and on what I want to do for Him. I've realized that I've spent the last couple of years doing things mainly for my parents. There's no complaint at all though. I was blessed to be able to help my father during his last 7 years, and 3 cancer battles, of life. There has not been anything more rewarding to me than being able to take care of my father the way he took care of me as a child. I look forward to doing it with my mother when she reaches old age as well. Because of this, though, I have neglected my own needs and wants. There were times when I've wanted to volunteer at soup kitchens but couldn't because I preferred to stay at home and look after my father. I gave up my dreams of attending university partly for the same reason (the other part was because of the anxiety which used to be worse). MANY TIMES I've wanted to help out the homeless but, as I mentioned last year, my father wouldn't let me do this without getting lectured and yelled at. Now that I have this newfound freedom, I can do everything I've wanted to do that will help others and serve God in the process. THIS is the path that I feel God wants me to take, now that I am single and have no big commitments and responsibilities. I love that there's no man in my life to give my heart to, at the moment, other than God.
In mid-late June I had a dream that St. Therese of Lisieux showed me this red book with different people's pictures in it. It dawned on me that it was a book on dating and relationships. As soon as I took this book, I heard her tell me "have patience." When I woke up, I thought it was a sign, whether divine or subconscious, that I would have to be patient because the man I'm supposed to marry either isn't ready (if I already know him) or isn't ready and I haven't met him yet. I thought it was something different because I had a little "crush" on a guy friend at the moment. Even then, it all seemed a little confusing but now, looking back, I understand it. St. Therese, being a patroness of vocations, will now be my patron saint when it comes to my future relationships. Well, I should say my (hopefully) future relationship (singular) because I have made a promise to myself, and to God and St. Therese, not to enter a courtship ("old-fashioned", but, hey, so am I!) until I'm sure that the man I enter the courtship with is someone I could see myself marrying. I'm glad I made that decision because that way my next relationship will be that much special and sacred. I'm not afraid of commitment or of getting my heart broken. I'd just rather save that for my future spouse. I'm sure he, whoever he is, will be glad that I'm not going into the relationship with the cynicism one can get from getting their hearts broken through many failed relationships. I'm not jaded (and have been able to quickly bounce back from past disappointments) when it comes to romance and I hope that it stays that way. For now, I will do as my big brother's friend, who is a Protestant minister, has advised me to do: pray for my future spouse and hope that he puts God above all things, like I'm going to do, until he's ready for marriage.
By the way, I may joke about my footballer boyfriend on facebook and twitter but that's all it is - a joke that originated from a dream I had about marrying a footballer I wasn't (and am not) actually interested in. I had this dream for two months straight so it became a joke amongst friends. I told y'all my dreams were weird. lol. As I've often said in the past, I rarely talk about this side of my personal life but I decided to share and hope it'll help someone in the future.
I was going to write more, but I think I've been able to say all I wanted to say without sounding redundant and (hopefully) without sounding preachy. Again, these are just things that will work for me. Not everyone is the same and I'm sure some of you will disagree with me (I know a couple of my own close friends will), but that's how it is for me.
Okay, that's about it for now. I want to go pray for a little while, especially with this darn anxiety that seems to sneak up. I haven't had a full blown attack since the day dad passed away (and no attack months before that) and I'm going to ask St. Dymphna for her intercession so I am able to keep the anxiety at bay until I've figured out what's causing it.
As always, thanks for reading and God Bless. :D