Ask Mary: Speed Dating Edition

Oh wait…is speed dating not what you mean by “dating fast”?  :)

Question:

Hi Mary!

I was wondering if you could address dating fasts to grow in your
relationship with God and prepare for future relationships. I have a
few friends who are on them and recently God has put it on my heart to
go one, but there are not many resources out there that talk about
dating fasts. (when I googled it, it brought me to online dating
websites- not helpful lol).
Thanks, and I love your blog!

Answer: 

Thank you for this question!  It’s a good one, and I think it’s very relevant to a lot of young Catholics today.

To be completely honest, this whole idea of a “dating fast” has always sort of rubbed me the wrong way.  It could be that I don’t fully grasp the reason for these “fasts”—but then again, that may be precisely why this trend in dating (er—I mean, not dating) amongst young Catholics bothers me so much: I’m not sure that the majority of people embarking on these “fasts” fully understand what or why they are doing what they are doing in the first place.  Usually, the terms are not clearly defined.  What exactly is meant by, “dating” here?  And at what point are you “breaking the fast”?

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with not dating.  God most certainly wants to draw us to Himself, and often times dating makes it hard for us to let Him do that.  And if what you’re trying to avoid by beginning a “dating fast” is dating for sport, dating simply to pass the time, or dating to make yourself feel better about yourself, then absolutely.  God is calling all of us to be rid of that sort of dating—forever.

But often times, I don’t think a “dating fast” gets to the real heart of the problem.

Dating is not the same thing as eating, and I’m positive it shouldn’t be treated as such.  I find it somewhat odd to place spending time getting to know a fellow human being on the same level as eating a Double-Double at In-n-Out.  And I think that perhaps placing the two on the same level is what has led so many young people to feel they need to “fast” from dating in the first place.

Unfortunately, what most of us didn’t realize until it was too late is that dating is not supposed to be a given (whereas eating, is).  The purpose of dating is supposed to be marriage (as we learned after the first two or three breakups).  So it would make the most sense if you didn’t date at all until you were at least somewhat close to being ready to get married.  In actuality, most of us started dating in high school—or before!  You can see how, with this background, dating became exactly what we don’t want it to be: a game, something to pass the time, or simply something to make us feel better about ourselves.  So now we feel the need to “fast” from what, like that Double-Double (as good as it may have been), has failed to lead us to lasting happiness.

However, unlike that Double-Double, dating does have the potential to lead many of us to happiness, because dating often leads to our vocation! (for those of us called to marriage, of course)  Denying yourself the passing pleasure of a meal is an act of piety that can strengthen your prayer and devotion to God.  Denying yourself true happiness (i.e. your vocation)?  That’s not piety; it’s insanity.

So how do we solve the problem?  I think the answer is that we return to viewing dating how we should have from the beginning.  For many of us, that may mean we have to break bad habits, and thus some sort of a “break” (or “fast”) from dating may be in order, so that God can teach us how to do date as He intends for us to date (if He intends for us to date).

What we want to be careful we do not do is to treat dating as if it is something that unequivocally leads us away from God.  It’s true that it can do this if we are not using it for its rightful purpose, or if in our dating relationships we are acting contrary to God’s law—but this is not always the case.  In fact, if carried out to its rightful end, dating is meant to lead us ultimately to God, through the vocation of marriage.

That being said, in marriage, God calls us to a specific person—not the abstract idea of the vocation of marriage.  So if you haven’t met anyone yet, then of course you’re still discerning, and should use this time to grow closer to God.  I just personally do not feel that declaring an all-out fast is necessary when it comes to dating.  My thoughts: date when and who you feel God is calling you to date, and not a moment before, and you’ll be fine.  No “Catholic guilt” for having a good time at dinner with a good guy who treats you right just because you said you were “fasting” from dating.

That’s my two cents, anyway.  I’m sure there are many reasons to disagree.  Feel free to [charitably] leave them in the comment box.

Now, fasting from meals as an act of prayer every so often as a way to discern/prepare for your vocation?  I think that is a great idea! :)

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