A Story of Dating Discernment
Let’s take a trip down memory lane! Does anyone else remember elementary school crushes? Every kid I knew had a crush on somebody else. You’d ask your friends to go up to them, ask if they liked you back, and giggle at lunch when you found out that they did. Quite a few kids that I knew were “dating.” I put quotations on the word “dating” because back then, dating meant holding hands during recess and telling everyone in the class that you two were a couple.
I had my first “boyfriend” when I was in seventh grade. The boy had dated probably every other girl in our class, but I was a child and did not realize what that probably meant back then. I’d never kissed a guy before, but he had kissed a few girls. I remember his eighth-grade graduation party vividly. I let him know that I absolutely did NOT want to kiss him. He was okay with it, and we spent the rest of the time holding hands and sitting next to each other. Two months later, I stopped liking him and broke up with him over text.
Being homeschooled in high school, I didn’t have any opportunities to meet guys or date. Thinking back, that probably was a good thing. I focused on my schoolwork, my relationship with Christ and grew a lot as a young woman.
My first kiss was when I was seventeen. The boy and I were not even dating, and we never officially became a couple. This boy, who to this day is a significant person in my life, threw me around a bit and used our kiss as a way to play with my emotions. We were on-and-off for a few years, and early on, I asked his religious beliefs. He told me with ease that he was not a practicing Christian. He then gave me long spiels about his journeys with his faith and why he did not believe or practice. And I can remember the sinking feeling in my stomach when I found out. I didn’t want to be in a serious relationship with somebody who did not desire to attend Mass with me or did not believe in God. But I liked him a lot, and I did not want to leave the blossoming relationship so soon just because of our differing beliefs.
When our relationship inevitably came to an end, I soon began dating someone else. This boy and I had no prior friendship, really, and I wasn’t sure why I said yes when he asked me out. Soon after, this relationship also ended; I had liked somebody else quite a bit. Things between him and I didn’t seem to be advancing anywhere towards a relationship, so I grabbed onto the first opportunity I had to pursue a relationship. This boy also wasn’t religious. I remember when we were talking about it on the phone, he had nervously asked if this was going to affect how I saw him. Hesitantly, I had said no. But that sinking feeling was there again, and I knew in the back of my mind that it couldn’t work. And a month later, we broke up.
After my second failed relationship and a second try with the first boy that again ended unsuccessfully, I told myself that God had to be a number one priority in every one of my future relationships. I had even discussed it with the first boy, and he had admitted to me that he knew I couldn’t date somebody whose relationship with God was that strained. I needed to be more intentional with discernment and spending time in prayer to determine what God wanted of me.
Focusing on this new requirement in my relationships, I noticed that I began analyzing every Catholic guy I knew to see if they would be good boyfriend material. I hadn’t initially found any of these guys physically attractive, but the goal of dating somebody who was Catholic was so strong in my mind that I needed to look past everything else. I realized that I was still not making God a number one priority. I wasn’t making prayer a number one priority. I was still playing by my rules. Sure, these guys I knew were Christian, but that was all they had that was appealing to me. They were kind; therefore, I could see myself dating them.
It took me a while to offer up my dating life to God and put it in His hands. Waiting for the right guy to come along sounded promising, but I was also impatient. I wanted a cute boyfriend who would share my love of God with me right now. I needed to learn that my idea of the “perfect guy” should be understood through the lens of virtue. Our goal should be to find a man who will be a virtuous and heroic husband and father. God helped me to realize where my priorities should be.
Becoming more at peace with giving more of myself to Christ, I began focusing on my academics and strived to become a better student and musician. The relationships that I had with my close friends became a bigger priority, and I had connected with them on deeper levels. My work ethic at my job changed, and I was motivated to do my job well. I was finally comfortable where I was in my life: single and a full-time college student. Conclusively, finding a boyfriend wasn’t a priority for me, which opened up so many opportunities to strengthen my faith and relationships with others.
Things were falling into my lap, seemingly at the perfect time. I had a guy I met on a University Ministry Awakening Retreat reach out randomly one day, asking to help at Praise and Worship nights that I hosted every once in a while for Maximize. I was excited at the prospect of help -- and somebody that knew how to play the guitar -- and eagerly agreed to meet him for coffee.
The spark was immediate. It was like something in my brain switched and told me, “this is where you are supposed to be.” This guy, whom I met with for coffee to discuss Praise and Worship, ended up becoming my boyfriend. He was a strong and proud Catholic who had a clear path on what he wanted to do in the future and maintained a wonderful family life. The relationship continues to move quickly, and I find it useful to do the following. Quiet my heart and mind, remove distractions, enter prayer, and ask God if this continues to be right. God finds a way to communicate his answer to me. Often, he indicates this to me via a shining moment of Grace that would answer this question. Yes. This is right.
Dating is active and prayerful discernment. Is this person my future husband? I do desire that more than anything. But, I have given Christ my dating life, and both he and I must now prayerfully discern this together. I firmly believe that this person could only be given to me once I put all of my life in the hands of Christ. My active-discernment of the vocation of marriage is not something I completely control. But, by putting my trust and faith in God’s hands, He continues to give me what I need and when I need it.
He tested my faith, my patience, and my trust in Him. It was not an easy path to stay on, but boy, was it rewarding.
Happy Valentine’s Day. May you put your trust in His hands, and know that He will not lead you astray.
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