Well, my dating polls generated quite a bit of discussion! I had thought that they might, but even so, I was pleasantly surprised.
As of right now, the results are as follows:
Question 1: Is it proper for a woman to ask a man out?
Maybe/It depends: 41%
Question 2: Should Catholics only date Catholics?
Maybe/It depends: 51%
So… it seems that for most people, these are much more complex than yes or no questions. That’s pretty much what I expected, hence the “Maybe/It depends” option.
One of the complicating factors is simply that this is not a perfect world. In our society, man-woman relationships have been damaged, distorted, attacked, or never taught to begin with. Feminism, the sexual revolution, casual dating, sexual hook-ups, contraception, cohabitation, divorce, abortion… you name it, man-woman relationships suffer from it. Another problem for Catholics is that “Catholic” doesn’t always mean “Catholic.” So, you may meet somebody who calls themself a Catholic, but they may not actually share your beliefs! On the other hand, you may meet non-Catholics who actually do share and support most of your beliefs.
Another complicating factor is simply that there may be mystery in why we are attracted to whom we are attracted. I’ve known plenty of cases where Catholics and non-Catholics have dated and married, and far from being damaged by their lack of common faith, they have grown together in faith and raised children strong in the faith. I think very different people are sometimes brought together so that they can transform each other. God may have special ideas out of the ordinary for some people. He may purposefully unite them with unlikely people, and bind their hearts together in surprising ways.
I should say that my parents are a “mixed marriage”–Dad is Catholic, Mom is not. To my knowledge and memory, difference of religion has never caused any conflicts. I was raised Catholic, and Mom was always there for first Sacraments–she even made me a beautiful white dress for Confirmation. She attends Mass more frequently than many professed Catholics. She was happy and relieved when I came back to the Church. She is proud of my strong Catholic faith. She was even supportive when I was considering the consecrated life. I can’t say how my life may or may not have been different had she been, or become, a Catholic. I don’t care. I’m glad my parents married each other. I’m glad they are still together, unlike so many parents these days. I’m so grateful for my family, and can’t imagine it being any different.
So maybe there is no “right” answer. Maybe, at least to an extent, it can be different for each of us. So long as we seek and discern God’s will, of course.
For myself, I long for a man who will take the initiative and the risk to ask me out. For my part, I try to be inviting and courteous toward men, never hostile or haughty. I am quite an introvert, but I when I like a man, I always try to let him know. I smile, I try to make conversation, I try to be winsome. I try to subtly encourage him to approach me. If he doesn’t, I tend to assume it’s that he isn’t interested, or isn’t interested yet. Maybe he is shy, maybe he is worried about rejection, maybe he isn’t ready yet, maybe he’s been scarred by bad women. I sympathize with that. And I try to give him every encouragement and opportunity to see that he has nothing to fear from me. I want to inspire men to greatness. And show that not all women are evil feminazis or spoiled divas.
Since my Catholic faith is one of the things I talk most easily about, I tend to connect most easily and be most myself with other Catholics. Non-Catholics, or Catholics-in-name-only tend to be impatient, bored, combative, or put-off when I talk about the faith. My modest conduct and adamant stance against casual flings tends to put them off as well. I’ve never really been able to bond with non-Catholic men. I have many non-Catholic, or formerly-Catholic friends and associates, so it’s not that I have anything against them, or can’t get along with them. Indeed, I love many of them dearly, and would give and do anything for them.
But a spouse is much different than just a friend. When it comes to one man with whom I am intimately bound for life, I am going to need somebody to support and help and cooperate with me. And not just where material things are concerned. I will need somebody who will support me in my faith, who will support my efforts to live it faithfully and well, who will support me in raising and teaching my children in the faith, who will support my mission as a Lay Dominican. And I need somebody whom I can support in turn, in much the same ways.
Let’s just say that I would be quite shocked if I met a non-Catholic man who could handle me and my faith! Actually, I would be quite impressed to meet a Catholic man who could handle me and my faith! Because it’s not only a matter of the faith itself, it is a matter of where we are in our faith, and where the faith fits into our lives and our very selves. Personally, I would be nothing if I weren’t Catholic. Truly nothing. I would not be myself at all without my faith. My entire life would lose its meaning, its core, its direction. If a man were to think that sounds crazy, that would be a major deal-breaker.
“But–” you may rightly be saying, “but people change! Non-Catholics become Catholics. Bad Catholics become good Catholics. And good Catholics become bad Catholics.” Yes, after all the change I’ve been through, I understand that all too well. What is important is that we relate to people as they are at every given moment. We don’t relate to the people they might be in the future. We don’t relate to them as they were in the past–although the past will become present in some ways and to some degree.
So, say I meet and fall in love with a non-Catholic. If I am going to marry him, I must marry the non-Catholic him, not some possible future Catholic him who may or may not ever come to be. And if I meet and fall in love with a good Catholic man, I must marry the good Catholic man he is, without fearing that he may one day become a heretic or apostate. If he does become a heretic or apostate, he will need me and my dedication more than ever. And if I meet and fall in love with a bad Catholic… well, that would be the most insurmountable situation of all, I think. A bad Catholic would be most likely of all to consider me and my faith crazy. Again–major deal-breaker.
There is more that could be said on this topic. It’s an important topic. I think I’ve said enough for now. ;)
I try not to be worried or anxious about dating and finding a husband. I just try to be open and good to everybody who comes into my life. Try not to have too many expectations. And try to be patient and trust in God’s will and providence. He has never let me down yet!