Recently I spoke with a young woman leaving for her freshman year of college. The subject of dating came up. I asked her what she was looking for in a man. Her words—“as long as he’s Catholic”—stirred up mixed feelings in my heart. I was grateful that her Faith was important to her; but on the other hand, I knew she deserved more than that.
It has been 11 years since I’ve been on the dating scene and I thought it was hard a decade ago. I can’t imagine what dating has become like now, especially with the “hook-up culture” that seems to be so rampant on dating apps and college campuses.
Keeping Standards High While Dating
My hope for all single women is to not only embrace singleness and find joy and peace in it, but to wisely navigate dating and courtship in this seemingly-crazy modern culture.
Envision the Life You Want in the Future
Close your eyes and imagine your life in 10 years. What do you see? Are you in a loving, committed marriage? What kind of man is standing next to you? Does he have a prayer life? Is he supportive of your goals and dreams? Is he involved and attentive to your children? Does he work hard to provide for you and your family? Does he serve in ministry or do you travel the world together on missions? Does he make you laugh?
Think about the couples in your life whose marriages inspire you. Marriage might not be on your radar right at this moment, but deciding what kind of marriage you want in the future can help determine what you value and what qualities you’re looking for in a man. You’ll be less likely to settle for a man who isn’t right for you.
Find the Right Man in the Right Place
Imagine that your future boyfriend is “going out with the boys” for the night. Where do you hope he’s going? How would you prefer that he spend his time with his friends? Hopefully not getting wasted at a random bar and passing out on a couch at 2 a.m. The way he chooses to spend his time is a great indicator of the kind of man he is and can possibly clue you into the kind of setting you can potentially meet him.
Get involved with the young adult ministry in your local diocese. Join a club or take a class and learn a new skill. Serve your community by joining a service group. Meet other great ladies in a women’s group who might eventually be able to set you up with a great guy! You can’t always choose where you’ll meet your future spouse (I never thought I’d meet mine at a wedding) but you can definitely avoid the clubs and drunk parties where you likely won’t meet your dream man.
Set Boundaries and Expectations
Ever been halfway through a date and realize that the guy is subtly hinting at going back to his apartment to “hang out?” How romantic. Just because he buys you dinner doesn’t mean you owe him anything, especially not a quick and meaningless interaction.
No matter how charming or attractive he is or how many butterflies are in your stomach, never forget that you are worth more than just a physical connection. You deserve a man who wants to protect your body, your mind, your soul, and your heart. Frankly, the man you date deserves the same from you. You should absolutely expect a man to take you out on a proper date and treat you like the daughter of God you are.
You don’t have to treat every date like a marriage proposal, but you should make your intentions clear. If you are searching for a serious, intentional dating relationship with the hopes of a happy and healthy marriage, that should be made clear to him. Any man who is worthy of your time will respect this.
Setting boundaries might take a little more forethought. I suggest discussing it with someone you trust before going on the date. Having those boundaries determined and placed in mind will make it easier to stick to them. Consider details like:
- Will you be picked up or meet at a public location?
- What time do you expect to be home?
- How many drinks (if any) will you have?
- What topics do you feel comfortable talking about? What are you uncomfortable with?
- Are you okay with holding hands?
- What other physical parameters should you consider?
You Can’t Change Him, Only God Can
Many of us can fall into the trap of dating someone who doesn’t agree with our values and hoping that he’ll change for us. How many times have we wished to be that girl on the TV show who captures the heart of the “bad boy” and he suddenly changes his ways for the better? It’s a great plot line; unfortunately, it’s not the story many of us experience. Most of the time, it leads to frustration and heartache.
You may even find that a man labels himself as “Catholic” or “Christian” but later realize that means something entirely different to him. You are worthy of a good and godly man! And you have the impact and feminine genius to influence a man to strive for holiness and to improve himself in every aspect of his life. But you cannot change a man’s heart. Only God can.
Surround Yourself With Good Friends
Get the opinions of trusted friends, family, or even a mentor. Find people who share similar values and ideals, lift you up and encourage you, and speak truth into your life.
These people should know and understand you well. They should validate you and help raise your confidence but also inspire you to improve and be your best self. Dating is fun and exciting, but putting the same amount of time and effort in cultivating deep and fruitful community is essential in feeling connected and having healthy relationships.
They should also have the ability to communicate their concerns honestly. If your closest circle won’t point out the red flags they see, then who will? If a close friend or family member expresses concern about the man you’re dating, I would strongly suggest that you consider what they’re saying with a spirit of humility. When your heart and hopes are tangled up in a relationship, it might be hard not to jump to defensiveness. In the end, it’s up to you to decide, but it is helpful to hear from outside perspectives.
Keep An Open Mind
Do you have a friend who rejects every man she meets because she somehow finds something wrong with him? Maybe someone who self-sabotages every potential relationship because he doesn’t meet her impossible standards?
When we expect perfection out of a man, we may begin to overlook the wonderful, amazing men who are already in our lives. Perhaps you have a male friend who you never gave a chance before. Maybe you didn't go on a second date with a guy because you weren’t immediately swept off your feet.
Let’s consider how we, as women, can be open and receptive to being approached and pursued by men. We have to stay in that tension of holding ourselves up to the high standards that we deserve, without expecting a man to check off every single box on our “perfect man list.”
Stay Rooted in Prayer
If you want to find a godly man, you have to stay close to God. Immerse yourself into a healthy spiritual and prayer life so that He can reveal to you the kind of love you are worthy of. Seek healing if needed. So much of our past wounds and childhood experiences can shape the way we think we deserve to be loved. Ask God to remind you of your worth and dignity.
Pray for your future spouse. He needs the prayers in his singleness just as much as you do! This special time of searching for one another is one that can be filled with incredible blessings. You can intentionally seek to become a better woman, daughter, friend, future wife and mother while he intentionally seeks to become a better man, son, friend, future husband and father. Then, when you two meet, you will be much more ready to join together and strive for holiness and Heaven together.
What kind of marriage do you think God is preparing you for? What has your dating life been like and what would you like to change?
If you are not single, is there a single girlfriend you can send this article to?