No one can resist a numbered list, right? Every magazine at the supermarket checkout counter is full of numbered lists—The Eight Things Your Man Wishes You Knew About Basketball, or Fourteen Super-foods That Melt the Blues Away. Every Web site that wants high traffic is practically a numbered list of numbered lists—Fifteen Celebrity Hairstyles We Love to Hate, or The Top Ten Things You Didn’t Know About Patagonia. (You know you’d read that one, even if you have no idea where Patagonia is.)
I have some important things to say about dating, which is a much more important subject than most people think. It’s the spiritual boot camp for marriage, which is a vocation—the way you’re called to serve God.
So if I put what I have to say about dating into a numbered list, it stands to reason that you might read it––at least I hope.
Here they are, in no particular order: the 5½ Soul-Crushing Traps to Avoid While Dating.
Why 5½? Because sex isn’t on my list of 5. You probably thought I would talk about it, and you’d probably be disappointed if I didn’t. Yes, it’s actually very important to avoid sex before marriage. No, not because the Church is trying to suppress your relationship. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The Church desires to free your relationship––dare I say sanctify your relationship––for the sake of true love.
It’s so important, in fact, that you’ve heard it all before.
So I’m going on to five other things to avoid that you haven’t heard as much about. But I didn’t want you to be disappointed that I hadn’t mentioned sex, so I did.
In our culture, it’s all about me is our mantra. But life can’t be all about you. It can’t even be all about me, much as I’d like it to be. In fact, it’s all about Jesus. And dating is where we should be learning that. Everyone wants a happy marriage, right? Then learn to carry the cross now. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”—that’s what St. Paul said (Ephesians 5:25). You’ll have a happy marriage when you’re ready to give up everything and die for each other. You can’t have that till you win the spiritual battle against selfishness.
2. Couple Isolation.
The two of you are not enough. Isolate yourselves, and you will suck the spiritual life out of your relationship. You need to build a strong core of faith-based friends so your relationship can grow. And this is the time to start. Find people to surround yourselves with that will draw you closer to the heart of Jesus—and each other.
People aren’t perfect. You think you’ve found the person of your dreams—and then you notice that one little annoying thing. Well, get over it. You’re not perfect either.
That doesn’t mean you lower your standards when you’re choosing whom you date. But be patient in the little things. Don’t dwell on small annoyances (my wife has gotten good at this). Learn to deal with them now, in spiritual boot camp, and you’ll be much happier down the road.
If jealousy is a problem in your relationship, you need to have a conversation about it now and set some realistic boundaries. Now, I know human nature—I know that you may enjoy the attention you get from a little flirting with another person. And you might even like the attention you get from your boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s jealousy. But you can’t find your self-worth in poking at the other person’s insecurities. That’s not love. And it’s not healthy.
5. Keeping God Out.
Okay, I know I said in no particular order, but this is definitely the most important. When we edge God out of our lives, our relationships will suffer. When we invite God into our relationships, we invite love into our relationships—because God is love. Don’t be afraid to pray with your girlfriend. Don’t be afraid to take your boyfriend to Mass with you. When we invite God in, the way we see the world changes. And the way you’ll see each other will, too.
Jon Leonetti is an international Catholic speaker, author and radio host who conveys a message of lasting fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Jon desires to cultivate an intimate relationship with Jesus and help others do the same through prayer, the Sacraments, family life, Mary and the saints. Engaging Catholics in all walks of life, Jon’s keynote presentations and Surge of the Heart Parish Mission continues to help thousands of Catholics each year discover the freedom Christ offers by way of His life and love. Learn more about Jon at www.JDLeonetti.com