Catholic Dating in a Throw Away Culture

Let’s be friends

Everyone has their opinions and advice about dating. Many people think a good romantic relationship has to be exciting and breathtaking, that there will be sparks when you first meet, and fireworks when you kiss. While Hollywood blockbusters have tainted our views and expectations of sexuality, Hallmark films haven’t done much better teaching us what a healthy romantic relationship looks like.

With all the voices swarming around it can become difficult to think clearly about the truth of romantic love. So let’s bring it back to basics, and start with what a healthy friendship looks like.

True friendship is one soul in two bodies.

In Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, he talks about there being only three different types of friendships we can have with someone:

  • Friendship of Utility: both people benefit from something the other has to offer.
  • Friendship of Pleasure: both people share common interests and are drawn together by each other’s wit, good looks, or other pleasant qualities.
  • Friendship of Virtue: both individuals are brought together by each other’s goodness, and together they strive to grow in goodness.

The first two kinds of friendships are short-lived and rotated through quickly. As things change in our lives, so do our needs and the activities we find pleasurable. Romantically there are a number of examples that fall into these two categories of friendship. We could think of a couple that dated out of convenience, using each other simply because neither wanted to be alone. Or we could think of a couple whose relationship was purely physical, the passion burning out over time.

Friendship of virtue is long-lasting and the most meaningful type of friendship; it is rare to find and takes time, effort, commitment and patience to develop. Because virtue is based in habit, these friendships have the potential to last forever.

A good friend is someone you can count on to drop everything and be there when you’re in trouble. The people you party with are not people you should call if you get into serious trouble. A true friend fights for your friendship, and stays with you in times of trial. Their reality is tied to you and they feel for you in what you are going through. When something good happens in your life, they are happy with you. When something bad happens in your life, they are sad with you. Someone who is willing to throw you away over a disagreement or misunderstanding is not a true friend.

What is it in a true friendship that makes it long-lasting?

True friendship is when two separate people fall in love with something bigger and outside of each other. So when two separate individuals have a love of God, their relationship will stand the test of time because the foundation of their relationship rests on something outside themselves, not on their love for each other. God brings people into our lives for a reason, and friends of virtue are blessings that we should look at like a once in a lifetime opportunity. We should view dating the same way.

Romance is Overrated

It’s about companionship and teamwork. The sweeping romances we see on TV and read about in novels aren’t real life.

What really is romance?

Often times we don’t think about romance as being a friendship, we think of someone who makes us weak at the knees and gives us butterflies in our stomach. People talk about chemistry as something that overcomes us, and either is there or not there between two people. But there’s a reason why men and women often can’t be friends. We may not see the problem with it when we are young, but once we are married we wouldn’t want our spouse spending time with friends of the opposite sex. Why is that? Proximity makes attraction and desire grow. It is only a matter of time before one person in the friendship wants something more.

Our culture confuses lust with romance. Being romantic is being sentimental. Having sentiment for someone is to have feelings of tenderness and nostalgia. When we fall in love with someone, we think of them often, replaying the times we’ve spent with them, and imagining the next time we will be together. This comes down to time. You will begin to cherish your memories with them the more time that passes. Romance, like love, is not a feeling; it is the feelings of tenderness and admiration you have for a person that drive you to do romantic acts.

What is the end goal of dating?

Marriage. Marriage should always be on the forefront of your mind. As Catholics we are called to date with purpose and intention, so as to respect the dignity of both our own and our partner’s feelings. While dating we need to determine if the other person has the qualities that would make for a good life partner and parent. We should follow our discernment from this scripture passage:

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

-1 Corinthians 13

We need to be asking ourselves not does this person make me weak at the knees, and can I have a sweeping romance with them, but rather: Can this person become my best friend? Can I entrust them with what is most precious in my future: my heart, my life, and my children? Does my relationship with them lead me closer to Christ?

Carpe Diem

We live in a throw-away culture that feeds us empty promises of something better being just around the corner. We are quick to toss people aside that don’t check all our boxes, and kill ourselves looking for “the one”. Years go by and we grow impatient waiting for God to send that person to our doorstep. Meanwhile, we pass through relationship after relationship, our hearts becoming more hardened at each loss.

As Catholics we must not treat each other as options. We are not options to God. Instead of buying the lies of having a sea of options and someone better being just around the corner, it would be better to view life as a desert. We walk in the desert and God leads us to an oasis. Our romantic opportunities that have the ability to lead to something meaningful are brought to us by God. We would be foolish not to cherish what God has brought into our lives.

What is true love?

Christ on the cross is true love. His passion for His bride, the Church, is the same passion we are called to have for our spouse. The Latin root of the word passion, passiō, literally means suffering. Christ’s love for us led Him to suffer for us. True love is sacrifice, an action, not an emotion.

Authentic love is not passion in the meaning we have come to know by our culture, but rather it is a friendship of virtue in which we will the good of the other to the extent that we will suffer for them. Romantic love at its core is the deepest form of friendship. When two people in friendship fall in love with God, their love for each other will last the test of time.

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Brianna Arambula is the Video Specialist for the Diocese of San Bernardino in Southern California. A graduate of Loyola Marymount University’s Film School, Brianna creates catechetical videos for faith formation classes in her diocese.

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